A Timeline of the New York Rangers Rebuild

May 9, 2017
The New York Rangers lose 4-2 to the Ottawa Senators and are eliminated in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Losing to the Senators — a team they were thought to be better than — was a tough blow for the Rangers. They once again finished in the middle, as they made the postseason, but couldn’t make a deep enough run.

June 14, 2017
The Rangers buyout the remaining years of Dan Girardi’s contract.

A contending team needs to squeeze every last bit of cap space they have, and that $5.5 million cap hit for a defender that was playing on the first pair despite being more of a third-pair defenseman was only hurting them. It’s a decision that wasn’t made lightly considering his role on this team over the years, but it unfortunately became necessary after his level of play took such a steep decline.

June 21, 2017
Oscar Lindberg is selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.

June 23, 2017
The Rangers are rebuilding on the fly, according to general manager Jeff Gorton after changes made on draft day: Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta were traded to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the seventh overall pick and Tony DeAngelo. Lias Andersson (seventh overall pick) and Filip Chytil (21st overall pick) were drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

To add DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick, the Rangers gave up a lot — their backup goaltender who was ready to be a starter and their number-one center. This, like the Girardi buyout, chipped away the Rangers core and signaled a change in direction. The Rangers weren’t pulling themselves out of the playoff mix, but re-tooling to give them a brighter future.

That trade gave the Rangers a second first-rounder, which they used to draft Andersson. With their own pick, they selected Chytil. Drafting and developing players is key to team building and the Rangers’ lack of high-end talent from not having draft picks and trading away prospects was becoming glaring. Andersson was their first first-round pick since 2012, when Brady Skjei was selected.

June 28, 2017
Brendan Smith is extended for four years, $17.4 million.

The Rangers of years past acquired right-now players at the deadline in exchange for future-assets, and let those rentals walk after their contracts expired. Smith was effective and fit their needs, so in a change of pace, he was actually extended.

July 1, 2017
Free agency day. The Rangers sign Kevin Shattenkirk, Ondrej Pavelec, and Paul Carey.

Pavelec replaced Raanta and Carey gave them depth at either the NHL or AHL level. Shattenkirk is the move to focus on though, because it’s a right-now move. He was the biggest fish on the market and the Rangers added him on a team-friendly deal at four years and $26.6 million. It seemed that the Rangers made the right side even more stable, with Shattenkirk and Smith replacing Girardi and Nick Holden in their top-four. Days later, Gorton acknowledges the Rangers would roll forward with a top-four of Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei, Shattenkirk, and Smith.

July 2017
David Desharnais signs as a free agent for one year, $1 million.

Restricted free agent Jesper Fast is signed for three years, $5.5 million.

Andersson and Chytil sign entry-level contracts with the Rangers.

Undrafted goaltender Alexander Georgiev is signed to an entry-level deal.

Lindy Ruff is hired as an assistant coach to work with the defense and penalty kill, replacing Jeff Beukeboom.

July 25, 2017
RFA Mika Zibanejad signs a five year, $26.75 million extension.

The Rangers didn’t have too much leverage going into negotiations after trading Stepan, since they needed a first-line center and their second-line center Zibanejad looked primed for the promotion. Just before their scheduled arbitration hearing, they reach an agreement. At worst, he’s paid close to second-line center average, and at best he’s on an incredible team-friendly deal as a 1C.

October 5, 2017
The Rangers 2017-18 season opens with a matchup against the Colorado Avalanche. They fell by a score of 4 to 2.

October 24, 2017
Tony DeAngelo is assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack, Boo Nieves is recalled.

DeAngelo’s play wasn’t particularly inspiring, but his usage was more questionable than anything. While management was “rebuilding on the fly” and putting the team’s future in mind, the coaches were rightfully focused on winning right now – however, actually developing their younger players and giving them a chance to learn from their mistakes is important to the current season and their future. This only reinforced the notion that this coaching staff isn’t the best for player development.

At least recalling Nieves gave the Rangers a fourth center that they desperately needed, so they didn’t continue rolling 11 forwards and seven defensemen; a strategy that was costing them games.

October 31, 2017
The 3-7-2 Rangers face off against the Vegas Golden Knights at home, when their playoff hopes are dwindling and it’s reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post that head coach Alain Vigneault’s future may be contingent on this game. The Rangers win and go on a six-game winning streak, although their results outperform their actual level of play.

December 1, 2017
Thirty-six-year-old Henrik Lundqvist is set to start his 13th straight game.

Not only was Lundqvist starting 13 straight, but he was on pace to start over 70 games. The coaches were in win-now mode to save their season, but were risking burning out their most important player in the first half of the season. More questions were sparked about a disconnect between front office and coaching, since that clearly didn’t look like a re-tooling team in a transition year.

December 28, 2017
The Rangers lose Chris Kreider indefinitely when he’s diagnosed with a blood clot.

January 19, 2018
It’s revealed that Kevin Shattenkirk is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus and that he’s been playing through it since training camp.

Those “work in progress” comments about Shattenkirk from Vigneault seem awfully odd, don’t they? Shattenkirk noted his play suffered from about the eight-week mark on because the injury impeded his ability to condition, so he lost muscle in that leg. The defense was already suffering with Shattenkirk in the lineup though, so the question became how much more can this team take after they lose two of their top players?

