The 2019 NHL trade deadline is just one week away and several franchises across the league are faced with the difficult decision of either buying or selling their star players.
We saw a number of transactions a season ago, but this year there could be more movement than in years past. With several teams still in contention in both the East and West, look no further than the New York Rangers to generate shock waves again in 2019.
New York is supposed to be in a “rebuilding” stage, but have been doing anything but that in 2018-19. They are 10 points back of a wild card slot and most certainly will not be making the playoffs, but isn’t the whole purpose of a rebuild to sort of tank for the future?
Tanking is generally highlighted by losing games (in regulation) and playing for a lottery pick in the summer. I’m not saying physically go out their and play like garbage, but put a number of young prospects in the lineup and move on from veteran players who have a valuable return. But for the Rangers…Henrik Lundqvist stands in the way of issuing a full on rebuild.
Lundqvist’s numbers might not be eye popping, but if you watch New York on a nightly basis it is easy to tell that he is one of the biggest reasons that the Big Apple cannot tank. Night in and night out the Swedish net minder has been stealing points for his club and it has now put them in an awkward position ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline. His no trade clause has hindered their chances of developing other goalies at the NHL level and prevents them from moving on from their Hall of Fame talent altogether.
During this “rebuild”, Kevin Hayes has emerged as a valuable piece to the Rangers’ puzzle. Although he is currently on a 1-year contract, the Boston native has had his best season as a pro and is nearly averaging a point-per-game (40 in 48 GP). The Rangers could get a lot in a trade for Hayes and have the upper hand based on his current line of work. Winnipeg, Colorado, Vegas and Boston could all be solid trade options, but they risk not being able to re-sign him in the off season once his contract is up.
Team’s who are desperate for the Cup and who feel their window is closing will almost certainly pull off a deal, but should the Rangers even do it? If Hayes is fitting in so well with this roster that consists of some key young players, then they might as well sign him to a long-term deal. I would argue that the blueshirts should try to move Mats Zuccarello before Hayes.
Zuc has been a cornerstone for the franchise and has been a reliable player over his career, but with the direction the franchise is heading in, along with the current core of prospects, they should part ways with the fan favorite. I’m not saying that New York is a player or a few picks away by any means, but if the goal is to somehow end up in the lottery for Jack Hughes, then it is time to “tank” and move on from their most skilled forward.
Mika Zibanejad has demonstrated that he can be a franchise forward and is on an absolute tear in the 2019 calendar year. He has 21 points in his last 14 games and leads the Rangers in points with 57. New York should build around the former Senators 2011 first-round pick and attempt to get a favorable return on Zuccarello.
If a high offer comes in for Hayes or if his asking price is too high, then by all means make the deal, but don’t get pressured by the media to move on from either player if you believe they can help the city compete for a championship in the next few years.