Grading Jeff Gorton’s first two years as GM

Only 10 regulars remain from Gorton’s first season running the organization

Jeff Gorton was officially named general manager of the Rangers on July 1, 2015 and though his influence on player personnel decisions began long before then, that date marks a clear crossroads in organizational strategy.

Gorton spent last summer methodically revamping the forward corps and followed that up with a defensive overhaul this offseason. His fingerprints are now all over the roster, with a clear commitment to youth, speed and skill.

While there have been a slew of minor transactions along the way, I’ve focused on Gorton’s more significant moves to gain perspective on his tenure thus far.

June 27, 2015: Traded Carl Hagelin, a 2nd-round pick and a 6th to Anaheim for Emerson Etem and a 2nd (Ryan Gropp)
Though Gorton didn’t technically take office until a few days later, he was assuredly calling the shots here. And while the Blueshirts were in a cap bind and needed to shed salary, the return for Hagelin was a pittance. There’s still a chance that Gropp turns into a serviceable NHLer, but right now it’s hard to view this swap as anything but an unmitigated disaster.
Grade: D-

Traded Cam Talbot and pick No. 209 to Edmonton for pick Nos. 57, 79 and 184
Moving Talbot at the height of his trade value was an obvious but shrewd decision. However, there were unconfirmed reports that one or more teams may have offered a first-round pick for Talbot, but changed direction when New York held out too long before pulling the trigger on a deal. If that was indeed the case, then this was a major bungle. But in the grand scheme of things this package is about the going rate for a backup goalie that has starter potential but is still somewhat unproven.
Grade: C+

Traded Ryan Haggerty to Chicago for Antti Raanta
Gorton’s busy draft weekend continued when he landed a new backup goalie for Henrik Lundqvist for the laughable price of a prospect in name only that has never come close to securing an NHL job. Raanta sparkled in two seasons with New York.
Grade: A+

July 27, 2015: Signed Derek Stepan to a six-year, $39 million deal
It’s hard to separate the deal signed at the time from the trade that came less than two years later. Still, locking up a bona fide No. 1 center in his prime years for a $6.5 million cap hit was a fair price and a necessity for the Blueshirts given the construction of their roster.
Grade: B+

February 28, 2016: Traded two 2nd-round picks and Aleksi Saarela for Eric Staal
This is definitely one of the more polarizing moves of Gorton’s career in New York. Though the trend of mortgaging future assets for the chance to win now began long before Gorton’s arrival, this move added to a long-time source of frustration for many Ranger fans. Also, as was the case when New York was attempting to acquire Martin St. Louis, it was clear that the Blueshirts were Carolina’s only real trade partner, so this felt like a significant price to pay even though no first-round picks were included. It also seemed apparent that New York needed more defensive help rather than Staal, but there’s a strong case to be made that Staal could have had a much greater impact if were more wisely deployed. Last season’s performance by Staal with Minnesota showed he still has plenty in the tank. All that said – there are a lot of holes that can be poked in this one.
Grade: C-

May 2, 2016: Re-signed Raanta for two years, $2 million
High marks to Gorton for identifying Raanta as an offseason priority last year and quickly hammering out a new, team-friendly deal. Raanta was an absolute steal at his salary last season and obviously a very important component to the blockbuster deal completed with Arizona a month ago.
Grade: A+

June 20, 2016: Traded Keith Yandle’s rights to Florida for 4th- and 6th-round picks
Similarly to the Staal deal, there are a confluence of factors surrounding New York’s decision to move on from Yandle that make it hard to evaluate. Obviously, getting something for a free agent the Blueshirts were about to lose for nothing was prudent. But there’s plenty of second-guessing around Yandle’s usage while in New York and the Rangers’ dogged commitment to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, whose salaries could have been used to help build a long-term pact for Yandle. Of course, if Yandle had inked a seven-year, $44.45 million deal with New York instead of Florida (and it might have cost the Rangers even more than that given Florida’s tax status), then signing Kevin Shattenkirk this summer would have been next to impossible. So maybe it all worked out in the end?
Grade: C

June 25, 2016: Traded a 4th-round pick to Colorado for Nick Holden
Getting one of Patrick Roy’s favorite players for the small price of a mid-round pick is hard to take issue with. Holden fell apart at the end of last season but his production was well worth the cost.
Grade: B

July 1: 2016: Signed Michael Grabner to a two-year, $3.3 million contract
This signing worked out wonderfully in year one and Grabner will again be counted on in a big way this coming season. Grabner wasn’t getting much buzz entering free agency but Gorton spotted an undervalued player and he turned out to be right.
Grade: A+

July 13, 2016: Re-signed J.T. Miller for two years, $5.5 million
The Rangers have faced a ton of criticism for their penchant for signing rising young players to bridge deals rather than long-term contracts, which could benefit the team in the long run. But while that line of thinking generally makes sense, Miller had a rocky start to his career and it’s understandable that Gorton wanted to see Miller mature and put together a good full season before making such a commitment. That might bite the Blueshirts next summer, but looking back it’s hard to take issue with Gorton’s logic.
Grade: B

July 18, 2016: Traded Derick Brassard to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd-round pick
This deal is perhaps the feather in Gorton’s cap to this point. Brassard was a great Ranger, but turning him into a 23-year-old with sky-high potential that’s still cost-controlled and five years Brassard’s junior PLUS getting a high pick was an absolute coup.
Grade: A

July 22, 2016: Re-signed Kevin Hayes for two years, $5.2 million
Much of what was said about Miller applies to Hayes, too. Hayes had a disappointing sophomore season, so Gorton decided he needed to see more before extending a long-term offer which is perfectly acceptable.
Grade: B

