Dec
03

Should the Rangers Trade Rick Nash or Michael Grabner – or Both?

December 3, 2017, by
rick nash rangers sharks

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Rangers are going to have a lot of decisions to make this trade deadline, which although I realize is a ways away, is still worth discussing given how some of their players on expiring contracts are playing. The two players in particular who I’m thinking of are of course Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, who have been excellent secondary scorers for the Blueshirts thus far this season. Both players have similar skillsets and similar output (at least at first glance) thus far, so I thought it would be interesting to delve a little bit deeper into what the Rangers might want to do with one or both of them.

Given this whole “rebuild on the fly business”, and given that the playoffs are anything but a given at this point, the Rangers should at least think about trading an expiring asset in return for something good come the end of winter.

Let’s start with the numbers, at least on a basic level. At five on five Rick Nash has four goals and five assists for a total of nine points, six of which are primary points (goals or primary assists). Grabner likewise has six goals and two assist for a total of eight points, with seven of them being primary points.

Just from this cursory look at the numbers, it seems that Grabner is the more valuable asset, but none of this takes into consideration the man advantage or penalty kill situations. While we certainly could get into them if we wanted to take a real deep dive, it’s tough to compare the two on that level given that Nash receives both PP and PK time, Grabner has a lot of empty net goals, and both of those kinds of situations are less about point output than they are creating/denying chances. Again, we could really dig down into the numbers and get into all of that, but for these purposes right now five on five play is the easiest way to compare apples to apples.

All of that scoring is great to know, but it’s also important to adjust for ice time, because as we know Nash and Grabner have significantly different roles on this team as far as who’s considered a more primary scoring threat. With a time on ice of 314.93 minutes compared to Grabner’s 288.05 minutes, Nash’s ice time is a decent amount higher than the speedy Austrian’s. When you divide up those numbers by the amount of games played (26 for both of them) you get 12.11 minutes on average per game of five on five ice time to 11.07 minutes of the same – just about a full minute more, and again, Nash gets time on the PP that Grabner doesn’t so his role on the team carries a higher profile, or at least a different quality, than Grabner’s.

In those minutes Nash has a points per 60 minutes of 1.71 and a primary points per 60 minutes of 1.14, while Grabner’s are 1.67 and 1.46 respectively. Now it’s important to note that it is still relative early in the season, so there’s plenty of time for one or both of this guys to go on a tear and/or cool off significantly, but right now it looks like Grabner is probably slightly more valuable than Nash in terms of points scoring – although his points per 60 is slightly lower his primary points rate is higher, meaning if you put both him and Nash on ice for the exact same amount of time it’s a bit more likely than Grabner gets it done than Nash does.

The game is more than just scoring of course, with a guy’s on-ice contributions going beyond putting the biscuit in the basket and extending to how well they help their teammates win, assists notwithstanding. For that we should consider each of their CF%s and xGF%s, which measure the team’s share of shot attempts and scoring chances, respectively, with each player on the ice. We should also look at each of those numbers raw and relative – the latter giving us how much better or worse each player is compared to his teammates’ average. In this regard Nash has a CF% of 47.27 and a xGF% of 46.62, while Grabner’s numbers are a 46.69 CF% and 48.59 xGF%.

It’s interesting that Nash would have a better CF% but a worse xGF% than Grabner, indicating that while the team takes more shots while he’s on ice compared to Grabner, the team takes better shots when Grabner is on ice compared to Nash. This is just conjecture, but it probably has to do with the fact that Nash is an elite puck protector and can help the team bring it into the zone and set up, even if what ends up coming of it all is a shot from the point, while Grabner’s offense tends to come on the rush, making it less likely the team gets a lot of shot attempts with him around but more likely that those shot attempts are on breakaways and thus more valuable overall.

The relative numbers are also interesting to look at, because they give us an idea of who’s really more valuable to the team – are they just putting up these raw CF%s and xGF%s because they happen to be on ice during those attempts and scoring chances, or are they actually the ones driving those events? For both players, the numbers aren’t great, but we’ll consider them anyways because evidence is evidence and you’ve got to take it into account. Nash has a relCF% of -0.98% and Grabner has a relCF% of 1.71%, meaning Nash is slightly closer to his teammates’ average than Grabner is, but both are underperforming relative to the team as a whole.

As far as relxGF% goes, Nash thus far has posted a relxGF% of -2.67 while Grabner has posted one of -0.03% – once again Nash seems better at putting his teammates in a position to get a shot off, but Grabner seems better at making those shots count. It’s an interesting discrepancy and one that certainly would become relevant in any trade talks – but we’ll get to that next.

