We are officially in the calm before the storm for the Rangers, as the June draft will be the next step in the rebuild. As usual, I have some thoughts.
1. The Rangers are probably in the best spot in the draft. It’s either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, but the Rangers don’t need to choose. The Devils do. The Rangers just need to take the one that the Devils don’t take. It’s quite easy actually. Of course they could galaxy brain this and go off the board, but I don’t think the Blueshirts are that dumb.
2. There are a lot of arguments for packaging some picks together to move into the low-teens in the draft. HockeyStatMiner is the one pulling all these hypotheticals together, and he’s doing a great job doing it. The basic premise is the Rangers can move to around the 11-15 range with the 20 pick and a 2nd round pick packaged together. It looks like this draft is about 9 players in the same class, which is below the Kakko/Hughes class. Then it’s about the same level of player through the next 10 picks. If the Rangers eye someone, or someone slips, this could be a realistic scenario.
3. There is also a good amount of chatter about taking on a bad contract in exchange for another asset. This bad contract player wouldn’t be a significant player for the Blueshirts, and the value is in the other asset, not the player being acquired. Ryan Callahan comes to mind here, as Tampa is in a precarious spot here. The Blueshirts have a ton of cap space and can take on Cally’s one year, $5.8 million cap hit. The issue is roster space and if he would block a kid who is part of the future. If the asset the Rangers take is, say, Cally and TB’s 1st this year for a 2nd round pick, it’s a 30 pick move in the draft. That’s significant. That’s a hypothetical, but something like that could help. That said, the Rangers had a better opportunity to do that last year and didn’t. I doubt they do it this year when they are on record saying they want to accelerate the rebuild. That’s a tough pill to swallow if you’re looking to spend the money on Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, or Erik Karlsson.
4. In regards to those free agents, Duchene is the player that fits the immediate need of a center. He’d either be the 2C or push Mika Zibanejad to the 2C. The issue will always be term. He’s 28 now, and would be 35 if he gets that max length contract. Will he hold up? The last couple years of that deal might be rough, and those years could be the years the Rangers are really looking to stay on top. It’s a matter of when the Rangers think they can truly compete for a Cup, not just a playoff spot.
5. A lot is being made about Kakko skipping the draft combine. The kid just won gold in the Worlds and was a major impact player for Finland during their run. The kid has shown everything he needs to. It does not mean anything about his work ethic, which is phenomenal, or attitude, which is also phenomenal. Let the kid be an 18 year old. Once September rolls around, he won’t be able to anymore.
6. I am very interested in how the Rangers address their blue line logjam this offseason. It’s not as simple as trade Shatty/Smith/Staal/Pionk. There needs to be a taker. It needs to make sense for the Rangers and their direction. It also needs to make sense from an organizational development standpoint, ensuring there are bodies to take the big minutes while kids develop. Pionk was thrown to the wolves when he shouldn’t have been. Let’s learn from that mistake."Friday thoughts as we approach the draft",