The New York Rangers entered this offseason with fans clamoring change and management intent on bringing it about. Change, so far, has been small but calculated as GM Jeff Gorton hasn’t allowed emotion to cloud his judgement and instead he is ushering in one of the best offseasons for the Rangers in years.
In year’s past, the Rangers would have been expected to go out and make big splashes. However, this year they lost Keith Yandle and only added Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Adam Clendening, Michael Paliotta and Josh Jooris in free agency. Hardly big names but a couple could be very helpful for the Rangers moving forward, especially Gerbe and Grabner. Both should play a significant role on the penalty kill and improve the Rangers’ defense and team speed.
Gorton also traded last year’s leading goal-scorer, Derick Brassard, and a seventh-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for center Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick. Losing Brassard isn’t great but the addition of Zibanejad makes the Rangers younger, bigger, more aggressive and cheaper in the middle. For as good as Brassard was he had massive holes in his game, especially on defense. Zibanejad should give the Rangers more stability on both sides of the puck and allow them to rest Derek Stepan at times against opposing top lines, something they couldn’t do with Brassard given his often lackluster defense.
Rangers’ fans might be upset because there are no major deals coming in but Gorton has handled his cap situation well and added speed and defense, two major issues from last season. He has a calculated plan and is sticking to it and so far, has done a very good job. The Rangers might not be remade in one offseason but it looks like Gorton knows exactly what this team wants and needs and is bringing that to Broadway one piece at a time.
Sure, fans wanted Marc Staal and Dan Girardi gone but Gorton has to deal in reality and not emotional fantasies that fans often deal with. Sure, fans would love to trade Rick Nash and get younger and better but there is nothing out there that represents an upgrade over Nash at this point. Steven Stamkos never made it to the free market so who would Gorton have gotten to add offensive punch to replace the 40-goal potential that Nash represents?
Rome wasn’t built in a day and championships aren’t made overnight. The Rangers might not contend for a Stanley Cup this year but they could be a threat in the playoffs if all the ice shavings fall in place. This is going to take a few years but Gorton is off to a good start and Rangers’ fans should see a more exciting and faster-paced hockey game next season.