Jeff Gorton is banking on rebuilding without tanking over next two years

vitali kravtsov

It’s no secret anymore. The Rangers are rebuilding. They sold off major assets at the deadline, acquired assets, and have had the luxury of five first round picks over the past two seasons. While the focus has been on the draft and the prospects, there are eyes on the current players and their contracts.

As of today, only Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, and Henrik Lundqvist are signed beyond the 2019-2020 season, two seasons from now. Only Skjei and Zibanejad (and likely Pavel Buchnevich) are signed beyond 2020-2021. While we will see some of that turnover after this season, it is after the 2019-2020 season we will see it all change. After that season, Chris Kreider, Ryan Spooner, Vlad Namestnikov, Jimmy Vesey, Matt Beleskey, and Jesper Fast all become UFAs.

There are good arguments for bottoming out. A player like Jack Hughes doesn’t come along that often, and getting that elite talent and production for cheap ELC money is how teams win. Jeff Gorton and company want to go about it a different way, by having the veterans teach the next generation of talent: Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov, and the other first round picks.

It’s over the next two years we will see what comes of the next big trade chip: Mats Zuccarello. Is he in the long term plans in the leadership core? Or is he a stopgap for this season, designed to play big minutes and rack up points before being traded for a big return at the deadline?

What will Kevin Hayes’ role be this season? Is he a lame duck 2C, just waiting to be traded? Or was that one-year deal actually a bridge deal to January, like how the Rangers handled Zuccarello so many years ago?

How will Namestnikov and Spooner perform in their two-year auditions? Will they play well enough –but not too well– to be middle-six role players for the next generation? Will Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast price themselves out of bottom-six roles over the next two seasons?

It’s not all about the current roster either. Will Chytil show he is a top line talent? Will Andersson show why the Rangers took him 7th overall? Can Brett Howden crack the lineup after the deadline? When will Kravtsov make it to North America?

How about that blue line? After the next two seasons, players like Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren should be close to solidifying permanent roles. But what about Tony DeAngelo? Is he going to be worth it? How long will K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundqvist take to develop?

This doesn’t even include guys like Ty Ronning and Tim Gettinger, dark horses to make an impact over the next two seasons.

But the biggest is Henrik Lundqvist, who will be 38 in two years. Will Igor Shestyorkin be ready for full time duties? Will Hank still have enough in the tank for that final year on his deal?

The next two years are filled with questions, but with questions comes optimism. The Rangers have done a terrific job with their overall draft strategy. Now it’s up to the development and coaching staff to fine tune them all into quality NHLers. There’s great talent in the pipe, and the Rangers are banking on that, instead of bottoming out.

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35 thoughts on “Jeff Gorton is banking on rebuilding without tanking over next two years

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Henrik is good for 15-20 wins by himself, so the realistic prediction for this coming year is that they are in the middle of the pack area, missing the playoffs and getting a middle-ish of the first round pick, unless they get lucky like Carolina did this past year. Lose for Hughes is not in the cards.

    Hayes should be traded once a good offer is made. No way should the Rangers commit $6M per to him unless he accepts a contract that allows him to be traded in the future.

    With the glut of lefty D men, a trade should be forthcoming to use one of them in a package for something good, Hayes and a lefty D man for _________.

    IMO, Howden, Hajek, and Lindgren start in Hartford and get the call up after the trade deadline, when vets like Hayes, Zuc, etc. should be gone.

    Krav comes over after his KHL year. Do they burn an ELC year? Who knows?

    I am seeing Henrik and Shesty split the 2019-20 season.

    The Rangers have the cap space to add 2 high priced players after this coming year. USE… THE… CAP… SPACE… WISELY… PLEASE…

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:00 am

      You should check out the recent blue line station article about Hayes. The idea of him cashing out will be above 6 million with a some clauses. JG is just making sure that he looks good under Quinn in that role as a all situational top 6 center. This is the same setup as the William Karlsson, these GM’ s wouldn’t have lost their leverage for nothing if they weren’t going resign them. I can see the management do Hayes for about 6.3-6.5 for 6 years with the first 3 years of some no trade clause. If Zib flops or gets hurt while the kids show they aren’t ready than that price can go up.

