Perhaps nothing defines following the Rangers better than this: For better or worse, it’s never boring. Because of the team’s ambition, as well as the magnetic pull of New York itself, the Rangers are always making noise; particularly on the trade market.
Over the last ten years, the Rangers have hardly been shy in embracing attempts to contend as well as attempts to dismantle and rebuild. As such, they’ve pulled off a number of interesting trades. Why not try to rank the 10best of the decade?
In attempting this task, I considered a few areas of evaluation. They are:
Immediate Face Value Appraisal
I’m heavily analyzing the trade’s value at the time it actually happened. We’re evaluating at the time of the trade while pretending we can’t see the future. If the Rangers trade a fourth-line center for three first-round picks, then that’s incredible value. What they then do with those draft picks is, to a degree, besides the point.
That being said, I’m still going to considering the actual outcomes of the trades. So yes, trading a 7th-round pick for Connor McDavid would be the steal of the century, but if he then decides to retire from hockey and pursue a career as an astronaut three weeks after the trade is completed then it’s getting heavily docked.
Impact on Team’s Success
Trading is a means to an end towards accomplishing greater goals as an organization. We’re not just evaluating the value of a deal itself, but also its contribution to the team’s intended accomplishments. So, all things equal, a trade that plays a part in a Stanley Cup dynasty is going to beat out a trade that resulted in one quick playoff exit. If we were making a list for the New Jersey Devils, the Adam Larsson-for-Taylor Hall trade would lose a lot of points on grounds that the Devils failed to actually accomplish anything of note during Hall’s four-season tenure.
Butterfly Effect... To a Degree
The greater context of deals will be considered beyond the value seen in the trade itself. Did a move open up cap space that allowed for an important signing? Great, that earns bonus points. Did the Rangers acquire a piece that they then used in a different, important deal? Awesome. What we’re not going to do is assign meaningful value to a third-round pick that was part of a chain of events that resulted in Chris Kreider becoming a Ranger four trades and eight years later. The future consequences of a trade have to be immediate and obvious for it to matter.
10. Bob Sanguinetti to Carolina for 2011 Second-Round Pick, 2010 Sixth-Round Pick
Date: June 26th, 2010
The Rangers took Bob Sanguinetti 21st overall in the 2006 Draft, and it was a well-intentioned pick. The offensive defenseman put up strong numbers in the OHL and the start of his AHL career was similarly good. He earned five games as a Ranger during the 2009-2010 season.
For whatever reasons, the Rangers decided to cut bait that summer, which on the surface was a curious move perhaps partly inspired by the success of Matt Gilroy and Michael del Zotto. The Rangers shipped him to the Hurricanes in return for second- and sixth-round picks. Sanguinetti would play only 40 games for the Hurricanes, and since 2013-2014 has bounced around the AHL and various European leagues. Not every prospect is going to work out. If you can still recoup some value before the player’s value tanks, then that’s solid a consolation.
Correctly selling high on Sanguinetti was smart, but not by itself worthy of landing on this list. The second-round round pick was traded away and is irrelevant, but the sixth-round pick was used on Jesper Fasth (later changed to “Fast”). Trading a future non-NHLer for two draft picks is pretty good. Turning one of those picks into the ideal bottom-six winger for multiple playoff runs is enough to propel this trade into the top-ten of the decade.
9. Ales Kotalik, Chris Higgins to Calgary for Olli Jokinen, Brandon Prust
Date: February 2nd, 2010
The Rangers’ very first trade of the decade makes the list, though it’s one that invokes conflicting emotions. Chris Higgins was a piece of the infamous Gomez/McDonagh trade, but he struggled with the Rangers in his final season before unrestricted free agency. No harm, no foul. However, Ales Kotalik was signed on a three-year, $9 million dollar deal the prior summer was very much a problem. The winger did not bring as much offense as anticipated, and his play away from the puck left much to be desired. If nothing else, the Rangers were thrilled to get out of his contract. To acquire a top-six center like Jokinen as a rental for a playoff push made it even better.
