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How New York Went from Riches to Rags and Back Again

An Original Six franchise, founded in 1926. 94 Years this franchise has been around, but only four Stanley cups (three of them prior to 1940), two conference championships, three presidents trophies and seven division championships. Yet, the franchise is worth 1.65 billion dollars according to Forbes. The question is how is that possible? A franchise that has been longing for success since the beginning with minimal results to show for it in one of the longest time periods. The answer is simple, Broadway always goes big and needs big stars. This isn’t going to be an article tracing back to the beginning of the franchise, but I will translate this into a more modern time.

Think New York, the Big Apple. Broadway, the city that never sleeps. People move to New York to make their dreams come true. Big city, big exposure, and you think of how many actors, athletes, artists, and just flat out successful people live in New York. - there’s a lot. With the Rangers franchise playing in one of the most historic buildings in the world, Madison Square Garden, you want to be able to live up to the city’s expectations, give something to the fans they want to see. In 1996, the Rangers signed Wayne Gretzky, reuniting him with Mark Messier. Want to know why? Think back to the four Stanley cups they won together between 1984-1988; four cups in five years isn’t too shabby. But that’s what the city wanted, that’s what the city deemed as entertaining. Imagine the two legends sharing the ice. Just like any sports organization with found success, there comes a bigger following: but in New York, it's different. You need both the stars and the success.

This organization, since the 2013-14 season, has had so much turnover it's hard to keep track. Since the 2013-14 season, they currently only have four players remaining from that roster: Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, Marc Staal, and face of the franchise Henrik Lundqvist. Everyone else, gone. While reading this, you think, 'how is it that an organization with such a star-studded line-up year in and year out, and were seemingly buyers at each trade deadline, fell off the map?' Simple, because of the stars.

In hockey, draft picks are referred to as magical beans - you don’t know if a player will grow and develop or not - and they are exchanged more often than not in hopes of growing these drafted players. But the thing is, whether it is the rights to the pick or the player drafted, it's still an asset for the organization. However in my opinion, since 2009, and maybe even before the Rangers mismanaged so many assets, they put themselves in a downward spiral. From 2009 until 2017 they only had four first round picks. Only one currently plays on the roster (Kreider). Until 2017, picks were being given away by the Rangers in an attempt to bring in big stars to make playoff pushes. The question is, what were the long term costs of these trades?

First round pick in 2013 (Traded to Columbus in Rick Nash Trade) – July 23rd, 2012

  • Draft pick: Kirby Rychel (19th overall)

Analysis: Kirby Rychel is not an NHL level talent. As much as this does not aid my argument, it doesn’t mean that things could not be different in another system. Rychel, sitting at 6’1, 212 pounds and who absolutely tore up his final year of junior putting up 89 points in 58 games, would have been a force if his development was handled differently.

First round pick in 2014 (Traded to Tampa in Martin St. Louis Trade) – March 5th, 2014

  • Draft pick: Jared McCann (24th overall)

Analysis: The pick that the Tampa Bay Lightning received was later flipped to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Jason Garrison. With this pick, the Canucks selected Jared McCann. A speedy two-way forward, McCann has played for Vancouver, Florida and is now in Pittsburgh. He is not a top line player, but his two-way game is definitely a strong suit for any team making a playoff push. His dynamic skating and skill set along with a strong sense for the game would have made him a great addition to the Rangers line up.

First round pick in 2015: (Traded to Tampa in Martin St. Louis Trade) – March 5th, 2014

  • Draft Pick: Anthony Beauvillier (28th overall)

Analysis: Tampa owned the 28th overall pick in 2015 as a conditional second which later turned into a first by the conditions on the pick being met. Tampa then traded down in the draft and traded this pick to the New York Islanders, where they selected Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier, only 22 years old, already has four years of NHL experience. He has become an integral part of the New York Islanders line up. He would have been a great dynamic add for the Rangers on the left wing.

First round pick in 2016: (Traded to Arizona in Keith Yandle Trade)

  • Draft Pick: Jacob Chychyrun (16th Overall) / Dennis Cholowski (20th overall)

Analysis: With this pick the Arizona Coyotes had the 20th overall pick from the Rangers. On draft day they made a trade with the Detroit Red Wings where they moved up from pick 20 to pick 16. At 16th overall, the Coyotes selected Jacob Chychyrun, and at 20th overall the Red Wings selected Dennis Cholowski. Chychyrun is looking like he will be a top pairing defenceman for years to come. Cholowski is just in his second year of professional hockey and has split time between the Red Wings and their AHL affiliate Grand Rapids, but it looks as if he will be sliding into Detroit’s top four for years to come as well. Either one of these defence prospects would have had a great impact for the Rangers.

