2019 Rangers Report Card: Jeff Gorton

As we wrap up report card season, we conquer the last one in Jeff Gorton. Gorton and the Rangers announced the rebuild before the 2018 trade deadline and then promptly sold off a ton of expiring assets. With the rebuild in full swing, Gorton entered his first offseason with the sole purpose of restocking the cupboard with youth and picks.

I was struggling with where to begin Gorton’s grading scope. In the end, I decided that the full scope of Gorton’s report card will begin as soon as last year’s season ended, and will go through the writing of this post. It’s not an exact science, but it covers everything from the first offseason through the first full season under a rebuild.

2018 Pre-Draft Offseason

The big thing here is the firing of Alain Vigneault, Darryl Willians, and Scott Arniel. This was likely in the cards for a while, since AV was let go before the paint was even dry on the 2017-2018 season. However Lindy Ruff still remained. AV was replaced six weeks later by David Quinn.

Gorton also signed a pair of undrafted free agents in Michael Lindqvist and Ville Meskanen. The coaching change was the most critical piece of the rebuild to date, and by not going with another spoke on the head coaching wheel, Gorton showed willingness to try something new.

However Ruff still remains.

Grade: B+

2018 Draft and Free Agency

The Rangers look to have hit homeruns with Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, and Nils Lundkvist in the first round. Kravtsov was initially hated as a pick because Oliver Wahlstrom was still on the board, but so far this is looking like a great pick. To grab Miller at #22, Gorton gave up the #26 and #48 picks. That’s about market value. The blip here is the 2nd round pick used on a goalie. Nothing against Olof Lindbom, who was slated to go around then anyway, but that one raised eyebrows.

As for free agency, Gorton stayed away from the big fish, choosing to re-sign his own guys and go with depth players.

There’s nothing really inherently wrong with these signings. Yea you can be upset about the McLeod signing, but it’s not like it moved the needle. He only cost money.

Gorton then made a very puzzling trade, acquiring Adam McQuaid for Steven Kampfer and 2019 4th and 7th round picks. This one was a puzzling one at best, and a bad move that really didn’t work out at all. The difference between this and McLeod is that McQuaid cost draft picks. But still, it’s a minor blip in the grand scheme of things.

If McLeod and McQuaid are the only qualms with the offseason, then it’s a good offseason.

Grade: A-.

2019 Pre-Deadline

There was only one major move here, and that was trading Ryan Spooner for Ryan Strome. The salaries offset after some money on Spooner was retained, so that was a non-factor, but this still worked out in spades for Gorton. Spooner was barely even a healthy scratch worthy player, and Gorton got a 25-year-old center/winger who had actual talent. Strome shot through the moon with the Rangers, finishing the season strong and revitalized. Even if he comes crashing down to Earth next season, this is a major win for Gorton.

Gorton also acquired Connor Brickley for Cole Schneider, but that was a minor move.

Grade: A.

2019 Trade Deadline

Let’s go through this in bullets to lay it all out:

  • McLeod to Nashville for a 2020 7th.
  • Marek Mazanec to Vancouver for a 2020 7th.
  • Peter Holland to Chicago for Darren Raddysh.
  • Mats Zuccarello to Dallas for 2019 2nd (conditional 1st if Dallas gets to the WCF) and 2020 3rd (1st if Zucc re-signs).
  • Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg for Brendan Lemieux, 2019 1st, and 2022 4th if Winnipeg wins the Cup.
  • Adam McQuaid to Columbus for Julius Bergman, 2019 4th, 2019 7th.

There was nothing to write home about for the deadline. Every player got market value, and in some situations got more than expected (McLeod, Mazanec). There was a lot of blow back from the Zuccarello trade, but that was almost entirely emotional and not rational. His trade was market value, as was Hayes’ trade.

Grade B.

Everything Else

Following the trade deadline, Gorton has been extremely busy. He re-signed Boo Nieves and Steven Fogarty for next season. He signed prospects Kravtsov, Igor Shestyorkin, Yegor Rykov, Joey Keane, and Adam Huska to ELCs. He signed undrafted free agents Jake Elmer and Patrick Newell. But even these signings were overshadowed.

Gorton swung for the fences, relinquishing a 2019 2nd and conditional 2020 2nd (3rd if Fox plays under 30 NHL games next year) for Adam Fox. In doing so, he began the process of following through on his word to accelerate the rebuild. The two picks given up will likely not turn into what Fox is now, and is the cost of doing business in acquiring him for next season instead of the the 2020 offseason.