Jokinen actually played pretty well for the Rangers, registering 15 points in 26 games. As unfair as it may be, though, his Broadway tenure will always be associated with his failed shootout attempt in the final game of the season, handing the final playoff spot in the east to the Flyers.
Prust was an afterthought in the trade but ended up being the best asset that either team acquired. He played well after the deadline and then gave the Rangers two quality seasons on the fourth line and penalty kill.
8. Kevin Hayes, Fourth-Round Pick to Winnipeg for 2019 First-Round Pick, Brendan Lemieux
Date: February 25th, 2019
The decision to not sign Kevin Hayes and instead trade him is a pivotal moment for this franchise that will have significant implications for a long time. Hayes was playing the best hockey of his career during the 2018-2019 season, but the price to re-sign him as well as the Rangers’ rebuilding necessities made re-signing him incompatible with the team’s plan. They shipped him to Winnipeg for a pretty good return that only grew in value at later dates. Winnipeg’s season sort of crumbled and they exited the playoffs in the first round, making the draft pick 20th overall. Hayes moved on to Philadelphia, who gave him the payday he desired. So far, he’s played fairly well but not enough to justify $50 million over seven years.
Brendan Lemieux came to the Rangers as an odd-man-out in Winnipeg and flourished with an opportunity in New York. A young, cheap fourth-line winger who can move up the lineup and hold his own? In a salary cap world, that’s a useful asset.
The first-round pick was immediately returned to Winnipeg along with Neal Pionk for Jacob Trouba. In terms of optics, the Rangers traded a few months of Kevin Hayes in return for a top-pairing defenseman and a team-controlled bottom-six winger. It’s going to be a while before we really know how the trade works out, but the value is hard to ignore.
7. Michael Grabner to New Jersey for Yegor Rykov, 2018 Second-Round Pick
Date: February 22nd, 2018
Michael Grabner is a good hockey player, but those looking carefully saw that his stunning success with the Rangers was lightning in a bottle rather than something reliably sustainable. He was a perfect match for a Rangers team that relied on transition rushes to create offense. Couple that with a generous shooting percentage, and the result was 52 goals in 135 regular season games. Faced with a rebuild, the Rangers shipped him across the river to New Jersey, where he registered just two points and three assists in 21 games before a quick playoff exit.
He signed in Arizona as a free agent after the season and has since produced 15 goals through 76 games. Pretty good, but nowhere near his output with the Rangers.
The Rangers acquired a B-level prospect in defenseman Yegor Rykov, who had (and still has) plausible top-four upside. The second-round pick came in at 48th overall. Compare that to other trades of some notable forwards at the same trading deadline:
- Rick Nash for 26th overall, Ryan Lindgren
- Evander Kane for 29th overall, fourth-round pick
- Paul Stastny for 29th overall, Erik Foley
For all intents and purposes, GM Jeff Gorton got a first-line return for a middle-six winger. It’s far too early to know any actual value will manifest from this trade. The 48th overall picked was packaged to move up in the draft and acquire K’Andre Miller, who is playing his sophomore season at Wisconsin. Yegor Rykov is just getting started in the AHL. How will this trade look in five years? It could end up a total dud or a massive steal. For now, we can only really evaluate the value of the trade itself, which is pretty damn good.
6. Ryan Haggerty to Chicago for Antti Raanta
Date: June 27th, 2015
The 2015 NHL Draft was rather eventful for the Rangers, as they traded both Carl Hagelin and Cam Talbot away. An end-of-the-day move for Talbot’s potential replacement was almost an afterthought. In fact, there were no guarantees that Raanta, previously Chicago’s third-string goaltender, would be Talbot’s replacement. Nashville goaltender Magnus Hellberg was acquired a few days later as competition.
Haggerty, whom they traded to Chicago, was a 22-year-old fringe prospect who had an outside shot as a depth forward. He’s since built a quality AHL career but has zero NHL games on his resume.
Raanta won the job in training camp and burst onto the scene. He provided two seasons of elite backup goaltending for the Rangers. He proved that he was a starting-caliber NHL goaltender and had outgrown his role as Lundqvist’s understudy. Raanta was moved as part of a complicated trade that will get its own analysis at a different point in this article.
