2019-2020 Rangers Report Card: Jeff Gorton

All the players have been accounted for, so now we switch up to the executives. In this case, looking at Jeff Gorton’s report card for the season. Unlike with the players, Gorton gets graded from the end of last season through the beginning of August, when the season ended for the Rangers. It’s about what he did to build up the team while keeping a solid direction for the Rangers.

Key Moves

The Rangers were very active in the offseason, making several big splashes without derailing the rebuild.

  • April 30: Acquired Adam Fox for 2 second round picks.
  • June 17: Acquired Jacob Trouba for Neal Pionk and a 1st round pick. Later signed Trouba to a seven year, $56 million deal.
  • June 23: Very strong draft, one of the best drafts in recent memory by the Rangers.
  • July 1: Acquired a 3rd round pick for Jimmy Vesey. Freeing up cap space.
  • July 1: Signed Artemi Panarin to 7 year, $81.5 million contract.
  • October 7: Acquired Nick Ebert and a 4th round pick for Vlad Namestnikov.
  • February 18: Acquired Julien Gauthier for Joey Keane.
  • February 24: Acquired a 1st round pick for Brady Skjei.
  • February 24: Extended Chris Kreider for 7 years, $45.5 million.

Of these major moves, most were home runs. There are three real questions here. The first is whether the Rangers needed to ink Trouba to that kind of deal. It was a big deal at the time, which prompted some concerns. Second is whether the Rangers could have traded Vlad Namestnikov sooner, perhaps for a better return. The third is where that Kreider contract will sit, since it was risky. These are legitimate questions as a flat cap changed the landscape.

On the flip side, getting Fox for a pair of 2nd rounders was a steal. Panarin has been worth every penny. Getting rid of the Skjei contract and still landing a 1st round pick was a solid deal. Acquiring Gauthier, filling a position of need, for Keane, dealing from a position of strength, was a shrewd move.

The draft was a huge win as well. The Rangers may have lucked into Kaapo Kakko, but they nailed every other pick in that draft. Not every pick from the draft will be a hit, but the Rangers went for ceiling and talent. They did not draft a “safe” player, and they have potential steals in Zac Jones and Matthew Robertson.

Other Moves

GMs are judged by their big moves, but it’s the little moves that usually swing the balance. Gorton did pretty well here as well.

  • Signed Yegor Rykov, Igor Shesterkin, Vitali Kravtsov, and Tarmo Reunanen to entry level contracts. Later signed Kaapo Kakko and Matthew Robertson to ELCs.
  • Signed Greg McKegg and Phil di Giuseppe to cheap, one year contracts for depth. Both wound up playing roles on the NHL team.
  • Extended Pavel Buchnevich to a 2 year bridge deal with a $3.25 million cap hit.
  • Held ground with Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux for one-year show-me deals.
  • Signed K’Andre Miller, Tyler Wall, and Morgan Barron to ELCs once the NCAA season ended.
  • Signed three solid undrafted free agents.
  • The Lias Andersson fiasco.

The questions here will be about the DeAngelo and Buchnevich contracts. DeAngelo is due a big raise since he broke out this season. Should the Rangers have committed sooner? Same goes for Buchnevich, who has proven himself a solid top-six player. Would a longer term contract have been smarter?

It is important that the Andersson fiasco gets brought up, since it is a stain on such a great year for Gorton. There is a lot of blame to go around here. Andersson, Quinn, Gorton, JD, and Knoblauch all deserve blame. Letting the relationship with a 7th overall pick go this route was not good asset management.

There are also concerns that the Rangers may have rushed Rykov and Kravtsov to the AHL. That’s tough to gauge though.

Gorton’s hits were big hits. While there are concerns about the long-term impacts of the Trouba and Kreider contracts, they are both a part of the immediate future of this team. Last offseason was solid for Gorton, but it can be derailed this offseason if he’s not careful.

EDIT: Forgot about the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout. This ties into the Namestnikov trade. Would it have been necessary if Namestnikov was traded sooner? I still think they buy him out, but the timing was rough. That wasn’t the best asset management. The cap implications for the coming season are real.

Jeff Gorton Report Card Grade: B+

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  • Team wins Stanley Cup: GM gets A+
    Team makes playoffs: GM gets C
    Team doesn’t make playoffs: GM gets F

  • The Big Cheese is hard to grade on the basis of one year in which he committed to three 7-year deals that combine account for fully one-third of the salary cap and will be the three highest contracts on the team, without knowing how we will feel about these contracts down the road. I think he went 1-1-1 but only time will tell.

    On balance I think B+ is right for the rest of his body of work this year, though there should be a retroactive demerit on Ryan Graves!

  • I would say “B.”

    The Trouba thing, even though I wanted this guy for 3 years, is already an albatross. If it’s $4M per, it’s not a big deal, but almost 10% of the cap on an under performing player in his first year of the contract, brings the grade down a notch, IMO.

    Otherwise, very good, overall.

    • Hey Pal.

      Unfortunately he did turn out to well yet. He is more like what I said he was instead of what you said. Lets ee what he does this year. There were enough games last year where he looked great. Lets we get many more of those.

  • While I agree with the overall grade, it’s real tough to grade a GM on his moves after 1 year.

    Some of these moves, like the Fox deal, among others, seem quite obvious that they are, and will be, big winners. But most of these moves will require a lengthier time period to fairly judge and grade.

    • Sean Day was a third round pick who couldn’t even stick on Hartford’s roster and attracted no trade interest. Andersson admitted that he was having personal issues that affected his performance negatively. Kravstov was having difficulty adapting to the NHL game, and may have been having financial problems when he had to accept the AHL salary. All of the blame for any of their problems has to be split between the team, and the players themselves.

      • Day’s on ice play was never the issue.

        One is a you can chalk up to luck, 2 is a trend, 3 in a year is you are doing something wrong.

  • Armchair Wednesday evening quarterbacking stinks. While I have problems with some of his moves he gets a C from me. Not so much for the players but for his choice in coaches. Simply put they (coaches and therefore management) haven’t developed a cohesive coordinated game plan that encourages the players to play the game they know and have played for 10 or 15 years. If the players are playing the coaches plan hard to pick on them. Talking it and diagraming it is way easier than playing it. Hopefully, J Martin will rectify this. JG also has to get someone in who knows a defensive pedigree. Graves is the next to last D draft choice that has been let go for bubkis. I fear the same will be true within 2 years with Joey Keane. Graves +40 Trouba -12. Yeah, Graves played with some good players who back checked….which was either a foul word or not coached in Rangerland. Oh yeah …..coaching.

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