      I think Howden will compete for a roster spot and maybe push Andersson to the AHL. He’s faster than him with better size to go against tougher matchups. His skating is really flying under the radar.

      • Aug 8, 2018 at 11:13 am

        Why the fixation to keep Hayes? He’s a average player, nothing spectacular. He’s never cracked 50 pts.

        Will he do better under Quinn? Maybe, but do you see him getting 70 pts? I don’t. Maybe 50-60. Is that worth $6M+ per? No way.

        If he were 22-23, ok that’s different. But he’s 26, he is what he is. Whereas Panarin is a dynamic player that scores a pt per game and has done that with different teams the last 3 years. HE is worth big $$.

        Chytil is a more talented player than Hayes. Zib certainly is. And Andersson will be just a cut below Hayes in the near future. No reason to pay Hayes that kind of money, IMO, I do not even care the circumstances with the next contract.

        • Aug 8, 2018 at 11:55 am

          I’m responding to your fixation of hoping that Hayes gets traded instead of resigned. It’s not up to either of us for these kinds of decisions. Hayes getting that deal from the NYR is a path that I see fits for now and the future even if Zib finally touches north of 52 points.

          As for your opinions about who’s better than who, I don’t agree at all with that. As I’ve said before about Zib, he will never outproduce Hayes by more than 4-6 points and that would only happen due to his abundance of time spent on the PP and 5v5 deployments.

          • Aug 8, 2018 at 5:46 pm

            My fixation is the same as for McD: Loved McD, but glad that we’re not paying his next contract.

            Zib is more talented than Hayes, that’s a fact. He has a better shot and would have just as good 5 on 5 stats if he didn’t get hurt. Because that’s been Zib’s problem, he’s rolling, gets hurt, and it takes him weeks when he gets back to get rolling again.

        • Aug 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm

          There is a middle ground here. Like you, I would much rather have Panarin than Hayes. And it appears that Chityl is more talented. But arguably Hayes was the Rangers’ best player last season (the competition was feeble of course). He is well above an average player.

          As for the talent comparison with Zibanejad, I have my doubts. Certain players like Zib have very obvious talents (DeAngelo is another), but their overall performance doesn’t match that perceived talent. Maybe it is just a case of a guy not utilizing his potential; then again it may be that there are certain aspects of the game (like instincts) that are harder to assess talent-wise in which the player is lacking. And what we are doings misjudging flashiness for talent.

          Both Hayes and Zib have been at it long enough and Hayes is the better player. Hayes is a guy I want to keep. BUT BUT, realism is important. If Hayes is among the top two Ranger forwards, they are not going to win. As you noted, he is not Panarin and should not get Panarin money.

          Incidentally, I personally don’t think JG. has a clear plan here. AV considered Hayes a critical player. But his strengths are subtle. I would not be at all surprised if the first two months of the season are devoted to Quinn getting to see Hayes in action and deciding how badly he wants to keep him. Ideally, you fit the players to the system, not the other way around. While Quinn has allegedly had input, I think he has been a minor figure to date. Things will change as Quinn gets to know his guys and influence who stays and who goes.

          • Aug 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm

            Hayes may be a better 200 foot player but he’s not a better offensive player than Zib.

            As I responded to Mint above, Zib gets hurt and it takes him time to get back into the groove, costing him total pts and pts per 60, which Hayes’ pts per 60 are very good, no question. But Zib’s would be just as good if not better if he stays healthy.

            Plus, Zib is a righty shot, something that the Rangers do not have a lot of, which is a real problem.

            • Aug 8, 2018 at 7:11 pm

              “Hayes may be a better 200 foot player but he’s not a better offensive player than Zib.”

              But you win with 200 foot players, not offensive players. And players are always getting banged up. A guy who is only effective when he is 100% is pretty much worthless.

              I liked the Zibanejad acquisition. Zib has certain talents that “seem” really really useful and he seems like someone who should really be good. And maybe with Quinn it will happen – but it hasn’t happened yet.

              • Aug 8, 2018 at 7:38 pm

                Unlucky with injuries Zib’s first 2 years, that’s the reason.

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Come off it. 15-20 wins. That means that without Hank, the Rangers were a 37-47 point team. There hasn’t been a 47 point team in the NHL in at least ten years. Last year, Buffalo was the caboose at 62.

