The New York Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals three out of the last five years. They’ve won the Prince of Wales Trophy once in those three times which led them to lose to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. The Rangers aren’t getting the job done in the playoffs because they aren’t built like a normal team. It is time for change in the Big Apple.
They have the star goalie in Henrik Lundqvist, a star defenseman and captain in Ryan McDonagh, and a few strong players up front with Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard. All but Lundqvist and Stepan were traded for or signed as a free agent.
Trading isn’t the way to win a Stanley Cup, as the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have shown, the key to a Cup is drafting. The Rangers do not have a pick in the first two rounds in the 2016 NHL Draft, and are missing a second round pick in the 2017 Draft.
The Bright Side
There is somewhat of a bright side to the Rangers prospect pool. Their top offensive prospect Pavel Buchnevich will most likely be part of the Blueshirt roster this season. In 140 games for Cherepovets Severstal in the KHL he had 33 goals and 46 assists. In December he was traded to SKA St. Petersburg where he played 18 games and had eight assists.
Defenseman Brady Skjei is one of the Rangers top defensive prospects. He spent the majority of last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack but played 7 games for the Rangers. In 68 games for the Wolf Pack this season he scored 4 goals and had 24 assists.
The Rangers also have a strong goaltending prospect in Brandon Halverson. Halverson currently plays for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL and has made appearances for the United States World Junior Team. In three years for the Greyhounds he has a record of 72-28-7 with a .908 save percentage.
The Rangers have little to no depth in their prospect pool after those three. Their prospect pool is one of the worst in the NHL. Along with that, they have traded away two of their top prospects for loans that didn’t work out.
In March of 2015, the Rangers traded away defenseman John Moore, forward Anthony Duclair and their 2015 second round and 2016 first round draft picks to the Arizona Coyotes for Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and Arizona’s 2016 fourth round pick. If you’re keeping count, the Rangers lost a top prospect and lost two draft picks but gained one.
At this past year’s trade deadline, they went for another loan attempt by trading Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela and the second round picks in 2016 and 2017 to the Hurricanes for Eric Staal. That is now three prospects and no draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2016 NHL Draft.
They also traded away a pair of first round picks in the move that brought Martin St. Louis to New York.
Trading away draft picks like that is trading away the future of the franchise. It is impossible to build a team without drafting properly. Trading away a pick per year is okay, but not picking in the first, second, and fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft is a major problem.
The Rangers have a few options with the upcoming NHL Draft. They have the possibility of making a trade for a potential first or second round draft pick. One player that stands out to just about everyone is Rick Nash. The 32-year-old will be under contract for the next two years making at least $8 million. Nash has a partial no trade clause, but can be moved to a team on his list of 12 teams. If the Rangers play their cards right, they can get a solid defenseman or draft pick from Nash.
It is time for change in New York. The Stanley Cup door is near closed. The only way to start the rebuild is to start trading stars. The Rangers can take a page from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rebuild book, start making trades and build through the NHL Draft. The loan attempts have not worked out for the Rangers so it is time for change in the Big Apple.
PITTSBURGH, PA – APRIL 23: Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers reacts after allowing a goal by Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)