When the New York Rangers traded Derek Stepan, Jeff Gorton said the Rangers were entering a sort of re-build on the fly. How should that look?
The New York Rangers, a team looking to maximize Henrik Lundqvist’s championship contending window, traded their top line center this offseason. The same New York Rangers team added Kevin Shattenkirk to the fold on defense.
Jeff Gorton attributed moving Stepan to a sort of re-build on the fly, but adding Shattenkirk points to looking to contend now. There are plenty of uncertainties surrounding the Rangers’ present and future. Let’s take a look at this re-build on the fly.
There is no re-build on the fly
Jeff Gorton may wish to label what the New York Rangers are doing as a re-build on the fly, but that’s not what’s happening. A re-build would include moving Rick Nash and Michael Grabner for assets, among other moves.
What’s happening in reality is the Rangers are trying to avoid placing themselves in any uncomfortable situations. New York has now seen what the Dan Girardi and Marc Staal contracts did to them, while also recently having used a buyout on Brad Richards.
Derek Stepan was never going to become a buyout, but the Rangers viewed his contract as one that could come back to haunt them. Rather than finding that out in hindsight, they used the opinion their foresight provided them, moving Stepan to Arizona.
While the opinion is not one I agree with, it makes sense under the context of the moves the Rangers are looking to make.
Buying out Dan Girardi was a no-brainer, but also worked as a way to develop players that could help them avoid handing out free agent contracts. Kevin Shattenkirk fell onto their laps at their price tag, marking his entry onto the roster.
This is a young, win-now team
Perhaps it’s semantics, but this is a win-now team. Make no mistake about it, as long as Henrik Lundqvist is the goalie, the Rangers will try to win. This is why it’s essential for the Rangers to handle this period correctly.
Kevin Shattenkirk’s addition and Dan Girardi’s subtraction from the roster puts the Rangers in the best position they’ve been in since 2014. The roster is nearly Alain Vigneault-proof, meaning the kids will get their shots.
However, the Rangers must be careful. As of today, New York appears to be looking at Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, and one of J.T. Miller or Lias Andersson as the top three centers.
That means Mika Zibanejad is placed in a role more advanced than he’s ever been in before, Kevin Hayes is placed in a role more advanced than he’s ever been in before, and either J.T. Miller is moved to a position he has not played consistently in years, or Lias Andersson skips minor league hockey altogether and is faced with the pressures of being a third line center on a win-now team.
If New York is looking to develop their youth while winning in the present, they cannot place so many valuable players in such demanding roles.
What do the Rangers do next?
The Rangers have an extraordinarily bright future ahead of them. Zibanejad and Hayes will eventually grow into their roles. It’s simply a matter of letting them do so organically. Lias Andersson can make the NHL roster, but he must force his way onto the team.
New York also boasts Pavel Buchnevich, Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, Anthony DeAngelo, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Brady Skjei all in or entering their prime.
This team is set for the present, and set for the road ahead. New York must keep in mind that this is a win-now team that is set to win later as well. A re-build on the fly would include more moves coming to help the future at the expense of the present, but Derek Stepan was enough.
Handle the youth properly, move forward with the deepest roster in a long time, and compete for the Stanley Cup. The future can wait, and the future is bright.