Now you may be thinking 'these prospects and younger players are not stars or big name players, so why does it matter'? It’s because these assets and these players would help move the Rangers into continued success for the future. Instead, the organization banked on bringing in the big stars, to fit the big stage. Along the way they also made significant moves for Ryan Clowe and Erik Staal (trading three assets each). All these trades made it seem as if New York was just handing them out at times, which is a mismanagement of assets. Former New York Rangers General Manager Glen Slather, between the years of 2000-2015, was not one to stockpile assets, but was more focused on making these big splashes to bring in big-name players. But that’s not always what it takes to win, because in doing so, he seriously hurt the Rangers' future. Overpaying for players at the deadline or trying to sign big free agents never panned out.

  • Think Brad Richard’s nine year 60-million-dollar deal.

  • Think Scott Gomez’s seven year 51.5-million-dollar deal.

  • Think Bobby Holik’s five year 45-million-dollar deal.

  • Think Wade Redden’s six year 39-million-dollar deal.

One thing we’ve learned in New York, big names don't fix your problems.

The Rangers, since being in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, have seen them getting worse each and every year. Now there are perks to being bad - you have good young players in your organization from drafting… oh wait. Your organization will get higher picks when you’re bad… oh wait. Yeah sorry you don’t have those. It wasn’t until 2015 when Glen Slather stepped aside that the Rangers New GM Jeff Gorton saw this problem and addressed it. He saw that the core had reached its peak already and he saw the depleted assets the organization needed. There was nothing Gorton could do in his first few years except let the core play out its time and see if anything sparked - it didn’t. It was time for change. Gorton became GM on July 1st, 2015, however, he helped start the rebuild on draft night as he served as Assistant General manager to Slather. They made two trades, moving Cam Talbot to Edmonton and Carl Hagelin to Anaheim. He slowly over time made trades to shake up the core but not just for draft picks, for assets to help the team now and in the future. Trading players like Derek Brassard and receiving Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick. Trading Derek Stepan and Aanti Rantaa for Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round pick. Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, captain Ryan McDonagh, JT Miller, Matts Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes all players Gorton ended up trading to replenish the youth and assets for the Rangers organization.

He gained asset after asset, and the one thing he did properly was not trade the necessary picks or young drafted players away that were needed for long term success. Gorton has done an amazing job at stockpiling young players.

Through the draft:

  • 2017 NHL Entry Draft – Lias Andersson (7th overall)

  • 2017 NHL Entry Draft – Filip Chytil (21st overall)

  • 2018 NHL Entry Draft – Vitali Kravtsov (9th overall)

  • 2018 NHL Entry Draft – K’Andre Miller (22nd overall)

  • 2019 NHL Entry Draft- Kappo Kakko (2nd overall)

Through trade:

  • Ryan Strome

  • Brett Howden

  • Mika Zibanajad

  • Anthony DeAngelo

  • Adam Fox

  • Jacob Trouba

All these players are young and create a new core that will be able to last a long time. They have a young tandem in net of Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shestyorkin with King Henrik guiding them along the way. Now, New York has their pieces in place. All that was missing was their star. Enter Artemi Panarin. The flash, the skill, the goal scoring ability, play making ability, and the speed. Boy is he captivating to watch, and you know the Rangers thought so too. The perks of having a very young team is having a lot of money to spend. Now instead of dishing out to older aging players as the Rangers had done in the past, they invested in a younger star. Panarin, only 28 years old, fit the Rangers' age range and dynamism to a tee. It is hard to resist. Panarin signed a massive deal (not the first one the Rangers handed out) at seven years paying him 81.5 million (roughly $11.642m per season). This made Panarin the second highest paid player in the league, trailing only Connor McDavid’s 12.5 million per season. With Gorton making all these moves, shipping out all but four players, with yet another big-name free agent splash, would it all work out? Before the season ended, the Rangers were sitting two points out of a Wild Card spot. Second year coach David Quinn had success in properly adjusting and utilizing the highly touted 2019 free agent (and now highest paid Ranger) in Panarin as he sat tied for third in league scoring. He unlocked a new level of Zibanejad most did not think was possible. Gorton was able to create a new and relatively younger defence core in Trouba, Fox and DeAngelo. Strome FINALLY played up to his 5th overall status. The Rangers offence saw a large boost. All the players coming together and having a great season brought their power play up to fourth best in the league, converting on 22.9% of their opportunities.

Quinn and Gorton may not have had the best team, the best players, or the best record, but from what he was given to what the team has shown, there is clearly something here. The Rangers have assembled a good young core, prospects in the system, and picks at their disposal for years to come. This gives hope. This gives promise to a brighter future for such a historic franchise. Although they only have four cups in 94 years, this team now more than ever is looking to the future. The overall lesson is, it doesn’t matter about having the most money, or getting all the big names players. It’s about the environment. Playing at Madison Square Garden in front of the long-time Ranger fans. But most importantly, giving people hope that one day, and one day soon, this young core will get the New York Rangers franchise their 5th Stanley Cup.


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