The offseason isn’t even two months old, and the Rangers have been the most active team already. Let’s first recap everything they’ve done:
- Glen Sather stepped down. John Davidson was hired as President of Hockey Operations to replace Sather.
- The entire Hartford Wolf Pack coaching staff was let go.
- Jim Schoenfeld stepped down.
- Traded for Adam Fox.
- Signed Russian prospects Igor Shestyorkin, Vitali Kravtsov, and Yegor Rykov.
- Go the 2nd overall draft pick.
That’s a lot for six weeks, both in quantity and in impact. As expected, I have some thoughts.
1. I covered this over the weekend, but the front office shake up is just beginning. JD is going to bring in some of his guys, at least as advisors, and you’ll see more of Sather’s guys go. I don’t think we will see any more major moves like Gordie Clark or Jeff Gorton leaving, at least not yet. But I think others will be gone.
2. Don’t discount how significant it is that the Blueshirts are getting a new coaching staff in Hartford. That place has been a train wreck for years, and the atmosphere there has been atrocious. With such significant prospects coming, and likely to spend time in Hartford, getting an atmosphere conducive to learning and developing is priority #1. Don’t discount the Russians, specifically Rykov and his KHL-out clause in year two of his deal, and their comfort level coming over to the US. That’s a big deal. A good atmosphere goes a long way to keeping them here.
3. Trading for Fox signified that the Rangers are going to sacrifice some picks to get better faster. I expect them to make more moves like this, sacrificing more picks and roster pieces that are not part of the long-term future to address some of their needs. The biggest need is a top-pairing on defense. I still think the Blueshirts can get Trouba, although I honestly have no idea how to value cap space in any trade offer. If Artemi Panarin is the priority free agent, then someone like Jake Gardiner, whom I’ve mentioned before, could be a good fit on the left side.
4. Even before the Rangers go after defensemen in trades or free agency, there is a significant logjam. By my count, there are 17 defensemen vying for 14ish spots at the NHL and AHL level. That does include RFAs Fredrik Claesson, Julius Bergman, and Chris Bigras, so it may be fewer depending on which direction the Rangers go. There are nine at the NHL level, and that doesn’t include Rykov (it does include Fox and Hajek, though). Something has to give, and I think it will be more than one of the big contracts.
5. I’ve said this a few times, but I see no reason why the Rangers would trade Alex Georgiev — unless the offer was significant — to make room for Shestyorkin as the backup. Let Shesty play in the AHL and get a full North American season first before getting rid of your only insurance.
6. Shesty might be destined for the AHL next year, but the jury is still out on Kravtsov and Fox, and to a lesser extent Rykov. Again I stick to the “don’t rush them” mentality. I wouldn’t be shocked to see any or all of them start in the AHL. That doesn’t mean they are busts.
7. Something to note: JD green lit a significant analytics movement in Columbus. The Rangers have a one-man department there and, at least on the surface, appear to be woefully ignorant on this front. JD will change that. Specifically, as Alison Lukan noted, it goes beyond just using some of the publicly available information. A big part was using playing tracking provider SPORTLOGiQ. I’d expect that kind of movement in the right direction on Broadway as well. Gorton is the architect of this rebuild and has provided a fantastic foundation. Now it’s up to him and JD to fill in the role playing pieces and let the kids grow.