New York Rangers: Yandle Trade Too Little, Too Late

Dec 11, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; New York Rangers defensemen Keith Yandle (93) skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; New York Rangers defensemen Keith Yandle (93) skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

A laundry list of bad moves made by the New York Rangers’ front office over the past two seasons continues to bury this team, including their most recent trade.

The New York Rangers, having traded away the free agent negotiating rights for Keith Yandle to the Florida Panthers, have officially begun what may be the team’s most disruptive offseason in many years.

The amount of rumors being passed along regarding other major pieces, such as Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, is considerable. Minnesota appears interested in Stepan and now we hear from multiple sources that the Anaheim Ducks may have an interest in Nash.

Regarding the Yandle move, it is a simple matter of far too little and far too late. In return for Yandle’s negotiating rights, the Rangers received a 6th round pick for this year’s draft and a conditional 4th round pick in 2017, far below what they would have received had they aggressively shopped Yandle during the 2015-2016 season. With less than two weeks to go before free agency it’s a positive that they were able to strike any kind of deal, considering that the organization never had any serious interest in bringing the d-man back, but, again, what could have been.

The deal itself is not truly the issue at hand. What is truly cause for concern is the thought process that led to the team holding on to Yandle when he could have been dealt at the trade deadline this past spring. Combined with the acquisition of Eric Staal, brought in when Rangers management

thought it wise to add a banged up, fading star at the expense of highly touted forward prospect Aleksi Saarela, it is clear that the organizational thinking at the time was that the 2015-2016 Rangers team was prepared and capable enough to make a long playoff run. Anyone watching this past regular season knew this was simply not the case, not with Dan Girardi under-performing, Kevin Hayes sleepwalking, Marc Staal hyper-fatigued and the remainder of the team demonstrating sporadic commitment to effort and system.

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Teams that are on the cusp of challenging for titles typically do not require offseason overhauls, and if Stepan and Nash are truly being shopped then an overhaul is certainly in the cards. This is not to suggest that the Ranger cannot compete this upcoming season, especially if the transactions for Stepan and Nash lead to the signing of Steven Stamkos and the addition of meaningful assets in return for the two core contributors. Again, though, it is the thinking behind the strategy that is suspect.

We can only surmise that hanging on to Yandle and trading for Staal signifies a belief by Rangers management at the time that the team was equipped for a run. This is troubling in and of itself, for the reasons stated above, but troubling more so if it is any indication of how this current front office, led by second-year GM Jeff Gorton, evaluates talent and team makeup.

At this juncture, the major priorities for the offseason should center around buying out Dan Girardi and finding a new home for Kevin Hayes. Neither should be considered as building blocks for the future, and for all of those observers that suggest buying out Girardi will be too expensive, please take the time to do some math. In every year going forward, Girardi would cost less as a buyout than he would as a rostered player. The buyout money the team loses off the cap is certainly dead weight, but it can be argued that Girardi would be dead weight in multiple ways should he remain with the team. First, he would cost more money on the roster than he would off it. Second, his presence prevents another asset from contributing.

Hayes, on the other hand, though young and big, does not play like he is either of those things. Eric Staal, many years older and with many more miles on his frame, was far more energetic during his time with the team than Hayes was at any point during the season. That speaks to a lack of heart and/or character on the part of Hayes, and this Rangers organization cannot afford the cultural impact that such a player can have on the team dynamic.

Next: New York Rangers Trading Keith Yandle is a Bad Sign

We will see how things play out over the coming weeks, of course, but this offseason is a major test for Jeff Gorton. He can either reinvigorate the organization or set it on a path that will be difficult to recover from. It is truly a turning-point moment for the franchise, and Rangers fans can only hope that Gorton is up to the task.