July 22, 2016: Signed Chris Kreider to a four-year, $18.5 million deal
In contrast to the Miller and Hayes deals, Gorton was wise to ink Kreider before the BC speedster enjoyed his best professional season. Kreider now looks like a bargain at $4.625 million annually over the next three seasons in the heart of his prime.
Grade: A-

August 19, 2016: Signed Jimmy Vesey to an entry-level contract
Landing unsigned college free agents has turned out to be a very successful path for the Blueshirts, but it’s difficult to know how much credit to give Gorton in these situations. It feels like more luck than anything that Vesey had friends on the team, wanted to be close to home and saw the allure of playing in the Big Apple. Still, you have to give Gorton credit for winning the derby.
Grade: A

February 28, 2017: Traded 2nd- and 3rd-round picks to Detroit for Brendan Smith
The Blueshirts refused to pay up for Shattenkirk, so they obtained a very serviceable consolation prize for a much more palatable price. This deal obviously looks even better now that Smith has re-signed, but Gorton did yeoman’s work identifying a talent he liked to fill a massive hole for an agreeable cost that also had a real chance of being a part of the team’s future.
Grade: B+

June 14, 2017: Bought out the final three years of Dan Girardi’s contract
Most Ranger fans will agree this desperately needed to happen and it likely came a year late. But buying out a player is a very tricky process. Not only must the team decide it’s better off without a certain loyal veteran, but there must be internal alignment that swallowing a ton of money to send him packing is an acceptable move. Obviously the Rangers have deeper pockets than most, but Gorton deserves credit for pushing this through.
Grade: B+

June 2017: Lost Oscar Lindberg to Vegas in the expansion draft
After months of intense speculation about the Rangers’ protected list and plans to capitalize on the trade market, the lack of movement and loss of Lindberg came as a letdown. In the end Gorton was probably smart not to give in to George McPhee’s bribe requests and the lack of trades may have been due more to McPhee’s craftiness than any error by Gorton.
Grade: B

June 23, 2017: Traded Stepan and Raanta to Arizona for Anthony DeAngelo and the No. 7 pick (Lias Andersson)
It was a horribly kept secret that Gorton was discussing deals for Stepan, but the trade market never quite materialized as expected. It’s still confusing that there weren’t teams beating down the door for a legit No. 1 center, but the hype surrounding Andersson has already exploded so the perception of this swap is trending upwards. Maybe Andersson will turn into a star, but it really feels like New York could, or should have come away with at least Christian Dvorak – if not one of Arizona’s even more highly regarded youngsters. Who knows? Maybe Dvorak was on the table and Blueshirts brass simply valued Andersson more. Given that Stepan’s money went straight towards Shattenkirk also helps this look a lot better in hindsight.
Grade: C+

June 28, 2017: Re-signed Smith for four years, $17.4 million
Perhaps Gorton overpaid a touch here, but his hand was forced a bit with the specter of free agency looming. Smith proved to be a very solid player that could fit into New York’s blueline puzzle for years, so Gorton was understandably committed to keeping him in the fold.
Grade: B+

July 1, 2017: Signed Shattenkirk for four years, $26.6 million
Like with Vesey, it seems like Gorton got lucky here. Shattenkirk was apparently dead set on joining the Rangers and left significant money and term on the table for the chance to play for his childhood favorite team, move back home and play for a contender. Still, for Gorton to land the prize fish of the summer on an extremely favorable four-year term after all the uncertainty leading up to July 1 was a slam dunk.
Grade: A

July 5, 2017: Re-signed Jesper Fast for three years, $5.55 million
This feels a bit rich for a guy that’s best on a checking unit, but Fast has repeatedly proven the ability to play up and down the lineup. Gorton really needed that kind of flexibility after losing Stepan and Lindberg.
Grade: B

July 25, 2017: Re-signed Mika Zibanejad for five years, $26.75 million
Once again this is maybe a hair more AAV than ideal, but it’s a minuscule difference at this salary bracket. To have a No. 1 center under contract for the next five years at $5.35 million annually is a huge win for Gorton. This is a case where avoiding a bridge deal was key as it’s very likely that Zibanejad could command much more in a year or two.
Grade: A-

Since a general manager’s job is really never complete, it’s difficult to come up with a fair grade for Gorton.

That said, he only has a couple glaring mistakes on his resume and Gorton has kept the Blueshirts in the playoff mix while also adding considerable talent to the prospect pipeline since taking the reins.

Getting one more center to complete this year’s roster would really put Gorton over the top, but even in lieu of that he’s done an admirable job.

Grade: B+

How would you grade Gorton so far?

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  • I just can’t get over the fact that the Girardi buyout seems so poorly executed. At the price term and NTC Tampa gave him, it seems like he had a market and that the Rangers could have traded 5 to Tampa or other interested team before or on July 1 (when his NMC became limited no trade)with 50% retained (or even less looking at what Tampa paid him!!), which saves 160k on his number this year, almost 1m next two and then no dead years. The only logical reasoning for buying out G when they did was to protect Holden in the Vegas draft, which is only excusable if JG had a deal lined up for Holden of value. That clearly doesn’t seem the case. This seems incredibly stupid to me.

    • Girardi is terrible at any price. His annual salary under his NYR contract was nearly double what Tampa signed him for, and why would any team give up an asset for a player who had long been rumored to be a buyout case? You can’t invent a market where none exists….even if NYR picked up a significant percentage of Girardi’s contract another team would’ve had to surrender a player or picks to obtain him. Yzerman was smart to wait out the Rangers on that, and he was dumb as a post at the same time in thinking that Girardi will be able to contribute meaningfully to a speedy, young team. I think it’s unlikely Girardi even finishes his deal in Tampa.

