State of the Rangers

Missing the forest for the trees

For the NY Rangers, the overall goal of the rebuild is to be kept in mind

Missing the forest for the trees is an old idiom that we’ve all heard. It’s very common, and the basic definition is to miss the overall organizational goals due to over analysis of a few specific ideas, events, or moves. It is basically saying don’t get too in the weeds of every minute detail because you’ll miss the overall goal.

When Vlad Namestnikov was traded late Monday, there was chatter about how the Rangers got very little in return, that this trade could have been made over the summer, that this meant the Rangers shouldn’t have bought out Kevin Shattenkirk, and other argumentative points that broke down the trade of an expensive fourth liner. That’s the tree.

Meanwhile, the exact point of the trade was to free up cap space and roster slots for recalls throughout the season. It also gives the Rangers a cushion for bonus overages next season, as they are a team at risk with many players on ELCs that could trigger these bonuses. With the Shattenkirk buyout costing the Rangers $6 million in dead cap space next season, ensuring bonuses don’t carry over is critical. The move was almost entirely for more flexibility both now and next season. That’s the forest.

There are pieces to this that are completely unrelated to the Vlad Namestnikov trade. First and foremost is the non-trade of Ryan Strome. The team made the decision to keep Strome long before the Namestnikov trade went down. Neither Strome nor Namestnikov were long for a Rangers uniform anyway, so this apparent one season decision is inconsequential. End of story. Agree or disagree with the team’s decision, just accept it and move on. That’s a small tree in the forest of the rebuild.

The next is the Shattenkirk buyout. For some inexplicable reason, people tried to tie this to the Namestnikov trade, saying if the trade –for that return– was made now, why wasn’t it made sooner? Well Jeff Gorton answered that already. They tried. It wasn’t there until Monday. This isn’t NHL ’20 where you can pause the game on a day until you make a trade. It’s also worth noting that the Shattenkirk trade was made to get the Rangers cap compliant immediately for the start of the season, while the Namestnikov trade was made for flexibility. Apples/oranges. Two trees that matter, but on opposite sides of the forest.

*A common and flawed argument is that the Blueshirts could have bought out Staal or Smith and then hoped a trade for Namestnikov went down sooner. The Rangers couldn’t take that risk, so they made the call to buyout Shattenkirk, who also didn’t really have a role on this team anyway.

With those pieces in mind, let’s again take a step back and look at the overall goals of a rebuild:

  • Draft well and develop prospects.
  • Identify which prospects are a part of the future plans and ensure they are developed properly, without rushing them.
  • Identify which roles these prospects are going to play, and ensure their development is tailored towards those roles.
  • Remain flexible for unexpected changes (like landing Kaapo Kakko) and ensure there is cap and roster flexibility for players exceeding (or failing to meet) expectations.
  • Don’t throw the prospects to the fire and set them up for failure. There is no rush…yet.

That is the forest. As long as each move made keeps those goals in mind, then the Rangers are on the right track for the rebuild. Sure, there will be disagreements over the specifics, like why Lias Andersson needs to light himself on fire to get more ice time, and we will certainly question specific moves in the here and now.

The challenge is now to not only evaluate decisions in real time, but also keep an eye on the overall rebuild goals and how this moves towards that goal. It’s just like managing your professional career. Each move made should be a step in your overall career goals.

For the Namestnikov trade, the step in moving along in the rebuild was creating more cap and roster flexibility. Was this accomplished with the trade? I’d say so.

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  • Someone needs to define when the rebuild ends and the competitive NHL team gets on the ice. To me, we are nearing the end of the “rebuild” stage. That does not mean that we stop developing young players because ALL teams need to do that, whatever phase they are in.

    Names was moved for 2 basic reasons – Cap space and roster flexibility – thats it!

    Strome may be on the block with no-takers – WHO KNOWS

    We needed CAP flexibility to sign Panarin – Shatty had to go AT THAT TIME.

    Just because we love to play “If” doesn’t mean opportunities present themselves when we want them to.

    Everyone Relax – we have a great PP and a good PK. Our 2nd and 3rd lines need work and our defense if a young work in progress. Classic move towards becoming a better team than last year.

    • IMO the definition is similar to how you replant a perennial in your yard, first you identify the core of the plant, recognizing what parts are solid and important to the finished product. In this case you stated the competitive NHL gets on the ice. In my mind the competitive product is almost already on Ranger ice. By Ranger ice I see prospects not at the NHL level but in the org.

