State of the Rangers

State of the Rebuild: Transactions

With the 2018 Trade Deadline now passed, the crew here at Blue Seat Blogs has decided to take a step back and assess the New York Rangersrebuild so far. We’re just over one year into this grand experiment, and in that time the Rangers have taken strides forward. They’ve turned over most of the roster, created significant salary cap flexibility, and stockpiled draft picks. But asset management is just one part of the intertwining process that is creating a contending hockey team. Yesterday, Rob assessed the coaching, particularly the appointment of David Quinn and whether he’s the right guy for the job. Today I will share my take on GMJG’s transactions thus far, and on Friday, Dave will tackle player development

My initial thought for this post was to do a list of every trade made since the announcement of the rebuild, and just go bit by bit. But I’m a dreamer at heart, and really wanted to do some fun little analysis. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and things tend to look differently in different frames. So what I’m going to do instead is look at the assorted transactions undertaken by Jeff Gorton and conceive of them almost as one giant transaction, take a step back, and see what sort of thing it looks like. Trades are a core component of any rebuild, and since weighing which ones are more important or whatever can be difficult let’s just ball this whole thing up and bounce it around in our brains like an ever-growing wad of hockey tape after a game.

Since our rebuild began in earnest, Gorton has largely played it safe in my opinion, but he’s made the right moves. He turned one aging “top-line” center into a younger “top-line” center, which wound up being great when that guy (Mika Zibanejad) smashed his ceiling and is now a point-per-game dude slash real-deal top-line center. Yes, this was before the rebuild was announced, but it’s still important!

He did trade Derek Stepan (also before the rebuild was announced) perhaps unnecessarily, but he also got, and I’m going to duck for cover on this one, fair value. I said it! Tony DeAngelo is probably going to turn into an at least good player if not a pretty good one, and you got a top-ten pick back as well. That’s for a guy who was reliable and great in every zone, but who also never really blew you away with his point totals. I’m pretty high on Lias Andersson too, but that’s a bit outside the scope here (drafting and trading are two different animals). The return was fair.

Stop me now if you’ve heard that before actually, because it seems to be the refrain with a lot of Gorton’s moves. Sure, Michael Grabner was great fun, but not strictly a great player, and we got a decent pick and a prospect. Mats Zuccarello too, much as we loved him. Kevin Hayes landed us a first, the Ryan McDonagh package was perhaps underwhelming but included quantity over quality, which, like it or not, is a strategy that can measure out equitable value as well (I’m also fairly optimistic about both Brett Howden and Libor Hajek anyways). It seems to be a pattern, that GMJG is good at his job, so what’s not to like?

Well, it’s that he’s good at his job. He makes even-handed trades that you know need to be made. He meets expectations, he performs his tasks functionally and efficiently. Look at all this roster turnover, dude is a wizard at turning one thing into another thing, but the problem is those things are always just enough. In order to really be an above-average team, or hopefully a top-quartile to top-decile team that contends with regularity, we’re going to need to do two things – trade well and draft well – in an above average manner.

Well unless we really suck, or really hit the jackpot, we’re not going to land that super elite talent at the draft without a big time trade for ideally a top-five, not just top-ten, pick. Beyond that, if we want that super elite talent from within the league already, we’re going to need to make a massive trade and totally swindle someone. We need Hall for Larsson, Forsberg for Erat, whomever for whomever style trades. Even if they aren’t for super elite talent, look at what Carolina did turning Noah Hanifin into Dougie Hamilton and Victor Rask into Nino Niederreiter. We need to stack this lineup from top to bottom, and whether that’s just four lines of very good players or the kind of lineup you see in Tampa Bay right now, then you need lopsided trades in your favor.

So there you have it folks, as far as transactions go, Gorton has, in my opinion, been good. The problem is that we need to be great if we want to win the Cup, but short of that I’m actually pretty happy with good – it’s not even really fair to frame it as a problem, for a whole host of reasons I won’t get into here. The rebuild is far from over, and in fact we’re still fairly early in it if we’re being honest with ourselves, so let’s wait and see. He might just be warming up, and Gord help you dopey GMs around the league if he is.

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  • I’m not about to jump on the JG isn’t a good GM, or that we got fleeced with our trades. Time will prove whether he is a good GM, or a failure, but let’s give him some rope to play with before we jump on the dump JG bandwagon!!!!!

    We had to deal with Sather for so long, and what did we get in return, squat. This organization wasn’t going anywhere doing what we did for so long, and I look forward to seeing the bright future with the young kids prove to be a winning plan!!!!!!

