Before the trade deadline, we did a mailbag article featuring questions from Blueshirt Banter readers submitted via Twitter. The trade deadline has come and gone, and there have been a lot of changes for the New York Rangers — so we figured it was time for another one! Fortunately our Twitter-savvy readers supplied us with some great, thought-provoking questions. So without any further adieu, let’s dig into the second installment of Shayna and Mike’s Blueshirt Banter Mailbag!


Shayna

This team has won three in a row because of their goaltenders. Henrik Lundqvist had to stop 100 (!!) shots in two games – against teams that probably shouldn’t have even generated that much offense against the Rangers in the first place. In Edmonton, Alexandar Georgiev needed to have a strong third period to maintain the lead after the Rangers were outshot.

I think Alain Vigneault has to be on his way out if the Rangers are serious about rebuilding. Player development hasn’t been one of his strengths throughout his coaching career, and that’s not going to change now.

Had the Rangers had one disappointing season with him behind the bench, it may be a different story. But his player deployment and systems have been problematic before this season, and he hasn’t shown a proclivity for adaptation over the years.

Three assistant coaches later for the defense, the same problems persist — and really, they’re far more glaring this year. Plus, there have been countless player changes and drastic changes to the core, yet the problems remain the same. I can’t imagine the front office believing that things will be any different with him at the helm next year.

Mike

Alain Vigneault found a way to wiggle off of the hot seat leading up to the Winter Classic this year, but all of the illusions that veiled what this team really was in the first half of the season have evaporated. What we are left with is the conspicuous truth Vigneault is no longer the right head coach for the Rangers. He lasted longer than his predecessor John Tortorella, but it has been all downhill since the Rangers won the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy.

Vigneault is a lot of things — including a successful head coach — but he does not have a reputation for working well with young players. And in the next few years the Rangers will be a team defined by its young players. If the Jeff Gorton and company are serious about this rebuild, they need to expand that shift in philosophy to the current coaching staff.


Mike

I think what we are seeing is a team defined by hungry players that are no longer burdened with rumors and questions. There’s no more pressure for success. The only pressure now is for players to prove they belong; to prove that they can be a part of the solution moving forward. In other words, we are seeing a lot of guys who are playing for their next contracts and for their future with the team. This is a massive opportunity for guys like Paul Carey, John Gilmour, Neal Pionk, and Tony DeAngelo.

Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov have been excellent in their first handful of games. There’s really no other word for it. It’s hard to overstate just how influential and important they’ve been to the team’s unexpected success in the aftermath of Deadline Day. They’ve injected new energy into the lineup.

Shayna

There’s still pressure, but it’s certainly much different than the pressure surrounding the Rangers at the trade deadline. There was so much uncertainty, not just for the pending free agents, but for veterans with term left on their contracts. Jeff Gorton has noted that there’s more changes to come, but they aren’t necessarily as rash as those that happened at the trade deadline. Teams have the chance to reflect and refresh after the season and before the draft; they aren’t just focused on the immediate future.

But from now until the end of the season, like Mike said, players have the chance to prove why they should be a part of this team now and in the future — whether it’s for a new contract, or just in general.

Both Spooner and Namestnikov have made an impact in their first few games, as have some of the defensemen the Rangers have called up. Not only are they talented players in their own right, but they’ve complimented the players who remained with the team after Gorton cleaned house on deadline day. Some of these players have added another dimension — like their transitional play — that limits the Rangers playing dump-and-chase hockey.

NHL: New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks

NHL: New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports


Shayna

The odds are not in the Rangers favor to make the playoffs. Not only do they need to continue to win, but they need too many teams in the division/conference to lose. If they do somehow make the playoffs, they likely aren’t going to make that much of an impact so it shouldn’t change the front office’s line of thinking. They already are rebuilding and have made it clear that they’re invested in seeing it through.

Mike

If the Rangers stumble into the playoffs — which is not likely to happen — they would almost certainly unravel in spectacular fashion which would only further cement the case that the rebuild must happen. If you’re Gorton and Sather, you don’t release that open letter to fans without understanding that there is no room to backtrack. They are all in. This is going to happen.


