What’s The Worst That Could Happen – Avoiding the big mistake

This is round three (Part 1, Part 2) of a little grouping of bad time kind of situations we’ll hopefully avoid as this rebuild goes on, things that I think are worth humoring as absolute worst-case scenarios. The other ones have had long introductions, but this one is quite simple. The year is 2022, our faces are painted, we’re a bit character on funny TV show. That’s right “WE’RE THE DEVILSSS.”

To put it in blunt terms, the Devils are the team we don’t want to be. They’ve given out bad contracts, made bad trades (with the exception of one gigantic roster heist) and selected bad draft picks. It’s really a cautionary tale of what not to do, but here’s the thing: it’s easily avoidable given where we were, where we are, and where we’re already going.

Looking at the Devils’s CapFriendly page first, we’ve got a few big contracts for bad to mediocre players. Travis Zajac is at $5.75m until the end of 2021 (compare, if you will the Mika Zibanejad contract), Kyle Palmieri is on a $4.65m deal until the end of 2021 as well (this situation is roughly analogous to Chris Kreider’s but we can revisit that in a minute), and Cory Schneider is making $6m until 2022 (obviously Lundqvist is the comparison here, but I’m going to spoil the ending for you really quick and say that Hank is better). Those are probably the big three members of their veteran core, defense aside (that’s going to be its own point of analysis), and I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to say that the Rangers have the edge here. Both teams are, of course, bad. Only one of them realizes it though, and if we take our seasoned talents into the future with us I’d much rather Zibby over Zajac, Chris over Kyle, and the King over whatever-Schneider’s-nickname-is.

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away however, so the lower-on-the-depth-chart players are important to look at as well. To that end, without Hall in the lineup of course (although even he’s having a down season, so that’s worth noting), the Devils’s lines look like this and the Rangers’s like this. Both look pretty bad, but plug in Vitali Kravtsov and that shifts the Blueshirts lines a bit, and it’s worth considering that our bad players are in many ways bad right now, while theirs are somewhat lacking in promise.

For the prospects, look at Chytil’s AHL scoring, Kravtsov’s in the KHL, Andersson’s somewhat-stunted-but-still-just-fine production from his SHL days on, and then remember we’ve got guys like Namestnikov and Buchnevich who can move up and down the lineup effectively. Then compare to guys like Quenneville, Zacha, and Anderson. The Devils have Nico Hischier of course, but what are the odds he hits his ceiling and say, Chytil, doesn’t? What are the odds they both wind up in the same place eventually? What if the former’s team flounders and the latter’s doesn’t? Lot of questions to be answered, but I’m willing to roll the dice here. Look, on this front we’re going to see a ton of shifts on both sides of the Hudson due to expiring contracts and potential trades, but I’m willing to bet that the Rangers’s front office window plants bloom and the Devils’s don’t. Just a gut feeling, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

Draft history is interesting here, as the Devils have arguably had the better odds. That’s kind of the worst case scenario aspect of it though, because they’ve wound up roughly where we are despite having plenty more opportunity to nail it. The Rangers didn’t have an excellent 2016 position compared to the Devils at the draft, but Los Diablos wound up with Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Joey Anderson, and most notably Jesper Bratt while the Rangers welcomed Sean Day, Ty Ronning, Gabriel Fontaine, Tarmo Reunanen, and Tim Gettinger into the family.

The 2017 draft begins an effort by both teams to build through the draft, and the Devils obviously had the first overall pick that they used on Hischier, their only player from that draft to play any NHL games yet. On the flip side, the Rangers have already got Chytil and Andersson in the Show, and while Nico’s ceiling is probably higher than both of our baby Blueshirts, the likelihood that our guys and their guy wind up roughly in the same place is significant enough that I’ll take those odds.

It’s 2018 where we really pull out ahead of NJ, based on sheer volume of picks. We all know of course who NYR took, but it’s worth repeating: Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, and Nils Lundkvist. The Devils picked up Ty Smith in the first round, and although he won’t be a bad player by any means (plenty of people like him well enough), I suspect in a few weeks we’ll have seen enough of Kravtsov to feel confident in our selection at 9, and in a few years those other two guys won’t seem so bad either.

This year is where it gets sticky. Due to the Devils being bad, they’re currently slated to pick fourth, while the Rangers are set to go eighth. That’ll be the Devils’s only pick, provided they don’t make a trade, and then they have three seconds, a two thirds, and one each in the subsequent rounds. On the other hand, the Rangers have one conditional and one regular first, two conditional and one regular second, and then one each in every latter round. This might not be our year folks, and we kind of need it to be.

Outside of all that we’ve got trades: the Devils got Taylor Hall, sure. But their next biggest trades have been Marcus Johanssen’s coming and going, and giving up assets for Michael Grabner, which turned out badly. We’re all familiar with the Jeff Gorton’s trades, but the big thing to remember is that we’ve gotten back quantity, and we’re in the process of growing quality. JG has made the right moves and restocked the farm after years of draining it in fairly quick time, because unlike the Devils’ perspective of wanting-to-go-for-it-but-ok-we’re-bad, the Rangers’s front office made the decision to be upfront about starting over.

