Over the last few season, the Rangers have been one of the league’s biggest sellers at each trade deadline. Since embarking on their rebuild three years ago, the Rangers have acquired four 1st round draft picks, three 2nd round picks, and a myriad of other picks prospects, and young roster players in exchange for their veteran players. Prior to the rebuild, the Blueshirts always found themselves in the mix for premium rental players in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
However, the team stood pat and didn’t make a single move this year. Without any high end players heading into unrestricted free agency after the season, the Rangers didn’t find themselves on the receiving end of many phone calls. There was speculation that some of New York’s depth veterans, namely Colin Blackwell up front and Brendan Smith on defense, could be had for a low end draft pick. In the end, Jeff Gorton elected to leave his team in tact as they continue to chase down the fourth and final playoff spot in the MassMutual East Division.
Some teams routinely sit out the chaos that usually comes along with deadline day. The Rangers are not one of those teams. Even though it didn’t come as a surprise, their lack of action yesterday was the first time since the Dark Ages that the team hadn’t made a move in the days leading up to the deadline.
2018-2020: The Rebuild in Full Effect
While Chris Kreider appeared primed to move on and be rented out to a contending team during last season’s deadline, the Rangers struck a long term with their now-longest tenured player to keep him in the fold. Pending UFA Jesper Fast also stuck around, but the Rangers made a splash by unexpectedly shipping Brady Skjei to the division rival Carolina Hurricanes for a 1st round draft pick.
Skjei’s departure stood as the only move the Blueshirts made last deadline, which stood in stark contrast to the previous two. Mats Zuccarello was shipped out two days prior to the deadline for a pair of draft picks, and Kevin Hayes and Adam McQuaid made their Broadway exits on deadline day itself.
The 2018 deadline was the one that kick started the rebuild, and Jeff Gorton was at his most active this time around. Nick Holden, Michael Grabner, and Rick Nash were all shipped out in the days leading up to the deadline, but New York’s general manager saved his biggest trade for last. Word of the Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller trade broke after the 3:00 P.M. deadline, as a handful of trades do every year. The deal wasn’t great from the start, and has proceeded to blow up in the Rangers’ face every step of the way since being consummated. In addition to this deal, the Rangers swapped Ryan Graves for Chris Bigras on deadline day 2018 as well.
2013-2017: High Draft Picks Are For Losers
As heavy selling the Rangers did in those previous three years, the team did just as much, if not more deadline buying in their pursuit of a championship the five years preceding the rebuild. The team made a minor league swap to land Taylor Beck on deadline day 2017, but gave up a 2nd and 3rd round pick the day prior to initially acquire Smith from the Detroit Red Wings.
The previous year saw a Rangers team destined for a swift first round exit give up a pair of 2nd round picks and prospect Aleksi Saarela for the ghost of Eric Staal, Unable to elevate his game playing alongside his brother Marc, Eric left the Rangers to sign with the Minnesota Wild and revive his career in the state of hockey. Too bad he couldn’t have done that on Broadway.
The 2015 deadline was another year of the Rangers getting their work done the day before the actual deadline. Landing Keith Yandle (and Chris Summers) for John Moore, a 1st round pick, and a 2nd round pick headlined Glen Sather’s final season as general manager. Lee Stempniak was shipped out to Winnipeg, and James Sheppard arrived from San Jose in a pair of depth moves.
The 2014 deadline was arguably the most dramatic in recent memory for residents of Rangerstown, even to the point where morning drive radio hosts were commenting on the team. In search of a major shakeup, the Rangers found what they were looking for in the form of a blockbuster on deadline day. Raphael Diaz arrived from Vancouver, but a core shakeup came in the form of swapping captain Ryan Callahan, a pair of 1st round picks, and a 7th rounder for Tampa Bay Lighting captain Martin St. Louis and a 2nd round pick. The team rallied around St. Louis during their run to the Cup Finals, as he led the team in scoring.
During the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, the Rangers found themselves starving for for forward depth after gutting it to acquire Rick Nash. Ryane Clowe, who had scored zero goals prior to being traded, was brought in from San Jose the day before the deadline in exchange for 2nd, 3rd, and 5th round draft picks. The Blueshirts also convinced Marian Gaborik to waive his no-trade clause and accept a move to Columbus, which landed them Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore. Clowe, Brassard, and Moore all scored in their first games with the team the night of the deadline, which is still one of my favorite regular season games to reminisce on.
