Wow. What a memorable night after a forgettable season. The New York Rangers will be selecting 2nd overall in the 2019 NHL draft. With the 6th best odds and a 23% chance to get into the Top 3, they did it. Why is this big? Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. This draft is widely regarded as a “2 player draft”, where there is a massive drop off from Tier 1 to Tier 2. Now which player will the Rangers get?
I think the Rangers will rank Kakko #1 on their board, and they will get him. He is a Gordie Clark player to a T, and Gordie has shown affection for underagers in men’s leagues who can hold their own (see Lias Andersson, Vitaly Kravstov, Filip Chytil, Nils Lundkvist). Jack Hughes would be a fantastic plan B, but I think its 70/30 the Devils select the playmaking center, leaving the big body Kakko as a consolation prize (and what a prize it will be).
What does that mean for the Rangers in the 2019–2020 season? With Kakko NHL ready, Kravstov looking to make the leap over, as well as the highly touted Russian goalie Igor Shestyorkin, the Rangers have some decisions to make. They still have some glaring needs on the blue line, and they will need to be addressed. Does the sudden abundance of forwards mean that some might be on the move? Time will tell but as of right now the forward group will look something like this:
Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich Kakko-Chytil-Vesey Namestnikov-Lias-Kravtsov Lemieux-Howden-Fast Extra: Strome, Nieves, Brickley
To me, it’s a good group, but too many bodies, and upgrades will need to be made. Personally, I see Chytil as a winger and would love to see a good responsible center in the middle of him and Kakko or Kravtsov. So 2nd line center is a need; re-enter Kevin Hayes? Haysey has made no secret that he loves NY, has made it his home, and a few reports in the last week have said he might be an option to come back. Would Hayes leave a little money on the table to come back? I think so. 5 years, $6–6.5 million a year might be a deal both sides would be willing to go to. Hard to know, and time will tell.
The other big name the Rangers have been linked with is Artemi Panarin, and I am in the camp saying pay that man whatever he wants. He will be the best winger the Rangers have had since Marian “40 goal scorer” Gaborik. While I think the Rangers are still the favorite to sign him, Joel Quenneville being hired in Florida will make it anybody’s guess where he goes (Islanders, Rangers, Blackhawks, Panthers are all options).
While I don’t know how likely this is, my plan would be to sign both Hayes and Panarin, and utilizing players like Kravtsov, Chytil, and Kakko’s ELC to their advantage. Those players, potentially being stars on entry level deals, are something you have to take advantage of. With the signings of Hayes and Panarin, there have to be players moving out as well. As much as I hate it, Chris Kreider might be that guy. NYR have shown they don’t like signing guys approaching 30. Kreider, with 1 year left on his deal, will be 29 when he becomes a FA (compared to signing Hayes a month after he turns 27, and Panarin at 27, but with limited NHL mileage on him).
Packaging Kreider with a few other pieces could fetch you, say, Jacob Trouba? Trouba is another guy long rumored with the Rangers, and he demanded a trade from WPG a few years ago. With little leverage, he retracted, and signed a short term deal. He is an RFA this summer, and he’s going to get paid. Will he want to sign long term? Will WPG be able to afford him long term with all the pieces they have on the backend? Hard to tell, but if the NYR come calling with a year of Kreider on a very manageable ($4.6 million AAV) deal, with, let’s say, Neil Pionk and their first round pick back (22nd overall as of writing this), I think Winnipeg might listen. It’s impossible to tell; every year you see rumored trades and think one team is being fleeced, then the actual trade happens and it’s worse than whats rumored (see Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall; the deal was 1 for 1).
With Kreider and Pionk to WPG for Trouba, there probably has to be 2 other forwards to go out of Vesey, Strome, and Namestnikov. Vlad I’d love to keep, but at $4 mill for 1 year, he might be expendable simply for the cap hit next season. Vesey I keep, as I think he is still improving, albeit slightly. Strome might have been fools gold, and with the gift of hindsight with the Ryan Spooner decision, it makes the most sense to sell high on a guy who had an unsustainable SH%. I imagine a team would be willing for a year tryout for Strome for a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Vlad I would move for a 2nd round pick.
Now you might be thinking there is no way the money will work out, and it might not with a few of our own RFAs to sign (DeAngelo, Buchnevich, Lemieux). My solution is to bridge them. I know, I can hear all 4 people reading this saying “Spinchoon, you idiot, don’t you know that will come back to bite us”? And I would say to that 1) you sound like my dad 2) while it’s true DeAngelo and Buch could vastly improve their AAV in 2 years and handcuff the team a little, that’s the price it would cost to get Panarin, Hayes, and Trouba under contract. Also, in 2 years, if those guys do exceed expectations and need a big pay day, who’s coming off the books? Essentially everyone, but the big ones being Staal ($5.7 million AAV), Brendan Smith ($4.35 million AAV), Shattenkirk ($6.65 million AAV), and Henrik ($8.5 million AAV). That’s $25 MILLION coming off the books. Very much worth the risk in my opinion. If DeAngelo and Buch play their way to taking a good chunk of that money, great, that means the last 2 years we were probably a really good hockey club.
So to recap: NYR bring in Hayes, Panarin, Trouba, 2nd and 3rd round pick.
Going out: Kreider, Pionk, Strome, Namestnikov, Winnipeg’s 2019 1st round pick.
Which would make the lineup this on opening night 2019:
Shesty in AHL (recent interview seemed like he was OK with that)
Now is all of this going to happen? Probably not. The cap situation for all these moves to work will be tough, and for every scenario to work out perfectly is never the case. This is a pipe dream and I know it. Even if none of these things happen, the future is very very bright.
Let’s Go Rangers!