We’ve got reason to believe that Chytil, Andersson, Kravtsov, Miller, Lundkvist, and Shestyorkin will be real-deal NHLers, in addition to Hajek, Rykov, Howden, Strome, Namestnikov, DeAngelo, and the aforementioned veteran core to compliment them as they grow older. If even a few of those guys hit, you can easily fill in the rest of the lineup with late round picks who turn into serviceable depth guys, or lower-key summer free agency signings who may just turn into Michael Grabner again.

We’ve got every reason to believe also that Gorton recognizes the need for a game-breaker, and that he’ll either trade high at the draft and make the smart move, or he’ll cook up a real-steal trade to match the Hall haul. We’ve got both quantity and quality on our side, and the future is looking bright as a result. I’m not sure I can say the same for the Devils. Shame.

The Devils represent a cautionary tale, deciding to go for it when the team wasn’t necessarily ready. The biggest danger is turning into an irrelevant, middling team, and that appears to be in the rearview window. We’ve already set up a brighter future than the one that’s already developed for the Devils, and even if they lay on the gas pedal we’re going to go further with what we’ve got. They’ve been rebuilding since 2012, ours is … well, I think I’ve made myself clear.

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  • Sure we have quite a few NHL quality players, but both teams need an elite player or two to get over the hump. Many teams stack themselves with bottom 6 role players and compete every day but eventually fall short against the really talented teams, We need some of our picks to really turn into top 6 players. Sure Chytil, Howden and maybe Kraftsov can be that, but the rest just fill out the roster at this point.

    The difference in drafting 3rd vs. 7th or 8th is pretty significant. Usually, 1 thru 3 are players that make an immediate impact. THe Devils may get another NHL calibre player right away, where I am thinking whomever we taks is at least a year away from the NHL.

    We do have a very good goalie on the horizon, which, accompanied by Cap space make us a more formidable force in the next few years. We need to shed our bad contracts and look forward to 2020.

    • Sal

      The key to your post is to rid ourselves of the poor contracts that are slowing up the development of some of the kids. Just look at the 8 defense men carried on the roster, where Staal had to play, and better options like ADA had to sit. How stupid is that my friends??????

      I still believe in JG, he is going about his business the right way, and in about another 2-3 years, we will be damn good again!!!!!!

      Lets also hope that the Devils continue in the same path they are following for another number of years, they deserve it…………

      • Walt – I think we have a great complement of middle 6 forwards + Zibby. I do feel we need to turn one of the current kids into a top line player and we need to buy an elite forward. Now on the defensive side, this is where we need to shed some contract dollars, which is not going to happen soon. I do think it coincides with the appearance of K. Miller and the Swede defenseman though. Both should be here in 2 seasons and our contracts in the back will be less of a problem then.

        My issue is that I want playoff hockey next year, and I think that is asking too much.

        • Sal

          I’m afraid your right about not making the PO’s next season, but after that watch out, we will be a force with the crop that will be arriving!!!!

          • Carlos

            We have our 1, Jets 1, Tampa wins the cup, then their 1, and if the Stars advance two rounds, we get their 1 as well!!!!!!!

  • Not going to see Kravtsov this year unless Traktor is willing to lend him to Hartford.

    I gotta say, that if in a game of 7 musical chairs that Andersson looks like they guy who’s out. So now you get him NHL ready and move him next season.

    Just don’t sign anybody named Karlsson.

  • Reen

    Wasn’t there an agreement between the NHL-KHL reached when the GM’s were down in Florida a few weeks ago. I believe that is the case, and that Valari’s team won’t release him until May. It is a blessing though, we won’t waste a years eligibility under his ELC, so we can protect him for the expansion draft!!!!!!!

    • That’s why Traktor would have to loan him to Hartford. Would also allow him to play more than 9 games as he wouldn’t be under a NYR SPC.

      I read something that if Kravtsov’s contract was terminated early that they no longer would retain his rights for the KHL in case of a NHL lockout.

  • April 9th lottery selection is coming. Assuming the Rangers get the third pick… is there a clear cut #3 after Kakko and Quinn?

    • Most people have Podzolkin #3, but the dreaded “Russian signability” gets bandied about. Cozens is right there if he has a playoff run.

    • Its a rich draft – good question – and yes, I would love Pods, but it’s anyone’s guess – last year the Habs selected Kotkaniemi at #3 and the Coyotes surprised as well with Hayton at #5 – after Hughes and maybe Kakko – it’ll be interesting – can’t wait for the lottery selection, though – and where Winnipeg ends up in the playoffs

  • Sometimes I am confused by your logic. Denegrating the Devils(no I am not a fan), by comparing the way they are going, to the Rangers rebuild is wrong. With all their injuries,including Schneider’s comeback from major surgery, they still have the one formula that wins Stanley Cups…..two players that were top 5 picks with a third this year. The Rangers will have quantity which gets them competitive, but can”t put them over the top. They must get an elite talent! That is a proven fact over the last decade.

