November 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers left winger Alexis Lavrinier (13) continued the play during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Rangers are good. In fact, they are very good, even with the last hiccup they’ve had 1-2 in their last three games.
Igor Shesterkin and his playing power are two obvious reasons for their 29-14-4 record. Another major factor is their flexibility, which is intangible and difficult to quantify in statistics. However, 10 wins from behind indicates just how difficult the Rangers are this season.
They are currently second in the Metro division with 62 points, but more importantly with 18 points in last place Wild Card. With the playoffs turning into a reality, and 7 weeks before the NHL trade deadline, GM Chris Drury will be rounding up some of the potential big names.
New York Rangers will be active in the trading market
Blueshirts have already been attached to some of the biggest names in the market to date. They have needs, primarily on the right wing of the second line. Nor would it surprise anyone if they gave a play to a defenseman.
I heard they put on a show for the blue striped Jakob Chychrun. They are deeply interested in JT Miller and Tomas Hertl. Other names covered are Reilly Smith, Tyler Toffoli, and Mark Giordano. Now we hear from players like Jake DeBrusk and Conor Garland.
I’m sure there will be more.
But this isn’t about who the Rangers go after, it’s about who they give in to get? Since Drury isn’t looking to add just one rental on March 21st. Of all accounts, there may be two or three players.
With only one first-round pick in his pocket, Drury will have to indulge his group of young players and expectations.
Lafrenière or Kakko trade would be a disaster
When owner James Dolan let John Davidson and Jeff Gorton go, he not only signaled the end of the rebuilding, but ordered that the course of the dispute be speeded up.
“Honestly, we have enough talent now to compete for the Stanley Cup,” Dolan told the newspaper afterwards. “But the other owners and other general managers have been telling me for a year they can’t believe how much talent we have, but talent alone doesn’t. We miss this piece and need it.”
So with Rangers in contention, what will Drury do as a first-time GM with a mandate to win from the man who owns the team. What if a spectacular show featured Alexis Lafrenière or Kaapo Kakko. Will he miss it?
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Canucks are willing to trade both JT Miller and Conor Garland keeping the salary to the Rangers for Lafrenière, Flip Chytil, Nils Lundkvist and a first-round pick. Will Drury die it?
While it could certainly give them a boost in these playoffs, trading Lafrenière or Kakko would be disastrous.
Learn from your past
The odds of going up as the Rangers did in the draft lottery, not once but twice in consecutive years, are astronomical. In 2019, they chose second place to take over Kakko. They then won the grand prize in 2020 for choosing Lafrenière first overall.
Imagine crafting two of the most popular possibilities in their respective draft chapters. Both are only 20 years old with a decade of dominance not too far behind. No wonder other teams have cried out for changes to the lottery system.
Rangers need to learn from their past. This isn’t 1994, when Marc Messier and his company were considered favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Yes, GM Neil Smith went and won it all, but he paid a heavy price. He’s swung for fences for years and staked the franchise’s future for just one trophy. It eventually cost him his job and 8 years of not having hockey on the Rangers.
During the 1992-1993 campaign, they traded a promising young position in Doug Witt for veteran winger Issa Tekanen. And despite having a stacked team, they’re on their ’94 deal deadline ruined their future even more. This time by swapping 23-year-old Tony Amonti for two mills at Stefan Matu and Brian Noonan. There were other youth-sacrificing moves but winning the Stanley Cup 54 years later was well worth it.
However, once all the champagne from Lord Stanley’s greatest hockey gift was gone, there was no hope of winning another. Neil Smith continued to swing (and fail) for another shot at glory by trading players like Peter Nedved and Sergey Zubov for veterans Luc Ropital and Ulf Samuelson.
Sergey Zubov retired his Dallas number the same night Henrik Lundqvist retired in New York if you were wondering how the trade went.
Keep Lafrenière and Kakko
You have plenty of chances to win the Stanley Cup. If the Rangers truly believe they can make it on deadline, then Chris Drury should completely immerse himself in the youth pool and the possibilities to do so.
Given how deep the team is in defense, you’ll probably have to break up with a player like Lundkvist or Zac Jones. If the deal is too good to be missed, Drury could consider splitting with Candre Miller. A move I would oppose for the sake of scoring, because it only removes the surface from how cool it is.
However, Lafrenière and Kakko must remain in the category of untouchables. Both are still only 20 years old.
Lavrinier played his 100th game in the National Hockey League on Sunday and scored the 21st goal of his career. Kakko is currently in IR and has 24 goals in 151 competitions.
However, there have been talks about moving them this season. What would anyone think of trading any of these kids?
Is it because they didn’t get out of the gate like Conor McDavid?
Edmonton was a different team with different circumstances. The Rangers weren’t quite a dead team like the Oilers and they competed for playoff places the two times they won the lottery.
Bottom line, Lafrenière and Kakko are now supportive players at Rangers. As Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad rule today, these two kids will be the pillars of future success after these next few seasons.
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