With the season officially over and the Rangers rebuild in full swing, for the first time in years New York is finally looking towards the future. After one of the biggest trade deadlines in team history, the Rangers have shown that they’re not afraid to trade players for future assets. Even after losing Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, the Rangers still have plenty of assets that can be used to further the rebuild.
Here I’ll be giving my thoughts on the remaining roster players and ranking their value as trade assets. This will be split up into five articles, with each describing the players that fit a specific tier of trade value. By the end of the series, I’ll give my complete ranking of all the Rangers skaters.
Tier 1: Untouchables
Chytil, Andersson, Buchnevich, Skjei, Lundqvist
Since the Rangers are building for the future, it makes sense to hoard as many young prospects as they can in hopes of them turning into valuable contributors down the road. While for years the Rangers always had one of the worst prospect pools, things are finally looking up, with a having a few blue chip prospects that are completely off the table in any sort of trade. For this section, I’ve kept it limited to actual roster players (so Shestyorkin didn’t qualify), which leaves only a handful of players that are truly “untouchable”.
Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson only have a few NHL games under their belt yet have already shown a glimpse into what they can do. Both prospects, who were drafted in the first round (Andersson was selected with the seventh overall pick acquired in the Derek Stepan trade, Chytil 21st overall), are certain to be in the Blueshirts long-term plans. Andersson projects to be a steady, dependable top-nine center while Chytil has the offensive potential to be a first-line scorer. Not much needs to be said about their trade value since for the time being there’s no way GM Jeff Gorton decides to trade either one of them.
Along with those two are Pavel Buchnevich. At only 22 years old, it’s arguable that he’s already the Rangers’ most offensively gifted skater. His point totals aren’t as impressive as some of the other high-profile young forwards in the league, but a lot of that can be attributed to limited opportunity under Alaign Vigneault.
Throughout the year Buchnevich frequently found himself buried on the bottom two lines and was given limited time in a top-six role. Vigneault gave him little leeway during games and was quick to punish him after common mistakes. But despite only averaging 15 minutes of ice time per game, Buchnevich still managed to score 43 points. As a 22-year-old in only his second campaign, a 48-point-pace bodes well for the future.
The Rangers should know as well as anybody that Buchnevich holds tons of potential, so it would be shortsighted to trade him now. Hypothetically, if Buchnevich were to go to market, we could assume that he’d have value similar to that of Jonathan Drouin when he was traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both were highly touted prospects and even though Drouin produced slightly more offense by the time he was around 22, Drouin got to play with much better linemates on a stacked Tampa team. Drouin was traded to the Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev, the Canadiens best defensive prospect selected ninth overall, so we can place Buchnevich’s potential trade value around that benchmark.
Either way though, the Rangers need talented, young skaters for the future and it wouldn’t make any sense to get rid of Buchnevich. He’s the type of player the Rangers should be looking at holding on to, making him all but untouchable in any trade negotiations.
Lastly (out of all the young skaters) is Brady Skjei. There are probably some who wouldn’t consider Skjei untouchable, and it’s true that all three of the previously listed forwards are arguably more important to the rebuild than Skjei. However, in sharp contrast to the Rangers now very strong forward prospect pool, the Rangers have no blue chip prospects on defense (with Skjei no longer being considered a prospect). With McDonagh gone, the Rangers NHL defensive corps is much weaker, leaving only Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk as the team’s best defenders. After them, the talent drops off immensely. Trading Skjei would create another big hole the Rangers would need to fill in the future and leave the defensive group in worse shape for the future. He’s also still young enough to have the potential to be an immensely valuable defenseman for the club, projecting to be a strong top-four defender. At 24 years old, Skjei will still be very useful when the Rangers are hoping to compete and should be a fixture on the blueline for years to come.
Finally, I opted to throw Henrik Lundqvist in the untouchable group because realistically there’s almost a zero percent chance that the Rangers actually trade him. While Lundqvist would have some short-term value to any team looking for good goaltending (as he can definitely still play), there are too many factors preventing a trade from being feasible. His $8.5 million cap hit for the next three years would make it very hard for a team to acquire him, considering that only a contending team looking for an upgrade in goal would want him and these types of teams don’t typically have that kind of cap space to burn. And his three additional years left on his contract are worrisome for any team, as there is always the possibility that age finally starts catching up to Lundqvist. At 36 years old, no team would want to be stuck with a declining goaltender for the next three years, especially when considering Lundqvist hasn’t put up a season with a save percentage over .920 since 2015.
Also, most importantly, Lundqvist has stated that he wants to remain with the team, being the heart and soul of the Rangers for years now. He’s a Rangers legend, and it would be near impossible for Rangers management to sell a Lundqvist trade to the fanbase without tons of backlash. Even though he won’t help the Rangers contend in the future and will only suffer as the team around him gets progressively worse, Hank is here to stay.
So those are the “untouchable” players on the Rangers, who for a variety of reasons are almost assuredly not going to be a part of any trade negotiations. The next article will cover the second tier of Rangers players, who hold high in trade value, are unlikely to move — but could could be for the right price.