The New York Rangers face a sort of identity crisis, facing a vital question focused on whether or not to make the playoffs
With the New York Rangers so openly interested in the playoff appearance, it seems as if the talk of a high draft pick can be completely discarded. However, the team could certainly benefit from taking a more forward thinking approach by attempting to make a more impressive selection in the NHL entry draft this summer. Despite boasting a group of incredibly talented young players ready to break into the league, the Rangers are still searching for that generational talent, that game-breaking star.
There are not exactly a whole ton of things that are negative about drafting high. One of the most obvious downsides is that being that a team that is in any state of “tanking” is certainly less fun to watch than even a team just struggling to grab a potentially meaningless playoff berth. In addition to that, some players, in the Rangers case, Henrik Lundqvist, should not be forced to stay on their losing, sinking ship, although he has said he is committed to the rebuild.
However, the potential positives surrounding a little less successful season and a higher draft pick can be exceptional. Also, you don’t have to be drafted in the first seven picks to be a player capable of lifting a team to the next level. Players such as William Nylander and Mikko Rantanen were selected at #8 and #10 overall respectively in their own drafts. Of course, this is only to show that getting that extra bump up one pick can make missing the playoffs potentially worth it. However, under the draft lottery system, nothing is guaranteed.
Where to start?
The Rangers need to start first by committing to the one or the other. Targeting a high draft pick would be to commit to maybe playing the inexperienced kids just a bit more and letting the veterans run the show more from the bottom pairs and lines. Of course this would mean cutting ice times for players like Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal, as well as allowing players like Tony DeAngelo more ice time. This would also be the time for roster moves, moving some potentially fresh blood, like Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren, up the NHL, The Rangers did this last year when they promoted Neal Pionk and John Gilmour and look how Pionk has turned out.
In the case that the Rangers decide to start playing a little less competitively, even that cannot guarantee a strong pick in the draft so it may be wise to expand the pool of trade-able players. With rumors surrounding players like Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello already, who is to say the Rangers don’t have a longer list of players who could be moved in exchange for some young talent or valuable draft assets. This goes without saying, but it certainly can be expected that the Rangers will see some interesting offers for some of the players on the team.
In the case that a player does end up being moved, anything less than a first round pick would seem to be incredibly wasteful and would not benefit the team at all unless a player of similar ability were to be shipped over one-for-one as well.
Regardless of how the Rangers approach the situation of figuring out where they stand and what they want to stand for this season, it will absolutely have long term ramifications on the structure and face of this team.