With the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline quickly approaching, GMs across the league are working overtime trying to assess their team’s deadline needs and determine whether or not they’ll be buyers or sellers, come the deadline. For some GM’s the answer is obvious. Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill will be a seller, as will Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney is expected to be a buyer, ditto for St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong.
But what about the teams stuck in the middle… are they buyers or sellers? Should a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs sacrifice future assets to make a move for this postseason? Or what about the Vegas Golden Knights? Are they for real? Another team stuck between buyer and seller are the New York Rangers.
Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is in a tough spot. The team is currently in a playoff spot with a 22-16-5 record, but they have several pending unrestricted free-agents who could fetch a good return on the trade market. Big name forwards like Rick Nash and Michael Grabner could bring back an enticing package of picks and prospects should GM Gorton decide to dangle them in trade talks. Ditto for veteran David Desharnais, at the very least he’s worth a mid-round pick.
So now the question becomes, with the team in such a battle to qualify for the playoffs, can the Rangers afford to lose any of their key players? On the flip side, the Rangers aren’t getting any younger… can they afford NOT to trade their pending UFA’s? Again, it’s a tough situation for Gorton to be in, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he identifies his team as a buyer or a seller at this year’s deadline.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, he believes that Gorton and the Rangers are listening to offers on pending unrestricted free-agents Nash, Grabner and Desharnais. He also mentions that other key players like captain Ryan McDonagh and fan favorite Mats Zuccarello are also generating trade interest.
Whether or not Gorton pulls the trigger on a deal, it’s clear that the Rangers’ Stanley Cup window is closing. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has had a fantastic bounce back season, but he’s 35-years-old and there’s guarantee he’ll be able to fool Father Time for much longer. The Rangers are one of the oldest teams in the NHL and head coach Alain Vigneault’s penchant for playing veterans over youngsters has had a tough impact on the development of the team’s “next generation”. It’s time for players like J.T. Miller, Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes to step up and take over for players like Nash, Zuccarello and Grabner… but are they ready?