Thoughts on NY Rangers prospect signings-is something bigger coming?

Over the last month, the Rangers have made a big splash. It wasn’t at the trade deadline, but with their prospects. Since the beginning of March, the NY Rangers have had five prospect signings. They will sign at least another two once the Euro seasons –and possibly the World Championships– end. This is the biggest influx of youth into the AHL and NHL ranks in quite some time. It was also very unexpected. As per usual, I have some thoughts.

COVID Impacts

1. There is no way to convince me that COVID did not influence at least two NY Rangers prospect signings. The OHL didn’t have a season, and it’s clear next season is in doubt. Due to this, the Rangers kept Will Cuylle (2nd, 2020) in the AHL all season before signing him. They also had Hunter Skinner (4th, 2019) in the ECHL before signing him to his ELC. If there was an OHL season this year, and if there was a confirmed season for 2021-2022, then I’m sure neither would have been signed so soon.

2. Skinner will be 20 in a week, so it’s likely he would have signed at some point this Spring/Summer. Generally speaking, the OHL season would not have ended so soon for Skinner, so we probably would have seen the signing in June instead of April. Cuylle on the other hand is 19, so unless he makes the Rangers, he will be back in the OHL if there is a season. Would the Rangers have signed him already if they didn’t see him in Hartford all season?

3. The same does not apply to Braden Schneider, who will be 20 in September. Of all the ELCs given out, his was the only that was not at least a little bit of a surprise. The WHL has a season, but with Schneider turning 20, he has the option to go to the AHL. The Rangers clearly like him and want him under their supervision as soon as possible.

Euro Prospects Incoming

4. The Rangers wasted no time signing Karl Henriksson (2nd, 2019) to an entry level deal. Henriksson got jerked around this year by Frolunda and COVID. He’s very skilled, and the Rangers desperately need center prospect depth. Between COVID, SHL restrictions, and his relatively young age for an SHL player, the Rangers felt it was time to get him under their control. We don’t know what the plan was pre-COVID, but it likely sped up signing Henriksson.

5. The Nils Lundkvist watch has begun, and he’s the big name coming over. Lulea has been eliminated from the SHL playoffs, and it’s likely the Rangers will get him under contract as soon as possible. It may wait until after the World Championships, but that’s not a determining factor. The big factor for him is the next summer deadline to get under contract. Otherwise he becomes a UFA, and he will get signed immediately. Of all the prospects coming in for next season, Lundkvist is the best. It’s honestly not even that close.

6. Don’t sleep on Lauri Pajuniemi (5th, 2018) either. He’s having a fantastic season in Liiga, and the Rangers will bring him over as soon as TPS’ season ends. He’s not the big name, but he’s talented and has middle-six forward potential. Neither Lundkvist nor Pajuniemi are signed yet, and both need to be signed by next summer.

Something Is Coming

7. Most of these NY Rangers prospect signings were coming. But COVID may have sped things up for others. Winning an NCAA Championship definitely sped things up for Zac Jones. But in bringing in seven prospects, the Rangers give themselves options. First and foremost, it locks in team control –for the most part– until they are all 27 years old. That buys them time for evaluation.

8. But perhaps most importantly, it locks them into a contract for trade bait. Trading rights versus trading the actual contract are completely different things here. When it comes to someone like Henriksson, who can simply wait it out in Sweden, it matters more. The same applies to Lundkvist and Pajuniemi, especially since both would be free agents this summer if they don’t sign.

9. There is certainly room for all these kids in Hartford. However the pure amount of talent signed means that some are likely headed towards a trade. That’s why numbers 7 and 8 above matter so much. Team control is a huge factor in trades. Talent that is attached to a team without fear of holding out is worth more. The Rangers have the talent pool to add a significant roster piece without necessarily deleting from the NHL roster.

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  • Who knows. It is very possible that there are preliminary conversations about a certain player, and the opposing team asks about one of our prospects. Better to get them all under contract so we can swing a deal immediately.

    Lots of players, lots of smoke. Look for a blockbuster come draft day.

  • lists Nils Lundkvist as having a “Must Sign By” date of 1st June 2022. Are they wrong, and it’s summer 2021?

  • We need to make our AHL team a mini-NYR club. Give them some good young defenders, some strong wingers, and more importantly, groom some centers!. Who knows when a player move or an injury makes a spot open.

    Sign the kids and get rid of the journeymen.