Mike

Current Toronto Marlies’ head coach Sheldon Keefe strikes me as an interesting option. He’s only 37-years-old, but Keefe has already turned around the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds and established himself as a top coach in the AHL. His experience working with young players is a big plus.

Plenty of armchair general managers have mentioned former Kings’ bench boss Darryl Sutter as a leading candidate. He’ll be 60 next season and his contract with the Kings expires at the end of the year. If the Rangers are planning an accelerated rebuild, a two-time Stanley Cup winning coach is certainly worth a look. With that being said, one gets the impression that the Rangers should echo what they did with their AHL coaching staff last offseason and go with new faces and fresh blood.

Shayna

Someone like Joel Quenneville could become available, or like Mike said Sutter is available. Both have undoubtedly had their success at the NHL level, but there’s something to be said about having a fresh face behind the bench, especially for a young team.

I also like the idea of Sheldon Keefe. Jim Montgomery from Denver University is another option who did receive NHL interest last offseason from the Panthers and Kings, as is David Quinn from Boston University. These coaches are from the junior and NCAA level, which is encouraging for a team focused building a young, skilled contender that hinges on player development. Another intriguing option, I think, is Ralph Krueger, if he’d be willing to return to the NHL. (note: Mike also likes the idea of Krueger)

Overall, I think the Rangers should be searching for an up-and-coming rather than an established veteran; one that will be willing to experiment with more innovative concepts, instead of the same traditional approach.


Shayna

Possibly — depending on how he performs the rest of the season, if there’s a place in the lineup, and what his ask is for his next contract. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the move though, especially if they’re in need of depth at another position (defense, maybe) and don’t want to move some players like Kreider, Zuccarello, Namestnikov, and so on to acquire that.

According to Matt Cane’s free agent prediction model, if he signs a one-year contract it’ll have an average annual value of $2,014,532; a two-year contract would bring that up to $2,465,264, and three-year deal’s AAV would be $3,355,049. Any of those are not only reasonable costs for the Rangers, but would make him a valuable trade piece as well. If he’s asking for a more significant raise though, he may be on the move sooner rather than later since he isn’t the team’s only pending free agent to consider, and he’s the oldest of their RFAs on offense (ahead of Hayes, Vesey, and Namestnikov).

Then again, the Rangers may feel Spooner is more valuable in their lineup. He’s versatile enough to play both wing and center, plus he’s been productive so far (although it’s unlikely that he keeps up at this pace).

Mike

It all depends on what kind of contract Spooner wants and what the front office thinks he is capable of. He’d be a fantastic option as a middle-six winger who can play on the power play, but it will be very hard for him to find a spot on this team at center with Zibanejad, Hayes, Namestnikov, Andersson, and Chytil in the organization’s plans.

If Gorton can find a way to sign him for three years with an AAV below $4 million, he should probably bite. But if there’s too much of a gap between Spooner’s camp and the Rangers on the RFA’s next contract Gorton should look into flipping him for picks or using him to move up the draft board. I’m not sure what kind of prospect he’d command in a trade on draft day, but there should be plenty of teams willing to give him a chance as a second or third line center. He has value.


Mike

Will he be dealt or won’t he? Personally I believe that Zuccarello is a natural fit for the next captain of this team, but the haul he could bring back in a trade to a Cup contender (or a team that believes it’s a Cup contender) is hard to pass up.

I think what this comes down to is Zuccarello’s contract. He can be moved as a rental at next year’s deadline, so unless there is an irresistible package on draft day this isn’t something the Rangers have to rush. Of course, not pulling the trigger this summer could mean missing an opportunity to trade the Norwegian if he gets injured. It’s a tough call to make.

If the Rangers do move Zuccarello it would have to be for something special. Something like a pick in the first half of the first round plus a prospect. Zuccarello is a fascinating option for other teams because of his reasonable cap hit and his skill set. It’s also worth mentioning that there will be much fewer right wingers of note available on July 1 than left wingers.

