Preseason is over and the 2016-17 NHL regular season is under a week away. At this point we’ve got a decent look at what this year’s Rangers squad might look like and how they’ll perform on ice. Almost as important however is that we’ve got a decent look at what new General Manager Jeff Gorton’s philosophy behind the scenes will mean on-ice for this team.

Let’s start with the biggest move he made all summer. Gorton waited until shortly after the draft to make a one-for-one swap with the Ottawa Senators, sending fan favorite Derick Brassard up north in exchange for Mika Zibanejad. With this move the Rangers got younger and faster, in addition to opening up some much needed salary cap room. On the ice, we’ve already seen this move pay off, with Zibanejad’s speed and one-timer being much needed additions to the Rangers’ toolbox, in addition to the fact tat Chris Kreider looks like he’s finally got the freedom to be the player he should be on Zibanejad’s wing.

Then there was the surprise signing of Jimmy Vesey, who most fans likely did not expect to sign with the Rangers. This too made the Rangers younger and faster, and similar to the Zibanejad deal was a savvy cap move in that it added a skill player on a cheap contract to help subsidize larger deals. Gorton making a concerted effort to sign Vesey shows us what kind of player he values, and given that Vesey recently won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award for best camp rookie it’s safe to say he’s got a bright future ahead of him.

Next we’ve got the signing of Adam Clendening, who’s turned out to be something of a surprise this preseason. Clendening was signed as a free agent after bouncing around to several teams without finding a permanent home. He’s shown that he has the potential and skill set to be a real asset to this team with his smooth skating and deft passing ability, particularly on the power play. Here we saw Gorton make the same kind of move that saw Anton Stralman come to New York – taking a flyer on a guy who’s shown promise but never really stuck anywhere in the hope that he can become something in New York. While it’s yet to be seen if he turns out as well as Stralman did, the kind of philosophy behind the signing is a welcome change from the policy of signing older defensemen to large contracts.

Lastly there’s yesterday’s surprise on the waiver wire: Tanner Glass. At the risk of beating a dead horse, Tanner Glass has been a disaster for the Rangers, taking up valuable cap space with his inflated, three year contract and often causing AV to bump more skilled players from the lineup in favor of his alleged grit and jam. Yesterday however, we saw the Rangers make a savvy move, with Gorton evidently realizing that there’s simply too much talent on this roster to carry a player like Glass anymore and prioritizing on ice contributions over the ephemeral quality of being “good in the room”. While some might recall that Glass was sent down once before only to be called right back up, I think this time will be different, with Gorton’s philosophy of playing the most skilled roster possible being evident in this move and likely holding throughout the season.

At the risk of reading too much into relatively minor moves, I think it’s safe to say that there’s good evidence that Jeff Gorton will be a new kind of GM for the Rangers. While he hasn’t publicly embraced hockey analytics like some (including myself) would like to see, he has proven so far that he’s a progressive, forward thinking GM who values youth, skill, and puck moving ability over qualities that are harder to pin down and contribute less to winning games on ice. The Rangers aren’t completely out of the woods yet in terms of roster composition, but it’s not a stretch to say that they’ve got the right guy at the helm to help them get there.


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