Analyzing the potential for a New York Rangers blockbuster trade
Unless you were living under a rock this season, you noticed that the Rangers need to make some changes if they wish to stay relevant in the NHL. Without singling out specific players, they were slow, apathetic, careless, and sloppy all season long. Some of it was attitude, with the apparent expectation that they could just flip the switch in the playoffs. That didn’t work.
The bigger issue was the inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone to transition to offense. On defense, only Keith Yandle consistently moved the puck out of the defensive zone. But he’s going to command $6 million on the open market. That snowballed throughout the lineup, as the forwards were unable to generate speed through the neutral zone. That stymied the offense, especially in the playoffs.
Even with the salary cap ceiling estimated to increase to $74 million next season, the Rangers are in a precarious position. Major changes are needed to compete while Henrik Lundqvist is still able to play at his generational talent level. And by major changes, I don’t mean blowing up the roster for a rebuild. That isn’t needed. But some outside-of-the-box thinking is required.
Trading Girardi is one of the top priorities to most fans, which is incredibly tough to say. Girardi is an absolute warrior and has bled for this team, which resulted in his six-year (four years left), $5.5 million per year deal. That deal is one of the two major albatrosses on the club, as Girardi hasn’t been able to keep up in Alain Vigneault’s overload/man hybrid defensive zone coverage. Since AV appears to be unwilling to adjust, so it becomes a matter of getting the right personnel.
Girardi has name-brand value, but the real “prize” in a trade would be shedding the contract. A trade would likely be preferable to a buyout, but the cap space to make the necessary changes to the roster is critical. Teams like Colorado –Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic are on record saying they value plus/minus– and Dallas –willingly traded for Kris Russell– come to mind here. Girardi’s no-move complicates things, though.
The other player that folks want to see traded, Staal’s story is a bit more heart breaking than Girardi’s. Staal was an extremely effective defenseman early in his career, but a freak eye injury made him a relative liability with the puck. He can skate and keep up in the system, but his reads have been off for a while. I’m a huge Staal fan, always have been, so watching this unfold stinks.
While I wonder if Staal may do well with a move to the right side (making his blind-side the boards, and not the slot), a trade is again the better scenario to shed his $5.7 million deal for another five years. Staal also has name-brand value, and a strong playoffs may help his value. But like Girardi, the value is shedding the contract, not the return. Colorado and Dallas again come to mind. His no-move also complicates things.
This idea has been floated by a few. McDonagh is on a sweetheart deal and has some tremendous value to the club. He’s a fantastic defenseman who has been dragging Girardi around for quite some time. McDonagh hasn’t been given help on his right throughout his career, but he’s still managed to be the best defenseman on the team. Thus his value in a trade would bring back a significant haul.
Seth Jones brought back Ryan Johansen. While not direct comparables –Jones is cheaper and younger– their stats are similar enough that we can assume McDonagh would bring back a comparable return. Every single NHL team would want McDonagh. The Rangers won’t trade him unless the deal blows them away, though.
Nash is the only expensive forward that a large group of fans seem to want to jettison from the roster. While trading Nash is certainly an option that should be explored, it shouldn’t be for the reason that the majority of the “Trade Nash” contingent wants. Nash is one of the best even strength producers in hockey. That said, his powerplay production is pretty rough, and he carries a $7.8 million cap hit for the next two seasons.
The idea to trade him has been discussed numerous times on this site (here, here, and here) by three different writers. The consensus is the same: A trade is likely an immediate step back, but a potential future step forward. Of all the skaters listed in this post, Nash is the most likely to be dealt. He has a lot of value, even at that cap hit. His NTC (12 teams he will accept a trade to) complicates matters, but not as much as with Staal or Girardi.
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!
This is the ultimate nuclear option, but not the smartest nuclear option. The market for goaltenders is incredibly weak, even for a generational talent like Hank. Cory Schneider brought back one first round pick. One. Uno. Un. En. один. Schneider wasn’t proven then, but Hank is 34 years old. Let’s assume those balance out.
The return for Lundqvist doesn’t meet or exceed the benefits of trading him. I’d rather have him at $8 million than either Dallas goalie for $5.9 million (Lehtonen) or $4.5 million (Niemi).
The Rangers need to make adjustments to stay in contention and get with the times of the new NHL. To do that, they will need to be creative and think outside the box. But can they make the necessary moves? This is the offseason of Jeff Gorton, and we shall see.