    • I couldnt agree more, let the kids grow together, a team will lose before they learn to win TOGETHER, Its happened to every team in every sport

    • I think that thought has probably occurred to JD and Jeff. My guess is that might be why they drafted all of these guys, and I’m sure they appreciate the input.

      Regards- orange

  • Not enough room for all of these youngsters, and I am pretty convinced that not one, but several trades will eventually take place…I have been saying this for a bit, but this off-season will be very pivotal as we have the assets to trade, and strengthen the team. We are on the clock…….

    • Rocky;

      I wonder if there are several trades being discussed,, or whether there is 1 or maybe 2 trades involving several of these kids being tossed around.

    • “The big factor for him is the next summer deadline to get under contract.”

      That’s what dave said.

      • Correct. At the risk of starting a Facebook-esque argument, “next summer” to me is 2022. Ergo, 2021 is “this summer”.

        • That’s the way I read it as well, but nowadays everybody is entitled to their own facts, errrr … opinions.

          • You are correct, sir. Always more coaching geniuses on this board than fact-sharers. The most fun I have each day is counting my “Thumbs Downs” after I report factual information. My over-under is usually 4.

            Regards- orange

  • I am following this team since 1962 and I am in shock with all the young talent we have. For so many years we were a middle of the pack team signing players past their prime and trading away our draft picks. This rebuild has been a dream come true for me. We have so much young talent which we can now use to trade for a good center. I believe there is a big move or 2 coming this off season. I only wish our friend Walt was still around to enjoy this with us.

  • What the Rangers set out to do at the time of ‘the letter’ has continued under JD. They have acquired young talent and are restocking their AHL team. I’ve been amazed with their commitment to stick to the plan. It is a marked change from the team’s fairly recent past and bodes well for the future.

    • The nay-sayers are the same folks who thought we were over-paying for Panarin. Greatness costs $. A motivated and happy Eichel will make us a playoff team. Zibby/Strome/Eichel/Barron down the middle could bring us to the promise land.

      • Panarin is obviously great. I don’t believe that Eichel is in Panarin’s league. He might be an upgrade but the acquisition costs in players and his annual salary are the deal breakers for me. I also believe that he herniated cervical disc has to be a concern.

      • This quartet would cost nearly $21M — just to fill one position — and that’s without raises for Strome and Zib and Barron on an ELC. It is simply not affordable.

    • I could, but I won’t. Under no circumstances should the Rangers trade for Jack Eichel.

      Regards- orange

  • I pass on eichel. Van is in cap trouble , maybe u try and get JT Miller back , and keep strome . Together those two are just a little more then eichel and we would be better off , cause once strome and jt contract come off we would need money to start signing all our talent . U can have Mika , strome , Miller down the middle . Maybe use chytil as a piece to get Miller . That’s one hell of a 1-2-3 center punch if u ask me .

    • Looking at what Strome has done one has to be impressed. He might not be as talented as some centers in the league, but he is getting all that he can out of what he’s got. He also seems to have a great attitude. People should remember that when Panarin was on leave he did pretty well. I think he’s a keeper at a reasonable price if you compare him to the cost of obtaining a guy like Eichel.

      • Strome is 9th in scoring amongst all NHL centers. Finding an upgrade for him, based on his last two seasons production will be difficult. Plus, the guy doesn’t miss any games due to injury. Looking at the names of centers that are above him on the scoring list and the big names behind him puts just how good a season he’s having into perspective. He’s ahead of the likes of Kopitar, Tavares, Bergeron, Aho, Point, O’Reilly, Barzal, and Stamkos.

    • Is the grass always greener on the other side?

      Everybody here wants to bend over backwards to upgrade Strome and/or replace Chytil. Maybe we need to stop and think 1) whether the proposals made actually upgrade the players involved in a cap-wise way and 2) whether the upgrade (if it actually is one) costs us, in the way of assets, too much.

      I would let the “deal” come to us, as opposed to trying to create one out of desperation — one thing is almost certain, this team will continue to improve over the next couple of years just on the basis of all the youth alone (Chytil, Kravs, Kakko, Lafreniere, Miller, Fox, etc.).

      Let me say this for Chytil, I see no reason why he wouldn’t continue to improve over the course of the next couple of years. He’s 21 and has improved each year — and if you aren’t impressed with him as a Center, move Kravs to Center and let Chytil play on his wing — at least we could try that. Move Kakko down to play with Panarin and Strome.

      • It was so disappointing that Chytil got injured when he did this season. The guy was playing very well. I think the best is yet to come with him too.

