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McKenzie believes Rangers are just getting started

Nash? Kovalchuk? Karlsson? Uncle Bob, why do you do this?

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Last night on NBCSN Bob McKenzie painted an eyebrow-raising picture of what Jeff Gorton’s offseason plans are. Chris Nichols of FanRag Sports transcribed Uncle Bob’s landscape for the Rangers’ 2018 offseason.

“As soon as this season is over Jeff Gorton is going to be back open for business doing the same sort of sell-off that he did at the deadline. But keep this in mind: Even though they’re rebuilding, they’re not tearing it down and there is an opportunity where if they can sign Ilya Kovalchuk this summer on a short-term deal or Rick Nash comes back or Grabner – if they’re willing to take short-term deals – they will look at plugging a lot of holes with veteran guys.”

“And,” McKenzie added, “Erik Karlsson is not out of the question in terms of at least looking back and saying, ‘Hey, could we possibly make this work.’ They’re going to be trying to do two things at the same time: rebuild and fill in the holes with veteran guys as long as it’s not long-term deals.”

Obviously, there’s a lot to unwrap here. So let’s break it down piece by piece.

It should come as no surprise that Gorton is going to be open for business one way or another as soon as the trading market opens up. There’s a good chance that guys like Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello could be moved if there are tempting offers on draft day. Kreider, Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, and Brendan Smith are the only skaters under contract next year who carry cap hits of $3 million or more.

If Zuccarello doesn’t get moved during the offseason, he will almost certainly be on the trading block when 2019’s deadline day arrives. As much as it may hurt to admit, the Norwegian winger will be 31 next year and the Rangers can’t lose him for nothing in free agency when they can get a significant return for him in a deal. Of course, there is always the option of re-signing him and making him team captain. Just some food for thought.

NHL: New York Rangers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The idea that the Rangers aren’t completely committing to a youth rebuild is nothing new. However, it’s hard to swallow the idea of them being in the market for Erik Karlsson. Karlsson will be 28 in May so he still has a lot of great hockey in him and there have been rumblings about the Rangers looking for leadership from outside the current locker room. This would also have to be a trade and re-sign that would carry a bigger cap hit than P.K. Subban’s contract. But what would the Rangers give up? Does anyone really know what Ottawa wants? Would this also mean taking on Bobby Ryan’s nightmare contract? If so, the Rangers need to stay away. Far, far away.

Bringing in veterans on short-term deals to plug holes and serve in leadership roles makes a lot more sense, especially if there’s mutual interest with someone the team is familiar with like Nash or even Grabner. Kovalchuk is an altogether different kind of solution. The Russian sniper will be 35 in April and hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season. But with that being said he makes for an interesting option to plug a hole in the top-six for a year or two, especially with a young Russian forward like Pavel Buchnevich in the mix.

What we have waiting for us at the end of the regular season are a series of dominoes leading to July 1. The first domino has Alain Vigneault’s face on it. One way or another we’re going to learn a lot about the Rangers’ future and what comes next depending on which way that domino falls.

Source: NBCSN,