After a controversial trade in the early part of the offseason, the New York Rangers’ fanbase wanted General Manager Jeff Gorton fired for his actions. Now that the Kevin Shattenkirk contract has been released, the fanbase likes him again, just like that.
This was going to be Jeff Gorton’s second full offseason as New York Rangers’ GM. The jury was still out on him coming in, considering what he let the defense to manifest into last year. He did, however, turn the forward group into one of the deepest in the league in the offseason of 2016, so there was still hope for him.
So when the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs this year, the fanbase needed to see him fix the defense while keeping most of the forward group intact for the offseason to be a success, a very difficult task when you have a defense strapped with horrible contracts to horrible players.
The first move he made this offseason turned a large portion of the fanbase against him.
On draft day, Gorton sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for Tony DeAngelo and the 7th overall pick in the draft. Upon early review of the trade, the fanbase looked at it in more than just an unfavorable manner; they hated it.
They said it looked more like the Rangers made a trade just to make a trade and that their asset management was poor. A lot of fans, myself included, didn’t understand the direction the team was going. I, personally was worried that they were now going to have to fill two important positions on their roster instead of just one–top line center and top pair righty defenseman.
Gorton had a plan though.
They say that when you look at the return for the Stepan trade, you can’t include Shattenkirk as someone they got back in the deal, but I think if you look at the offseason as a whole and to understand the trade, you need too.
After the Brendan Smith signing and before the Shattenkirk signing, the Rangers would have had $8 million in cap space if they still had Stepan on their roster. Trading him and signing Shattenkirk correlates to essentially a cap space swap.
So now the Rangers have $8 to sign a top-six center and a bottom-six center, while also re-signing Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast. It’s gonna be a tight squeeze, but if the Rangers trade one of their eight rostered defenseman and/or Kevin Klein officially retires, then they should be fine.
With this Shattenkirk-Stepan swap, the Rangers also acquired a highly rated prospect in Lias Andersson–who could potentially make the team out of training camp–along with DeAngelo, who should slot into the bottom pairing on defense. They made the safe pick by selecting Andersson which allowed them to take a major risk/reward pick at 21 in Filip Chytil. That’s a strategy that deserves more praise.
With all of that said, we need to give him a lot of credit for his early work here. He went out and got his guy in free agency for a deal that was way below his market value. Yes, Shattenkirk wanted to come here regardless, but you still have to give the GM credit for getting him when the player took millions less to come here.
The Rangers now have the best top-two pairs of defense in the Metropolitan Division, almost going from one of the worst to first overnight. There’s plenty of time left this offseason and there are still a few holes to fill but I think one thing is clear; Jeff Gorton has a plan. Now it’s time for us to acknowledge it.