The Rangers’ own draft fate is probably sealed, unless something miraculous happens. These past two weeks we have been operating under the (true) guise that losing is better than winning as the Rangers had a chance (and failed) to secure a top-seven pick in this year’s draft organically.
But tonight, the Rangers can actually help themselves with a win.
Right now New Jersey is sitting relatively pretty in the playoff hunt — holding onto the final Wild Card spot with a five-point lead on Florida, but with the Panthers holding a game in hand. The chances of Florida overtaking the Devils are slim, but not impossible — especially if the Rangers take two points off their rival’s table today.
Florida has four games left: Nashville, Buffalo, and Boston twice.
New Jersey has three games left: The limping Rangers, Toronto, and Washington.
Outside of Florida’s matchup against Buffalo, neither team has any cupcakes. In fact, the only team of the above who has anything to play for is Boston, who is just two points above Toronto for the top spot in the Atlantic playoff race. That doesn’t exactly bode well for Florida, but you’d think the Panthers would be even hungrier to try and extend their season.
Why does any of this matter?
Well, as we’ve said about a thousand times, the Rangers hold seven picks in the first three rounds. One of those picks is the Devils’ second round pick this year — currently slotted to fall in the late 40’s if the Devils make the playoffs (and lose right away). If they miss the playoffs, however, that pick could be in the early 40’s, which probably has similar value to a very late first round pick.
We’ve discussed the players that will inevitably be available to the Rangers with Boston and Tampa’s first round picks, but the value the Rangers will have at their fingertips in the second round shouldn’t be forgotten about, either. There’s going to be plenty of “first round talents” that drop out of the first round for whatever reason, and some of them can be there where the Rangers take their 4th and 5th swing at the plate.
We haven’t had a lot to root for of late, especially with the Rangers winning as many games as they have down the stretch. So before we all start making sacrifices at the altar of winning the draft lottery, let’s enjoy a shot at hurting the Devils’ playoff hopes this year, and helping the Rangers’ draft position.