Trading Nash would mean sending someone away who drives play regardless of quality, while trading Grabner would mean driving a guy who primarily gets really good scoring chances. This brings us to the age old debate of quality versus quantity – ideally you’d like both but if you’re more concerned with getting pucks to the net than getting breakaways you might consider trading Grabner instead of Nash. Similarly, if you want to see more rush based offense and less sustained pressure, trading Nash might be you’re best bet.

There are of course other considerations to be made, a lot of with have to do with perception. Rick Nash is a name brand player who went first overall, and Michael Grabner is a guy who has built his reputation as a very good, but inconsistent (at least on a year-to-year basis) depth guy. Other teams might value on of those more than the other just on its own, or because they want other teams to be quaking in their boots when each player is on the ice. By that I mean that putting Rick Nash on the ice likely creates a psychological condition where teams feel they have to cover him, because he’s got such a stellar reputation, while Michael Grabner probably doesn’t cause the same effect.

This idea cuts both ways though – if other teams cover Nash more but he isn’t producing, your secondary scoring better be making it happen. On the flip side, Michael Grabner is that secondary scoring, and if teams are underrating him then maybe there’s a better chance he gets it done. Systems is another big consideration too, but as far as that goes I’m less knowledgable than someone like Dave, so I’ll leave that up to better minds as we get closer to the trade deadline.

Now, the big question is this – do you trade one or both of them? On that level it all depends on how much the Rangers see themselves as contenders, and how much emphasis they’re placing on each component of “rebuild on the fly”. If the Rangers think they’re still in it, and they emphasis the latter part of that phrase, then maybe Grabner is the one to go, provided the deal on the table is better than the one for Nash. If they’re really dead set on rebuilding, and they see this year as a lost cause come spring time, then maybe trading both is the move. It’s a tough calculus to consider for any GM, and as always we’re just going to have to trust the process. Whether that trust is well-founded I’ll leave for you to decide, but at least now you’ve got the facts.

"Should the Rangers Trade Rick Nash or Michael Grabner - or Both?", 1 out of 5 based on 15 ratings.

34 comments

  1. avsucks says:

    How about trading the GM and coach.

    • flatbush says:

      what will be gained by trading any of these guys. What are you looking for ?

    • Jeff says:

      Senseless to make a player transaction with AV still at the helm. Not wanting to criticize him, he just can’t get it done. He consistently gets strategy and player utilization wrong. I guess he had no say in player acquisition over the past 4 years, meaning that Slats, Gordy and JG couldn’t get him “his” guys. His tactics has got him 2 Stanley losses. I’m not saying change for change sakes, but getting someone who gets the game and not the euphemistic “process”.

  2. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    Pat-

    Good analysis. The options to this multiple choice question are—

    A) Trade them both

    B) Trade Grabner only

    C) Trade Nash only

    D) Trade Neither

    E) All of the Above

    The answer at the moment is simple—It’s E. All options are on the table and it depends on what the return would be, where the Rangers are in the standings, and their health.

    It’s way too soon to know where this season is heading. If they continue their winning ways, improve on their consistency in the process, and Mika is back sooner rather than later, then the likely answer shifts to D. If not, if the team is a borderline playoff team, then it becomes B or C. If the season unravels, then it would be A.

    I think the Rangers mindset is, as you said, rebuild on the fly. So if the chance to realistically contend is there, they will make moves with the playoffs in mind. If the chance to realistically contend is not there, then their mindset will be to trade current roster assets for future ones. Nash and Grabner, as pending UFAs, are prime candidates to be dealt if the team is not a legit SC contender. Plain and simple.

    • gene4240 says:

      Ed,

      I would trade Nash especially, he would very valuable to a Stanley Cup contending team. I reference back to what the Wild gave up for a player like Matt Hanzel- C from Arizona. a 1st, 2nd rounder and Ryan White.

      I feel Nash would get a nice haul and the Rangers will have the opportunity to re-sign Nash in July to a 3-year contract that will not break the Bank for the Rangers. Thanks to my my buddy on here who posts often, I do know Nash would like to remain a Ranger. So it might be best to obtain more picks, prospects, etc…and execute your re-tool all the way through and come back strong next season for a run which if done correctly, can be achieved.

