Get Used to This Feeling; There's More Pain Coming

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor & Cofounder at ClearedForContact.com
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, the Oxford comma, and the value of white space.
Phil Kocher
@ me

In the span of about 72 hours, the New York Rangers traded away three of their longest-tenured players in Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, and Ryan McDonagh – mostly for long-term futures. The cuts were deep, but necessary components of what could be a multiple-year rebuild designed to return the club to contention.

The knife cut particularly deep when the Rangers agreed to deal away McDonagh, who has another year remaining at a team-friendly $4.7M, marking the second time in five years the club has traded its captain – coincidentally enough, to the Lightning.

Yet, as painful as these moments were—and there could be more on the immediate horizon, like agonizingly watching McDonagh win a Stanley Cup alongside a bevy of ex-Rangers, or trading Mats Zuccarello at the draft—the real pain is still to come.

The fact of the matter is, Jeff Gorton’s work has only just begun. This skeleton crew of a roster—truly devoid of high-end impact players now that Nash and McDonagh are off to run at the Cup—still has 19 relatively meaningless games left to suffer through. And when those games are up, a watershed draft awaits this June. One that, much like these deals, Gorton can’t afford to screw up.

With three draft picks in the first round, including their own, the Rangers would be best off winning as few games as possible to close out this lost season. This won’t make for easy watching for fans or the front office, who will also be evaluating newly acquired bodies due contracts this summer in Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov. Yet, with the playoffs a highly unlikely destination, losing most of their remaining games could bring the Rangers’ own first-round pick into a premiere lottery position – one they desperately need to acquire the kind of game-breaking talent they weren’t able to acquire in any of their deals prior to the deadline.

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Don’t get me wrong – the cupboards, once bare, are now stocked with quality, B+ prospects to complement the developing and soon-to-be relied on Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson. But even with Brett Howden, Ryan Lindgren, Yegor Rykov, and Libor Hajek, it’s unknown if not unlikely there’s a Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, or Evgeni Malkin among them. That’s important here. Critical, even, assuming they truly wish to mimic the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and perhaps Toronto Maple Leafs – all of whom suffered for years to earn the right to draft the generational talents that have transformed their fortunes (Toronto pending).

It’s here that Gorton’s plan will truly sink or swim. Not only does his club have three first-round choices, one of which could be a lottery pick, but he also has two second-round picks, and two third-rounders to boot, giving him seven picks in the first three rounds and ten picks total for what is believed to be a deep draft. At least one of those first-round selections needs to deliver the Rangers the kind of game-breaking talent that tends to be acquired exclusively in the draft’s first five selections.

Assuming they don’t win the lottery for the chance to draft Rasmus Dahlin—improbable though not impossible—one of Filip Zadina, Andrei Svechnikov, Quintin Hughes, or Oliver Wahlstrom will no doubt be targeted. Brady Tkachuk, the brother of Calgary Flames’ pest Matthew Tkachuk, could also make for a nice selection but could fall short of the benchmark of being built around. Later picks might also be used to try and snag late-round talents with high upsides like Ryan Merkley or Grigori Denisenko, assuming they fall to wherever the Bruins’ and Lightning’s picks land once the dust of the playoffs settles.

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But the plan, and the pain isn’t likely to end there. Even with the marketing promise of a rebuild “on the fly”, given what we know the Rangers have (and don’t have) today, there’s a significant chance they won’t be very good next season, either. Especially if they also use the draft as a second opportunity to collect futures in exchange for names like Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and/or Jimmy Vesey.

The Leafs, who are the latest club to embrace the practice of strategically losing for the opportunity to select at the top of the draft, won the right to draft Auston Matthews just a few years ago after selling off Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, among others. All the while understanding that the makeover wouldn’t occur overnight.

In fact, prior to drafting Matthews that June, Mike Babcock, who signed an eight-year, $50 million dollar contract to coach the rebuilding Leafs that same summer, ominously warned the Toronto media that “there’s pain coming”.