      • I still find it boggling that G was shocked at the buyout. But his own admission, he thought he had a good year. Was it the case of self delusion, or did the coaching staff never pointed out his issues to him (seems likely actually)?

        Still, it does indicate that there wasn’t much communication between him and management, and that is a bit troubling.

        • Girardi had a good year for him. If that was as 6D, we’d probably be good with it. But he wasn’t, and therein lies the problem.

          Gorton apparently overvalues assets on the runup to the draft, but every other moved that worked out poorly is directly related to the current coach’s unwillingness to even entertain to use the regular season to experiment with rosters even slightly beyond injury.

    • It seems like tampa was the only team who was willing to take a chance on G at the price he wanted – I doubt they would have wanted to give anything up via trade in addition

  • I know that Gorton was named GM in 2015, but I feel like he really had the power to work autonomously starting June, 2016.

    The day that Haglin was traded, Gorton looked like he lost his best friend. I don’t think that was his doing, it was Sather’s doing.

    Further proof is the acquisitions since June, 2016. Mostly good skaters with speed and a higher level of talent and skill that wins in this NHL, not to mention the players that have been dumped that are not of those qualities I just mentioned. Though I think that letting Clendening go was a mistake as he was a cheap puck moving D man that fits well in the coach’s system.

      • Again, the point is about “value.” You need guys on the team that cost less than $1M per but give production. He was this guy.

      • Wow. Judge a player by one play? That is the epitome of: small sample size.

        Since we’re judging players based on 1 play-

        Mike Richter’s Cup victory is negated by the center ice softie given up to the Penguins.
        Brian Leetch is negated by having Wayne Gretzky school him.
        Joe Montana threw a bad interception one time.
        Sandy Koufax gave up a homerun one inning
        Michael Jordon got dunked on…
        Dan Girardi’s and Marc Staal’s life is negated by the past 3 year of continual poor performance (IE- too many “good” poor plays to choose just one. Though perfect G to Ovie pass for the empty netter is up there).

        But yes, lets “negate” an entire player based off of one play, sounds like an absolute perfect plan.

        • Nice try, John B, but you’re arguing against a logic I’m not using. I’m not claiming that one bad play negates a player’s whole career. Instead, I’m arguing that the Zach Hyman play is indicative of how Clendo is not an NHL caliber defenseman. If he was, he wouldn’t have played a mere 81 games for 5 teams over the past three seasons. He’s a high-end AHLer, Zach Hyman demonstrated that.

          • “If he was, he wouldn’t have played a mere 81 games for 5 teams over the past three seasons”


            What’s with the shameless ‘appeal to authority’? You can do much better to dig at Clendo.

            Anyways, it’s like Richter said – it’s not so much about Clendo as it is about the fact that he’s quantifiably better (via every metric known to man except snowangels/60) than a few of the players we had last year…. and he sat.

          • AWDS:

            How may logical fallacies are going to incorrectly cite in your retorts?

            You literally commence each rebuttal claiming moral high ground and then proceed to poison the well.

            See what I did there?

          • “How may logical fallacies are going to incorrectly cite in your retorts?”


            I could be wrong but, I’m pretty sure citing the ‘flawless judgement’ of NHL teams (without any context whatsoever) qualifies as a fallacious argument….

          • Look dude, I’m not going to argue with you anymore. You just go in circles, questioning everyone’s reasoning rather than making any real argument. You can keep citing your wikipedia list of logical fallacies if you want, but it just makes you look like a jackass.

          • “You just go in circles, questioning everyone’s reasoning rather than making any real argument”


            Lol, I’ve made my position on the topic here abundantly clear – Clendening did NOT belong in the press box while lesser talents played.

            You, on the other hand, have not.

            Why should we have played Girardi & Staal over him – because, as you so eloquently put it, ‘Zach Hyman!’?

          • Yes he sat…..

            Yes he had some nice fancy stats…..

            And yet the best deal out there was a typical 7D deal given out by a non-contender. His what, 7th team in four seasons? For a puck moving RH defenseman? That’s the best he can do????

            This is just like the silly McIlrath argument. The coach is an idiot for not playing players that have, at least to this point, marginal NHL value. I guess all the NHL execs are clueless fools for not looking at small sample sizes on spreadsheets that only tell PART of the story.

            I guess if either of these guys prove to be late bloomers, we can accuse AV of not thinking out of the box. What we can’t do is blame the coach for seeing two players pretty much the same way every other NHL exec sees them. So it’s not so much an AV thing (“if ONLY we had a different coach”), because pretty much EVERY NHL coach and GM sees these guys exactly the same way AV and Gorton did.

            Oh, and then there’ Girardi, who supposedly can’t even play in the AHL let alone the NHL who clearly should have sat in favor of marginal guys, and yet on Day ONE of UFA Yzerman, widely considered one of the best GMs in the business, signs him to a two year $6 million deal.

            It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad. Mad World…time to hire some bloggers as GMs if you ask me. 🙂

          • “Oh, and then there’ Girardi, who supposedly can’t even play in the AHL let alone the NHL who clearly should have sat in favor of marginal guys, and yet on Day ONE of UFA Yzerman, widely considered one of the best GMs in the business, signs him to a two year $6 million deal.”

            Didn’t he also sign Callahan to his current contract? And give up a 2nd rounder for the privilege of doing so?

          • Yes, but the point is, if Yzerman believed he could have signed Girardi for a song, or on a PTO for a camp audition, he obviously would have done it.

            Bottom line is, most likely, there is more then enough evidence to suggest that Girardi has more value in NHL circles than both Clendo and McIlrath combined.

            Fancy stats tell you some things. They dont tell you everything.