      Getting back to the plant, the rebuild begins with trimming off parts that will drain the finished product when replanted, I see McD, Nash, Miller… etc as this step in the process.

      At the same time you have to dig a new hole, draft picks are the hole. I know this is starting to sound odd but the place you plant is really as important as draft picks for this comparison.

      You have to have good fertilizer for the hole and the remaining plant this will be rebuilt. I’ll give you one guess what is this teams fertilizer? DQ Baby. the man has been growing players like it’s no bodies business. I hope he succeeds with pros as we all do. DQ!!! DQ!!!

      unexpected things happen! you have the hold going and the plant removed from its previous hole but you spot a change with the new hole, a ROOT… a root requires special steps. The Rangers root is CaptainK, Kappo. We didn’t see it coming but we have to react to him.

      Our reaction was F-ing great. Bye Bye Shatty, Hello Trouba and Panarin.

      What remains now is the finished product, but just like the replanted plant, the first 1-2 years are important and parts of the flower may need to be cut to allow whats growing both on the surface and underneath to shine baby!

      LGR!!! LGR!!!

      Rebuild is done, but it’s just begun to grow baby!


      Can you tell I have off from work tomorrow and Friday!!! LOL

      also got tickets to see Saturday’s game. LGR LGR LGR

  • The Shattenkirk buyout was well calculated:

    1) He was redundant, after trading for Trouba and Fox there was no room for him to play, even on the 3rd pairing; and
    2) It was the buyout that gave them the most cap relief right away, when it jumps next year is when we remove Belesky’s cap hit, plus Giradi’s drops $2.5M … the dead cap space charge only increases a couple of million effectively.

  • When do we stop rebuilding and aim to be a playoff team? Gorton has had 2 years to stock the cupboard. He added some great talent via the draft, added Trouba via trade and Panarin as a Free Agent. The rebuild stage is DONE.

      • You still need to develop young players, but we should not give them a pass regarding being a playoff contender at this point.

        We waiting 2 years with young, crappy teams. Now we need to start playing meaningful games in April

    • It’s done in the sense that there is likely to be no more dumping of players for future draft picks per se. It is not done in the sense that the team has too many young inexperienced players to be considered a cup threat or even a likely playoff team. The answer is that this is probably the last season where failure to make the playoffs is acceptable.

    • The rebuild will be done when it’s done. That will be when we see the Rangers contending in the playoffs again. It makes no sense to put some arbitrary time limit on it because we simply don’t know how quickly our young players will develop, or even if all of them will end up making the NHL. We can all HOPE that it’s this year, but I doubt that it will be. Next year is a lot more likely. Also, it won’t be a failure if we don’t win the Cup in the next 3 or 4 years. Again, we can hope for it, but there are too many variables in play to make a prediction. Remember, other teams are doing their damndest to win it, too, and then there are other possibilities, such as injuries (which we all hope don’t happen here).

    • Don’t you think reality should enter into your thinking? The Ranger organization is hopeful that they can win the Cup next spring. How does that happen? Simply the talented young players blossom, the quality veterans hit their marks, and the Rangers get lucky (alas always needed for a Cup).

      But you can’t make the young players blossom before they are ready. I believe there is a good chance that Filip Chityl has Hall of Fame talent. But it needs to be realized and so far that is far from the case. You cannot just decree that he is good. And you can’t decree he will be good on December 12th either. You just strive to make it happen and it will happen when it does.

      Commitment to the rebuild now no longer means not trying to win. What it means is not doing things for short term benefit that will hurt the team down the road.

    • Until we have a bona fide 2nd line center nothing is DONE — whether through trade or through the development of the young kids. Yes Gorton has had 2 years to stock the cupboard, but 95% of all drafted kids take a few years to develop on top of the 2 years.

  • Well done Dave.

    I’d say the rebuild is over when: (1) we have a viable 2C. Right now we have a place holder and one prospect in waiting. If Chyil can’t do it we have no one with little cap space to address. and (2) we have better LHDs. Right now we have no top 2 pair worthy LHD’s. And our better prospects, especially Miller, are years away.