  3. Kal Pohar says:

    That’s an easy one trade both as this year’s draft is one of the best in a longtime and both Nash and Grabner would bring back 1st rounders based on what Hanzel brought back last year combine those picks with the young talent currently playing and also the up and coming players Rangers would be set for the next 5-8 years….also players in the Metro Div like OV, Sid, Malkin and Backstrom all gonna be 32-35 yrs old and NY would be making their move around that time

  4. Richter1994 says:

    As long as the Rangers have Lundqvist as their goalie they will never “sell.” Does that answer the question of trading Nash and/or Grabner? Nope, it just complicates it. And here’s why.

    If the Rangers were “sellers” then there would be a tremendous market for both players, as picks and/or prospects would be the asking price on the Rangers’ side. This opens up the market to all potential playoff teams or approx 2/3rds of the league, if not more, due to so many “bubble” teams that believe that they are a player or 2 away from making the playoffs. Don’t forget, if you think making the playoffs is a revenue boon for MSG then just think what it is for lesser market teams. They want for the playoffs, badly.

    Let’s assume they are not sellers. Then, you now have a minimal # of teams to trade with, due to contract restrictions that Nash has and because of the return that the Rangers would want, or NHL ready players that can help this year. That makes the trade market for the Rangers in this case very small because there not a lot of “true sellers” to begin with and, on top of it, those teams would have to give the Rangers what they are looking for, for valuable players like Nash and Grabner.

    So the Rangers are put in a very difficult trade position as “buyers.” Who are the Rangers going to get in trade that would make it worth it for them to trade 2 key offensive Rangers, who also PK? Not any players that other teams would be willing to give up for true “rentals” like Nash and Grabner.

    It would have to be for a vet that is on his last year of his contract and that team is not planning on re-signing, maybe someone like Wayne Simmonds. Or for a vet that has a bad contract that the team is looking to unload. Not great overall opportunities.

    If it were that easy for the Rangers to find a good trade then it would have happened already as Gorton has been working the phones like crazy looking for a center. Hence the rumors that Miller is the guy being talked about, and not Nash nor Grabner. At least that is what I am hearing.

    • Leatherneck says:

      And that is the problem….having Leaky as your goalie….I say trade him too
      We ain’t winning the cup…and this bonehead mentality that as long as we have Leaky we are not selling must cease and desist

      • Richter1994 says:

        I do not agree with your anti-Hank sentiments but I agree with you here. I did not say that “I agree” with the Rangers’ thought process, but that’s what it is.

        Unlike the way the Giants kicked Eli out the door by blindsiding him, I would go to the King and tell him that they are rebuilding and to give him the choice to stay in NY through it or the Rangers try to trade him.

        But honestly, what contender would take him with years on his contract left? Name me the teams and what they would give up to get him.

        • Fotiu is God says:

          Clearly this is all prologue, Anthony.

          Nonetheless, if we’re carrying over this underachieving-uninspiring attitude into March, on the outside of playoff contention, yes; I agree. Begin that dialogue with Lunqvist.

          As for Grabner vs. Rick Nash: without question, the latter.

          If he’s willing, I’d assume Dallas, St. Louis and The LAK, the best in The West would take on Rick Nash. Albeit if any of those three can sort the cap space.

          Grabner’s done nothing but impress, given his hustle and smart, three-zone play. This is subjective, more a vibe or feel, but I also get the sense Grabner’s solidly received and respected by his teammates. That’s key.

          Conversely, Nash, blessed with enviable size and elite skill, had all too many opportunities to take this club on his shoulders. Especially during last year’s playoff run. He should’ve been The Man.

          In sum, we only saw glimpses of that 30-35 goal/75-80 point player Columbus had. It’s understandable why CBJ ultimately moved him.

          • Richter1994 says:

            Bro, there’s “what we want” and “what is reality.”

            Unless there is a tremendous reversal of sentiments, the King will never, ever agree to a trade. And with his iron clad NMC in tact, then he controls the situation.

            This in itself, like it or not by the fans, no matter how hard people stamp their feet, automatically results in the Rangers never to be “sellers.”

            Does that mean another Brass for Zib trade will not be done? No. Because, as we have seen, the Zib trade was an “improvement now” trade, regardless of what Ranger fans think.

            The only way a “Nash for picks” trade happens is if the Rangers are out of playoff contention in January/February. Again, whether that’s “right or wrong” is irrelevant because it’s only happening in this way, not if the Rangers are playing for the playoffs. Then Nash and/or Grabner probably stay, for right or for wrong.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Leather, when it comes to this subject, you are being totally ridiculous and unrealistic. He has a full NMC, he loves NY and I believe it’s probably 99.9% that he would not agree to leave at this time (he left money on the table at the time of the deal to get the full NMC), and as Richter said, please, name the team that can swing the deal?

