As soon as the rumors hit about the Rangers selling, names started flying. Ryan McDonagh. Mats Zuccarello. Rick Nash. Michael Grabner. Nick Holden. Henrik Lundqvist. Every name on the roster was mentioned, as a full gutting of the team was being envisioned by many.
Let’s be real for a moment. I doubt Hank is getting traded. Which means if the Rangers are truly punting this season, they are going to gear up for next season and the season after as a last ditch effort to get Hank a Cup. In the event of a full tear down, the Rangers likely wouldn’t be ready for a Cup run for 3-4 years, especially if they are content with getting picks and not NHL ready players.
And therein lies the biggest risk of the sale, if it happens. The Rangers have to toe a very fine line between selling and remaining competitive. The Yankees did a good job in 2016, but had young borderline star talent waiting in the wings and a coach willing to play that young talent. The Yankees also did not have a franchise player who has never won a Cup in what is likely the last phase of his career.
So the Rangers will need to make a critical decision. They need to decide if they are going to tear it down, or selectively sell and retool. There is no wrong decision when selecting from those two options. But as Pat mentioned on the podcast: If the Rangers take a half measure, then this will not go well.
By half measure, we mean simply one thing. If the Rangers trade Ryan McDonagh, then Mats Zuccarello also needs to go. If the Rangers do not trade McDonagh, then Zuccarello should be kept as well. It is not one or the other. It is both or none. Go all in on the sell, or go all in on the retool. There is no wrong answer here. It’s clear what Option 1 brings us. Option 2 may mean keeping McDonagh and Zucc, but it still means getting a good return for Nash and Grabner, while getting whatever you can for Holden and Desharnais.
Going all in on the sell means transitioning this team to Mika Zibanejad, Brady Skjei, and Pavel Buchnevich. It means leaning on Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Neal Pionk, Ryan Graves, and Tony DeAngelo. There’s plenty of young talent, with some potential elite talent mixed in. It is a viable option.
Keeping both McDonagh and Zuccarello means keeping top line/pairing players at cost controlled salaries for one last kick at the can. It means leaning on them while also giving big minutes to the players mentioned above. It means we don’t wait 3-4 years for a Cup run. It means we maybe wait until next year or the year after. It means Hank can make one last run.
Again, there is no wrong answer here. The only player on this team I feel loyal to is Hank, so I feel the team owes it to him to make one last real run, which to me means retooling. However a part of me likes the prospect of getting some top prospects and picks for Zuccarello and McDonagh and entering a new era of Rangers hockey. The only wrong answer here is a half measure. Don’t hedge. Make a decision and stick with it. All eyes are on you, Jeff.