      • A strong amen. A winning team involves assembling players who are worth more than their salary whenever possible. Assuming Eichel is really worth exactly $10M a year (which I doubt, but that is beside the point), getting him is not a plus unless you are really short of talent, which the Rangers aren’t. Currently, Ryan Strome is a super player for his salary. Yes, there are long term issues – age-related decline, size of next contract, but it would be absurd if the Rangers could get him for two more years at the same salary and they passed. An upgrade is not necessary or even desirable.

        As for the kids, some of them are going to disappoint and some will exceed the organization’s expectations (though perhaps not the expectations of the most wild-eyed among us). It seems prudent to develop them all and see what you have until you rush to trade the excess.

        • Agreed … but I also want them to be patient, not desperate. Everybody is trying to create a trade to upgrade Ryan Strome, they will grasp at straws, they will overpay to do it, they will sacrifice depth (which come playoff time is the most important factor of all), etc. I hear a lot of the “the 3rd and 4th lines don’t win you SC”, I say that’s often times flat out wrong — there’s always those couple of guys who come playoff time exceed expectations and punch well above their fighting weight, they are the difference while the first 2 lines often play to a draw.

          IF we were to get Eichel (again I’m not in favor of it), they need to let the Sabres come to them — the Sabres know there’s interest here and there’s no reason to bid against ourselves or let the Sabres think we’re ripe for the taking.

  • Very good article Dave. Rangers have put them self in a very good position for both the Draft and Expansion Draft in order to acquire a solid Center with a short term contract. I thinks its very likely the Seattle Kraken will assist and benefit in this process.

  • I feel like chytil is just
    Too soft , JT Miller Would give us grit and a good 2-3 line center . He was a mistake that Rangers did trading him away . I rather have Miller over krieder

    • … and Miller is 7 years older, only has 2 years left on his contract and costs $5.25M per — he is NOT a viable replacement for Chytil as the 3C, either you bring him in to replace Strome at 2C or not at all.

      • My sentiments exactly. And let trading of JT be a lesson when looking at Buchnevich’s treatment and development. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

  • Last year, the Rangers signed Morgan Barron, Justin Richards, Patrick Khodorenko, Austin Rueschoff, Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, Tyler Wall.

    This year, so far, we have Will Cuylle, Karl Henriksson, Hunter Skinner, Braden Schneider, Zac Jones. If we add Nils Lundqvist and Lauri Pajuniemi, we will only match last year’s seven and it is not clear that there are any more on the horizon. Typically, most of the college free agent signees happen by now.

    The big difference between the recent past and what is happening this year was eminently predictable. The Rangers are signing more of their draft choices and fewer undrafted players. Six Hartford forwards have 10+ points. There are four undrafted forwards (Ranger signees) playing regularly and none has more than 9. The fifth recent signee is in the ECHL.

    During the years when the Rangers traded away draft choices, they had an excess of room and signed many undrafted players to fill the 50 man roster. occasionally they hit, but mostly not. Now, with a plethora of exciting draftees, they are upgrading their signing pool, not necessarily increasing it.

    BUT the overall plan should remain the same. Develop your prospects until you truly know which ones you want to keep.

    • Ray, none of the guys you have listed above play in the ECHL, so who are you referring to.

  • I think if given the time chytl turns into a very good player. He’s improved each year and is still only 21. 23 pts in 75 games. Then 23 in 60. Now has 17 in 32. That equates to 40ish in 82.

    Look at Mika as an example. 20 in 60 at a 20yr old. 33 in 69 as a 21 yr old and then 46 in 80 at 22yr old. Similar path as chytl.

    Took him to the age of 25 to really flourish but now he’s one of the top centers in the league.

    FIL does need to improve and improve drastically in fsceoffs but otherwise their pretty similar Stat wise.

    I’d like them to hold on to FIL for a bit and see what he becomes

  • There is no harbinger of things to come. Each of these decisions is basically a one-off. E.g., do we want to offer Lauri Pajuniemi a contract?

    Irrelevant consideration: How we will he fit in with everyone else we have?

    Actual consideration: He is an asset. Should we give up on him? If so, can we trade the rights? Most likely though, they see him pretty much like Reenavipul sees him. He likely will be a decent Hartford player. Maybe he has a 10% chance to develop into at least a marginal NHL player and frankly such a player is worth taking a flyer on with some money, attention and a 50 man roster slot.

    All later round draftees are lottery tickets. Many ELCs are just a bit more expensive lottery tickets.

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