        Even if by some miracle Hank did agree to waive his NMC, we know from past history that goalies do not fetch much in trades—especially aging goalies with huge contracts that still have significant term associated with it. So if somehow a deal could be done, you likely have to eat half the contract and would get pennies on the dollar back in terms of return.

        Whenever I counter your point with the points I just made, you NEVER respond. So I ask again, putting all your irrational hate and obvious jealously or resentment aside re: Hank because he is a future HOFer and is being paid as such, how about drop the grammar school-sequel “Leaky” nonsense and explain, logically, how this would be done and how the team would benefit? I doubt you can because it is pretty much impossible to envision a scenario where anyone benefits.

        I said this once before. I see ZERO chance this happens this year or next. And probably not in 2019-20 either. But in that year, Shesterkin hopefully comes to NY. If he quickly establishes himself in the manner that Hank did back in 2005, and The King sees the writing on the wall, he might agree at the 2020 deadline, or that off-season, to cede his throne to the Czar (my future name for Shesterkin if he’s as great as Hank), and go to a contender for one season plus. That would make Hank’s deal more palatable to a team taking it on, given the lack of term, the Rangers can get something back, and most importantly, the Rangers would have their heir apparent, which they certainly do not have at the moment.

        Thinking that Hank or the Rangers would be open to a deal now is about as likely as the Rangers changing their uniforms from blue to green. It’s not happening.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Yeah, I mean like it or not, Henrik is going to be here unless he goes to Ranger management and asks to trade him to a contender.

          But again, who are the contenders that would trade for him now, that has cap space? I honestly cannot name anyone, unless you consider the Pens.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            According to CapFriendly, the Pens would have $3.3 million at the deadline. They would need to find a way to clear another million to even get into the ball park. The Rangers would demand a “King’s” ransom in return. There is a less than 1/1000th of 1% of this happening.

            Looking at the teams with significant cap space at the deadline, they are either non-contenders or they already have goalies that are getting it done for them. So it could only happen in an injury situation.

            Again, it’s all a bunch of nonsense. There is a better chance that the Giants would deal away their 1st round draft pick this Spring to Buffalo to secure the rights to hiring Rex Ryan then there would be that the Rangers would be open to dealing the King at this time, or that the King would be open to leaving.

            • Richter1994 says:

              Right there are no contenders that are a fit for the King, if he even agreed to go in the first place. End of story.

              • King Sieveqvist ! King Sieveqvist ! says:

                Probably wouldn’t get much , goalies never get a good return and especially a high contracted goalie …. we would probably have to swallow a ton of his salary to move him.Didnt read 3 E’s post … look at that 3 E’s … we agree !!

  5. Al Hirschen says:

    The big question you have to ask can the New York rangers this year can they win the Stanley Cup. In my opinion no. One and done is BS . The Rangers should be open for business that a team that you can construct today for next year is the team that is set up for success. Any business in hockey nobody should be off the table . Nobody. And today’s sports world you must think outside of the box

  6. Chris.C says:

    If the Rangers trade both Nash and Grabner they may as well tank the year. and go for the top 3 pick. Other thing is Mika – Hes on what 5 or 6 concussions right now? Contract aside what if he decides to throw in the towel like Derek Dorsett did? I wouldnt blame him either Health is more important then a game. But now your looking at a major hole. Trade either is just assine. Wrong time to be discussing trading either one, IMHO

  7. Spozo says:

    I’m not sure what Grabners value truly is. Las Vegas passed on getting him for free last season. I’m sure no one (myself included) expected him to repeat last seasons production but he is off to a great start right now. But honestly, 6 empty net goals is greatly skewing his perceived value. That being said, he still would get us something in return. I’m not sure a 1st round pick though.

    If the Rangers are trading Rick Nash it’s because they are out of the playoffs. Plain and simple that’s the only way it happens. If that’s the case then the best bargaining chip the Rangers have is to retain half his salary. Any team that is trading for him considers themselves a definite Stanley Cup contender. Those teams likely don’t have 7.8 million in cap space and it doesn’t make sense for the Rangers to take back a bad contract. So retain half his salary (if they are out of contention that that dead space doesn’t really mater for the rest of the season). This will jack up the return the Rangers get.

  8. Bloomer says:

    The team is playing good hockey right now..they should stay pat until the trade deadline.

