For the first time in the modern draft era, the Rangers have the first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. Within an hour, there were already trade rumors starting to surface. It was fun to discuss the hypothetical #3 and #5 from Ottawa for the top pick, but that was mostly fan-driven. Let it be clear: The NY Rangers are not trading the top pick.
Alexis Lafreniere is a clear cut above the rest
The reasoning for trading the top pick is if the projected #1 pick isn’t clearly ranked above the rest. That isn’t the case with Lafreniere. It doesn’t take away from players like Tim Stutzle or Quinton Byfield, the projected #2 and #3 picks, it just means Lafreniere is better.
The Rangers will be drafting the best player available. Drafting for need is folly and usually a sure fire way to get a team in trouble. The last time the Rangers drafted for need instead of best player available, they took Dylan McIlrath over Vladimir Tarasenko (and Cam Fowler).
The Rangers would need to be blown away
Even if the Rangers were to entertain an offer, they’d need to be absolutely blown away by it. This goes beyond just Lafreniere the player. This is a cost-controlled, top line winger who is likely set to be a top winger in the game within a couple of years. He will produce well beyond his ELC value. With three seasons projected of a flat cap ceiling, this matters even more than the top pick itself.
With so many projected players on ELCs, the Rangers have a chance to pull off something special. Cap planning takes place years in advance, and with upwards of ten players on ELCs, the Rangers can maneuver properly to keep their key players and top picks around for the foreseeable future.
What is the qualification of “blown away”? Well the #3 and #5 moves the needle, but not enough. The Senators would need to throw in another top prospect. And let’s be real, they won’t do it. The price will be so extraordinarily high that all teams will balk.
And let’s nip this in the bud, the Rangers aren’t trading the pick for an already established NHLer.
Could you believe the outrage if the Rangers traded the pick? This is the first time they’ve ever had the top pick. It’s in one of the best drafts in decades. The best player is clear cut above the rest. This is a slam dunk decision.
Could you imagine trading the #1 for #3 and #5, and then missing on either Byfield or Lucas Raymond? Could you imagine the backlash if the Rangers traded Alexis Lafreniere for just a good 1C or solid 2C? Jeff Gorton would get fired before the fans could stage a Fire Gorton rally outside MSG.
Suffice it to say, the NY Rangers are not going to trade the top pick.