Why the Rangers should be driven deadline-day dealers
Just a smidge past the season's midway point, now isn't the time for NHL teams teetering on the brink of playoff contention to admit defeat, but based on recent results, the New York Rangers may want to start thinking about it.
After falling 5-2 Sunday to the Pittsburgh Penguins - one day after surrendering seven goals to the New York Islanders - the Rangers have lost three straight, and have gone 10 consecutive contests without a regulation win.
The Rangers are clinging to the East's final playoff spot with 49 points, one clear of the Flyers, Islanders, and Hurricanes as the Metropolitan Division remains utterly ridiculous. While they're in the thick of the dogfight for a wild-card spot, the Rangers find themselves stuck in an intriguing juxtaposition as the trade deadline inches nearer: should they see things through and try to squeak into the dance, or begin a firesale?
For general manager Jeff Gorton and the rest of New York's front office, it's the latter that may be the better fit for the organization.
Entering the 2017-18 season, the Rangers made a few changes, most notably the Derek Stepan trade, which brought back a decent return but kept the team on the fringe of playoff contention. With several expendable assets available to be shipped out before the deadline, Gorton would be wise to start making calls on all his potential trade chips with an eye to the future.
Who should be moved?
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Of the Rangers' many expiring contracts, the most appealing is Rick Nash's. While the 33-year-old is a shell of his former self in terms of goal-scoring dominance, Nash still generates a ton of shots and scoring chances, and could be a valuable addition to several teams in the market for wing depth. Salary hurdles and his no-trade clause would need to be overcome, but Nash could feasibly fetch a strong return, and anything is better than risking him walking away for nothing in free agency.
In addition, the following players are unrestricted free agents July 1:
Grabner would add speed to any lineup, and his team-leading 19 goals could drive up his price. Desharnais is bottom-six center at best, but there's numerous teams seeking improvement in that area, and he proved to be reasonably effective as a deadline acquisition for the Oilers last season.
Holden isn't the flashiest name, but has been serviceable in a porous defensive scheme despite starting in his own end for 63.9 percent of his shifts. If he can fetch a draft pick, send him packing.
The big picture
Surrendering hope at competing for a Cup obviously wasn't in Gorton's plans for 2017-18, but an inconsistent season has warranted him little choice. The Rangers were dreadful in October, then were propped up by Henrik Lundqvist's timeless brilliance before falling back to earth of late.
The recent slew of injuries, most notably to Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh, have had a profound effect on New York's struggles, but it could be a blessing in disguise if it leads to opportunities to acquire picks and prospects to build around promising 2017 first-rounders Filip Chytil and Lias "silver-medal-chucking" Andersson.
Besides, with only $2 million in projected cap space available this season, a trade to push this outfit over the top is much more difficult than simply accepting what's in front of the Rangers, and ultimately gearing up properly for the future.
As such, it's clear the Rangers should be one of the more active teams ahead of the trade deadline.