      • Elite talent rarely comes, period … at any pick aside from the top few picks and even those players more often than not turn out to be good or real good players as opposed to elite.

  • for #3 pick toss up between Podkolzin and Cozens…they will go 3 4

    Why is Lindgren always forgotten? Sheesh

    • First we gotta see what’s in store for us in Buttman’s magical lottery ball system ( there’s no reason this shouldn’t be shown live , it’s too easy not too )

  • We will not move up in the draft lottery. There is a history of “helping” small market teams by moving those teams up in the draft. We will pick around 7th or 8th. I fear another “AHL forever” player coming our way.

    Unless something spectacular happens over the summer with Andersson, we may have another 7th rounder that brings nothing to the table. 2022 may be our first sniff at playoffs. For the next 2-3 years we are destined to be an also-ran.

    For those who care, Kevin Hayes has 2 goals and 5 points in 7 games with the Jets so far. Should have moved Krieder instead.

    • For those who care, Hayes’ points came in two games. He’s been scoreless in 5 of the 7 games he’s played with Winnipeg, so save that routine for the recently departed Hayes Fan Club. Overall Hayes is scoreless in 13 of his last 21 games—but I guess your “truth” is that this inconsistency is worth 7 years at $6 million annually. It ain’t my truth, mine is this: good riddance to a soon-to-be-contractual-albatross for some other team.

      • We needed to clean house. Krieder, Fast, Vesey and Names need to go on the offense and everyone on the D side should have been moved as well. We are barren of true talent sans Zibanejad. If we want to really have a rebuild, get rid of anyone not producing, about to come up for RFA or is in the bottom third of the league. Replace them with first rounders in the next 3 years and hope we can draft with some intelligence.

        The Devils will be better than the Rangers next year, mark my words!

          • No, because they will have 3 young top 6 players. Hall, Nico and whomever they draft this summer. We do not have that level of talent with our youth.

          • Lets see what Chytil, and Krastov turn out to be. I’ll bet my money on the Rangers organization any day!!!!!!!

            On a side note, Hall may check the UFA market so your theory will be worth nothing.

          • Hart winner, 20 year old with more points than any Ranger not named Mika or Chris, and a draft pick coming that very well could have a higher ceiling than any Rangers prospect currently possesses. This is a fair point. It might not work out for them, but there certainly are worse positions to be in.

          • Allegedly the Devils are going to trade Taylor Hall, so your “truth” doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. He’d likely already have been traded at this recent deadline if he hadn’t gotten hurt (again).

            Improving your perspective on this sport may require actually watching games, and reading stuff about hockey online that isn’t written by NY Post writers—but I think you’re up to the task. Or maybe not. And that’s the truth.

          • I heard they want to sign Hayes so he can give figure skating lessons to the team.

          • Cat

            Along with hitting you with his purse, that tall drink of water without a three piece set!!!!!!

    • The Athletic did a piece on how Hayes will help light a fire under Laine. I pointed out that what Hayes likes to do(take it deep on his off hand) and what Laine likes to do(set up at the Ovie spot) weren’t very compatible.

      Hayes’ points were w/ Schiefle & Wheeler. I’m guessing he’s playing w/ Laine after those 1st 2 games.

  • “The Devils are the team we don’t want to be. They’ve given out bad contracts, made bad trades and selected bad draft picks.”

    Uh – are you sure you are talking about the Devils? It sure sounds a lot like the Rangers????

      • Just think of the mess Sather made all these years … lots of first round goalie picks got us no where. Lots of first rounders traded off like they were in abundance for has been a. Signing a bunch of has been s ( Redden, Richards, Boyle , Shitty Pants all hurt)The kid Russian Cherparnov dying didn’t help things , Sauer coming around and then career ending injury was another hurt. All teams go through the injuries but some moves just killed us and the new cap. Hopefully the ship starts sailing the right way , although a bunch of useless points aren’t helping things knowing our Pick luck never goes our direction. Maybe fingers crossed Buttman gives us a break this draft??

  • Watch the 2019/20 Devils. They will surprise you. Their youth is playing top 6 level hockey – while ours isn’t or sitting out (Lias) because they are already done, kaput, washed-up, busted, or can’t handle the NHL. Even our top AHL players are not good enough to make it in the NHL – look at Gilmour and Lettieri. We will be in a 4 -5 year rebuild.

    Gordy will use the first pick on a little known Swede or Russian, Benoit will talk Gorton into taking another goalie and Lindy will run the defense again. None of these are a formula for a quick rebuild. DOOMED!

    • Lias needs a couple of lbs of muscle and some skating lessons this summer.You wanna play the middle you need to skate. Overall hockey sense he has is pretty good.

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