The New York Rangers made a big announcement before the National Hockey League trade deadline, saying they were to move several veteran players and enter a rebuilding phase. And they followed suit by trading many players, sending Michael Grabner to the New Jersey Devils in return for a 2018 second-round draft pick and 20-year-old defensive prospect Yegor Rykov. They also moved veteran Rick Nash as the Rangers acquired the Bruins' first-round pick in this year's draft as well as forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, prospect defenceman Ryan Lindgren and a seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft in a deal reached a day before the NHL's trade deadline.
And who can forget the blockbuster deal that shipped defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning for centre Vladimir Namestnikov, prospects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden, a 2018 first-round pick and 2019 conditional first-rounder.
General manager Jeff Gorton and team president Glen Sather said they would make significant changes, and they certainly did. However NHL Insider Bob McKenzie had a Wednesday evening NBCSN appearance and alluded to several possibilities in the near future for the Rangers. Even though Gorton is rebuilding, McKenzie doesn’t rule out the possibility that he could sign one or two unrestricted free agents, such as former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk or former Rangers Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, if they’re willing to accept short-term deals.
Here are his answers, as reported by FanRag Sports.
“The Rangers, meanwhile, as soon as this season is over Jeff Gorton is going to be back open for business doing the same sort of sell-off that he did at the deadline. But keep this in mind: Even though they’re rebuilding, they’re not tearing it down and there is an opportunity where if they can sign Ilya Kovalchuk this summer on a short-term deal or Rick Nash comes back or Grabner – if they’re willing to take short-term deals – they will look at plugging a lot of holes with veteran guys.”
And that's not the only move McKenzie suggests. The NHL insider goes on to say that the Rangers could take part in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes, as the pending free agent in 2019 can only start contract negotiations with the Ottawa Senators in July, but could end up on the trade block weeks before, around the NHL Entry Draft.
“Erik Karlsson is not out of the question in terms of at least looking back and saying, ‘Hey, could we possibly make this work.’
“They’re going to be trying to do two things at the same time: Rebuild and fill in the holes with veteran guys as long as it’s not long-term deals.”
Another important element that remains to be seen is if head coach Alain Vigneault will return to the team's bench next season, with all the major changes taking place.
“Well, lots of speculation on that,” indicated McKenzie. “Some people think, ‘Oh, for sure he’s going to be gone,’ that with a rebuild they need a different voice – not a guy in his sixth year with the organization.
“And there are other people who say he’s got two years left – believed to be $4 million per – not an easy guy to get rid of if they choose to do that.
“I don’t think the Rangers have crossed that bridge yet because they don’t have to. But I think as soon as the season is over the first thing that will happen is they’ll sit down with Vigneault, get his feelings on how he feels about being part of a rebuild. I’m not sure he signed up for that necessarily. But with two years left at $4 million, he’s not about to walk out the door and say, ‘I’m not interested.’
“Then they’ve got to decide ‘Is he the right guy.’ Do they need a new voice. Do they need someone different to shepard them through this evolutionary stage of their progress.”