As we switch to offseason mode, there seems to be a very vocal community of fans that want a Rangers core overhaul. It’s a tad hyperbolic, asking for the entire team to be drawn, quartered, and fired into the sun, but that seems to be the ask. Instead of recognizing Florida was better, it was that the perfect Rangers team was indeed not perfect, thus everyone needs to go.

Patronizing intro aside, there is enough of a vocal contingent in the fan base wanting this Rangers core overhaul to at least see if, in some universe, it can be done. We will, for the sake of this post, ignore Chris Drury’s willingness to blow the team up. We will also ignore other teams wanting the pieces that everyone wants to dump.

It’s the same names in the Rangers core overhaul

When it comes to which pieces are part of the Rangers core overhaul, it’s the same names you’d expect to hear. Mika Zibanejad and Jacob Trouba are atop that list due to contracts and playoff performance, but names like Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, K’Andre Miller, and even Adam Fox have been brought up.

What is a tad humorous is, after his disastrous regular season, Barclay Goodrow’s name is no longer in this discussion. It’s amazing what a strong playoffs can do for a player, isn’t it?

In this scenario with a complete Rangers core overhaul, the Rangers would need to find replacements for, in order, their 1C, 2RD, 2LW, 3RW, 2LD, and 1RD. Essentially, the Rangers need to trade for a whole new team.

That isn’t happening. Can we come back to reality please?

Who will definitely be back?

We will dive deeper into each specific scenario as the offseason progresses, but at a high level, it’s pretty easy to figure out who, realistically could actually be gone. To get there, we should first review who is definitely going to be back. Once this is set, we can see how a Rangers core overhaul isn’t likely to happen.

For starters, Mika Zibanejad is essentially unmovable. No-move clause aside, which isn’t really a deterrent nowadays, Zibanejad’s contract is awful and buyout proof. He’s carrying an $8 million cap hit for the next 6 seasons, almost all of it in signing bonuses. As of right now, no one is taking that contract and a buyout saves about $1 million in cap space only. He’s not going anywhere until his signing bonuses drop to under $6 million in 4 years.

Aside: The window to move him to a Utah type team opens after his $6.75 million signing bonus is paid on July 1, 2028.

Adam Fox isn’t being moved either. Can’t believe that had to be called out.

Likely to be back

Sticking to the names above, it’s easy to flesh out which names will most likely be back. Artemi Panarin is 99% going to be back. He’s the best scorer on the team and his contract has been a relative bargain given his production. There is technically a window to move him after July 1 when his $9 million bonus is paid, but the teams that have the cap space to acquire him won’t give up the assets to trade for him. We can ignore the NMC for now.

Jacob Trouba is likely to be back as well, even if that irks many. His NMC becomes a modified no-trade on July 1, but that isn’t really the detractor here. People seem to know he can’t/won’t be traded, and are pointing towards a buyout. That buyout saves the Rangers $4 million for 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 before resulting in $2 million in cap hits for the following two seasons.

A buyout is highly unlikely. People like to point to trading prior captains Ryan Callahan (contract) and Ryan McDonagh (rebuild), but those are not the same situation. Maybe this is like Chris Drury’s situation in 2011, when the Rangers bought out the final year of his deal. Drury was hurt and likely to retire anyway though.

K’Andre Miller is the other player I’d list as unlikely to be moved, but mostly because moving him would only be in a blockbuster trade, and those happen so infrequently that it’s highly unlikely he’s gone. Plus he was far better with Braden Schneider than with Trouba, which is the expected pair for next season.

So who can the Rangers move?

Kaapo Kakko appears to be the only “sure fire” player to be gone. I put that in quotes since nothing is a guarantee, but it does appear the writing is on the wall. Kakko simply isn’t producing enough offense on a team that sorely needs it. He’s a top defensive forward, and his draft position doesn’t matter anymore. The Rangers need scoring, and Kakko isn’t it.

Since Kakko was considered part of the next wave once some contracts expire, technically this falls under the Rangers core overhaul, albeit barely.

Barclay Goodrow is likely headed to a buyout, but no one is trading for him.

Expect incremental moves

At the risk of disappointing many, a Rangers core overhaul simply isn’t happening. They can’t move Zibanejad, Panarin isn’t going anywhere, Trouba likely isn’t going anywhere, and they are still going to keep Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck. The only other players are pending UFAs (Roslovic, Wennberg, Gustafsson) and RFAs (Kakko, Ryan Lindgren).

Perhaps there is room for a blockbuster trade involving some combination of Kakko, Lindren, Miller, and some prospects/picks. It’s not impossible, though the Brady Tkachuk theory was Cohnhead idea from the start. I’ll eat my words if that comes to fruition, of course.

The fact is a Rangers core overhaul is highly unlikely. The team was close, and it certainly needs some tweaks. The two main concerns were lack of scoring depth and puck moving defensemen. A secondary concern is another physical body or two, doesn’t need to be a big body, that can keep up with the Panthers. They need a pest.

This team is close. I stand by that assertion. They have some kids ready to take the next step, and the right incremental moves, preferably a mean scoring 1RW, are their best bet for success.


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