This past week and a half has seen a lot of movement from Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers.
There were promises made when the season ended the way it did. Movement was expected. There were concerns, of course. Gorton’s responses about not buying out Dan Girardi weren’t really logical, and to this point there’s still been no change to the defense.
The problem? The defense was so bad that Gorton might be trying to do something about it and has been unsuccessful. It’s hard to judge him on a situation where we don’t really know what’s going on behind the curtain.
Here’s what we can grade him on, though. The J.T. Miller deal (while shortsighted) locked him down at a great short-term value. The Kevin Hayes bridge deal was also brought home at a great short-term value. There’s risks associated with those types of deals, but to avoid arbitration (especially with Hayes) and work something out is important.
The Chris Kreider contract extension is where Gorton really did some fantastic work on the RFA front.
Not only will Kreider be around for the next four years — the better portion of his prime -- but it’s also at far below market value. To lock down a vital asset like that to such a deal is spectacular handiwork, especially with arbitration looming.
Kreider -- despite having a “down year” — still had ridiculously good underlying numbers, even better than those comparables that were signed this year before him. Not hitting the 30-goal mark is part of the reason why his cap hit doesn’t start with a 5, but if he reaches that mark this year (more than possible) it’s going to make his contract even more of a steal.
The biggest move? The Derick Brassard trade, which not only saw the Rangers get younger, better and cheaper but also saw Gorton literally buy a second round pick from the Senators as to boot. This is good future business that also helps the team right now. Mika Zibanejad not only brings Brassard’s offense right now, but he’s also growing as a player and should get better. Derek Stepan (26), Zubanejad (23) and Hayes (24) gives the Rangers both a young and very deep center pillar for years to come.
Both the Kreider extension and Brassard trade showed the team has a very solid long-term vision, even if Gorton made a mistake not keeping Miller in the fold long term. There is a wrinkle to this ideology, though: With the cap space the Rangers have right now there is room to make a bigger splash on defense.
Whether the Kevin Shattenkirk rumors tickle your fancy or you think something else is coming — Nick Holden can’t be the only move, right? — there’s room for changes right now.
I have a funny feeling the Rangers aren’t done, and I do think other changes would come around the defense, but at first blush? This is the Jeff Gorton we’ve been waiting for.