A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, am I right? That’s what the New York Rangers are hoping their draft day deals will do: keep them competitive for thousands of miles.
The Rangers shook up their roster, trading top-nine forward Carl Hagelin, backup- but future starting-goaltender Cam Talbot, and minor league forward Ryan Haggerty for Talbot’s replacement, Antti Raanta.
This is what good teams have to do nowadays in the NHL: trade away expendable pieces instead of re-signing them, due to the tight salary cap. No, the Rangers cap situation is not as bad as the Bruins, per se, who were forced into a mini-rebuild because of their cap woes. But, their cap situation is still not ideal.
The Rangers have handed out a lot of contracts with long terms. They currently have eight players signed through 2018 –Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Kevin Klein-, with five of those players having a cap hit of, or above, $5 million. There is also the impending long-term deals looming for Derek Stepan this summer, as well as Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and Keith Yandle next.
While it is true the Rangers are in “win-now” mode, Friday’s trades might show that the organization is learning how to build a team that can be successful long term, not just for the immediate future.
The salary cap makes it tough, nearly impossible in fact, for winning teams to have a sustained run. The Chicago Blackhawks are the only recent team that comes to mind, as they have won three Stanley Cups since 2010. They have found the winning formula of trading away depth players that become overvalued by the market, giving young kids a chance, and finding excellent free agent bargains, like former Ranger Brad Richards.
So, for Hagelin, a third line forward capable of scoring 20 goals and 45 points while killing penalties and decimating teams with his speed, it was a case of the Rangers trying to get ahead of the curve. They knew that Hagelin’s restricted free agnecy would almost certainly result in a one-year deal before he hit the open market next summer, with him likely earning upwards of $4.5 million. Glen Sather, or should we say Jeff Gorton at this point, realized that he needed to move Hagelin and get quality piece back instead of eventually losing him for nothing.
New York Rangers
Emerson Etem, the player Hagelin was traded for, is a 23-year old with a high ceiling, but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet.
This is what Sean Hartnett, of WFAN.com, had to say about Etem:
"“Etem has often been described as a project. He has the tools. He’s a fast skater (though not as jet-like as Hagelin) and has good hands, but his skill is raw. Etem has been an inconsistent finisher at the NHL level. He’s also a bigger body than Hagelin at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds.”"
For Talbot, it was a case of having to cash in on value at the highest. He was phenomenal after Lundqvist went down, and as soon as the season ended you knew he was going to be dealt. He had a terrific contract, only making $1.45 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. While Sather and Gorton wanted to get a first round pick for Talbot, they still got three picks out of the deal. The Rangers desperately needed to restock on prospects, and trading Talbot did that.
Trading for Raanta was an excellent decision by the Rangers brass. He is a cheap, dependable backup goaltender, who, in all likelihood, will start anywhere from 15 to 20 games next season, giving Lundqvist some much needed rest.
Now comes the most difficult part for the Rangers: replacing the pieces they lost by using their homegrown talent. Jesper Fast, who grew up right before our eyes in the postseason, is primed to takeover Hagelin’s role as the team’s best penalty killer and third line anchor. Oscar Lindberg should make the team out of training camp this year, and will hopefully be able to center the third line. Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller will have to play more prominent roles than they did last season.
The Rangers got worse this weekend, but that is going to happen to any good team in the salary-cap world. It is impossible to keep every single player on your team. The Rangers moves this past weekend will help keep them competitive short term and long term.
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