Shayna

I think a lot depends on what the Rangers need at that point in the offseason and if Zuccarello can bring it in a trade. If the Rangers are desperate for defensive depth, they may not have a choice but to move some of their forwards. However, I believe that they’ve seen the consequences of moving such integral pieces of their team without finding a clear replacement.

Think back to the Derek Stepan trade. Even though the Rangers had a player ready for a promotion up to that position in Mika Zibanejad, they didn’t have that depth down their lineup. And they also lost one of their more vocal leaders in the room, which has been a topic of conversation surrounding the Ryan McDonagh trade. Trading Zuccarello not only takes away from their depth on the wing, but removes yet another leader from the locker room. If he is going to be moved, it has to be at the right price because he is so valuable to the team.

Also, it depends on the other wingers available on the market — will Mike Hoffman be on the move? Max Pacioretty? What about free agents, since they won’t cost teams anything to acquire them? If the market is full of wingers, there may not be as much of a demand, and the return may not meet their expectations. On the other hand, if few skilled wingers are up for trade, more teams may be willing to meet the Rangers’ ask.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at New York Rangers

NHL: Minnesota Wild at New York Rangers

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports


Mike

Shayna and I had a lot of fun researching this one. It’s incredibly rare — especially in recent history — for teams to trade up for the first overall pick. And when they do, it always comes at a hefty price.

Right now we simply don’t know enough. We don’t even know which team has the top pick and what kind of package could convince them to give up a chance to take a player like Dahlin. There are just too many unknowns. With that being said, the Blueshirts should absolutely consider taking a swing at landing him when the picture becomes a little more clear.

Shayna

Speaking of that recent history that Mike spoke of… the only times the first overall pick was traded this century were in 2002 and 2003.

In 2002, the Florida Panthers traded the first overall pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets traded the third overall pick and gave the Panthers the right to swap picks with them in 2003 if they were slotted to draft higher. With the first overall pick, Rick Nash was drafted.

Yet again, in 2003 the Panthers traded the first overall pick (along with a third-round pick this time). The Pittsburgh Penguins subsequently moved up to draft Marc-Andre Fleury. In exchange, the Penguins dealt the third overall pick, a second-round pick, and Mikael Samuelsson.

But it hasn’t happened since. Alex Ovechkin went first overall in 2004, Sidney Crosby in 2005, Patrick Kane in 2007, Steven Stamkos in 2008, John Tavares in 2009, and Taylor Hall in 2010. Fast forward a few years, Connor McDavid was drafted first overall in 2015 and Auston Matthews in 2016. There’s a reason teams weren’t willing to deal their first overall picks when these players were available: these are franchise players.

Rasmus Dahlin is so highly touted that it’ll be a challenge to pry that first overall pick from anyone — whether or not that drafting team has a need for a defenseman. A player of that caliber is going first overall and it’s so unlikely that he isn’t selected by the team that wins the lottery.

The Rangers could try to move up to the second or third overall picks, to draft someone like Andrei Svechnikov or Filip Kadina. It would still be costly because they’re such skilled forwards, but it’s definitely more plausible for a team to be willing to trade those picks, rather than first overall.


Mike

At surface level Chytil and Andersson don’t appear to be natural fits as linemates. They play very different games. But, you never know, something could develop the more that they play together. One would imagine that Andersson should be able to create time and space for Chytil to work with.

I see Chytil making the NHL as a winger who could transition into playing center. I’ve felt this way all year long. We tend to forget just how young he is and how raw some aspects of his game are. Make no mistake: Chytil is sensationally talented, but he needs to work on his 200 foot game and his decision making (just like every other young forward prospect).

It’s also important to note that if Chytil fails to establish himself as a center in the professional ranks it does not make him any less exciting.

Shayna

I would think Gorton’s more concerned with whether Andersson or Chytil could actually make this team next season and if it would facilitate their development. I think knowing two players have chemistry is important, but it’s more important to see if either can handle playing at the NHL level on their own before considering whether or not they should play together.

Also, I think it depends how Gorton wants them deployed and where there are openings. Gorton may prefer both of them to play at center at the NHL level before transitioning either to wing, or may feel that one should be at wing and another at center. It also depends on what positions are available.