          • “Bottom line is, most likely, there is more then enough evidence to suggest that Girardi has more value in NHL circles than both Clendo and McIlrath combined. ”


            If one ever needed proof for why ‘appealing’ to the judgement of NHL teams is ridiculous…. look no further than that.

            I never said fancy stats tell everything, but, there’s something to be said when a player is dead last in nearly of all them across the board….

          • Eddie, you are indeed the man, however, as you must know by now, these guys are not interested in facts, they just want to complain. I dare say if you got them McDavid, they would say he cost too much…LOL

        • The funny thing is the Rangers could actually get out of their own zone without a fire drill when Clendo was on the ice.

          Guess the coach didn’t notice or Clendo got lost on the ice.

  • I think you are underrating the stepan trade. Yes Stepan was a good player BUT I wouldn’t say he was a true Number 1 Center. Yes he was a consistent 50 point player who played very good defense and was one of our best PK players. HOWEVER he also had a lot of flaws. First obviously was his skating ability(or lack thereof), he couldn’t win faceoffs,he wasn’t good on the PP, and his contract was getting worse with the NTC. I think the Andersson pick was very good and he will be as good as Stepan. Also Deangelo despite his issues has massive potential as a offensive d-man

    • IMO, Step trade value will only be fairly judged in few years. If DeTrumpalo pans out, and if Lias does too, and Steps performance in hell, etc. For now, it was our top player for prospects. Less then optimum, unless they pan out. Though the money savings should have moved the grade up higher.

      • To Pavel…hey bud…thats every trade……were you good when Rangers gave up choices for MSL, Yandle, Staal or that scoring machine Nash? Don’t even start with how much effort or what a good team player he is.He’s supposed to be thats why he gets $7.8MILLION annually. How about acquiring Beck for cup winners Deblois and McEwen..or Hodge for Middleton? Zubov (cup winner) for Robatille? Weight for Tikannen?The last really good trade for the Rangers was for Messier and McDonaugh. Mika is a TBD as is Smith. Truth be told…we’re just not real good at it.

          • Absolutely. Weight for Tikkanen. Amonte for Noonan and Matteau. Very easily could have backfired and set the franchise back years.

            The risks you take when you are close.

          • I HATED that Gartner couldn’t be a part of that Cup team. But hey, hard to argue with the results. I’m assuming Mess had a lot to do with wanting Anderson.

          • Keeping Weight, Amonte, Kovalev, Zubov to play with Mess, Richter Graves and Leetch the Rangers would likely been a dynasty. Instead they got their One Cup and slid into a decade of despair a few years after 1994.

          • For a franchise that hadn’t won in 54 years, you can’t make that assumption and expect to keep your job. That was a “win now” mission.

            Also, keep in mind that Messier was aging. The window was closing. If all those guys had been kept, Messier still wouldn’t have been re-signed. In fact, he would have booed out of town for not winning it in 1994 (after not winning it in 1992). No chance they win the Cup without those deals.

            A dynasty? With an aging Mess who would have been shown the door after 1997? They’d be a slightly better version of what we have now….a very good but not great “bridesmaid” team that would have contended longer but likely would not win the big one.

      • No, Stepan got traded because the Rangers are banking on him not living up to the rest of his contract and it carried a NTC after July 1, 2017.

        If the Rangers thought that Stepan would be equivalent in value to a $6.5M cap hit for the next 4 years then the NTC was irrelevant.

  • Teams weren’t beating down the door for a legit no. 1 center because GMJG wasn’t offering a legit no. 1 center.

    Also, despite the Staal trade (which GMJG never should’ve done, and should’ve just traded Yandle instead) and the lackluster Hagelin trade (which is all up to Gropp at this point), I am very confident in the direction GMJG is taking this team.

    • I’ve gotta ask all of the ‘Stepan sucks’ crowd, for the record – what do you people define as a “number one center”?

      • I mean, there’s only so many bonafide 1C’s in the NHL at a time. Just like quality NFL QB’s, there more positions to fill than there are players actually able to successfully fill the role. Bonafide 1C’s are elite players, are guys like Crosby, Toews, Ryan Johansen, Patrice Bergeron, Tavares, Giroux, Thornton in his prime, Kopitar, etc.

        For the record, I don’t think Stepan sucks, he’s just not a legit 1C. Reiterating facts doesn’t equate disdain.

        • No, my point is…. there are 31 teams, with each having a top line center.

          Wouldn’t a “number one center” be one of the 31 best centers across the league? [I know This doesn’t mention teams like PIT with more than one player who could fit such a description; so maybe it’s closer to the 40 best?]

          In other words, I think people are confusing “number one center” with “elite center”.

          Stepan is not an elite center.

          He is, however, in a league with 31 teams, a number one.

          • That’s just wildly incorrect.

            In many cases, most teams’ top line is center by someone not really best cast as a top line center, but, because he has chemistry with the star winger, he plays gets the spot. Think to when Erik Christensen centered the Rangers top line. One, the Rangers really didn’t have a bonefide 1C, and two, because he was the only center that played well with Gaborik.

            Are you gonna seriously come on to a Rangers board and say Erik Christensen was a bonefide 1C?

          • “Are you gonna seriously come on to a Rangers board and say Erik Christensen was a bonefide 1C?”

            Could you have made a more ridiculous strawman argument than that?

            No, I said that not all teams have an equal share of talent at center.

            As such, not every team has a ‘number one center’, even if we consider that there are logically at least 31 of them.

            And note that ‘number one center’ doesn’t mean ‘elite’. Some teams don’t even have that lesser luxury, as you, strangely enough, just pointed out.

          • You asked what others define as a “number one center.” I gave you my interpretation.

            You proceeded for some reason to refute with the stance that because every team has to insert a player into the 1C role, that player qualifies as a true number one center, dismissing any other interpretation.