    • Wait, we got squat from Sather? I mean you have to admit that there were some damn good teams produced by Sather post the first lockout. Sure, you didn’t get your SC … but only 1 team a year can get that and teams that had the luxury of drafting Top 5 for multiple years in a row seem to win the majority of them. I get it, you don’t care for Slats, but there’s no reason to completely dismiss the teams he built (especially post 2010).

      • The guy came to town claiming he would bring us a cup with the money the Rangers could spend, and never delivered. The guy is, was, and will always be full of crap!!!!!!!!

        Look at the cap hell he put us in, Girardi buy out, Staal the boat anchor, Redden, Boyle, Richards, Holik, Gomez, Lindros, and the list goes on. If you think he was a success, well my man I have to disagree!!!!!!!!

        • weak. idea, concept, reasoning… repeating an old rhetoric. Just lame and full of anger and hate.

          If Sather had brought a Cup to NY, this guy would still hate him.

          • This from a mental midget!!!!!!!! Don’t start with the personal attacks you dipshit…….

        • As you may recall Walt he inherited a team whose future was DECIMATED by moves made in the late 90’s by Smith. He had 4 years to try and bring us a Cup with all that money because then we had a lockout — poof, money no longer a big factor. I agree he was a failure pre-lockout (again though, he was dealt a very bad hand by Neil Smith), but his work after the lockout was more than adequate …. nay, successful. Did he make mistakes during that time frame? Sure … all GMs do, that said we were one of the most successful franchises post lockout until he retired from the GM’s job — and yes, he saddled Jeff Gorton with a couple of albatrosses.

          Re: your small laundry list of errors, Gomez gave us 128 points in 158 games (not shabby, not great) and was turned into McD — and McD’s return will keep on giving. Richards tenure was short, but he was the 1st line center for some pretty good runs (151 points in 198 games). He also brought in guys like Girardi, Zuccarello, Hayes, Gaborik and Talbot on FA deals, drafted guys like Hank, Dubinsky, Callahan, Staal (injuries cut short what was going to be a hell of a career), Stepan, Hagelin, Anisimov, Miller, Kreider … traded for Rick Nash … point is, he did more good than bad and the evidence in that is the success of the team from 2005 on.

          All that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to see him gone, but I can respect the man for what he did right and criticize him for his missteps. I don’t have to completely dismiss him as a bad GM because of the latter.

          • His claim to fame came from his days as an Oiler GM, and coach. He was handed a team of HOFer like Gretzky, Mess, Anderson, Lowe, and many others by Bruce Mc Gregor. You, and I could coach, and win cups with these players, and he was lucky enough to have won his four, but he never delivered what he claimed he would. As for some of his moves mentioned, nice laundry list, some above average, some not so, he was adequate nothing outstanding. His giving away four years in a row of our #1 picks is what turned me off on the man, and putting this franchise back behind the eight ball for some 5 years at the least. Lets agree to disagree……..

          • … but the issue was you said he gave us squat. Let’s agree that your statement was hyperbole.

          • Last time I checked, Sather’s “achievements” amounted to this: 19 years on the job, 1 elite player drafted, 1 Cup Finals appearance, 2 semifinals appearances. Other than that, Sather has seen 4 teams win multiple Cups (Pitt/Chicago/Detroit/LA) in his tenure. 2 original six teams broke long Cup droughts during Sather’s reign, while the most he’s done for the Rangers is leave scorched ruins behind a Hall of Fame goalie as he edges towards the door of retirement.

            Sather got lucky in Edmonton, the type of luck that only occurs once in a bum’s lifetime. And guess what—without luck, Sather the Ranger executive is every bit as mediocre as Sather the Ranger player.

      • The reason why we didn’t get a Cup was because of Sather. They came close but the fact is that in order to get to the promised land, you have to be a good GM over 90% of the time, and he wasn’t.

        Misguided contracts to Redden, Girardi, Staal, Boyle, and now Smith, were blunders that did not allow the Rangers to sign better players that could have put them over the top to win the Cup. The margin for error is that slim.

        Letting Stralman walk and signing Girardi/Staal/Boyle was a defining moment in the current decline. The D has been a disaster since.

        I cannot put Shatty in this category because that would not be fair, given what has happened to the team since.

        Then, of course, there is the trading of first round picks for 5 years. That resulted in near misses for the Cup, but produced no Cup, which is the bottom line.

        1994, with all those trades that included Amonte, Weight, and Gartner, if the Rangers did not win the Cup, then Neil Smith, Mike Keenan, and the rest of the Rangers’ management are roasted to this day. It worked out, so it was worth it.

        • 20 years, no Cup, Sather does not deserve to keep his job. But in Rangerstown, accountability does not apply to the guys that Jimmy Boy Dolan loves.

