Patience Could Cost The Rangers Dearly This Summer
There’s definitely been happier years in Blueshirt Banter history. Not only from a New York Rangers team success standpoint but from an overall site attitude level, too.
A lot of these stories are coming off in the “oh my God the world is on fire!” realm of analysis. That hasn’t really been the intent, but with the Rangers sitting on one of the most important summers in recent history it's hard not to seriously worry about the future.
The summer buyout window opened yesterday, and it will run until June 30th. Toronto has already placed Jared Cowen on waivers with the intent to buy him out, and it’s fair to say a few teams will be seriously considering their options in that arena as well.
Carolina — who has had an astoundingly good few months of hockey from a management standpoint — pulled their own move yesterday, swinging a huge deal in which they agreed to take on Bryan Bickell’s terrible contract along with Teuvo Teravainen for just a second round pick this year (the Rangers’ second, no less) and next year's third round pick.
This comes on the heels of getting Aleksi Saarela and two seconds (again, one of those was used in the trade with Chicago) for one-playoff win of Eric Staal. I think it’s fair to say Jeff Gorton regrets his first blockbuster move since taking over the General Manager duties, but that’s neither here nor there.
Oh wow. So the Canes didn't just take two 2nds AND Saarela. They also used one of the 2nds to secure this deal. -_- https://t.co/4ObyaVpryx— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) June 15, 2016
The move Ron Francis pulled with Chicago is something I really wanted the Rangers to do -- with the understanding they wouldn’t be able to do it because of their own cap problems. The Hurricanes are reaping the rewards of having cap space, while Chicago (and the Rangers) are being punished for not having it. Success (or the illusion of success) comes at a heavy cost if you’re not throwing a parade at the end of the year.
Often times moves like this are referred to as “the first domino to fall.” We hear that term about a thousand times leading up to the trade deadline as one deal forces other teams to jump into the mix.
The difference is this year no one knows what’s going on with the Las Vegas expansion draft next year -- which adds a new level of panic. We have some ideas, some theories and some guesses but nothing more than that.
With the wrench of not really knowing what’s going on with the expansion draft, teams are more aware than ever about the long-term implications of the moves they’ve made in the past.
Chicago — in desperate need of cap space — was willing to part with a very good, young, cost controlled player (read: every the Blackhawks need) to rid themselves of a prior mistake. Chicago has been willing to both swallow their pride and sell high on core players to continue re-branding their way to a Stanley Cup dynasty. The Rangers have, well, not been willing to do that, and now we’re here.
If this move does set off some type of domino effect it will more than likely happen very quickly. There’s only a handful of teams who would be willing to take on a bad salary intentionally (like Carolina) or unintentionally (non-analytic teams like Colorado or Vancouver) before the window of opportunity closes for good. The Rangers have to make sure they don’t miss that window.
Now, I’m not advocating for the Rangers to throw Pavel Buchnevich in a deal with Dan Girardi for a 2nd round pick and some much needed cap space. I’m not advocating the Rangers trade away J.T. Miller or Kevin Hayes to make something work.
What I am advocating for is the Rangers figure out what the hell it is they want to do (and quickly). According to reports, the Rangers have not spoken to Keith Yandle or his agent about an extension (take this with a grain of salt for now). Assuming he’s gone (which is a very likely outcome of this summer) the Rangers might want to take a stab at Tyson Barrie or look to find another valuable defenseman on the trading block.
I believe in my heart of hearts there is an actual market for Marc Staal to be traded, and a part of me wants to believe one or two teams would take Girardi without a sweetener (although the likelihood of this happening is less than slim-to-none).
As I said above, though, the numbers of teams willing to make a move like this are dwindling. Colorado and Vancouver look like they’re ripe for the picking. Anaheim and Edmonton might be willing to make a bad deal to try and fix whatever problems they have. You never know what St. Louis will do as a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in the playoffs this year.
Once those options are exhausted, though, it's very realistic the window closes for good.
For example: Colorado is looking to change the mentality of their room — a very dangerous ideology that has no actual analytical backup but is more an emotional decision. Assuming they want a “hard working, gritty, get-the-job-done” veteran, once that move is made they’re good to go. Staal seems like a perfect fit for this type of a move -- in a way so does Derek Stepan, actually -- as the perception of the player they’re getting is both good on and off the ice (which is why a non-analytical approach can be dangerous).
Bryan Winters came up with a strange idea on Twitter the other day that I sort of can’t shake:
Why do I get the sense that a Stepan/Duchene sort of swap would make some sense here. https://t.co/X3qkSANK6s— Bryan Winters (@BTW892) June 14, 2016
Similar contracts (Duchene 2 less years), same age, and both fill needs on either side.— Bryan Winters (@BTW892) June 14, 2016
#NYR get the "shooter" they've been sorely lacking up front, and Colorado gets a very good two-way center to help at both ends.— Bryan Winters (@BTW892) June 14, 2016
But even in this hypothetical, once a deal like this is made usually the shop is closed for business. You miss the boat for teams willing to make these kind of deals and you’re usually left on the dock wondering if you should have gotten on the boat.
Smarter teams are making long-term decisions sooner rather than later.
Chicago’s move — for as much as they needed cap space -- might not have been that smart (seriously, why are they keeping Andrew Shaw and HIS contract?) and Carolina took advantage of it.
Those options are going to be far and few between, and as they are utilized they’ll be closed off forever.
The Rangers might want to be patient, but if opportunity is knocking they better answer the door.
Because if they don’t, they might have no other options.