The New York Rangers are currently sitting in sixth in the Metropolitan Division, just two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final divisional playoff spot. They are also only a point behind the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers for the last Wild Card berth in the Eastern Conference.
But it seems that the team is willing to blow it all up to rebuild their roster. Say what now?
The New York Post's Larry Brooks reports that the team is expected to dismiss the usual deadline approach to build a Cup contender, even if the Blue Shirts miss the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
"There is no ambivalence within management. The Blueshirts, we’re told on good authority, view the Feb. 26 trade deadline as a unique opportunity to refresh the roster and replenish the organization, regardless of where the club stands in relation to a playoff spot," writes Brooks.
Brooks notes that the team does not intend to bottom out, but to retool.
Many expect veteran forward Rick Nash to be moved prior to the deadline. The 33-year-old has collected 15 goals and 10 assists in 50 games this season, and could attract teams looking scoring and to shore up their top-six.
Michael Grabner could also be on the move, while centre David Desharnais and defenseman Nick Holden could get smaller returns as rentals.
Brooks believes that the Rangers could also listen on players signed past this season, notably captain Ryan McDonagh and the team's leading scorer, Mats Zuccarello. Both players have one year remaining past this one on their current deals,
McDonagh definitely command an interesting return, one that could kick off the Rangers' retool mode.
"General manager Jeff Gorton should drive a hard bargain here. He should think big and go big and if he is unable to attract a big enough return, he should walk away from the table and revisit the situation at the draft. Clearly, surrendering McDonagh at the deadline would create an immediately unfillable vacancy in the lineup. Everyone understands that. No one is giving away No. 27."