            Then, when I retort, citing an example to clarify what you seemed to be missing, you reply by attacking the messenger.

            Just because you’re stubborn in your opinion does not allow you to poison the well.

          • To me, there is no question Stepan was and is a legit 1C. What he is NOT is an ELITE 1C. The problem has always been, for a decade now, that other than the goalie, we have had few if any elite players. Really hard to go far without star power.

            Stepan took way too much abuse out here. I predict he will be missed–especially defensively and on the PK.

            We still have a big hole to fill there.

          • “You proceeded for some reason to refute with the stance that because every team has to insert a player into the 1C role, that player qualifies as a true number one center, dismissing any other interpretation.”


            Did you even read what I said?

            “Wouldn’t a “number one center” be one of the 31 best centers across the league?”

            You’re arguing something completely different than what I am.

            You are arguing, based upon what you’ve said, that the category of ‘number one center’ doesn’t exist.

            You think there are only ‘elite centers’, and everyone else.

            Which is fine, it’s an opinion.

            I don’t agree because I think there’s a difference between the “number one C’s” and the 2’s.

            But saying I said EC was ever a 1c (or an NHL C, for that matter)… that’s a total strawman argument right there.

          • The Erik Christensen thing not a strawman argument, its where your logic leads to.

          • “The Erik Christensen thing not a strawman argument, its where your logic leads to”


            On what planet does EC qualify as one of the top 31-40 centers in the NHL (of which I said are not equally distributed throughout the league)?

            No, it’s a strawman argument. Or, it’s you not comprehending what I said. Either way, it’s completely wrong.

          • For what it’s worth 43, looking back now, I think you probably mistook “top line center” in the post I made above to mean “number one center”.

            I apologize for not being more clear.

            For some clarity, all teams technically have a ‘top line center’ by virtue of existing.

            Not all, however, possess a ‘number one center’ in the sense of the definition I gave [which is, the top 40 or so centers across the league].

  • I LOVE what Gorton has done. As a fan since the early 60’s I’m tired of giving up youth for older win now mentality trades. (ie Middleton for Hodge) The Hagelin trade was ok because everyone knew they needed to trade him so how can you get much. I think for me he gets an A- I’m seeing this team start to go younger more and more. Plus he giving the contracts with less years and no N.M.C.’s in the contract and that’s huge!
    Now before I die I would love to see us get a real superstar top 3 draft pick. Then I can rest in peace in Ranger haven, because we all know GOD is a Ranger fan!

    • I agree with a lot of your post. I hated to lose Hagelin, but I understood the rationale. I think that grade was a little harsh. I also think the Staal trade grade might be too generous. Saarela (who will turn 21 in January) came over late last year and scored 6 goals and 4 assists in 9 games at Charlotte last year, but was held scoreless in 5 playoff games in the AHL. He had 21 goals in 58 games at SM-liiga and Charlotte (combined) last year after scoring 20 in 51 games at SM-liiga the season before. He could turn out to be a decent 3rd line player if he can stay healthy.

  • If Gordon Signed Derek Stepan to a six-year, $39 million deal, and then had to dump him for this big contact and Stepan’s under performance, then how can you give Gordon a B+ for this transaction?

    But over all, I would give Gordon a nice grade.

    • Simple. At the time Stepan was paid what he was worth. They wisely bought themselves time with no NTC/NMC for the first two years. They had hoped Step would take some big steps forward as a player. If he had, no chance they would have dealt him.

      To me, brilliant maneuver…..let the player’s performance dictate the future course of action.

        • Fair point, but that’s the cost of doing business. Would Stepan have cost more in AAV if not given the NMC? I doubt Gorton gave it to him just for grins.

  • Josh, I’d grade the Stepan trade as an incomplete so far. If Andersson turns out to be a very good NHL center and DeAngelo harnesses his talents and becomes a force on defense, it might end up as an A+. It is just too early to judge it.

  • B+? Really?

    I am more like a B-, maybe C+. Stepan was completely mismanaged, from giving him a NMC; to not trading him at peak value last summer; to waiting until this summer when his value would naturally be dropping markedly in front of the NMC getting close; and ultimately getting such a paltry return from Arizona for key assets (Stepan & Raanta) to the team’s record. That personnel management, all things considered, is a failure (F). Completely offsets the Mika acquisition (A), and nets into a very average (C) in my view. Shattenkirk was a gift from him to the organization; I cannot honestly say Gorton achieved this for the Rangers: Shatty gifted himself to us at a big discount that is rarely done.

    I’ve never understood the consensus high accolades offered to Gorton by the fan base. He’s done an “ok” job, as I see it, notwithstanding my view it takes maybe 3-5 years to properly assess an incoming GM; but for a team gradually slipping from top 4 in the league to 6-10 ranking under his leadership, giving Gorton anything close to an “A” grade is too aggressive, in my view.

    Gorton did inherit some challenges, of course, and that is why I kept him at the B- level, and not drop him into the “C” category. But he has perpetuated this folly of “win now” gripping the organization, and the end result of that will be a perennial league position modestly above average. If he doesn’t break that organizational mindset and develop a viable plan to construct a Cup winning team, we will have many more dry years, similar to past history.

    Sorry to be the lone downer on Gorton, but he’s just “ok” in my book; hasn’t really done much, but deserves more time for a proper review period.

    • No, you’re not alone. It’s too early to grade him. There are area’s for concern. Stepan was just another example of poor asset management by the Rangers.