Gorton also started the makeover in Hartford, firing head coach Keith McCambridge and assistant coach Joe Mormina. They haven’t been replaced, but firing them works for me.

There were two things out of Gorton’s control that we need to make note of, and do not account in Gorton’s overall grade: Winning the draft lottery, and Glen Sather/Jim Schoenfeld stepping down.

Grade: A.

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  • Incomplete, the main part of this process is not complete yet until the next season starts.

    The McLeod, Spooner, and Names signings were bad. Names is not terrible but he’s a 30ish pt player other than when he plays with Stamkos and Kucherov.

    The trades were “good” not home runs. Strome was a nice trade.

    Trust me, in Jeff I Trust, but this offseason will tell the tale as to if all of this was worth it. I think it is, but if all of Staal, Smith, Shatty, etc., are still on the roster, then that would be a tremendous disappointment. And Pionk should be traded, not DeAngelo (that would be a disaster if traded).

    Wait and see for me, bu I think that we will be happy (overall) by the start of this coming season.

    • I strongly agree with you here — maybe that’s why why you got some thumbs down (rare occurrence). JG has amassed a lot of young talent that Ranger fans are excited about but we really do not know whether it is the nucleus of a future Cup contender or lots of guys who will be forgotten in a few years. I agree those were bad signings. I also thought Vesey was overpriced and the Skjei contract was a gamble.

      One disagreement – about DeAngelo. I have no clear idea what he would bring back in trade. However, as a right handed puck-moving defenseman with suspect defensive play, I think he is perhaps a redundant skill — and as such would be worth more to another team than to the Rangers. And that other team might just give up a lot to get him. I would not deal ADA just to get say a second round draft pick, or to get another team to take a bad contract off our hands. BUT I would trade him for the right price AND it just may be that someone is willing to pay that price. [OTOH, the Rangers are very unlikely to get a second rounder for Pionk.]

      • The thing about DeAngelo is that from blue line to blue line, he was one of the best D men in the league.

        That cannot be ignored as to the potential he has now that he has his head screwed on the right way, it appears anyway. I don’t think trading him would be in the Rangers’ best interest.

        • Part of my point is that a few years back the Devils should have wanted to hang on to Adam Larsson — but untouchable sort of loses its meaning when the other side is dangling Taylor Hall. If you acquire Trouba, there are certainly going to be numerous teams who need a good puck moving dman more than the Rangers. If you can find one of those guys who believes in ADA the way that you do, they might just blow you away with an offer.

          What about an ADA for Trouba trade where Winnipeg adds some sweeteners?

          • As much as I love Trouba? I don’t think that I give up DeAngelo for him, I think that it would dilute the upgrade by getting Trouba.

    • I’m with Richter…draft night and defense will dictate the completion of my report card on Gorton…. Some of his moves have been questionable… but most have been very good…. remember Sather didn’t believe in picks or draft night… ever… Gorton has stockpiled picks and now the prospect pool has gone from the depths of the sea to about the 9 th ranked or so…Kakko is coming… Kratsov is here…. others as well…going to be fun….

      • Yep, getting the picks and assets is one thing, putting them to good use and getting good results, is another.

        Stay tuned.

  • JG is graded correctly, A, and he is doing a bang up job of it!

    The #1 picks of last season seem to be good choices, and we should grade him after this years draft. The strategy of getting rid of dead wood, going young, I’m all in on it. We are getting younger, and more skilled if you ask me. Like Tony stated above, we should grade JG after the draft, and when the season starts, to see if he was indeed able to rid us of some terrible contracts, and players, the three “S’s”.

    His selection of a new coach seems to be working out, look at Buch and Tony D, those were works in progress, but turned out fine. At times last year I was upset at him benching ADA in favor of Pionk, but that straightened itself out to be a good move in the long term. Now if only he could rid the team of Ruff, and get a nasty stay at home d-man with snarl, then I’d be very happy. This draft should be one that we get bigger, talented players, after Kakko, who have a mean streak in them, I want to be feared, and tougher to play against on the ice.

