7 Thoughts from 7 Days: Rangers offseason plans

For a couple months, I’ve been piggybacking off Elliotte Friedman and our own Brandon Cohen on this weekly thought post. While I’d usually do these ad-hoc, I liked the idea of consistency and a common theme. This week, we finally get to do some non-reactive thoughts. Let’s discuss the Rangers offseason plans.

As an aside: I’ve been toying with the idea of adding this weekly post behind a Patreon for a couple bucks a month. Figure $2 a month for this weekly post. You’d wind up, on average, paying about 50 cents a week for it. Let me know your thoughts on that in the comments.

1. There have been rumblings that the front office and coaching shakeups will alter the Rangers offseason plans. In the grand scheme of things, this is likely false. Chris Drury was there for the letter and for the beginning of the rebuild. He’s had a hand in how the roster is constructed today, and knows what the plan is/was. The only thing this *may* change is the expansion draft, as Larry Brooks alluded to. David Quinn had a weakness for Cardio King Brett Howden. Does Drury –and whomever the next coach is– prefer Julien Gauthier’s promising skill set? Do they want to keep Colin Blackwell’s versatility? If this is the only real change in direction, then it’s minor.

2. Speaking of the expansion draft, that is the first thing the Rangers prepare for. They really only have one decision, and it’s that forward decision mentioned above. It will be one of Howden, Gauthier, Blackwell, or Kevin Rooney that gets protected. The other three will be exposed, and one will get selected. The Rangers have so few defensemen to expose that they, at the current moment, are going to protect Libor Hajek. All jokes aside, remember that he started the 2021 season as the 9D. It took a banishment and three injuries for him to even get into the lineup, and now he’s likely to be protected.

3. It would not surprise me to see the Rangers do something with that third protection spot on defense. They could trade for a veteran presence to add to their grit factor. They could “rent” the space to a team team willing to provide a draft pick as payment. They could make a big trade for a center that also brings back a defenseman that needs protecting. Or they could just protect Hajek and go from there.

4. Beyond that, the Rangers are going to make a trade to get a legitimate “grit” guy into the top-nine. Suit went through some players they might target, but I don’t think they go expensive here. That eliminates Josh Anderson and Zach Hyman right off the bat. Evolving-Hockey has Barclay Goodrow pegged at $3 million over 3-4 years, and that might be a good fit. However he’s a LW, which is a major position of depth for the Rangers. Another interesting name that is extremely unlikely to happen is Matt Tkachuk. What are the odds the Rangers pull a Kakko/Tkachuk swap? Slim to none, but it was something that came to mind as relatively fair value. There are dozens of reasons why neither team makes that swap though.

5. The elephant in the room is Jack Eichel, whose name has been discussed ad nauseum. If the Rangers add their grit on wing, then they will also likely make a trade for a bonafide 1-2 punch down the middle. This is no slight to Ryan Strome, who has really blossomed with the Rangers. It’s that the Rangers may find themselves in a rare position to upgrade for minimal roster cost. You can’t look me in the eye and say Strome is better than Eichel on the ice. Other factors aside, it’s an upgrade that the Rangers can fit under the cap.

6. Watching Tampa more or less legally circumvent the cap should be a lesson for all NHL teams. Gather as much quality talent as you can and pay that talent to keep them as long as you can. The cap will work itself out. The Bolts were deep enough to be without Nikita Kucherov for the entire season, still make the playoffs, and are now up 2-0 on Florida. They are also $17 million over the cap heading into the playoffs. But it’s legal. The Rangers might already have enough young talent to be in this spot in a few years. Just sign them, and let the cap figure itself out. We as fans focus too much on following the rules instead of bending the rules and finding loopholes.

7. But the Rangers offseason plans start with coaching. Vegas Seattle looks to be zeroing in on Rick Tocchet, which might take him off the board. There are four head coach openings and a bunch of candidates, but the Rangers seem to be targeting Gerard Gallant. He’s already been interviewed, showing Drury is wasting no time. Logically speaking, getting the coach in sooner rather than later gives him time to review tape and make that final expansion draft decision. He will also have some input into who Drury targets on the trade market. Maybe not names, but types of players.