The New York Rangers were expected to be one of the busiest teams in the NHL Entry Draft this weekend, but instead were one of the quietest. Jeff Gorton and company made a single move — swapping a 4th round pick next year for Colorado defenseman Nick Holden — and didn’t move at all from their pre-determined draft positions.
It was surprising: Especially given the draft-day rumors that Gorton and company had seen the light on Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, and the news that the team was prepared to make a very heavy push for Steven Stamkos.
After the draft Gorton met with the media and had some interesting things to say. As I alluded to in the headline, it seems like there’s still a lot he thinks he needs to do.
Larry Brooks has a column on the story. From his article:
“I think we have things to do to get us where we want to go,” Gorton said Saturday. “We’re in a spot where we’re trying to get better, trying to make deals to get better. We’ve been in a lot of [trade] conversations. We’re listening to everything and we’ll see where it goes. We tried to do some things, and I’d say we came close to doing something to get into the first round, but it didn’t work out and we weren’t going to be forced into doing something just to do it.”
There is a lot to digest from that comment from the Rangers General Manager, so I’m going to break it down a by pieces.
The Rangers tried to trade into the first round: This isn’t totally surprising news. With both Derek Stepan and Rick Nash’s names finding their way on the trade block, a first round pick this year would not have been surprising. I will speculate the move the Rangers tried to make and didn’t had to do do with Minnesota and the 15th overall selection and Stepan. Just speculating on that.
On not being forced into a move: It sounds like the market was incredibly tight during the draft. If you look at some of the price tags on the moves that were made, it teams were overpaying for what they wanted. The Rangers, quite clearly, are not in a position to overpay for anything. And when speaking about guys like Nash and Stepan it’s clear Gorton was low-balled. That’s how negotiations work, of course, but a lot of teams try to squeeze what they can out of draft day. If this is the case good on Goton for not getting roped into a bad deal.
“We have things to do to get us where we want to go”: So this entire quote is both the simmering core of Rangers fans’ hopes and fears. When asked about what moves the Rangers are trying to make Gorton was coy with the media and told them it didn’t help him to tell the world who the Rangers were targeting and that if you looked at last year you could figure it out pretty easily.
If that’s not a gauntlet thrown down for the defense to be fixed then I don’t know what is.
In the even the Rangers truly do want to play for Stamkos, we’re talking about a contract in the neighborhood of $10-12-million a year. That’s an enormous risk to take on a guy with a blood clot issue, but in the case of the New York Rangers and James Dolan, well, money is just money. The Rangers have the luxury of not really having to worry about those types of things.
Where Stamkos is a problem is the impression that he fixes all the Rangers problems on his own. The Rangers need help on defense, first and foremost, and if it costs a guy like Nash or Stepan to pry some good, young defenders away then so be it. Just bringing in Stamkos and churning out the same run-down defense would be about as big of a disaster as there could be.
If the Rangers do get Stamkos then hopefully this week paves the way for that being a smart thing.
Because as good as he is, he can’t fix the Rangers’ biggest problems.
If that’s something Gorton wants to move forward with, Girardi and/or Staal and their cap hit has to be removed.
Holden seems to be a precursor for something else to happen. He isn’t going to replace Brady Skjei and he’s not going to force Staal to be a healthy scratch (even though he’s probably better than both right now). I can’t imagine the Rangers are willing to pay $1.6-million for a depth defenseman, and if Holden is here so the Rangers don’t have to play Dylan McIlrath, well, let’s wait on that.
So was it disappointing not to see any change this weekend? Yes. Did the Rangers play the weekend smart? Apparently so.
There’s a week to go before July 1st, and I would bet most of the Rangers moves are made before then.