    Rangers are the youngest team in the league. Best to continue on the current path, like the Names trade, to make room for the prospects etc. Our first likely window to compete seems like the 21-22 season. Next season we will have no cap space due to the Shatty buyout and the last year of the bad current contracts,

  • A little while back I posted that we have to give this group of players a chance to jell as a unit, and see what we have. It’s only two games folks, let’s not all be pathologists, and dissect every movement made. Things happen for a reason, and we aren’t privy to why, and how they do what they do, just accept it and relax.

    The Names move was made for the stated reasons, and the return isn’t what everyone wanted. Well maybe he is being overrated by these same people? We got the objective accomplished, cap relief, and flexibility to make the necessary moves down the road, so this was the price paid for it.

    As for Shatty, that was a terrible move from the beginning, and he turned out to be exactly what I said he would be, useless. We now have a stud 1st pair right d-man who can play defense, something that Kevin could never do, and still can’t do. He was only good enough to be our fourth right d-man behind the three currently playing, for a load less. Let’s just wright him off as a bad move, and learn from that experience..

  • Excellent article Dave.

    I think the return in the Namestnikov trade deserves no criticism. Everyone agreed he was overpaid, so why does anyone think we would get anything for him. At this time of year, teams are not looking for $4M bottom six forwards.
    Actually this trade was quite clever. The acquisition of Nick Ebert was brilliant. Ebert was signed to a contract which pays an AHL salary of $300K and even has $350K guaranteed I believe. He didn’t work out for Ottawa and so the Senators were thrilled to get his contract off the payroll. The effect of $750K in retained salary and the loss of the Ebert contract is just as valuable financially to Ottawa as $1M in retained salary, but gives the Rangers more cap space.

  • Now we need to move Skjei for a defensive lefty defensman so we really can have a shutdown pair of defenders and flexibility for our young defensemen

  • There are three rookies on the team playing regulars shifts, two on defense and one forward. There are two second year centers. There is another defenseman who played his 59 games, his most in a NHL season, last year.

    So, what does this mean? It means that a true stud defenseman, Jacob Trouba, and a true elite forward, Panarin, have been added to a team with a center who is approaching elite status, Zibanejad, and a couple of good forwards in Kreider and Buchnevich, and a large number of young players and a couple of older defensemen and forwards. It means that it shouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t make the playoffs. Or, if they do somehow, don’t go far in them.

    The emphasis right now should be developing the young players they already have in New York and also players like Chytil and Kravstov and Lingren in Hartford. Perhaps it might be a bit more plausible to start getting impatient next season, but, it doesn’t make sense to be impatient now. For now, I am happy that they are rebuilding rather quickly with quality young players and demonstrably headed In the right direction.

  • Excellent post, Dave. You could be a portfolio manager with that ability to go beyond black and white and see all the grey in between.

  • All teams’ fans over value the players they root for.

    If CK goes to the Oilers then Draisatl should be the starting point. Right? Wrong. A 1st round pick, if we’re lucky.

    Names was a 3rd/4th line player, given a (erroneously) 2nd line salary. So who cares about the return as long as most of the cap hit is gone?

    It’s a non-event, on the ice, as far as I am concerned. They shed a bad contract, end of story.

    • How was it “a bad contract” when the Rangers were 1. cap compliant; and 2. Namestnikov was going to be a UFA in eight months?

      Yes it was a cap dump. But no, there was no real compelling reason to do it. They could have held him until the deadline and gotten far more.

      • Not correct. There are several million dollars worth of easily achieved player performance bonuses this year that will have to go against next year’s already tight cap if there is no room in the current years cap.

        That is the reason and it is compelling as next years cap situation is already terrible after the Shatty buyout.

  • “They tried. It wasn’t there until Monday.”

    Not to mince words here, but that’s not what Gorton said. He indicated they discussed a number of proposals over the summer and it wasn’t until now that he was comfortable with one. That’s an important distinction. Doesn’t mean a trade wasn’t there. Just means that Gorton didn’t feel the RIGHT trade was there.

    • Possibly an important distinction. We don’t know if the trade offers were terrible, as they often are. It is reasonable to presume that the Rangers would have had to eat a lot more than the 750K plus the Nick Ebert contract in the prior offers or they would have been accepted.

  • Because a 4th liner should not be making $4M per.

    And as Orland said below, the Rangers needed cap space to pay the bonuses that would have created a cap overage for next season, when the Rangers are taking on $6M of dead cap space because of the Shatty buyout.

    Besides, Names had no future here and was taking a spot for a young player.

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