          • You’re obsessed with winning the Cup, like it’s the only measure of success and everyone else should just go home, lick their wounds and wait to be fired. Life doesn’t work that way, there are certainly degrees of success and we had a rather high one … and what’s with this 20 years nonsense? Sather was GM for 15 years. That type of hyperbole borne from emotion, not reason.

          • This post? Is the difference between you and me.

            20 years, time to move from Sather. Feel free to disagree.

          • Gee, Richter—you only want championships! Don’t you see how fun it is to PRETEND to be competitive enough to win them instead?

            Your response to Richter, Tanto? It’s borderline shillery for Sather and the Rangers. Manages to be arrogant and ignorant simultaneously. Worst of all was the nitpicking on the length of GM term. Sather’s held his job for 19 years with f—k all to show for it.

          • MC, I do enjoy the competitiveness, and I appreciate it.

            But after a certain period of time of given the opportunity to win a Cup, time to move on. Blaming Neil Smith for something he did 25 years ago is irrelevant and misguided, at best.

          • If the objective isn’t to win it all, why the hell do we play the game. You have a losers mentality!!!!!!!!!!!

          • I seriously do not understand the thumbs up-thumbs down people. What you’ve said here Tanto is like saying the sun rises in the east, yet some people find fault. I have no problem with Richter’s response — the post is a difference between the two of you, although I suspect even Richter doesn’t really agree with his position. How many people here past 55 really look back on Giacomin, Ratelle, Gilbert, Park, Hadfield et al as a bunch of losers who could never win the Cup. That team gave me a lot of pleasure and frankly winning the Cup was a whole lot easier back then.

        • Contracts are tricky and it is easy to point the finger. Let’s start with Shattenkirk and Hayes – two impact players who seemed to cost too much money. Fact is, you need impact players and sometimes you just have to overpay. It just is not obvious what the right call was in either case.

          Yes, there were clear errors. Choosing Boyle over Stralman was just dumb. Smith was a character issue and the Rangers had a long enough time to see who he was. And Redden was just delusion.

          However, I would defend the albatross contracts – Girardi, Staal, Lundqvist – as being quite reasonable at the time. Was it fair to expect Hank to become just another goalie or to foresee the Staal injuries? And as for Girardi, the idiocy was the buyout, not the contract.

          And before you suggest Hank was somehow different, last week I did a comparison between Cam Talbot career stats and Lundqvist over the same period. Hank faced 10,000+ shots with a save percentage of .916 while Cam faced 8000+ shots with a save percentage of .915, a difference of .0009. What that means is that is that since AV became coach, Hank has saved 9-10 more goals than Talbot would have saved. Given the terrible Edmonton defense, I don’t think using save percentage is unfair.

          Talbot is not an extraordinary goalie and even lost his job twice during this stretch. And the Rangers are paying a guy who is 1.5-2 goals a SEASON better than Talbot $8.5M a year for seven years. Make no mistake. I would have given Hank that contract. But that doesn’t mean that the Rangers did not get burned — and you simply cannot blame the GM every time he gets burned. The real problem is when the GM is pretending players are players they are not. Sather understood the strengths of Lundqvist, Staal, Girardi and valued them accordingly. He just has an alternate view of the value of certain aspects of the game than you do. OTOH, he pretended Redden was a player he never was and he pretended that Boyle was a player that he no longer was. Those contracts were blunders.

          • Raymond, I have zero problem signing high end players, but this all comes down to talent evaluation.

            Almost everyone knew, except for Sather apparently, that Redden, Girardi, Staal, and Boyle were already in decline when they signed their big contracts with the Rangers. Many fans were appalled at the # of years and $$ given to each of them.

            Even 2 years for Boyle was misguided since he was already in his late 30s. For the same $4.5M per, they could have kept Stralman, though he would have gotten 4 years, not 2.

            Even the Stepan contract was a deal that they got out from under by trading him. He’s still a 50 pt player, which does not justify $6.5M per.

            And for all the belly aching about Hanks contract, he’s earned his, and then some, it’s the D that takes up $25M of cap space that is the issue for the Rangers.

            But again, think Sather is good or not, he’s had 20 years with no Cup, time to be shown the door. Coach Q had THREE Cups and he got fired, lol.

          • BINGO – and we have a winner.

            Talent evaluation is and has been the Achilles heel of this organization for a looooong time. And let’s throw in a dose of poor asset management for good measure.

            The trades of the #1’s, the draft choices (that we did make) the free agent choices, the contracts….

            And if we don’t get the draft right this time then this rebuild will become very tenuous very quick.

            Regardless, IMO both Sather and Geordie have to go anyway.

          • He had 15 years and yes, he was good compared to about 25 other teams — he wasn’t great, he wasn’t bad.