“This is going to be a massive, massive challenge,” he said.

Perhaps the Rangers aren’t as bad as the 2014-15 Leafs were. Or maybe they are. Regardless, for the Blueshirts, following up a lost season with another poor one would certainly qualify as additional pain. And, like the pain the Leafs suffered, it would also give them another opportunity to pick at the top of the 2019 draft (this time with an opportunity to claim budding American superstar Jack Hughes). However, it would also require the team to tiptoe around bringing along youngsters in a losing environment while not poisoning their development – an issue the Leafs also faced and appear to have successfully traversed. That’s no easy task, though, even if it’s designed to deliver more top talent. Just look at the difficulties being suffered in Edmonton, Buffalo, and Arizona – prime examples of why the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.

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Regardless, positive experience is going to be a key ingredient in the development mix to come. Because even in a losing environment, growth needs to occur, and that’s best accomplished by layering in success as the Rangers’ prospects come along during their formative years. We’re already seeing the value of this as Chytil and Andersson are helping to lead the Hartford Wolf Pack back to playoff contention this season. A formula arguably perfected by the Leafs, whose AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, has helped to usher in a wave of young NHL players who will become household names in the Big Smoke in the years to come. In fact, it may even behoove Gorton, who already declared his intention not to burn the first year of either Chyil or Andersson’s entry-level deals, to leave them in the AHL for the remainder of the season instead of calling them up at the end of this lost season to skate them in a handful of games that would still maintain their entry-level slide status. With the Rangers needing to lose as many games as possible, not only would adding the talented youngsters possibly take them out of the draft lottery window but surely there’s little to be learned by being thrown into that environment when the alternative might be competing for a Calder Cup.

This is precisely why Gorton needs to use this coming draft, in which he’ll again have more than one first-round pick, to hit a proverbial home run (or two) designed to deliver his Blueshirts the kind of top talent they can bank on for years to come. A lottery pick would certainly improve his odds, but any trades or late-round picks should also aim to dramatically improve the Rangers’ on-ice product as quickly as possible.

Suffice it to say, the task ahead for Gorton and the Rangers front office is not going to be easy. If anything, the real work begins now. There are 19 games left to evaluate who will stay and who will go, with hard questions in need of answers as the draft approaches. Will Zuccarello be a part of this? Will Henrik Lundqvist still be viable when they’re ready to contend again? What of the futures of young veterans like Hayes, Vesey, Spooner, and Namestnikov? Yet in a sea of questions, one thing is certain – there’s pain coming. It’s Gorton’s job to make sure it’s worth suffering for.

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Discussion





  1. Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
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    So many things with this sentence. You are discrediting people here who truly do have inside information. They can't reveal their sources but they've been proven right again and again. And if you are saying that Miller was one of the best all-around young players on the Rangers, well that's the reason we are in this position to begin with. Not enough really talented players. Miller is a bit part on a good team. This team was asking him to be more and he's nowhere near consistent enough to be that. He'll be fine in Tampa. They have more than enough talent that when he chooses not to play any given night, they have 4 or 5 other guys that can step in.



    Still only rumors; nothing concrete. If sources can't be named, don't quote them, imho.





    Quote Originally Posted by FleshistheFever
    View Post

    Being that we have this arsenal of picks and a few very solid complementary players we can offer combined via trade, is there a possibility the Rangers are going all-in on Dahlin? The timing is right. We have an plethora of assets to offer. The kids a locked-in elite stud. I'd like to guess that Gorton is going to shake some ground and at least get try to acquire a top 3 pick with Dahlin being the #1 priority. Logic would be to overpay (whomever) for that "generational" talent in return (which at this point looks like we can). Something we've never had and have desperately needed...for decades now. Regardless of the situation, NY will always be a popular destination for players so we'll be able to fill in the gaps over the next two years - I'm confident. (Even if we initially take a hit in the pants with a trade of this magnitude)

    Go balls out and get a top 3 pick (and nail it). Sell our soul for the #1. Though I can't quite confirm we have any "soul" outside of Zib's mixtape samples.

