Yesterday I was locked in a very interesting discussion on Twitter with Adam Herman (NYR Blog), Kevin Power (Blueshirt Banter), and George Ays (RangerSmurf) about the feasibility of a Rangers fire sale at this year’s trade deadline. Without getting into specifics of whether they should sell or they shouldn’t (it’s worth noting that the contract extension for Henrik Lundqvist all but locks the Rangers into win-now mode, whether you like it or not), the one thing we all agreed on is that the Rangers have a few pieces that could net them a really solid return.
There are two paths the Rangers could technically take when it comes to a fire sale:
- A complete blow up and rebuild, which would mean selling off as many assets as possible for picks and prospects. This would involve tanking, hoping to draft Connor McDavid in 2015, loading up on lottery picks, and using them to follow the path laid out by the Penguins and the Blackhawks. This would easily set the Rangers back at least five years in their Stanley Cup hopes. That said, tanking doesn’t always work. Just look at Edmonton and Columbus (and potentially Florida and the Islanders).
- Selling off assets with no future on the team in an effort to retool. This would likely mean selling off any player that the Rangers do not have in their long-term plan, or any player that could fetch them a king’s ransom at the deadline. This is the route that the Bruins took, and it worked out pretty well for them. This isn’t fool-proof either, but it also doesn’t have the five-year waiting period. A retooling would set the Rangers back 1-3 years, depending on the return and player development.
For the sake of this post, let’s assume that the Rangers would choose option #2, and retool the team.
Starting with the top, Rick Nash wouldn’t be moved in a retooling. Brad Richards would be bought out. Ryan McDonagh isn’t getting moved (not even in a complete blow up). Hank isn’t being traded either. Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Derek Dorsett, and Cam Talbot are all good pieces and signed to reasonable deals through next season. This team isn’t trading their captain, so Ryan Callahan stays. Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello are RFAs and, given their performance, likely wouldn’t be dealt either. Only one of John Moore/Michael Del Zotto would get moved. Let’s assume it’s the latter.
That leaves the following players that the Rangers could move to retool the team: Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, and Dominic Moore (Justin Falk and Dan Carcillo don’t have much value). The first four would probably net a serious return for the Rangers. Moore and Pouliot would likely be packaged with the first four.
Let’s start with the player most likely to be traded regardless of the situation: Del Zotto. MDZ would probably fetch a solid return, since he is a 24-year-old RFA defenseman that has put up 40 points once and 37 points twice (last year he was on pace for 37 points). He isn’t getting a fair shake from the fans, but that doesn’t erase his value. Let’s assume he fetches a young NHL ready player, but not the top-four guy Slats is rumored to be looking for. Using the Leafs as the example, he would probably fetch Jake Gardiner. There would probably be other pieces thrown in, but those two would be the center pieces.
Let’s mov to Girardi, which is something we’ve touched on before. The return for Girardi would be tremendous. He is a top-pairing defenseman that is right-handed, plays 22 minutes, and has missed four games in his entire NHL career. A playoff team looking to really solidify their defense would jump on him in a heartbeat. The price would be what Marian Hossa fetched Atlanta in 2008: two young NHL players, a top prospect, and a 1st round pick. The trade also sent then-spare-forward Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh, so let’s assume a trade like this would include one of Pouliot or Moore. Anaheim is the team that was most recently linked to Girardi, so we are looking at a deal centered around Kyle Palmieri, one of Sami Vatanen/Hampus Lindholm, a prospect, and a first.
Boyle is easy. If Paul Gaustad can fetch a first round pick, so can Boyle.
Stralman is the tough one to figure out. He’s a guy that people only appreciate if you are into #fancystats. He’s been steady, he plays from the right side, and he’s relatively durable. He doesn’t wow you on the scoreboard, but he’s the best Rangers possession defenseman. He’s a top-four guy that plays all three zones very well. I would think he fetches a prospect that is very close to the NHL and a high pick, potentially a first rounder. I may be overshooting that though.
Is it worth it for the Rangers to retool? Personally I think they should lock up Girardi now, and look into re-signing Boyle and Stralman, depending on price tags. This team isn’t a retooling away from contending. They have a hole or two to fill. But that’s just my opinion.