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The Rangers can’t afford to mortgage the future to win now

Bobby Bevilacqua

dylan mcilrath full body 11-3

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Glen Sather and the Rangers have a history of making big moves at the trade deadline. Last year they went out and acquired Keith Yandle from Arizona. The year before that, they traded for future hall of famer Martin St. Louis, shipping out captain Ryan Callahan in the process. In 2013 they traded Marian Gaborik to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore.

This year, Jeff Gorton is in control, and he will determine what happens at the trade deadline. We’re not sure if he’ll pull the trigger on a big trade, or if he’ll remain relatively quiet, make a few adjustments and see what this team can do.

One of the rumors that have been flying around, whether it holds validity or not is up to you, is the fact that the Ranger shave been linked to Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd. A 60 point scorer last season, Ladd is one of the better power forwards in this league.

The rumors said that the Jets were interested in defenseman Dylan McIlrath as well as Russian prospect Pavel Buchnevich.

If the Rangers were to actually make that trade, there may be a riot in the streets of Manhattan. And it would be a really stupid trade too.

Sure, you’d be getting a top six goal scorer and a solid goal scorer, but he wouldn’t be a Ranger for after this season. The Rangers don’t have the cap space to retain him. So trading a future starting defenseman and a potential top six forward for a rental would be a massive mistake.

When the Rangers traded for Keith Yandle, that move wasn’t a short term rental. He really helped the Rangers in the playoffs, and he’s played every game this season as well, collecting 28 points on half salary in the process.

In exchange, they lost prospect Anthony Duclair. He’s scored 14 goals and 26 points this season, but he’s only generated 65 shots on goal in 51 games, and he’s scoring on 21.50% of his chances. That’s bound to go down. He looks like he’ll be a solid NHL player, but Yandle has helped this team more than Duclair would have in the same span.

Trading Duclair meant that Glen Sather sent one of his few top tier prospects to the desert. Pavel Buchnevich is the only prospect they have that can come into the NHL right now and almost definitely play at a quality level. He’s expected to be a potential top six player, and he’s got a very impressive offensive skillset.

On the other hand, Dylan McIlrath has shown massive improvement and growth in his short time with the Rangers. Jeff Beukeboom worked with him in Hartford, and it did wonders. He’s not the best skater, but he plays his angles right and uses his size to effectively mask his weaknesses. McIlrath has also made for a formidable pairing with Yandle, and when Vigneault gives him heavy minutes, he’s handled it well.

Personally, I don’t want the Rangers to trade either of them. Both look like they will be important pieces for the Rangers going forward. And while they have been playing better lately, with four wins in their last six games, this team doesn’t look as strong as last year, and there is legitimate concern of an early round exit.

Andrew Ladd will not magically solve all of the Rangers problems. He’ll add some scoring to a team that scores 2.8 goals per game, good enough for fifth in the league. But the problems lie deeper than that.

Vigneault continues to give very difficult, very taxing minutes to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who have struggled to keep up with opponent’s top six players. The penalty kill continues to leave skaters wide open in front of the net, the defense misses their coverages, they give up goals late in games. There are deeper struggles that Ladd won’t solve, and those need to be fixed.

I look at a team like the Chicago Blackhawks, who are arguably the best managed team in the entire league. They have a lot of money tied up in their core group of players, but they do a fantastic job rotating prospects and cheaper players in and out of the lineup. When Brandon Saad leaves because he gets too expensive, Teuvo Teravainen takes on a bigger role, Artemi Panarin comes in and scores 52 points in his first 56 NHL games, and they trade for Artem Anisomov and he provides a boost as well.

The Rangers need to do the same. You can’t keep trading away your prospects and your draft picks because those guys will be needed to fill out the lineup around your core group of players. Buchnevich is probably going to be a top six contributor, and his ELC will be $925k. Dylan McIlrath can potentially be a second pair defenseman, definitely a third pair guy, and he’s making $600k.

You need these guys on the team for the upcoming season and to be perennial contenders. The affordable guys and the young prospects are essential to making a consistently competitive team.

Take a look at my trade deadline article. I mentioned Ladd, but said that I don’t think that he’s the answer. Radim Vrbata from Vancouver will add a solid scorer, but at a much more affordable price. Cam Atkinson gives you a consistent 20 goal, 40 point guy who is under contract for $3.5 million until 2017-18. Valeri Nichushkin is still on his ELC, he’ll be a cheap sign in the offseason, and him being Russian can help Buchnevich transition to North American hockey and culture.

All of the trades I talk about are with the future in mind. The Rangers need to structure themselves like Chicago does. You have your star goalie and your core group of forwards under contract. If they can fix their cap issues and move some money out of the defensive corps, this team will be in a good situation for the future.

They have their core forwards (Stepan, Brassard, Nash, Zuccarello) under contract. Guys like JT Miller and Kevin Hayes can be signed for relatively long deals and relatively cheaper contracts. Players like Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg are on affordable contracts and are important for filling out the bottom six. The Rangers are close to constructing a similar team to Chicago, but there’s still some work to be done.

But Jeff Gorton needs to be different. No more trading away all of the first round picks and prospects and shooting yourself in the foot for the future. Don’t give away the farm, and think about the future.

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Posted on February 7, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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