It’s no secret that the New York Rangers have been less than spectacular this season. However, today marked an unexpected milestone in the franchise’s struggles. President Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton released a letter this morning addressing all Rangers fans and the future of their beloved Blueshirts.
New York Rangers GM and President Indicate the Rebuild Begins Now
In the publicly released letter, Sather and Gorton address the team’s many successes since 2005-06 while noting that their ultimate goal is yet to be reached. Bringing a Stanley Cup back to New York City.
“We will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character,” Sather and Gorton said in a release about the deadline. “This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect.”
“… Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we are building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.”
The letter accompanied a press conference, broadcast on Facebook Live, where they announced they were placing defenseman Brendan Smith on waivers. Smith joined the Rangers from the Detroit Red Wings mid-season in 2016-17. This off-season, the Rangers signed him to a four-year $17.4 million contract in the off-season. Neal Pionk from the Hartford Wolf Pack will replace Smith for the time being.
There is a lot of conjecture about what this letter means for the future of the franchise, especially when it comes to the veterans on the roster. One hint some fans have called out is the mention of 2005-06, the season Henrik Lundqvist joined the organization. Lundqvist is the face of the Rangers, there’s no question about that. The Swedish great continues to give everything he has to the Rangers organization. Unfortunately for him, the blueliners in front of him have never been consistent. Additionally, he has three years left on a massive contract with a cap hit of $8.5 million per year. If the organization is looking for a facelift, it’s a safe assumption that Lundqvist could be on the chopping block.
Another player in question is Ryan McDonagh. The captain has had a very poor year with the Blueshirts. He has tallied only two goals at the 49 game mark, both scored in against San Jose on January 25th. McDonagh’s character has also not exemplified the gritty Rangers spirit. The fact that the letter mentions finding new players with “character” hints that the captain may be one of the familiar faces to go. Leadership in the room is extremely important in times of strife. The fact that the Rangers haven’t been able to come out of this slump speaks volumes about everyone in the room, but the captain needs to get a second look.
Rick Nash submitted his no-trade list to the Rangers earlier this week at the Rangers request. A clear sign that the organization is looking to remove his cap hit as well. One good sign is that he has been a scoring machine as of late. Nash tallied six goals in January, including the lone goal in the Rangers 6-1 demolishment against the Boston Bruins last night. With this trade value getting higher, the Rangers could get a great turnaround from dealing Nash. Of the teams he’s reportedly okay with being traded to, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators are presumably top candidates.
Mats Zuccarello could also be a valuable trade asset for the Rangers. Zuccarello has been an extremely valuable asset for the Rangers throughout his time in New York. One is reminded of his devastating brain injury in 2014-15. After being hit in the head, suffering a fractured skull and temporarily losing his ability to speak, Zuccarello came back the next season better than ever. He earned the honorable Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in 2016-17 for his strength and perseverance in the face of danger and uncertainty. The award is named after the heroic NYPD officer Steven McDonald, a lifelong Rangers fan. Unfortunately for Zuccarello, recent roster moves of Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard were tough blows. Those trades took valuable chemistry, and friendships, away from the dynamic Norwegian. He earned his 300th career point on February 3rd against the Predators.
No matter what changes are made by the deadline, the Rangers we know are coming to an end.