    Am i just dreaming here? I don't know. Figured I'd chime in as I haven't written anything on this forum in quite a while now. Where's the ghost emoji?



    I would have a tough time accepting us into "placing all our eggs" into that one basket at this point in time. If this draft wasn't so deep, then yeah you go all in and go for it. But, as deep as it is, there shouldn't be any doubts that we could easily want away with multiple exceptional players, not just 2 but hoping for at least 3 maybe 4.





    Quote Originally Posted by Bugg
    View Post

    THere's no reason if Lundqvist plays solid and a few breaks they could not compete for the 8th seed next year. Expecting much more than that is out of the question.



    Honestly, as much as I want to see our team in the PO's next season, I really don't think that behooves us. Suck just one more season and getting another shot at that "prize" (Hughes, I'm hearing about or similar) and adding some more talent on top of what we already get this year is kind of like a "back-up", with a 2nd wave of youngsters coming in.
    Just remember in 2 years it will "ALL BE" 2020 Hindsight.





    Quote Originally Posted by jsrangers
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    I agree with you Phil, what I don't quite understand is the optimism by some that don't think there's a couple really rough seasons ahead as you pointed out the Devils had. I don't think you can cut as deep as we did on an already thin roster talent wise and not expect a good amount of pain.



    Good amount of pain? Anyone here a Jets fan? A Mets fan? Pain, what pain? I eat pain! (Almost 200lbs now). This upcoming Rangers pain is a drop in the bucket! "Sting and the Police" haven't a gosh darned thing on me! (And some others)





    Quote Originally Posted by LONG TIME FAN
    View Post

    Yeah, it's disheartening to say the least. Hopefully these prospects will pan out or turn into bargaining chips for some young, proven players. And then there are those that debase J.T. Miller, on rumors, one of the best all-around young ( 24 ) players that did everything asked of him, only to be seemingly just thrown into the deal as an afterthought, which I'm sure in my mind that Stevie Y was/is salivating about.





    The word was that SY didn't want to "touch" any part of his team, but that is exactly what he did do. As far as I'm concerned he took us on that part of the deal. He wanted to get "grittier" and that's what he did in getting JT. Yeah, I believe he played "low key" on targeting Miller and said how do you Namestikov? I like Names, but liked JT better as I knew him better. Bringing a good game every game will help us forget JT. Not sure if that happens though. SY "always gets his man", it seems.





    Quote Originally Posted by So Nashty
    View Post

    Yea but then you're a devils fan

    eww



    Something really really wrong about raising a "Devil" to the "heavens" (rafters). It's sacrilegious!





    Quote Originally Posted by Giacomin
    View Post

    Glad you mentioned it. I'd like to see Gorton turn his full attention to the draft and EVEN ADDING another scout, inside expert, analytics guy and/or respected advisor to the staff now. The workload and need to be nimble right up to draft day, could be critical. After the season they should hire current college and juniors staff as an off season contractor or consultant for inside info.

    Even our 4th round pick will be early and may have value in this deep draft. We need to be able to move around if circumstances dictate. Draft the most talented, highest upside. Investigate their character. Lots of work. Great draft to do it. Modernize Jeff!



    Agreed. Wouldn't the salary (a drop in the bucket) be well worth contributing to possibly choosing "the right player"? We absolutely cannot afford a blowout here. We need 4 or 5 out of these 7 picks to make it to the big club as just a little better than average players......they need to be solid, and a few need to be difference makers.





