One of the more curious developments over the past couple weeks involves the New York Rangers and their apparent desire to sell off their free agents and even some veterans to build for the future, despite being in contention for a playoff spot.
Despite being last place in the Metropolitan division, the weakness of the Atlantic division has made it so that the Rangers are only 2 points out of a playoff berth, and at this point, it's anyone's game.
It's rare that a team will make these kinds of moves when they have a chance at the post-season, but this is the situation the Rangers find themselves in.
It's been reported over the last week or so that the likes of Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Mats Zuccarello, and team captain Ryan McDonagh are all being actively discussed.
Nash and Grabner are by far the likeliest to be traded, as they are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and fit the rental bill best.
According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, both these players may very well be traded before February 26th, but both love their respective situation in New York and would be open to signing back with them in the off-season.
If they can come back on cheap deals, especially Nash, this would be a perfect situation for Jeff Gorton and the Rangers - get some decent assets for these players, then sign them back to more affordable contracts in the summer.
With Zuccarello and McDonagh, however, it gets more complicated as they are not free agents this summer, so they would be losing them for good.
A report from Larry Brooks of the New York Post indicates that Gorton is willing to take hefty chunks of McDonagh's and Nash's contracts to move them out for strong returns.
"The Rangers are believed willing to assume up to 50 percent of McDonagh’s $4.7 million cap hit that runs through next year in order to get what the organization believes is a commensurate return for No. 27’s talents," Brooks writes.
"Minnesota would be a point of interest, as well.
"The Blueshirts are also likely to pick up 50 percent of the remainder of premier rental property Rick Nash’s full-season $7.8 million cap hit, with Nashville, Columbus, Dallas, St. Louis, San Jose and perhaps Pittsburgh as relevant parties of the other part."
Their big play is to absorb up to 50% of two of their big players' contracts, and that very well may be the right strategy to maximize their returns.
Several teams are likely involved in the sweepstakes. We don't expect all of these players to be traded, at least not by February 26th, but you can bet at least one or two of them will go. The rest of them remains to be seen.
It's going to be a bumpy ride.
TWO RANGERS OUT WITH INJURIES AFTER DIRTY HITS
The Rangers lost two important players to injuries against the Nashville Predators after taking hard hits from Alexei Emelin and Filip Forsberg.
Marc Staal and Jimmy Vesey did not finish the game after taking the hits, and as of now, it appears only Forsberg may suffer supplemental discipline from the league for his actions.