New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton needs to hang up the phone.
It may feel like it has been longer, but the New York Rangers rebuild only began two and a half years ago. On February 8, 2018 the Rangers sent a letter to their fans outlining their process to forgo the present and build for the future. Over the last three trade deadlines, two NHL Entry Drafts and two long seasons, Rangers management has done just that.
In the process, Jeff Gorton has built one of the youngest rosters in the NHL, with 24 of the teams 32 contracted players on entry level contracts, while still maintaining a veteran presence. Perhaps more impressive, the Rangers farm system, once a barren wasteland due to many “win now” trades, was recently rated as the top prospect system in the NHL by The Athletic (subscription required). A significant reversal of fortune for the organization.
All this is to say that Jeff Gorton has kept to his promise. The Rangers are a team on the rise with a bright future ahead. Now is the time to trust in Jeff Gorton. Now is the time for patience, to stay the course. Now is not the time for quick fix solutions that cost assets.
A quick Google search for “NY Rangers trade rumors” brings up eight pages of articles to click on. Twitter has many such links to trade or free agent rumor articles from sources like @vzmercogliano, @4EverBlueshirts, @BlueSeatBlogs, @NHLRumorsDaily and more. The question is why? After spending the last thirty plus months trading away the teams established stars, getting younger and focusing on developing that young talent, why should the team suddenly break course and make moves for the here and now?
Attaining any player now, especially at the cost of assets, would need to be a long term acquisition. Any such acquisition would need to be for a star player that would make not only the trade costs worth it, but the internal costs of blocking the youth pipeline as well. As Larry Brooks reported, even retaining Tony DeAngelo may have the unintended consequence of losing Nils Lundkvist. How much unintentional damage to the farm system would bringing in outside talent cause?
The New York Rangers recent trip to the post season has shown two things. First, that the Rangers, having been in a position to make the postseason at all, are further into their rebuild than would have been anticipated. Second, that there is still a lot of work to be done. Does the team need a number two center? Yes. Does the team need a defense partner for Jacob Trouba? Yes. Does the team need to go out and trade away youth and picks to get them? No.
The truth is that a little patience will begin to solve these issues over the course of the next season. If any of Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Lias Andersson, Morgan Barron, Justin Richards, Patrick Khordorenko or Karl Henriksson are looked at as future top or second line centers, why shop for one? If these players need an additional season or two to develop into the player the Rangers need, then retaining Ryan Strome is an easy stop gap solution.
If it is believed that Libor Hajek, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Matthew Robertson, Yegor Rykov, Tarmo Reunanen or Zac Jones can be a top four defenseman, again, why shop for one? As with the centers noted above, the Rangers currently have both Marc Staal and Brendan Smith under contract for one more season to fill in as needed until proper development is achieved.
Axl Rose said it best, “all we need is a little patience”. The rebuild puzzle is nearing its completion. Jeff Gorton needs to show the requisite restraint to not jump at a quick fix and allow a little time for the pieces to fit into place. The right move, sometimes, is not making one at all.