        • Enuf with the letting Stralman’s really getting old. Watch a Tampa Bay game and see him for the pilon that he really is. You think the Rangers lost Borge Salming by the way folks here go on about it. Good grief.

          • You can hate him but he was one of our top D men, only McD was better. That’s a fact.

            Choosing Girardi, Staal, and Boyle over him was outright negligence on Sather’s part.

      • No Tanto—Sather gave us the royal stench of coaches like Ron Low and Bryan Trottier, Wade Redden and Chris Drury as free agent disgraces, and traded Marian Gaborik only to have him light us up in the Cup Finals while Gabby was in LA.

        Sather gave us the worst of Markus Naslund, Dan Boyle, Alex Frolov, and Ales Kotalik. The team’s one run to the Cup Finals under Sather was on the backs of players like Lundqvist, McDonagh, Stepan, and Zuccarello—and it’s due more to their character that they achieved what they did than from anything Sather did with them.

  • Solid analysis. But, if the issue is ELITE talent, there are reasons for optimism:
    * Kravtsov: TSN’s #1 NHL-affiliated prospect
    * Shestyorkin: TSN’s #10 NHL-affiliated prospect. And stats that look like typos.
    * Chytil: Which player chosen in the 2017 draft has the 4th most goals? It’s early still but it looks like there’s a chance of his being a stud.
    * Miller: One of the best Freshman in the NCAA and clearly the best Freshman D in the NCAA.

    • Loved your Sheshty comment, they do look like typos at times. Guess we should add our own 1st round pick these year to the possible “elite” counter, at least that’s the hope. We really just need a couple, in the end it’s depth and character that wins Championships, we’ve beaten enough teams over the years with elite talent to know that — and when elite talent does win, it’s because they’re supported well.

  • Assuming this season isn’t a fluke and is his breakout season, that Brassard for Zibanejad trade will go down as the 2nd best trade this team has made in the last 20 years only behind the McDonagh Gomez trade. Honestly am I missing one that has happened since the 2004 lockout that is better?

    The jury is still out on the Stepan trade. Tony D is starting to show flashes of the ceiling he was drafted to reach. Anderson is way too young to call this one way or another.

    He got fair market value for Zuke and Hayes. He got fair market value for Nash which ended up being a steal because the guy was injured most of the remainder of last season and then retired.

    He cashed in on Grabners red hot 1.5 years with the Rangers and got a 2nd round pick for what turned out to be 5 total points for the Devils in 20 games.

    I’m still on the fence with the McDonagh JT trade. Underwhelmed unless one of the prospects really planned out is the best way to put it. And keep in mind, this wasn’t about how good JT and McDonagh are. This trade was about are they worth their next contracts on a rebuilding team.

    So I give Gorton good marks for his job so far. Now it’s time to wait and see how the players drafted with these 1st and 2nd round picks turn out.

  • One thing that is often missed in talking about the rebuild is that they are not only rebuilding the Rangers but are also rebuilding the Wolf Pack. Unlike some teams in the league the Rangers have had virtually nothing of value in Hartford for a long time and are only now restocking that franchise. That has major implications for the big club and is why the rebuild is going to take at least two more years.

    I like what Gorton is doing. Patience will be required to see it though.

    • When you non tender draft picks, release players after 1 season in the minors who go on to be successful at their next club, the failure of Hartford has been a self inflicted wound.

  • Good insight on how Gorton has done so far with overhauling the roster. Don’t forget it was two for two with the Coyotes. Raanta and Stepan for DeAngelo, who is the most skilled D they have, plus the number 7 overall that turned into Lias Andersson. A trade that’s turning around.

    One point on Carolina/Calgary. That was two for two and has benefitted both teams. Hamilton and Ferland (UFA this summer) for Hanifin and Lindholm, who’s having a career season.

    The key is turning some of those picks into good players. They traded up to get K’Andre Miller and grabbed Lundkvist. Plus the palpable excitement for Shestyorkin and our best forward prospect since Kreider in Kravtsov.

    The continued development of young guns Chytil, Andersson, Lindgren and now Hajek will help determine where they are. Plus improvements from Buchnevich, DeAngelo, Vesey and Namestnikov with the latter two having more trade value in their final years.

  • Well if you watched the Rangers last 2 outings, I think you would have to say the club is going in the right direction. I glad they added some more grit in Lemieux and am certain Dallas will sign the gifted Zuc to turn the Rangers 3rd pick to a 1st.

    The club will need leadership going forward. They need to sign Kreider and if Vesey keeps improving sign him in the offseason as well. And Gorton also needs to ink the Ruskies and get them over here. Let’s see what they can bring to the table.

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