For now, it’s enough to say this: In return for a negligible asset, the Rangers acquired two years of cheap, high-end caliber backup goaltending and a trade piece for two ostensibly massive long-term building blocks. A wonderful example of pseudo-arbitrage.
5. Michael Del Zotto to Nashville for Kevin Klein
Date: January 22nd, 2014
The volatile Michael Del Zotto did not mesh with new head coach Alain Vigneault, and the team’s overload of left-handed defensemen created lineup problems. Sather fixed this problem by shipping Del Zotto to Nashville in return for right-handed defenseman Kevin Klein.
At face value, this trade was probably a wash, if not in Nashville’s favor. Klein was the more reliable player, but 23-year-old Del Zotto presented far more upside. Both players had multiple quality seasons following the trade, though Del Zotto flopped in Nashville first before finding some form in Philadelphia.
This trade makes the list not on value, but because of its impact on team success. Klein was exactly what the Rangers needed at the time. He was a steady, shutdown right-handed defenseman who was rock-solid during the 2014 and 2015 Cup runs. In particular, he played his best hockey during the 2014 playoffs. Does the series against Los Angeles end differently if he and Stralman are moved up the lineup?
Klein did decline from there, playing a few mediocre seasons where Vigneault relied on him way too much. That’s secondary to the two great years Klein did provide during the team’s best stretch since the mid-90s. This wasn’t a sexy or lopsided trade, but it was a great move that, in part, affirmed the team’s window of contention.
4. Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta to Arizona for Tony DeAngelo, Seventh Overall Pick in 2019
Date: June 23rd, 2017
Oh boy, here we go.
The Rangers had two capable centers in Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes and needed to open up cap space. Derek Stepan, coming off a good-but-not-great season, was days away from having a no-trade clause activated. The Rangers had to decide between trading him now or committing to his $6.5M cap hit for the next four seasons.
They chose to move him while they could, and the previously mentioned Raanta was added to the package. In return, the Rangers received the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft as well as a problematic but high-caliber defense prospect in Tony DeAngelo. They then used that cap space to sign Kevin Shattenkirk.
Stepan was a great Ranger, but parting ways when they did proved to be the right decision. His play has declined in Arizona, and while he’s still a very capable NHL center, he’s not at all justifying the $6.5M cap hit. Raanta has played well for Arizona... when he hasn’t been injured. Over three seasons he’s played in just 73 games for the Coyotes. He’s a perfectly good goaltender whom a few NHL teams probably wish they had right now. With Lundqvist, Georgiev, and Shesterkin, the Rangers have the least use for him.
The problems with this trade have nothing to do with what the Rangers gave away and everything to do with the aftermath. After a turbulent few seasons, DeAngelo seems to have finally landed the plane. However, the seventh-round pick was used to reach for Lias Andersson. That mistake is particularly magnified at the current moment. Shattenkirk suffered a major injury on the first day of training camp, missed half of the 2017-2018 season, and never really returned to strength during the 2018-2019 season. The Rangers bought him out and are now paying him a lot of money to play like an All-Star for Tampa Bay.
This trade includes a lot that went right, a lot that went very wrong, and a lot that’s left to be determined. What will the Rangers get in return for Andersson? How does DeAngelo’s career play out and how long do the Rangers keep him? It’s a convoluted mess with contradicting and unanswered parts, which makes it hard to decidedly rank as even a positive trade, let alone one of the best this decade. Ultimately, there were a few sticking points.
- At face value, the move was tremendous. They moved a depreciating asset and a surplus goaltender and acquired a seventh-overall pick, a high-end defense prospect, and a bonafide top-pairing defenseman. What the Rangers did with that pick is relevant, but not intrinsic, to the value of the trade itself. The Shattenkirk signing was well intentioned and it’s impossible to fault the team for the bad injury luck.
- As bad as Shattenkirk’s cap penalty is, having Stepan’s contract on the books would be worse.
- At the core of it, DeAngelo has become a really good offensive defenseman and is a major asset long-term in one form or another.
