Jeff Gorton deserves credit for a successful offseason
Following the Rangers elimination from the playoffs, I had a feeling that this offseason would be extremely important, with the chance to have an impact on the long term future of the franchise and determining if they would compete or be forced to rebuild.
Keith Yandle was a free agent, the team had departures and deficiencies on defense, there were serious cap constrictions and a ton of really important, young RFAs to lock up with new deals. Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes for how the team would turn out heading into next year.
But in a situation with his hands tied behind his back, Jeff Gorton did an admirable job maneuvering through a very tough situation and making the absolute best of it for the Rangers.
After leading the Rangers in assists and power play points, a lot of people wanted the team to keep Keith Yandle, being that he fit so well (when utilized properly) into the system that Vigneault employed, and considering the fact that he’s one of the elite offensive defensemen in the league.
Any deal with him would have been extremely hopeful because there just wasn’t the cap space there for Gorton to keep him. If he did, it would have come at the cost of a young RFA or something else of value. Instead of letting him walk, Gorton traded his rights to the Florida Panthers for a sixth round pick, also receiving a fourth round pick when he signed there.
As a whole, the trade was awful asset management, but this was a good job by Gorton to get what he could for Yandle knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to keep him in blue.
He also made the surprising move to trade Derick Brassard, the team’s best center over the last two seasons, for Mika Zibanejad, a 23 year old center from the Ottawa Senators. Zibanejad is younger, entering his prime, improving his stats every single season, and also signed for a cheaper cap hit this season ($2.625 million). Oh yeah, and he also got a second round pick on top of it. Not too shappy Gorton.
When it came to the free agent market, he made some really smart, savy and cost-efficient moves that improved the team while remaining under the salary cap. The team’s biggest issues (apart from defense) were bottom sixth depth and penalty killing, and Gorton made sure to address that.
Michael Grabner signed a two year, $1.65 million AAV deal, adding speed, penalty killing and a scoring touch to the third or fourth line. Nathan Gerbe signed a one year, $600k cap hit after an injury riddled season that limited him to 47 games and just 7 points (3-4-7). He is also a strong defensive forward that has hit double digits in goal scoring three times in his career. And 26 year old center Josh Jooris also received a one year, $600k contract. He’ll take over for Oscar Lindberg as fourth line center while he recovers from a hip surgery. Jooris is very good at driving possession, defensively sound, and capable of providing offense (12-12-24 in his 2014-15 rookie season).
Out of all of the signings, I like what Grabner brings the most. He can play up and down the lineup, provide some scoring and serve as a three zone player. I elaborated on that in an article a few days ago, which you can read HERE.
After abysmal production from the fourth line this season, and a less effective third line, the Rangers already look like they’ll have an upgraded group this season. A line of Gerbe-Jooris-Fast, assuming that Grabner plays on the third line, would be very good defensively, capable of driving possession and every forward can be counted on for a goal now and then. On paper, it looks like the youth, skill and two way ability of that trio will make them more effective than last year’s fourth line.
Gorton also made the right move in bringing Pavel Buchnevich over to North America, signing him to a three-year entry level contract. With the lack of wing depth and a glaring need for depth scoring, Buch is all but a lock to make the roster for opening night. Kevin Hayes also really needs some talent on his wings, and Buchnevich can provide just that. On top of that, the three year deal means that if he is everything the team expects him to be, the Rangers will have him for an extra, cost-effective season.
When it comes to the RFAs, Gorton also did pretty darn well there too. I would have liked to see a longer deal for JT Miller (2 year, $2.75 million AAV), because he will likely command big dollars at the end of those two years. Kevin Hayes signed a very fair 2 year, $2.6 million AAV contract, and Dylan McIlrath was retained on a one year, $800k contract.
Where Gorton really did well was with Chris Kreider. Not only did he manage to lock him up for four seasons, he was able to sign Kreider for under market value. Kreider, with back-to-back 20 goal seasons under his belt, will be playing for $4.625 million for each of the next four seasons.
On defense, the Rangers second year GM managed to make some minor moves by getting Nick Holden from the Avalanche and signing Adam Clendening to a one year deal. Holden is okay and could wind up being the sixth or seventh defenseman, while Clendening has more upside and the potential to be a decent offensive contributor.
Gorton did just about everything he could to get the Rangers back into competitive shape, despite many hurdles he had to bypass in order to get this team in a position to succeed once more.
Ultimately it’s up to Alain Vigneault to make the right decisions with lineups and not do things like play Tanner Glass or give Girardi top pairing minutes, but Jeff Gorton deserves a pat on the back for a really productive and efficient offseason.
Posted on August 9, 2016, in In the Crease, Uncategorized and tagged Brassard trade, Derick Brassard, Jeff Gorton, Josh Jooris, Madison Square Garden, Michael Grabner, Mika Zibanejad, MSG, Nathan Gerbe, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NYR, NYR free agents, NYR offseason, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rangers free agents, Rangers offseason. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.