  • JG’s firing of AV alone gives him an ‘A’.
    I think he’s done an excellent job.
    Failure to move Staal, Shatty and even Smith are artifacts of the players themselves, their performance, age, salary, contractual no trade/no movement clauses and in some cases (Staal) limited by previous serious injury.
    It will take some time to see how the plethora of young talent pans out.
    To date, he’s done a fantastic job. And umm, did I mention he canned AV…………………

  • I trust JG, but he can really impress me when (if) he straightens out this mess if a defense. Finding buyers for Shattenkirk and/or Pionk, Smith will be great. Staal is immovable and I don’t think he’ll be bought out this year.

    I think this is priority one before even considering bringing in a player like Trouba. Gorton and JD have to clear a right-side spot and some cap space for the $8 million per year Trouba.

  • I agree that something has to be done with the defense. He needs to make moves here. While his hands are tied, I am sure there is something available out there for Smith and Shatty.

    I think the grades are fair, now the burden of truth falls on the drafted players.

  • I have a hunch that J.D. and Gorton are going to work extremely well together. I am very optimistic about the club’s future. Not every move a GM makes turns to gold, but Gorton has made some savvy moves and has a plan. I’d give him an “A” overall.

    • I’m not sure I would go “A” Peter but Gorts has done a very good job coming out of the shadow of Sather. No one knows how much Sather influenced JG’s moves but it does seem like he was putting his own stamp on this team over the last year or so.

      The Rangers are in a good place right now with JD coming in. I just hope JD takes a good look at the amateur scouting so that there is some oversight on what Gordie (I’ll take the goalie with the 35th pick) Clarke does with the draft.

  • Unlike for many, this report card really hinges much on how all these moves turn out, not how they performed last season. I think this is a pretty fair treatment of how it looks at this moment, but the real report card comes in two years. In the end, I suspect a lot of it will amount to whether the depth of defensive prospects amounts to our new defensive lineup, or a hill of beans. At this stage of the game, it could go either way. Nature of the Beast.

  • So Gorton gets an A- for the summer in which he signed Spooner for an exorbitant amount and then gets an A for the. next period, basically for unloading the Spooner contract.

    Also “Gorton also acquired Connor Brickley for Cole Schneider, but that was a minor move.”
    JG trades the Hartford captain, after which the team completely falls apart, not a minor move at all.

    The biggest item IMO is the hiring of David Quinn as coach. The jury should still be out on this one. Unlike most here, I currently think it was an unfortunate choice. Time will tell who is right.

    On Gorton, still some lingering doubts on past moves. Why on earth did he swap Graves for Bigras and then never even look at Bigras?

    • Some good points, but I will agree with most on the progress looking much better in really 1 full yer and 1 transitional year. I think all his moves need to mature in order to address him completely, but up until now I think the grade was fair.

      I really liked the team play that Quinn has installed, there were times when this was a hard club to play against plus they look like a team that plays for each other. I thought a few younger guys showed real development under Q thus far (Buch for one)

      we’ll see


  • Before the 2017 draft the NYR had, if not the WORST farm systems in the NHL, one of the bottom 3.

    After the 2019 draft, the NYR will have, if not the BEST farm system in the NHL, one of the top 3.

    That’s in two years.

    Gorton Grade: A

    • Yes Rod, you nailed my most significant reason to be cheerful. Not only are they stocking young players, they are also revamping the Hartford staff. That is going to be huge in the future.

    • I know what you meant, but I think that you mean young player pool, not farm system, Hartford stinks.

  • Very happy with JG. Think DQ was an excellent choice. Gorton has experience; lots to do with the current Bruin game. Correct me if I’m wrong but JG inked the pricey Smith and Shattenkirk deals; so he’s not going to spend $8M on Trouba – nor should he….. We are rebuilding – not one trade away from a Cup. Rather spend $4M twice.

  • The A – grading is accurate. No NHL Gm gets its right everytime but Gorton has made some clever moves and the lotto gods are in his favour.

    The challenge will be in how he puts together a plan in delevoping all the young talent that he drafted. Will he keep some vets on the roster that can lead the youngsters? Will he be patient or give up on them before they have a chance to develop?And lastly, will he dip into the FA pool or stay the course.

  • I don’t expect miracles (I don’t think he can fully resolve the issues on D with Shatty, Staal and Smith) and I’ve been confident in JG from the beginning. I give him overall a A- going all the way back to the Stepan/Raanta trade — if DeAngelo turns out as well as I think, he alone would be worth the trade —- oh and let’s not forget the Georgiev signing, it looks like a very good one. Adding Kakko, drafting well in the #20 slot and if Zucc resigns in Dallas (I think he might), this could turn into an A.

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