      It appears direction is shifting yes. But, at the same time Gorton signed off on recalling Glass last year which indicates not that much of a shift. Gorton’s grade will ultimately be tied to the Zib and Smith signings and the Stepan trade. If Skjei/Smith fall back to Earth in terms of “puck luck”, which is highly likely, and DeAngelo flames out, there isn’t much left for Gorton to hang his hat on. If Zib doesn’t make any improvements this year then we’ll continue to slide into “no-mans land” of average in the NHL. That is the worst place to be. You aren’t good enough to really compete but aren’t bad enough to get high end talent through the draft.

      • Gorton is one Tyler Bozak away from turning the Rangers into a contender in one offseason.

        • If you believe that, I’ve got one Eric Staal for you in exchange for a slew of picks and Saarella.

          • I do believe that the Rangers are another good center away from contending.

            There’s no guarantee, for sure, but yes I do believe that, as long as you’re not giving up a major core piece to get that center.

  • Having seen my first Ranger game in 19541 at 8th Avenue Garden, I have seen many General ,Managers, Head coaches, etc. I believe that Mr. Gorton has done an excellent job of retooling on the run but mainly reversing the trend of bad signings and wastefull use of young prospects. I implore coach Vigneual no to waste time with players at their maximum now and to bring the young talent into the lineup on a permanent basis. This is the way to the future.

    • I too saw my first games at the old MSG!

      I know we all crave youth, but the fact is, the Rangers have quickly morphed into one of the younger teams in the league. We have what now, two guys past their prime (Nash and Hank)? Not bad.

      As for playing young talent, be careful on that one. Young talent is great to have IF the talent is actually TRULY great. Playing young players who are just good isn’t going to win you a Cup. And no Cup winner gets it done with youth alone. It takes the proper mix of youth and veterans.

      I’m not at all convinced that our young players are “great”.

      • Yeah, why would we want a coach who just keeps on winning and has done so better than any other Ranger coach on a sustained basis for more than 40 years…and has done so with few if any truly elite players.

        But sure, it’s all about the coach.

        This seems like as good a time as any to take a look at this analysis from The Hockey News. Not sure if any of you saw it, but it was fascinating and pretty much supported my position that we lack the star power to legitimately compete for the Cup.

        Based on this, you can argue that the Rangers have probably overachieved their ability more than any other team. Meanwhile, a team like Winnipeg…..perhaps they are the ones that need to think about a coaching change.

        BTW Rich, take a look at the chart. Somehow, your “useless” player Stepan is on this list…and lo and behold, your elite beasts Miller and Hayes don’t even make the cut! 🙂

        • I’m glad someone finally brought up that model, because I have a few serious issues with it.

          I don’t think they’ve overachieved at all.

          First, it’s criminally underrating McD & Hank. It doesn’t account for who McD was paired with, and I don’t need to explain how last season was 30’s worst ever.

          When McD was away from G, his metrics would have placed him in the ‘elite’ category, per that model.

          So, in reality, when you look back, I think that model is under reporting our past ‘star rating’ by about 9 points. 4 for McD, 5 for Hank’s performance prior to last season. (Maybe that’s being slightly generous, IDK)

          Furthermore, one reason to be a bit optimistic is that, for the first time ever, McD will have a fully competent defensive partner. I could easily see Shatty’s star rating rise as well, because let’s face it, if McD could make G look like an NHL defender, imagine what he’ll do with an ‘actual’ all-star player next to him.

          • I don’t agree. We have a tendency here to overrate our supposed “stars”. McDonagh is a very good player for sure. He is not, IMO, a difference maker type like Leetch was. Hank is hard to quantify now. I think he will have a strong bounce back year. He is IMO a top shelf goalie, but does he deserve to be on this chart right now? Probably not.

            But let’s say they are undervaluing those guys. Could be. But by NINE points? Seriously? No way.

            I’ll give you 2-3 points back. Still keeps us below the threshold of being a legit SC contender. And I suspect if you look at all of AV’s teams and the ones preceding him under Renney and Torts, you’d see much the same. Good but not great players that occasionally make a run, but that’s about it.

            Now, where I do share some optimism with you is the possibility that Shatty paired with McDonagh could very well elevate both of them a bit. But on the other hand, why is everyone so absolutely certain that this pairing will work at all? We have no idea if these two will have any chemistry together. Who’s to say that by mid-season, we won’t see a different pairing? Or perhaps since the 3rd pair is problematic, might there be a desire to split one of the top four up to have at least one quality guy on each pair.

            We are assuming a lot here. But then again it’s always easier to just blame the coach and not look at the quality or lack thereof of the talent on the roster.

          • “I don’t agree. We have a tendency here to overrate our supposed “stars”. McDonagh is a very good player for sure. He is not, IMO, a difference maker type like Leetch was. Hank is hard to quantify now. I think he will have a strong bounce back year. He is IMO a top shelf goalie, but does he deserve to be on this chart right now? Probably not”

            No, he’s certainly not Leetch, but McD is an elite defender. Look at his numbers paired with Clendening, and then compare them to, say, Giordano/Hamilton. He belongs in that top category (or, at the minimum, in the one below it)…. especially when you consider whom McD has been paired with.

            I know you don’t agree about G, but he truly has had an atrocious impact upon McD’s numbers. Look at McD when he’s paired with literally anyone else.

            The opposite is true as well; getting paired with Girardi has had a negative impact on every single one of his partners via fancy stats.

            And while you’re correct in that McD/Shatty may go about as well together as oil & water, I have a feeling they will do very well.

            Also, I think Hank alone gets us more than just 2-3 back. He’s the only reason this team even has a chance when it makes the playoffs. Sure, he didn’t deserve to be on the list last year, but looking back, you *have* to give the team 4-5 points back just due to Hank alone. He’s been that great.

            My point is, I actually agree that the team is lacking ‘star power’ as a whole.

            But, the idea that we have about a quarter to a third of the talent that say, CGY or WPG do…. that’s just absurd IMO.

