The New York Rangers should continue cleaning house this summer

Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Several New York Rangers players are entering their contract year this summer. General manager Jeff Gorton must continue rebuilding the roster by dealing some of them.

Last March New York Rangers management sent a letter to their fans, saying they were going to rebuild, in order to build a stronger team a few years down the line. At the 2018 deadline, the Blueshirts traded away Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, and J.T. Miller. This time around, in 2019, they moved out Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and Adam McQuaid.

Over the summer, several players will be entering the final year of their respective contracts. Once again New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton can make another purge to acquire draft picks and younger talents.

Who is left

We start with two players who aren’t going anywhere. Center Mika Zibanejad is tied up through the 2021-22 season. Additionally, defenseman Brady Skjei is signed through 2023-24. Consider them the next wave of team leadership.

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Four veteran forwards on the roster have contracts that expire at the end of 2019-20.

Jesper Fast – A fan favorite, Fast is a third liner on most NHL teams. Unless a need for that type of player arises, he’s not bringing back a huge return. I expect him to be re-signed and part of the locker room leadership for the next few seasons.

Jimmy Vesey, and Vladislav Namestnikov – They are both young and both middle six players. In both cases, beauty will be in the eyes of the buyer.

Chris Kreider – He does so many good things, though few stand out. I think he should be re-signed, but how committed will Kreider be to a rebuilding project that will put him a few years away from legitimate playoff contention? Gorton needs to get an extension done before the draft.

If the GM can’t, he has to make a deal over the summer, provided there is good value to bring back. It would be unfortunate for Kreider to play with the same uncertainty next season as Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes did this one.

Two more players will be restricted free agents at the end of 2019-20

Ryan Strome – It’s hard to believe the Rangers would offer him a contract worth much more than the $3.1M per season he makes now. Strome, as with his NHL career, has mixed flashes of brilliance with stretches of inconsistency, since his arrival in New York. The right extension makes him eligible for the expansion draft. Gorton has an interesting dilemma here.

Cristoval “Boo” Nieves – The ultimate depth guy, he’s the kind of hard working character player coaches love. Nieves probably gets a two-year, one-way contract extension and will be made available for Seattle.

Others to shed

Gorton has three defensemen he’d love to find takers for. Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.5M AAV), Marc Staal ($5.7M AAV), and Brendan Smith ($4.3M AAV) are all signed through 2020-21. The sooner these three are gone, the sooner the team can move on. The Blueshirts will need to keep at least one of them on the roster, to make available for the draft, in order to comply with the minimum requirements.

Timing is everything

There are two timing issues involved with trading 2019-20 walk year players. The first is when to trade. The weeks leading up to the NHL draft have been busier in recent years than at the trade deadline. Teams have realized its just as important to get off to a good start as it is to make a playoff run. Thats why they are willing to deal over the summer.

A second timing issue has to do with the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft. All first and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt. That will cover all the draft picks between 2018 – 2020. An important consideration for a team on the rebuild. It’s one reason why you won’t see them in any hurry to get Vitaly Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, or Nils Lundkvist in a Rangers game any time soon.

Next. Saying goodbye to Zuccarello and Hayes. dark

It will be a busy offseason for the New York Rangers front office.