    • RichS says:

      Thank God Bloomer, a comment that is accurate, concise and smart!!!!!!
      Starting with PAT….the author of this silliness…….why trade, arguably two of our 3 or 4 best forwards while we are in a playoff hunt ………last year grabner had 26 even strength goals….this year , albeit with 6 empty netters he is still our leading goal scorer and leads the team in plus minus!!!!!
      Both are very valuable, winning players and if nash is willing to give us a home town discount BOTH should finish their careers here!!!!!!!!
      And again, TOO MANY FREAKEN STATS………just watch the games , you should be able to see who is good and who is bad……

      • Bloomer says:

        Hockey is all about team chemistry. Right now the Rangers have guys who play well together and can score. They have a goalie who when he’s on his game is formidable. They are an entertaining team to watch play hockey.

        • Richter1994 says:

          They were playing great at this time last year.

          But this speculation is really a couple of months from now at the trade deadline. Brutal schedule the next few weeks so let’s see.

  9. Mikeyyy says:

    Trade as many assets as you can for first rounders since it’s a deep draft class. If there was a time to blow up the roster, it’s now. While both are uninjured and on an upswing in their play.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Mikeyyy—

      There is ZERO chance what you are suggesting will happen. The Rangers are red hot and on the brink of a playoff spot, and only a few points shy of the best record in the division. They will not “blow up the roster now”, as you suggest. That would never be approved by Sather or by Dolan for that matter.

      But as Pat said, come the trade deadline, if management believes this team is going nowhere, then if the right deal(s) is/are out there, I suspect they will strongly consider trading current assets for future ones.

    • Kal Pohar says:

      No need to blow it up just trade those 2 for picks

  10. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    Rich my friend, you are going WAY off the rails again. Before you double down on your usual hyperbolic rants, may I suggest in the future that you actually READ what was written. Pat said…..

    “Given this whole ‘rebuild on the fly business’, and given that the playoffs are anything but a given at this point, the Rangers should at least think about trading an expiring asset in return for something good come the end of winter.

    “If….they see this year as a lost cause come springtime, then maybe trading both is the move.”

    So what did Pat say? He said this should NOT be considered now. It should be considered prior to the deadline IF the Rangers find themselves in a position where they are likely not a contender. What is wrong with that? Pat happens to be absolutely correct.

    You are a wonderful fan Rich but you would make a lousy GM. Every GM will look at their expiring contracts prior to the deadline and consider whether moving them for future assets would make sense. In fact, I will GUARANTEE you that those discussions will happen almost regardless of the Rangers position in the standings. I suspect though that, as I said earlier, they would only trade one or both IF management believes that a playoff run is unlikely. I mean, what if Mika is done for the season? Unlikely but certainly at least a small possibility. If so, we are likely done. And if we are done, we should deal any assets that are tradeable that are not part of the future.

    And, I will point out that even if they DO trade Nash and/or Grabner, they can always opt to re-sign one or both this summer—much like what the Yankees did when they traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a potential future star, and then re-signed their closer. That is a great example of how to best maximize assets which the Rangers can certainly do if they choose to.

    Rich, we love ya man. You are the ultimate “Fan Boy”. But you overrate the value of just about everyone you like, and dramatically devalue anyone you don’t like. Reality is usually closer to the center.

  11. genetics73 says:

    My suggestion is to trade the commenters – with a few honorable exceptions.

  12. Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:

    Is it February?

  13. tanto says:

    I imagine that come the deadline almost anyone is fair game to be traded if we’re “out of the running” — although obviously players on expiring contracts move to the front of the list. Aside from Hank, Skei, Buch, Mika, Chytil and perhaps Shesterkin I’m thinking management would at least “listen”.

    Re: Nash and Grabner, I wouldn’t mind seeing both in a Rangers’ uniform come next year as I don’t think either is the problem. That said, Nash clearly isn’t the player he use to be and his $7.8m per year needs to come off the book — I hold out little hope he would resign for $4-4.5m … Grabner on the other hand I would like to see resigned now for 2-3 years if we can get him for $3m per. I have faith that with his commitment to strength and conditioning he will remain a valuable player into his mid-30’s — and NO, I don’t expect him to score 25+ goals every year unless he some how manages to pot 10+ empty netters.

  14. kevin mccarthy says:

    I’d trade nash keep grabs(he has only really shined here) I’d take a chance on evander Kane as nash’s replacement doubt BUF would bite. See him moving back to CBJ or SJS but I’m only a fan and don’t know much other than my gut

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