      The Rangers did improve 17 wins from 2003-2004 to 2005-2006, but (A) it was not all Hank as Jagr went from 29 points in a partial season to 123 in a full season and (B) his rookie year was perhaps Hanks best (certainly among the top two or three).

      • Aug 8, 2018 at 5:54 pm

        Alls , I’m going to say, Raymond, is let’s see how he does this year with a real coach behind the bench that will have a real defensive structure.

        • Aug 8, 2018 at 7:31 pm

          First, I wasn’t criticizing Hank in this comment. I was just pointing out that no one, not even Mr. Gretzky, has been worth 15-20 wins.

          IMO, the problem has not been the coach and it has not been the structure in the way you think. Hank has been failing at the mental aspect of the game and simply has not exhibited the consistency he displayed earlier years. He still has his moments – they are just less frequent. NOW I don’t know why this is happening. If it is age weariness, the problem will continue. OTOH, if he lost faith in the system AV employed, Quinn might be able to revive him.

          We don’t disagree about everything here. We both know Hank was a great goalie 2005-2013. We also both know he still has games where he is as good as he ever was. We also both know (I think) that throughout his career, like every goalie, he has had some games in which he has struggled.

          The only point of disagreement I think is that I think he has struggled a lot more in the last five years and you think the decline in some of his numbers is due to Vigneault.

          • Aug 8, 2018 at 7:42 pm

            It’s not all on AV, as you can’t have stiffs like Girardi, Staal, and Boyle in the line up at the same time and expect to be good defensively.

            Add to this AV’s lack of defensive structure, and you have problems.

            BTW, I was saying that Henrik “helps” with those 15-20 games or that’s what I meant, not that he wins them by himself.

            Travis Yost credits Henrik with being good for a goal a game against vs the average NHL goalie. That’s a lot.

            • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:31 pm

              I don’t really know anything about Travis Yost, so I don’t know whether Travis Yost is just deluded about Lundqvist or an all-purpose moron.

              But think about it. A goal a game is about 30 points of save percentage. That would show up somehow. If it really were true that an average tender would be below .900 with the Rangers, we would see it. Jeez, Pavelec came in at .910 and we know he isn’t even average.

              Accurately gauging shot difficulty is very hard. If a model gives absurd results, it obviously isn’t hitting the mark.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 6:32 am

    The Blackhawks lost one of the most revered figures in franchise history on Tuesday when Stan Mikita passed away at age 78. I remember when Stan first came up, was a nasty, dirty player, who changed his game and became a Lady Byng winner. The man was great along with Bobby Hull, what a duo. Rest in peace Stan, you brought much joy to many of us fans who loved your game!!!!!!!

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 6:44 am

      Hey Walt, Stan Mikita was an NHL legend. May have been the best all around player on that classic Blackhawk team. Underated for sure, never got his due because he played in Bobby Hull’s shadow.. Reminded me of our Jean Ratell only he did have a mean streak. Rest in peace Stan the Man!!

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 9:52 am

      Mikita came out of Hull’s shadow when he went to the WHA and boy did people see what talent he had! His first year he was fighting more than playing and the turnaround was AMAZING! He was all class after that. People forget it was him who started the curve stick and not Hull. Thanks Mr. Mikita for all the great memories.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Rebuilding without a tank means that you have previously drafted very well and you plan on acquiring the “elite” talent you need by means other than a top 5 draft pick. We have a plethora of middle 6 talent. Absolutely needed to rebuild. We have some CAP space, something necessary for acquiring the near-elite talent. What I fear is that the talent we have is not nearly ready to compete, yes even in 2 years. I truly feel we need multiple 1st & 2nd round picks in next years draft to build the strong base a contender requires. As of now, we have 1 extra pick. We can all hope that the kids we have do well, but banking on all of them to be strong NHL players is a bit much to ask.

    This NHL is top heavy with multiple elite players on the top 8 teams in the league. To reach that level, someone we already have on the roster needs to reach that level and the other can be bought. I suggest we wait and see what 2018/19 presents before we proclaim a 2020 playoff run.

