Go Big or Go Home
This Trade Deadline Jeff Gorton needs to swing for the fences
Twenty days, give or take, separates the Rangers from the NHL trade deadline. In just under three weeks’ time the Rangers roster should look radically different as general manager Jeff Gorton completes The Great Selloff 2: Electric Boogaloo, which will give a better sense of the direction the team wants to go in.
It’s clear that the Rangers have a lot of options when it comes to available trade assets and should be major players in the weeks ahead in that sense. The key, as we’ve mentioned time and again, is that the Rangers need to be aggressive. Not just aggressive in terms of setting the market, but also in cost demands and returns.
The Rangers are a bad team right now, and years of short-sighted trading has left the Rangers’ prospect pool rather shallow in terms of high end talent. This trade deadline is a perfect opportunity for the Rangers to change that, so that’s exactly what Gorton should strive to do.
As a seller in what is quickly becoming a very packed buyers market, Gorton finds himself in position to make out like a bandit from teams that are looking for that one player to really put them over the top and the more desperate the better. Every single negotiation Gorton has with other teams must start with a first round pick, and then he can move on to adding prospects.
Last trade deadline the Rangers added Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Yegor Rykov, and Ryan Lindgren to an emaciated farm system, along with first round picks. All are good players, but none that really stand out as players that you build around. With the first round picks they gained, on the other hand, Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, and Nils Lundkvist were selected — and each player quickly moved up to the top of their prospect rankings. Those are the players that can be built around, because the Rangers were bold and went for skill and upside, not for safety. Even in 2017, that was seen when the Rangers selected Filip Chytil with the 21st overall pick, in addition to the safer pick at seventh overall, Lias Andersson.
While there’s nothing wrong with the safer options, like the Andersson's, Howden's, and Lindgren’s, there still has to be an emphasis on upside and game-breaking abilities from some of their prospects. That’s why this year that needs to change, and Gorton needs to be aggressive in his demands for other teams’ top prospects.
Winnipeg has recently thrown their hat into the Kevin Hayes hunt and the Rangers should absolutely start at Kristian Vesalainen, Winnipeg’s top prospect, in return for the big center from Massachusetts. The same goes for Mats Zuccarello and Calgary; which should begin with Rasmus Andersson and go from there. The Rangers need upside in their farm system and trying to swindle desperate general managers is one of the best way to restock and weigh the odds in their favor.
Winnipeg and Calgary are two examples of teams that are close but probably not just one player away from making a big run, but let’s stay in the West and look at a team that might be a bit more desperate than some others — specifically, the Nashville Predators.
Nashville is a team that has gotten oh, so close to winning the Stanley Cup and like Tantalus trying to get that sip of water or bite of food, the big prize has just eluded the Predators and general manager David Poile. That means they could be ripe for the pickings (Eeli Tolvanen, maybe?) when hunting for a player to bolster their top six forward group, especially if they miss out on some of the top players on the trade market, like Mark Stone or Artemi Panarin.
It’s a rare thing to find the Rangers in a position of advantage during the trade deadline and they only have to look into their own past for the blueprint on how to maximize returns from desperate teams.
The time for half-measures is over. These next three weeks can go a long way in helping the Rangers rebuild, it’s just a matter of how aggressive Gorton and the rest of the front office wants to be.