“This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect.”
That’s what the New York Rangers front office stated in a letter dated February 8, 2018 as they began their deconstruction of a roster that had brought such immense regular season success. That day they waived Brendan Smith less than a year after signing him to a four-year extension, and two weeks later started the process of selling off all the aging or expiring assets. First out the door was Nick Holden, then Michael Grabner and Rick Nash. That could have been a shocking trade deadline it its own right, but GM Jeff Gorton had an even bigger deal up his sleeve, sending captain Ryan McDonagh and power forward J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning. A year later Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes were shipped off as well.
Now, even after starting to turn the corner from tear down to rebuild with acquisitions like Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba, the Rangers still might have a few items for sale. Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that the Rangers are “involved in multiple discussions to improve their club” at the moment, and lists Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pavel Buchnevich as potential trade options. Indeed Vesey even rose to the eighth spot on his Trade Bait board, noting that the Rangers have “a lot on the go.”
That TSN report comes at nearly the same time as Larry Brooks’ latest column for the New York Post, which suggests that this is likely the end for Kreider in New York. Brooks reports that the Rangers and Kreider’s agent Matt Keator of Olympic Sports Management haven’t yet held a “substantive conversation” about what a contract extension would look like. The 28-year old forward has just one year remaining on his current deal, and would likely fetch the biggest return out of the group listed above.
The questions will now become what the Rangers are after. Do they move Kreider for more draft picks and continue to collect young talent, or do they try and bring in more established players like Trouba to start the turnaround right away. With just two players on the entire roster signed for more than two years—Mika Zibanejad and Brady Skjei—the team has more flexibility than almost any in the league. Free agency will be a tempting pool to jump into this season, especially with the expected interest of Artemi Panarin and others in playing for a New York-area team.
First though the team must navigate the next few days and decide whether or not they will be losing some more familiar faces—even ones that they care about and respect.