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Jeff Gorton’s Legacy Will Be Defined by Difficult 2016 Offseason

John Dundon

jeff gorton

Photo courtesy of Blueshirts United.

The 2016 offseason is shaping up to be one of the wildest periods of personnel movement the NHL has seen in some time.

General managers of cap-strapped teams will be aggressively trying to shed dollars and shakeup the makeups of their respective teams.  With an expansion draft looming, and questions on whether the salary cap will even be as high as it was this past season, make no mistake about it—many GM’s will have no choice in this regard.

The team facing some of the most interesting offseason decisions of the summer? The New York Rangers.

At the onset of the 2015-16 campaign, the Rangers were thought to be in the Stanley Cup conversation. What unfolded in the following months was not what the Rangers’ players, management or fans had hoped for. The 2015-16 Rangers—plagued with defensive woes, the worst in over a decade—never quite hit their stride. They ran into the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are now one win away from lifting the Stanley Cup for the second time since 2009, in the first round. It was exactly what the Blueshirts deserved after a less than stellar regular season.

Now, after a first round exit and the salary cap likely forcing his hand, General Manager Jeff Gorton has a very busy summer ahead of him.

With several young restricted free agents in need of new contracts, and raises, Gorton will need to be a wizard.

First and foremost, the sophomore GM will be tasked with revamping the team’s six every day defenseman. Both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal carry clauses which make a trade involving either of the two difficult. It would be almost inconceivable for Gorton to convince either of the two players—both family men who have played and lived comfortably in Manhattan for their entire NHL careers—to waive their clauses. This presents a tough choice for Gorton: whether or not he should buyout one of the two.

Gorton could opt to (very sensibly) buyout the remaining years of Girardi’s contract, but the NY Post has reported that this is not being considered by the team.

Defenseman Keith Yandle is set to hit the open market on July 1. He will probably leave the Rangers for monetary reasons. It will be a sad, sad day.

Then there’s the thought of trading Rick Nash to save money against the cap. Nash, who is easily the Rangers’ best forward in all three zones, will be a valued commodity on the trade market. The Rangers could hold a Rick Nash bidding war and probably come away with a large haul. In this instance though, they would probably be retaining some of Nash’s cap hit over the next two seasons (also they’d be losing one of their best players). In this writer’s opinion, no Nash means no Stanley Cup in 2016-17, that’s just me.

There are a million ways the Rangers could go with their offseason choices. One thing is clear though: this offseason will go a long way in defining Jeff Gorton’s Rangers tenure.

Much like the situation Glen Sather went through in the summer of 2014, the team is at a crossroads. This offseason, Gorton will be heading the personnel decisions that will shape the team for the remainder of Henrik Lundqvist’s Rangers’ tenure—this coincides with the Stanley Cup window.

After a season that saw the Rangers a couple of bounces from the Stanley Cup in 2014, Sather failed to identify the proper long-term pieces for the Rangers to keep around. The result? Well, look no further than 2015-16. His re-signing of Dan Girardi to an albatross of a contract (with a no trade clause!) coupled with the low-balling of Anton Stralman—who was the second best defensemen on the team that year—has been a sticking point for critics of the 2014 offseason.

The team’s 2014 draft was also a tire fire. They failed to hit on five of their seven draft picks, some of which are no longer in the organization.

In a league with parity like the NHL, one or two personnel decisions can pave the way for future success, or doom a team for years to come.

The organization has made it clear: they want to be younger and very much a different looking team in 2016-17. Whether Gorton identifies the proper scapegoats, and quickly does away with them or not will directly determine how long the Rangers cup open remains open for. This offseason will make or break Gorton’s Rangers’ legacy.

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Posted on June 8, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The one thing I don’t Sugaree with in any of the blogs I’ve read is when they talk about as the “Stanley Cup window” being while we have Lundqvist. I love Hank n think he’s still great but are we done when the time comes for him to retire? There’s a bunch of really good goalies these days that can take a team to final for a shot at the cup. Just look what’s taking place right now. Now if the Rangers really do mean it when they say they want to get younger then they have to do something with Girardi n Staal. They were clearly a big part of the problem n are both 2 of our oldest guys. I agree Nash should stay right here. No forward on the team does what he does n I think he’s gonna have a great season this year too.

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