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 9:02 am

      Who is that roster player? …. Only one I can think of us chytil….

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:11 am

      I wouldn’t worry about having multiple elite player’s. Rangers top line production is nowhere near the average rate of any other team starting with the centers. I think Brass was the last one to touch 60 something points as a top line center for this team. Zib (what was he a top 5 pick?) needs to figure it out right now and Hayes will finally be given ice time to figure it out during a contract year. Kreider needs to bust out and Buch also has to take advantage of ice time.

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      yea Merc, should be a fun 4 years in loserville for you!


  • Aug 8, 2018 at 8:35 am

    this is where I was frustrated with gorton last season. they hedged the deadline too much imo. the few extra wins not trading zuc and even acquiring a spooner possibly or probably cost them a shot at hughes or zadina (would they really take kravtsov there?)

    now they are set up with the same thing for 2018-2019… lots of B talent but enough to stay in the 7-10 range. they never learn.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Could be any number of players, including Andersson, Chytil, Howden. Hajek or Lindgren, We just do not know how they will turn out in 2 years.

    Remember previous performance is not always an indicator of future growth. With all of the above, none has shown any real NHL capabilities. Give them all a year of NHL experience to see what they are made of.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 9:23 am

    There’s no tanking. Literally the only place tanking is seriously considered is on social media and message boards. Any professional athlete will laugh in your face if you mention it…. and if you were to keep at it and try to explain further the benefits, you would be considered one of the many loony fans that just “doesn’t get it.” It’s like boycotting a team to “punish” the ownership. NEVER going to happen.

    I’m excited for these next few seasons. We’re going to get to see a team and coaching staff grow together. I do worry that we’re still building a very similar team to the one we just had. At some point, JG is going to have to package something for an elite talent or we’ll be right back here again. I worry though that the window and players to make a trade like that passed at the deadline. I’m not convinced we have that player yet.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:07 am

    The ream won’t tank, but, how good they’ll be is up in the air right now. We haven’t seen most of these players in an NHL setting yet, so we don’t really know what they can do. We’ll probably have the chance to pick up another draft pick or two before next year depending on how that all shakes out. I’m just looking for the Rangers to be a hard working, energetic, team that plays fast and aggressive hockey. By the way, how many elite players on the Vegas roster?

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I think Gordie Clark needs to be relieved….too many misses with premium picks

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 11:08 am

      Vitali Kravtsov better not turn out to be Pavel Brendl.

      • Aug 8, 2018 at 1:08 pm

        Better not in capital letters you darn right

    • Aug 8, 2018 at 11:53 am

      This really looks like it could have been The Gordie Clark Ego decade since he picked Hank…

      30 GM’s say THIS guy & Gordie picks THAT guy….

      hmmmmmmm…..hopefully he’s right…..

      • Aug 8, 2018 at 1:15 pm

        Hank was picked in the 2000 draft….Gordie came here in Sep 2002…and he became in charge of picking players in 2005….Marc Staal was his 1st pick

        • Aug 8, 2018 at 4:28 pm

          Oh wow, I thought he at least got credit for Hank, not good…

          • Aug 8, 2018 at 6:12 pm

            The Henrik pick was total luck. The European scout that discovered Henrik BEGGED the Rangers to pick him earlier.

            They did with the 7th round pick to basically shut the scout up, lol.

            There was no “strategy” in picking Henrik.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 11:05 am

    The same people that clamor for the Rangers to tank are the same people who would have whined and cried if Gorton did not get what they consider an adequate return for guys like Hayes, Zucc, Namestnikov, Spooner, etc. There’s too much talent for a tank and not enough to contend — but trading away all the older talent at virtually the same time and for poor returns is not an answer, waiting for the trade deadline and then later the 2019 draft probably is. I mean look what Carolina just got for Skinner.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I think Rangers will package up a couple of NHL guys plus a top prospect or 2 to trade for 1 great player. I think Hayes will be included in that. All rebuilds to an elite team need a young ALL-STAR player to build around. Don’t know if that is a ‘D’ or a forward but It’s coming folks. Quinn just needs camp to see what he really has.

  • Aug 8, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Oh wow, I thought he at least got credit for Hank, not good…

    who picked Hank actually? I don’t remember obv…

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