Much like with David Quinn, just because Jeff Gorton is gone doesn’t mean we can’t give him his own report card for the 2021 season. Gorton was unceremoniously canned in May following the Tom Wilson incident and a few brutal losses to the Islanders. We later learned that Jim Dolan was upset that the Rangers weren’t true contenders this season, which was a bit of a misguided viewpoint. He took the opportunity to let him go, and did just that.

I was not team Fire Gorton. I thought he was doing a fantastic overall job. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees when looking at specific deals, but he built a contender. If this team goes on to greatness, it will be because of the foundation laid by Jeff Gorton when the rebuild was announced. That said, I have confidence that Chris Drury will be very capable in his role to keep the rebuild moving forward, and to take the necessary steps to get the Rangers to competitor.

2020 Offseason Moves

Since this is a 2021 season report card, we can only really go off the moves made this season. Let’s start with the offseason:

  • Lias Andersson to the LA Kings for a 2020 2nd round pick
  • Acquiring an additional 5th round pick for 2 7th round picks
  • Unrestricted free agent signings (all cheap, listing NHL players only):
    • Anthony Bitetto
    • Colin Blackwell
    • Johnny Brodzinski
    • Keith Kinkaid
    • Kevin Rooney
  • RFA signings:
    • Tony DeAngelo – 2 years, $4.8 million
    • Ryan Strome – 2 years, $4.5 million
    • Phil Di Giuseppe – 1 year, $700k
    • Brendan Lemieux – 2 years, $1.55 million
    • Alex Georgiev – 2 years, $2.425 million

There’s nothing egregious here. The UFA signings were all pretty good. He salvaged the Lias Andersson debacle, turning him into Will Cuylle, which is a decent save. The RFA deals aren’t that pricey.

But perhaps the biggest impact is what Gorton tried to do, but couldn’t. He tried to trade both Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome in the offseason. There were no takers for either. He lucked out with Strome, who took a giant step forward with the Rangers this season. But not being able to trade DeAngelo wound up biting him in the rear four games into the season.

He was also unable, or unwilling, to move Alex Georgiev. We don’t know if he tried or if there was even a market. It’s tough to ding him on that, since there are a lot of unknowns, but it seems like a missed opportunity.

2021 In-Season Moves

There weren’t many moves in the 2021 season, as it was a weird season. So let’s break it down into NHL roster moves and prospect moves.

  • ELC signings
    • Braden Schneider
    • Hunter Skinner
    • Zac Jones
    • Will Cuylle
    • Karl Henriksson
    • Lauri Pajuniemi
  • NHL Moves
    • Waived Tony DeAngelo
    • Signed Mason Geersten to a 2 year, $750k NHL contract
    • Acquired a 4th round pick for Brendan Lemieux after a trade was requested

That’s it for the NHL moves. The ELC signings were great, mostly because it locked up solid talent. Nils Lundkvist signed under Drury, which is why he isn’t listed here.

The Geersten contract is a head scratcher, but it’s cheap and he’s an AHL guy. The only qualm is that he is taking one of the 50 reserve spots, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue. The Lemieux trade is what it is.

Again this may be a discussion about what Gorton didn’t do, which was make any significant trades at the deadline. There wasn’t much done across the league at the deadline though, so it wasn’t just isolated to Gorton. The DeAngelo situation imploded on itself, and I feel like he should have seen that coming. But it’s an easily rectified situation since the buyout cost is minimal.

Gorton’s 2021 season wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. It was so-so. He had a plan, and he stuck to it. Unfortunately three games cost him his job. But I am on record that the Rangers were soft because of the style of play, not the players.

2021 Jeff Gorton Report Card Grade: B