Tony DeAngelo is recalled and given the chance to replace Shattenkirk in the lineup.

Shattenkirk’s officially shut down for the season on March 27.

February 8, 2018: The New York Rangers are rebuilding.

A press conference is held and a letter is published for fans: the Rangers are rebuilding — not on the fly, not re-tooling. They’re rebuilding.

Despite the Rangers not being too far out of the playoff mix, management recognized that this team wasn’t strong enough for a deep playoff run, and decided to be proactive in the best interest of their future. Fans were warned that familiar faces may be leaving, putting the spotlight on McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello, but were told that changes would be to made to make this team a strong contender for years to come.

Brendan Smith is waived, on his birthday, after a disappointing season. He clears waivers and is assigned to Hartford the following day. His season ends in Hartford in March after he breaks his hand in a fight with teammate Vinni Lettieri in practice.

Neal Pionk is recalled from the Hartford Wolfpack, John Gilmour is the next day. Both make their NHL debut on February 9 against the Calgary Flames

2018 Trade Deadline

February 20, 2018
Nick Holden is traded to the Boston Bruins for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick.

February 23, 2018
Michael Grabner is traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Yegor Rykov and a 2018 second-round pick.

February 25, 2018
Rick Nash is traded to the Bruins in exchange for Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round pick, and 2019 seventh-round pick.

February 26, 2018: Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller are traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov, Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, a 2018 first-round pick and a conditional 2019 second-round pick.

The Rangers blew it up at the trade deadline, dealing a number of roster players for prospects, draft picks and a few roster players in return. Thanks to their work at the deadline, they had three first-rounders and two second-rounders at the 2018 draft.

March 25, 2018
Andersson and Chytil are recalled from Hartford to finish the season in New York. Both scored two points in seven games.

March 27, 2018
The Rangers are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This is the first time the Blueshirts are eliminated with games still remaining on the schedule in the Henrik Lundqvist era.

April 7, 2018
The 34-39-9 Rangers end the 2017-18 season with 77 points, at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.

A number of factors contributed to the Rangers season going wrong, but since February 8, at least from a management perspective, the focus shifted to the future. Pionk, Gilmour, Georgiev, Chytil and Andersson all gave a glimpse into the Rangers’ future. More changes were bound to come after their 5-0 loss in Philadelphia to end the season, but there were questions on how committed they would be to rebuilding this offseason or if their focus would shift back to a re-tool.

April 7, 2018
The Rangers fire head coach Vigneault and associate coach Scott Arniel.

The first change that had to come was behind the bench. Vigneault is suited for a veteran group, not for one that has to prioritize player development. Mistakes had been made over the years, but it came to a boiling point this season. Had the coaches shown they could adjust and fit the team’s re-focused needs, maybe Vigneault’s tenure would have had a different ending. Because they didn’t and there was a clear lack of accountability from the coach, management’s hand was forced.

April 18, 2018
Owner James Dolan speaks to the New York Post about rebuilding process, reiterating the fresh approach the Rangers are committed to taking, as well as their priority of development.

May 23, 2018
David Quinn is hired as head coach.

The Rangers wanted a refresh behind the bench, and that’s exactly what they got with Quinn — a coach from Boston University with experience in player development, that isn’t recycling the same ideas from another NHL team.

June 22, 2018
The Rangers moved forward with their first round picks, selecting Vitali Kravtsov (9th overall), K’Andre Miller (22nd overall), and Nils Lundkvist (28th overall).

July 1, 2018
The Rangers are quiet on the first day of free agency, signing Fredrik Claesson (one-year, $700,000) and extending Namestnikov (two years, $8 million).

July 2018
Cody McLeod, Nieves,O’Gara, and Gilmour sign extensions.

It’s announced that Kravtsov will remain in the KHL for the 2018-19 season.

July 17, 2018
David Oliver and Greg Brown are hired as assistant coaches, joining holdover Lindy Ruff and goaltending coach Benoit Allaire.

RFA Jimmy Vesey signs a two-year, $4.55 million contract.

July 28, 2018
RFA Brady Skjei signs a six-year, $31.5 million contract.

The Rangers could have signed Skjei to a bridge deal, but would have risked inflating costs when they’re back to contention. Instead, they signed him long-term and made him a part of their future; even though Smith, Shattenkirk, and Staal are locked up until 2020-21, Skjei’s the only of their younger defensemen signed long-term.

July 30, 2018
RFA Kevin Hayes signs a one-year, $5.175 million contract.

When Hayes and the Rangers couldn’t come to an agreement on a long-term deal, Hayes was signed to a one-year contract. When it expires, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent though, so now the question is whether he has a future in New York. If not, he’ll likely be traded by the deadline, which could help this rebuilding process.

July 31, 2018
RFA Ryan Spooner signs a two-year, $8 million contract.

Spooner, Namestnikov, and Vesey’s two-year contracts could keep them in Rangers’ sweaters for two more years, or could add trade value since they’re more than just deadline rentals. The Rangers wisely kept their options open with these three extensions and maintained cap flexibility that will be crucial when they’re back to contention.