The NY Rangers are playing very well. Their process is improving, they look better, the kids are improving, the veterans are holding their own, and Artemi Panarin is Artemi Panarin. Yet the Rangers, despite their recent strong play, are still nine points out of the playoffs with several teams to leapfrog in the standings.
The goal for the playoffs is 98 points. If the Rangers get there, then it is more likely than not they sneak into the playoffs. In that regard, they control their own destiny. They currently have 60 points with 27 games remaining. That’s 54 possible points remaining in the season. The Blueshirts need 38 (70%) of those points. That’s 1.4 points per game. Possible, but not likely.
The trade deadline is 11 days away, and with the Rangers in their current position, it’s more likely they become sellers. The big names are Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast as pending UFAs, but Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo have found their way into the conversation. Ryan Strome’s name has come up a few times. This isn’t like the past three trade deadlines, which saw the Rangers ship away every single pending UFA. This time around the Rangers have something to build from. Some of the guys in the conversation might be a part of the future.
The Blueshirts are likely not Cup contenders next season either. The playoffs are the goal next season for sure, but it’s unlikely enough progress can be made to shore up enough holes to truly compete. The first year of actual competition is likely the 2021-2022 season. Kreider and Fast will be 30 that season.
The question isn’t about what the Rangers can get in a trade, it’s about how all the pieces fit to build a contender for the 2021-2022 season. All five of these guys, plus Alex Georgiev, are tied together because of the cap. The Rangers can’t keep them all.
John Davidson, Jeff Gorton, and David Quinn are going to sit down and spend significant time over the next two weeks deciding who can be a part of the future. Does re-signing Kreider mean the Rangers need to trade Strome, who has cooled significantly lately? Do they shift DeAngelo to the left side and dangle Brady Skjei, or do the Rangers capitalize on DeAngelo’s career year as a 3RD? Is Fast worth $3 million to be a 30 point third liner? Is a Shesterkin/Georgiev tandem more valuable than Georgiev in a trade and Henrik Lundqvist as a backup next season?
No one knows the Rangers’ plans except for those with the Rangers. They have a strategy, and the pieces to build a contender within that strategy are likely fluid. They will be managing the cap, the prospects, and the expiring contracts to build that contender, and it may include some pieces that are in trade rumors today.