Revisiting the NY Rangers fire sale trades
To get to where they are today, the NY Rangers engaged in multiple fire sale trades in 2018 and 2019. This was after they sent the now famous letter, signaling the much needed rebuild. Then came the first fire sale, the trade deadline of 2018. The Rangers would continue the fire sale in 2019. Trades are best evaluated at the time of the deal, but we have the value of hindsight here. Let’s see how the opinions changed over time.
2018 Fire Sale
Rangers acquire Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Lindgren, a 1st and a 7th for Rick Nash
Our initial reaction had this trade as an absolute haul. We called Lindgren a solid, but not top prospect. Of course we whiffed on Spooner being a good piece to get back. The 1st round pick was used to trade up to get K’Andre Miller. The 7th round pick was traded to Carolina for a 2018 7th rounder, used on Riley Hughes.
This is still a haul for the Rangers in 2020. Miller and Lindgren are solid pieces. Spooner was eventually turned into Ryan Strome, which is a solid trade. This was great asset management.
Rangers acquire Rob O’Gara and a 3rd round pick for Nick Holden
Gauthier is a nice prospect, and time will tell how he turns out. The big opportunity missed here is that Alain Vigneault played O’Gara over Ryan Graves. This led to the Graves trade to Colorado 8 days later, and that didn’t turn out too well.
Rangers acquire Yegor Rykov and a 2nd round pick for Michael Grabner
This trade was shocking because it was from the Devils. At the time, this was considered another absolute haul. Grabner, a true rental and third liner, should not have fetched a solid prospect and an early pick. But it did. The pick was used to move up to draft K’Andre Miller.
In 2020, this is still a steal. When you combine the Nash and Grabner trades, the Rangers netted Miller, Rykov, and Lindgren. I know that’s cheating, combining trades like that, But that’s possibly 1/3 of the blue line of the future. The Rangers won’t keep them all, but three potentially solid NHLers at this point in their development is good trading.
Rangers acquire Vlad Namestnikov, Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, a 1st and a 2nd for Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller
This was the trade that was questioned from the start. Getting Point or Sergachev was never really on the table, but Hajek and Howden weren’t exactly screaming top prospects. Miller and Namestnikov were considered a swap, and I was genuinely intrigued by Namestnikov on Broadway. Hajek was apparently the sticking point here following a strong World Juniors, and Howden was projected to be a middle-six center “if everything panned out.”
In 2020, this is a giant miss by the Rangers. Hajek and Howden are just flat out bad, and this is partially because the Rangers rushed them. For reasons we don’t know, both were in the NHL the following season and it did not look good from the start for either of them. Now they are whipping boys.
The saving grace is the 1st rounder, used on Nils Lundkvist. I am very high on him. The 2019 2nd was used on Karl Henriksson, someone else I am very high on. Even if Hajek and Howden are whiffs, Lundkvist likely won’t be. Henriksson is a wild card. But this trade, two years later, looks really bad.
2019 Trade Deadline
Rangers acquire Julius Bergman and 4th/7th rounders for Adam McQuaid
When the Rangers acquired McQuaid to start the season, there were questions. Clearly the Rangers thought they would get more from him at the deadline. At the time, getting 4th and 7th rounders (Bergman being a body) was fine, but the Rangers also gave that up to get him. in essence, the Rangers moved back in both rounds in this deal.
The Rangers moved back in both rounds, but McQuaid was a solid stopgap for that season. They drafted Hunter Skinner (4th) and Eric Ciccolini (7th) with those picks. This was one of the best drafts in recent memory for the Rangers, so that’s a win.
Rangers acquire Brendan Lemieux and a 1st round pick for Kevin Hayes
This was another win for the Rangers. Hayes was going to price himself out of New York, and getting a roster player and a 1st rounder for Hayes was the going rate. Landing Lemieux, who has the potential to be a premier pest, was a good move. Getting that additional 1st rounder was always the goal.
Fast forward a year, and that additional 1st was sent back to Winnipeg with Neal Pionk for Jacob Trouba. Lemieux has solidified himself as a bottom-six winger as well. The Trouba contract aside, landing him for that 1st and a net-gain by losing Pionk was also a win. It’s tough to find a fault with this trade.
Rangers acquire a 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick for Mats Zuccarello
This is the trade that hurt. Many were outraged that the Rangers didn’t get more for Zuccarello. At the time of the deal, both picks at the potential to be 1st rounders. However the Stars missed the Conference Final in 2019, and Zucc didn’t re-sign with the Stars that offseason. So both picks stayed the same. That was the market value for a player like Zuccarello. The emotional toll was rough, but it was a fair trade.
The Rangers drafted Matthew Robertson with the 2nd rounder, and promptly signed him to an ELC. It’s rare that teams sign a draftee outside the top few picks to an ELC straight after the draft. That’s how highly the team thinks of Robertson.
All in all, the NY Rangers fire sale netted them some solid prospects and assets. The McDonagh trade is really the only glaring bad trade on this list. It’s a big miss, given it was their most valuable piece(s). That said, the Rangers came away with one of the top prospect systems in the league. It’s hard to argue with those results.