    Quote Originally Posted by CCCP
    View Post

    the alternative is not to sign your goaltender for $8+ million per season. the elephant in the room is Lundqvist



    Yup yup, yup yup yup! You sign a prime elite goaltender to that kind of money, then you make him "earn it". You don't expect your defenseman and the likes of Boyle and Callahan to block shot for him and hurting their bodies and careers. They should've targeted offensive players and let Hank do his thing. Poorly planned. Yes, u need a solid defense (and according to what we know) is that Torts made up his "game plan" according to his lack of talent offensively. So, wasn't that the area we should have improved on? Hank in his prime could've handled lesser dmen, but Hank cannot score goals. Now, is the time he needs good dmen, but that ship has sailed and now that Hank blew his opportunity to give the Rangers a discount when he "could have", now he reaps his greed and his buddies are gone. Management did this. Don't ya think Cally would've been less demanding had Hank been? Maybe.
    Good going. One thing you touched on that I'd like to add to. The Hartford WolfPack. They have been bad for quite sometime now, obviously due to the Rangers trading away their picks. No cohesiveness between farm and the big club. Come PO time, we have never had anyone "NHL ready" to step in and do an adequate job.
    With all of these incoming players and picks......at the very least Hartford will become a much better team, which leads to the Rangers becoming a better team moving forward. This had to be rectified. I agree, as much as we want to see Chytil and L.A. they probably are better served down there as bringing them up isn't conducive to "the suck".
    Can't see anyone trading the first pick. And in the extremely unlikely scenario where someone did consider it I'm not convinced we have the assets required to get it. With Dahlin on the line, what would that take?
    I think we'll probably consider trading up if we end up outside the first 4 picks, but that too is going to cost this year.
    The Rangers are probably better served making a selection with another lottery pick than they are trying to trade for the first overall. If they end up with the third or fourth pick, for example, just draft any one of Svechnikov, Zadina, or Tkachuk. It's not worth sacrificing the assets to move to to one. Especially in a deep draft in which they can aim for late round steals with high upside like Merkley.


    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk





    Quote Originally Posted by Fatfrancesa
    View Post

    I really think who ever wins the lottery will not trade the pick because you just don’t get players of that caliber unless you draft them. Could be wrong though



    When was the last time the #1 pick was moved? I can't ever remember it happening. I just hope the Rangers can weasel into the top 4 if they're not selected to pick top 4.
    I really think who ever wins the lottery will not trade the pick because you just don’t get players of that caliber unless you draft them. Could be wrong though
    Being that we have this arsenal of picks and a few very solid complementary players we can offer combined via trade, is there a possibility the Rangers are going all-in on Dahlin? The timing is right. We have an plethora of assets to offer. The kids a locked-in elite stud. I'd like to guess that Gorton is going to shake some ground and at least get try to acquire a top 3 pick with Dahlin being the #1 priority. Logic would be to overpay (whomever) for that "generational" talent in return (which at this point looks like we can). Something we've never had and have desperately needed...for decades now. Regardless of the situation, NY will always be a popular destination for players so we'll be able to fill in the gaps over the next two years - I'm confident. (Even if we initially take a hit in the pants with a trade of this magnitude)

    Go balls out and get a top 3 pick (and nail it). Sell our soul for the #1. Though I can't quite confirm we have any "soul" outside of Zib's mixtape samples.

    Am i just dreaming here? I don't know. Figured I'd chime in as I haven't written anything on this forum in quite a while now. Where's the ghost emoji?





    Quote Originally Posted by Giacomin
    View Post

    We can afford Tavares now w/o any roster shuffle. He still ain't coming here, lefty needs new balls.

    Though we still have to try and get Staal off the roster. If this isn't his last year here, next year will be.



    Maybe. Maybe not.

    I still think we she'd Hayes and / or Spooner at the draft





    Quote Originally Posted by Phil in Absentia
    View Post

    I agree. I'd imagine next season is also lost, especially if they cut at it again at the draft. Be it Zuccarello, Hayes, or others, in any combination.


    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk



    THere's no reason if Lundqvist plays solid and a few breaks they could not compete for the 8th seed next year. Expecting much more than that is out of the question.