The New York Rangers have now dropped 7 of their last 10 games and are currently sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division. What seemed likely to be a breakout season for the Rangers has now shifted into a downward spiral. Although, the Rangers are in last place in their division, they are only 2 points out of the last wild-card slot. They are very much still alive in the 2018 playoff hunt, but with the overtime/shootout-loss point awarded to the losing team during the regular season it makes their climb that much harder. With 26 regular season games left New York should be shopping their older, star players before the February 26 trade deadline.
With Rick Nash set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer the Rangers should deal him before the deadline. This would allow them to trade for a younger goal scorer that they have desperately lacked since the departure of Marion Gaborik back in 2013. If they fail to move Nash before the deadline they risk losing him for nothing this off-season. Another forward they should shop is right-winger, Michael Grabner. Grabner is also set to become an un-restricted free agent this summer and the Rangers should attempt to get younger forward talent in return. Another challenge facing New York is whether or not they want to trade Ryan McDonagh, their franchise defenseman.
With Nash having one of his worse statistical seasons as a pro while on pace for less than 40 points he still has the ability to be a power forward and generate offense. Many teams would easily take a chance on Nash and rent him for a few months with the attempt of making a deep playoff run. Two teams that could use a pure goal scorer heading into the last stretch of the season and into the playoffs would be the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators. St. Louis has a handful of young talent that could benefit the Rangers in the future and they can afford to orchestrate this trade with the short-term goal of winning a Stanley Cup in mind. Nashville has been one of the hottest teams in the NHL as of late and could use a goal scorer like Nash in an attempt to get back to the finals this year.
Grabner is another attractive trading piece the Rangers should use before the deadline. Last season he tallied the second most goals of his career with 27 and could potentially eclipse that mark this year while currently sitting with 21. What makes Grabner an attractive acquisition is his ability to add depth to a playoff hungry team, while also being a phenomenal penalty killer. The Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks have already been in discussions surrounding Grabner, as both teams are on the brink of maintaining a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
While it does not appear that the Rangers are in a state of rebuild quite yet, these next two weeks will give us a sense of direction the franchise is headed in. Should the Rangers trade their best asset and team captain, Ryan McDonagh? Yes, absolutely. While it is extremely difficult to move your captain mid-season the market value for McDonagh is very high. He is an all-star defenseman who can control the power play and would step in on the majority of NHL teams starting defensive pairings. If the Rangers decide to shop McDonagh they would need to get either a top center or top right-handed shot defenseman in return. With other talent on the blue line, such as Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers should ultimately be in search for a top center that can contribute significantly on the offensive end as scoring has been New York’s kryptonite for years.
For a team that has made the post-season in 11 of the last 12 years many questions still loom over the Rangers organization. One sure thing is that they should be big time sellers during these next two weeks. The Rangers should start the rebuilding process by moving veteran talent such as Nash and McDonagh, while acquiring younger players in the process. With Henrik Lundqvist’s window closing on winning a ring in New York and under contract until 2021 when he will be 39 years old, he could also waive his no-movement clause. Does Lundqvist want to end his career as a Ranger, while in the process of a full rebuild, or chase a lifelong dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup? New York should pull the trigger on these deadline deals now and set the franchise up for the future.