This weekend the 2016 NHL Draft came and went, and while we don’t have much clearer of a picture regarding Rangers GM Jeff Gorton’s plans what we do know is that it’s going to be a wild ride. Still, Gorton’s track record with the Bruins and the comments he’s made so far can give fans some hope that this team is going to turn it around after a less than optimal campaign this past season.
Although the Rangers didn’t pick until the third round they made a prudent decision in taking OHL defenseman Sean Day. At 6 foot 2 and 228 pounds, Day brings size to the table, but more importantly he brings elite skating ability, with Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark comparing Day’s movement to that of Paul Coffey’s. Day fell to the third round due to questions about his attitude and whether or not he could put all of his skills together, but has undeniable talent that could seriously pay off for the Rangers should he pan out. The pick certainly has risk attached to it, but the fact that the Rangers took a chance on the high-ceiling Day demonstrates that the Rangers know they need elite skating ability back on the blue line.
The second most exciting thing about the draft weekend after the actual drafting of players is the potential for trades, and while the Rangers only made one trade, acquiring defenseman Nick Holden from the Colorado Avalanche, comments made by Gorton indicate that there’s more to come. Gorton indicated after the draft that the Rangers were close on “a couple” of trades but that the team would not “be forced into a deal”, so Rangers fans should have faith in their GM while expecting trades in the coming weeks, keeping in mind that Gorton was instrumental in assembling Boston’s 2011 Cup winning team.
As far as who’s going to be traded, that’s anyone’s guess. Pat Leonard reported that Gorton would be looking to move either or both of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal at the draft, although obviously this did not transpire. Still, the recent addition of Holden might foreshadow a Marc Staal trade, as Holden’s is a relatively expensive contract for a 7th defenseman. Trading either or both of Girardi and Staal would go a long way to helping revamp the Rangers ailing blue line, and would go a long way towards clearing cap space.
Because this is the Rangers we’re talking about, so of course there’s rumors abound that the Rangers are willing to make a massive offer for pending UFA Steven Stamkos. The big question is how, given that the Rangers are right up against the salary cap. If the Rangers really are intent on bidding for Stamkos, moving Staal and Girardi would be a potential first step.
Of course the Rangers could also clear cap space by trading Rick Nash, who carries a massive $7.8 million cap hit and one of their high performing centers, Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard. There’s been some smoke about both Nash and Stepan, and we’ve discussed on this blog before how Brassard also has some serious trade value. Moving Nash and a center would be an alternate route to Stamkos, although not necessarily one that would do much to improve this team on the whole. In these scenarios, the Rangers targeting Thomas Vanek may make sense.
All of this amounts to a lot of stress and potential for the Rangers and their fans, and what little we do know is that change is coming one way or another. Still Gorton’s comments, including when he mentioned to reporters that one could likely guess which areas the Rangers need to improve, should be reason for at least cautious optimism among fans. The acquisition of Holden may be prudent, and the Rangers’ draft picks, including Sean Day, indicate that the team has some idea of what they’re doing. Whatever the plan is, at least we know Gorton has one.