The idea behind the traded itself was good enough to make the top of this list. The execution afterward left a lot to be desired. Nonetheless, the Rangers were better off having made it.
3. Marian Gaborik, Blake Parlett, and Steven Delisle to Columbus for Derick Brassard, John Moore, Derick Dorsett, 2014 Sixth-Round Pick.
Date: April 3rd, 2013
Gaborik’s stint with the Rangers was a success, but it didn’t end on heartwarming terms. The 2012-2013 lockout derailed the team’s plan for immediate contention, and while the trio of Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Rick Nash showed early promise, the team as a whole did not really find its form in the shortened season. Gaborik didn’t put up his typical goal numbers and got on Head Coach John Tortorella’s bad side. The Rangers convinced him to waive his no-trade clause and move to Columbus.
In quantity-for-quality trades, the team acquiring quantity rarely wins. This is maybe one of the few exceptions; Columbus would probably argue as much. Moore and Dorsett were quality depth pieces for the 2014 Cup Run, but Brassard was the major find. The former sixth-overall pick never really found his game in Columbus, but he hit the ground running in New York. He developed into a top-six center who stepped up in the playoffs, ending his Rangers career with 44 points in 59 playoff games.
As for Gaborik, the Rangers were proven correct to part with him when they did; mostly. The injury-prone player sharply declined but produced one last gasp after he was traded to Los Angeles and scored 16 goals in 24 games as the Kings won the Stanley Cup.
Against the Rangers.
A cynical view of this trade would be that the Butterfly Effect undermined everything good that came from it. For me, that’s too far removed to really care for as part of this evaluation. It still is an annoying footnote, at minimum.
2. Derick Brassard, 2018 Seventh-Round Pick to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad, 2018 Second-Round Pick
Date: July 18th, 2016
Brassard gave the Rangers a nice parting gift when he was sacrificed in a trade with major ramifications now. As a 28-year-old with one year remaining on his contract, Brassard was at a pivotal moment in his career. Wanting to clear some cap space and obtain an asset with a longer shelf life, the Rangers took advantage of Ottawa’s frugal ways and traded Brassard for Zibanejad.
Brassard has bounced around the NHL with varying degrees of success. Despite some underwhelming stints in Pittsburgh and Colorado, he’s showing he’s still got something left in the tank and can provide offense.
Zibanejad, though, is at a whole different level. He’s a legitimate first-line NHL center who is looking at his second-straight point-per-game season. He’s a great defensive center and has emerged as a prominent figure in the locker room. Perhaps the best is yet to come, too. Depending on what he and the Rangers do in the next few years, it’s quite possible that this trade ends up at the top of the list in a future re-draft.
Upgrading from a seventh- to a second-round pick in return for paying Brassard’s signing bonus was the icing on the cake. We don’t need to get into the specifics of what the Rangers actually did with that second-round pick, but long story short Alain Vigneault “lost” his best defensive pairing during crucial playoff moments and now the Rangers have a very expensive defenseman playing on the wing.
1 . Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and 2013 First-Round Pick to Columbus for Rick Nash, 2013 Third-Round Pick, Steven Delisle
Date: July 20th, 2012
The Rangers were coming off a surprising 2011-2012 season in which the team finished on top of the Eastern Conference and made it to the Conference Final. It was evident that the team needed to add a major offensive piece to get to that next level, and Rick Nash conveniently requested a trade out of Columbus while using his no-trade clause to limit potential destinations.
Experienced General Manager Glen Sather expertly played hardball with Columbus and let the process drag on until Columbus had little choice but to acquiesce.
Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov have carved out very respectable NHL careers as middle-six forwards. The first-round pick became 19th overall. Tim Erixon was a bust.
That package is embarrassingly minimal compared to what the Rangers got from Columbus; a bonafide superstar in his prime. Injuries and cold streaks complicate his legacy, but Nash mostly lived up to the hype. He was an elite two-way forward who, when on his game, was basically unstoppable. He was a key piece during the team’s contention window, highlighted by a 42-goal season in 2014-2015 which saw the Rangers win the Presidents’ Trophy.
Oh, and the third-round pick was used to select Pavel Buchnevich.