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The rebuilding Rangers have many decisions to make this summer as they look to become a contender again.
By Chris Yackel
The New York Rangers offseason is already off to a big start, even though the draft and free agency hasn’t even happened yet.
New Head Coach
It all started when they signed former Boston University Head Coach Dave Quinn to an impressive $12-million-dollar deal over the next five years. Not to bad for a guy who has never coached an NHL game. The Rangers fortunately for them found their guy, so hopefully it will be a new refreshing step forward for the organization. Quinn is the type of coach who can relate and help young players grow which is exactly what the Rangers needed.
Hopefully, Quinn can grow with this young team and eventually develop them into a Stanley Cup contender. Quinn’s staff still needs to be chosen, but with direction the Rangers took in choosing Quinn, I have faith the rest of the staff will have good coaches that have young player’s interests as opposed to their own.
Cap Space and RFA decisions
There still is plenty of work and decisions to be made besides the rest of the Rangers coaching staff. Fortunately, for the Rangers they have an abundance of cap space for probably the first time in the salary cap era. The Rangers will come into this offseason with almost $25 million dollars in cap space. The salary cap is also expected to rise again this offseason to maybe as high as $82 million. That would make that number even higher. However, with all this cap space, many decisions need to be made with restricted free agents for the Rangers.
This list includes Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Spooner, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey, Vladislav Namestnikov, Rob O’Gara, John Gilmour and Brady Skjei. There are free agents on this Rangers squad, but they are not where the important decisions lie. They lie with the young group of restricted free agents. I would expect Buchnevich, Vesey, Gilmour and Skjei as locks to be resigned. They are all a good group of young players that can only progress the Rangers rebuild. O’Gara would be the only one I would be surprised the Rangers resigned. He wasn’t noticeable in his short stay in New York.
This leaves Hayes, Spooner and Namestnikov. Now listen, I’m not saying these three players aren’t good young players, but I wonder about all three having a long term future in New York. Spooner was almost a point per game player when he was traded to the Rangers at the deadline, but the 26-year-old still has a lot to show and would be excellent trade bait. The other trade deadline acquisition Vladislav Namestnikov struggled with the blueshirts and was not great at all in his brief time. However, he has a lot of potential and could generate buzz in the trade market.
Kevin Hayes may be a surprise to everyone reading this. Don’t get me wrong, Hayes is a good young player with size and skill, but he also would bring a great haul in a trade for a team looking to rebuild. Hayes inability to effectively play center and his flip flopping from the position and wing has stunted his growth as a player. It will be interesting to see if Quinn can make him into a permanent center and let him make mistakes at the position to get better and grow. This is something former Rangers bench boss Alain Vigneault would never do so, maybe a new approach for Hayes with a new coach will help him.
Ultimately, I think Hayes will resign with the Rangers, but there is no doubt that if the Rangers don’t believe he can be an effective center in this league, then they should look at what interest he draws from other teams. My guess would be a lot.
Draft Decisions…. Move up, or Stay put?
The Rangers currently hold nine picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, with seven of them being in the first three rounds. The Rangers also have three first round picks (9th, 26th, 28th). This is great for a team that prior to 2017 had only one first round pick for five years. It gives the organization a chance to make the once bare and now growing prospect pool even bigger.
There is however, a possibility with all those first round picks for the Rangers to move up in the first round. Ultimately, if the Rangers really like a guy and don’t feel like they will get him, they should move up. The price would have to be not back breaking either, but if the trade checks all the boxes, the Rangers moving up to sixth, third, or even second should be considered.
Free Agency…. Will they be the same old Rangers?
Last year in free agency the Rangers signed Kevin Shattenkirk, the biggest free agent in the market to a hometown discount of four years for $26.6 million. The Rangers for years now been have been one of the most active teams on July 1st when free agency begins and last year was no different.
With Rangers rebuilding though, this will be the year that it is different on July 1st. Don’t look for the Rangers to be courting John Tavares, John Carlson or even signing Ilya Kovalchuk. Instead, expect them to make small depth signings to bolster their team for competition come training camp. The Rangers are moving in a younger faster and cost effective direction. Being foolish on July 1st would be a huge deterrent in that process.
The Rangers have a lot of work to do this offseason, but slowly but surely as the summer rolls on into training camp many of these decisions will be made. The Rangers are a team that under General Manager Jeff Gorton keep a lot things public, but also keep a lot of things in house. Although, I have faith that Gorton will stick with the guns in this rebuild, don’t be surprised if he had a few tricks up his sleeves.
This could include moving up in the draft or making a trade for a young star player with the abundance of draft picks. It could even include trading away pieces that were not thought to be on the trading block and initiating roster purge like the one at this years trading deadline. Whatever Gorton does, this offseason will make or break his job down the line and the future of the organization. Let’s hope for all Rangers fans sake, he makes the right decisions going forward.
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