2006-2012: Middling Moves for a Middling Team
Prior to that five year stretch, the Rangers were never major buyers at the deadline. They’d usually look to improve on the margins, but first round picks weren’t thrown around like candy as they were during the mid-2010’s. The Blueshirts actually traded away Wojtek Wolski two days prior to the 2012 deadline for a 3rd round selection, and then landed John Scott from Chicago for a 5th rounder on deadline day.
2011 and 2010 were both low key deadlines for the Blueshirts. The team gave up a 3rd round pick to land Bryan McCabe two days prior to the deadline, and John Mitchell was acquired for a 7th rounder on deadline day 2011. 2010 saw Anders Eriksson arrive to provide defensive depth, and a minor league swap of Jordan Owens for Kris Newbury. The team made a pair of more impactful trades a few weeks prior to the deadline, but for the sake of this piece it’s best to leave them out.
The 2009 deadline was the most aggressive of this era of Rangers’ hockey. After firing Tom Renny and hiring John Tortorella in late February, Glen Sather was aggressive in his pursuit of players. Derek Morris was brought in from the Coyotes at the cost of three roster players, and Nik Antropov arrived from Toronto in exchange for 2nd and 4th round picks.
Deadline day of 2008 saw Freddie Sjostrom and a pair of minor leaguers arrive from the Coyotes in exchange for Al Montoya and Marcel Hossa. The Rangers also shipped a 4th round pick to the Blues for Christian Backman. The team shipped Pascal Dupuis and a 3rd round pick to their eventual first round opponent, the Atlanta Thrashers, in 2007 for Alex Bourret, who never cracked the NHL.
Paul Mara was also brought in from Boston in exchange for Aaron Ward, whose most memorable moment on Broadway was getting sucker punched by Donald Brashear. The 2006 deadline saw the Rangers send Villie Nieminen to San Jose for a 3rd rounder the day before the deadline, and then flip that pick to Anaheim for Sandis Ozolinsh the next day.
2002-2004: Fan Favorites Galore
As we all know, the Rangers were very bad for a very long time prior to the 2005 lockout. Their activity leading up to the 2004 trade deadline was arguably their lowest point. The week before the deadline saw Alexei Kovalev and Brian Leetch shipped off to Montreal and Toronto respectively. That pair of all-world players netted the Blueshirts Steve Valliquette, three prospects, two second round picks, and one first round pick, the best of which turned out to be one of those 2nd rounders becoming Michael Sauer. Talk about depressing.
Chris Simon was sent to Calgary three days before the deadline in a package headlined by Blair Betts, while Matt Barnaby and Vladimir Malakhov were shipped to Colorado and Philadelphia respectively the day before the deadline. Greg De Vries went to Ottawa, and Martin Rucinsky went to Vancouver on deadline day, allowing the Rangers to complete trades with every Canadian team in the league at the time.
Deadline day 2003 saw the arrival a different current MSG analyst, as Anson Carter (along with Ales Pisa) came to New York via Edmonton in exchange for Radek Dvorak and Cory Cross. A minor league swap also landed the Rangers Lawrence Nycholat. 2002 saw the Oilers and Rangers make another deal, as Tom Poti and Rem Murray were sent to Broadway while Mike York and a 4th round pick made their way to Edmonton. Richard Lintner was also acquired in a minor swap with Nashville.
The main headline of the 2002 deadline happened the day before the deadline itself. The Rangers acquired Pavel Bure in a blockbuster deal, sending the Florida Panthers a pair of prospects, a 1st round pick, a 4th round pick, as well as swapping 2nd rounders.
The 2001 trade deadline was the last time the Rangers were inactive in the days leading up to the action. The deadline was March 13th, and while the Rangers made three minor moves on the 1st, 5th, and 7th, none of them had any impact on the team’s short or long term future.
Twenty years later, the Blueshirts once again sat on the sidelines as players around the league shuffled from team to team. With any luck, a strong start to next season will position the team to get off the bench and enter the fray as buyers to create a more exciting deadline in 2022.