          • I do agree with you that I think the chart is overstated. They are saying we are on a par with Colorado and Arizona. I’d say that’s a little overblown.

            But we can quibble with these ratings all we want, but I believe the general premise is bang on. Right now, today, (and really for the past decade), we’ve never really had a team that legitimately has had the star power to contend. We have occasionally overachieved when many factors break our way (2012, 2014, 2015), but those teams were all overachievers relative to the talent level.

    • We’ll never know, but I’m curious how analytically driven and open to change JG is, and willing to pressure AV in that direction. I had forgotten about the terrible deployment of Staal. His success in MN should be a point of embarrassment to the org. I hope they continue to re-evaluate/update their processes and models.

      • Why?

        He was terrible in Carolina two years ago. He remained terrible in NY. He got back to work and turned things around this past year. If the Rangers had had the cap space, the same thing likely happens there too. It’s sports. It happens.

        So if the Staal situation was an embarrassment, then I’m sure you will, in fairness, give complete props to AV for singlehandedly turning around Michael Grabner after that idiot in Toronto Coach Babs “misused” him. Yep….it’s ALL about the coach. The player has no responsibility at all.

        • Little dramatic. The author mentions deployment issues with Staal. I recall them as well. AV regularly takes heat for this. If you want to argue that reputation fine, but I recall him not being put in a position to succeed.

          And Grabner probably does benefit from AV. Although, I don’t know if that’s deft deployment, or simply the result of being in a system that best suits his skill set. A good job identifying value on the market for your team and style.

  • For what it’s worth, i was told by more than one person that Gorton’s hands were tied on the Hagelin, Staal, and Yandle deals (well, more on the decision to let Yandle walk).

  • Gordan stepped into a real mess last year with bad contracts and a maxed out Salary cap. Other then the terrible Erick Staal thing (most likely he was misused), he has done a very good job with what he had. We had all the negative bloggers saying that the Rangers wouldn’t even make the playoffs last year. Instead they got 100 points and advanced to the second round. Smith was always solid defensively for Detroit and Skjei showed signs of being good the year before last in the playoffs. In case you haven’t noticed,he had a great year last year. They will not decline, but improve this year. My main concern is our weakness at center.

  • i think that JG has done a fine job as GM. when evaluating him, one has to realize that the Rangers “went for it” in 2015 and because of that, there were cap casualties and that had to occur and players that they couldnt resign or guys that they didn’t have the ability to acquire in free agency, starting with Carl hagelin. should the rangers have gotten more for him? absolutely, but losing carl hagelin is not the reason why the rangers have failed to win a stanley cup the last 2 seasons considering Hags had just 6 goals with pitt this season . the reason they have failed to win is because they had 2 of the worst defenseman in the entire league taking regular shifts and playing big minutes late in games, not to mention that their combined salary was around $11 mil last year. Sather signed these guys to big deals which forced the Rangers to say goodbye to some heart and soul players like Anton Stralman and Brian boyle.

    the eric Staal trade was not JG’s best move but it appears the rangers felt they were handcuffed by the cap and that bringing in a cup winner like eric staal would bring stability and offense (which he unfortunately did not provide) to a very inconsistent and undisciplined group in 15-16

    all in all, JG has had a great summer and the Rangers are in good shape for next year. He’s given the team some much needed and long awaited cap flexibility so they can upgrade their roster if need be. after marc staal eventually leaves the rangers, this will fully be JG’s team.

  • Well, I see lots of B-‘s and even a few C’s. I loved the F+ for reason stated.
    Myself, well I think Dave is right on with the B+, I’d even be a tad more generous.

    While every move he has made can be analyzed from two very different points of view, sometime we collectively seem to forget it takes two or occasionally more, to make a trade.

    I’m impressed with the job he has done. Unlike some other GM’s of the distant past (can you hear me ‘Trader Phil’?) and even very recent past (no explanation needed) , JG seems to me, has a real plan.
    Strong B+, weak A-…………………………………….

    • Right my friend.

      Let’s not forget that Gorton is cleaning up someone else’s mess. Not easy to do considering the NMCs and untradeable contracts he’s had to deal with.

      To review, we went from one of the worst top 4 D men to one of the best in the league. We have a hole in the center position but he may fill it soon.

      He has also added talented youth that could turn into studs.

      B+ definitely well earned.

  • Gorton redeemed himself (for the Eric Stall debacle) with the signing of Jimmy Vesey. Vesey, as Jack Adams award winner Torts would say “plays the right way”.

    Grade B, possible higher if Del Angelo and Lias Andersson pan out.

    • Lucky for Torts they didn’t take into account his team’s epic unraveling down the stretch this season, as well as their 5 game first round ouster to a badly banged up Pens team…easily the Pens easiest opponent of the playoffs.

      Pretty consistent with the end results of his Rangers seasons I would say. 🙂

      • You mean Edward, the very same banged up Penquins who took Ottawa to the woodshed in the playoffs. The Senators might of been able to exploit AVs coaching gaffes, but they were no match for Sully’s flightless birds.

  • Not popular, but I love Gorton and AV! Sometimes people, it is about personnel! Do the best with what you have, and on that front, I’m satisfied and expect a CUP this year, as I do every year. Otherwise, what’s the fun in being a fan? The old adage, “Wait till next year”. Well, next year is coming and I’m excited!

    • I agree Joe…a lot has to go right for the Rangers to legitimately compete for the Cup as currently designed. But why not be optimistic? Hey, it’s July! 🙂

  • thumbs up for a good effort, but my results differ a bit

    Talbot fiasco is all on Sather
    EStaal reeks of AV, and him leaning on an exiting Slats, w/Gort going along to give AV enough rope w/which to hang him self, just as Slats had done w/Torts

    Hagelin should have been a better return, but hands were somewhat tied at the time. I am more impressed with how Gorton/Clark drafted Hags 6th round!

    Stepan was solid, never spectacular as some claim, thus overrated, He was overpaid top dollar, but not above that. Slats properly paid hardball and his last contract was, I think acrimoniously negotiated
    Given this, no neg for JG on the contract.
    Thumbs up on moving Stepan
    not clear if he could have been moved for more earlier, so since this is unknown, no demerits there

    I think it was a mistake to keep Staal, not Girardi.
    G had NMC turned limited NTC July 1; S NMC remains effective til next year
    should have:
    bought out Staal
    traded G at close to 50% early July

    Smith was a 2 and a 3.
    I would have preferred the picks.
    However, we did not know we would get Shatty on good deal/term
    and other prospects to the fore
    So, it was good job to extend him, as we now have useful/tradeable asset

    Did not want Pavs for backup netminder; obviously that is a deference ot Benny Ally who thinks he can fix him

    And I am not impressed w/DDesharnais, though he can go to ahl as a depth signing if/when he doesn’t succeed here.
    Would have signed Tyler Pitlick instead

    Other than that
    top, top marks
    my grade, on a curve for reasons explained above, is closer to A-

    • Bern, your logic escapes me on some of this.

      First of all, the idea that somehow Sather/Gorton/AV are somehow singing from different hymnals, as you and others seem to suggest, is beyond the scope of any rational thinking. Let’s not forget that Sather is STILL the President of this team. He hired Gorton. By all accounts, he is still involved. Especially during the summer when he formally gathers his staff for meetings. I doubt he’s there to simply pass out cigars to everyone. While I’m sure, just like in any organization, there are differences of opinion, these guys are almost certainly seeing things the same way far more often than not. So I disagree with those who say Gorton is cleaning up Sather’s mess, because likely, Gorton helped to create said mess. And I am sure that Sather is NOT looking at Gorton and wondering “what the heck is this young whipper snapper doing”? And I doubt seriously that AV and Sather have some “alliance” that Gorton just goes along with, especially since it was Gorton who gave AV the massive pay raise and extension last January, not to mention that there were rumors at the time of Torts’ firing that it was Gorton that steered Sather away from the Mess idea and towards AV.

      Bottom line, there isn’t a shred of reporting ANYWHERE that even remotely suggests that this bizarre triangle you are suggesting is true. It’s just made up blog babble.

      Now, to the specific points–

      Talbot? What fiasco was there exactly? There was (and still is) a limited trade market for backup goalies, even talented ones like Talbot. Sather was days away from making his move with Gorton, so you honestly believe that was ALL on Sather and Gorton had NOTHING to do with it? Please! No chance. I think it is fair to say that with the Talbot deal, the Hags deal, and in fact every deal probably since Gorton became assistant GM to current, Gorton has had a huge hand in what had taken place (thus prepping for the job he would later ascend to) just as Sather probably has a hand in an advisory capacity on all deals since Gorton became GM.

      Back to Talbot…. Did Sather/Gorton over play their hand and miss an opportunity to land a first rounder? Perhaps. There was reporting that speculated that may be true. But still, the Rangers were not dealing from a position of strength. The trade market for backup goalies does not yield a great return.

      Your explanation for the E Staal trade is badly flawed. Again, this mythical game that AV somehow is playing of Sather vs Gorton is too bizarre to even process in real world thinking. Gorton was already GM at that point. He had been officially the GM for nine months by then! To think there could be a scenario where a trade would happen without Gorton fully on board when HE was the GM is absurd. Not to mention the fact that it you look at how AV used Staal, you can argue that it was AV that was actually lukewarm to the trade. He chose to keep a struggling and out of shape Hayes at center and move Staal to the wing, rather than sit Hayes (as he probably should have done) and played Staal at center. So why would AV “lean on Sather” to get Staal only to play him out of position? Sorry, that’s a pretty bogus conclusion.

      I’m not sure how you can say Hags should have yielded a better return when you then correctly said their hands were tied at the time, which they were. The Rangers were banging their heads against the salary cap ceiling. Unfortunately, it cost them an unsung cog and that loss hurt them for sure. No different than any other team though that has to lose an asset due to cap constraints.

      As for Stepan, again, what? Who out here has ever said Stepan was “spectacular”? I agree with you, he was “solid”. So since when is “solid” a synonym for “overrated”? He was paid about right for what he was and what they hoped he would be. And again, for the Stepan haters out there, please explain what other options we had at the time in terms of centers?

      And back to your silly premise……Gorton was named GM in early July, 2015. Stepan signed his deal in late July. If you think that Gorton had NOTHING to do with this deal, and that was all Sather, you probably believe in elves and leprechauns. Both Sather and Gorton were very involved in that decision.

      The M Staal/Girardi point is interesting. While true that technically Girardi could have been traded once his NMC went away, that doesn’t mean there was a trade market for him–even if there was obviously a free agent market for him. If I’m TB, why should I deal for him when I can just wait it out until he’s bought out and therefore not have to give up even a marginal asset? As for Staal, the problem there is simple….too much dead cap space to carry.

      The draft picks we gave up for Smith were no big deal. Stockpiling mid range picks is not solely how you build a team. Smith was a solid acquisition, and remember, the team was hurting at the time in terms of injuries. They needed to make that move and it was a good one.

      Pavs? Who knows? But as you said, can’t count out any goalie working with Benny.

      I do agree with your big picture assessment. If the goal decided by management is “re-tool on the fly”, then Gorton has executed that real well thus far. But a whole lot has to happen for this team to legitimately contend this year.

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