For years, the New York Rangers have been one of the NHL’s title contenders, making the playoffs in 11 of 12 seasons since 2005, the first year the league established the salary cap. That postseason stretch includes making the Eastern Conference finals three times with one appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. This season, despite being only three points out of a wild-card spot, the decision has been made, and the Blueshirts are ready to start selling at this year’s trade deadline with the hopes of building a future Stanley Cup contender.
“As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character,” Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton and Team President Glen Sather said in their joint letter to fans Thursday. “This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, it’s never easy.”
Only two New York players have full no-movement clauses: defenseman Marc Staal and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Forwards Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and J.T. Miller are also likely to remain with the team after the purge, forming a new core with the team’s other up-and-coming players: forwards Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil and goaltender Igor Shestyorkin.
Using a blend of traditional metrics (goals, assists, points, ice time and save percentage, if applicable) and advanced stats (shot percentage, expected goals, penalties drawn, etc.) for the 2017-18 season, here are the Rangers trade assets at the Feb. 26 deadline, listed from the most to least valuable.
Ryan McDonagh, D, 28 years old, $4.7 million cap hit through 2018-19
The team’s captain has 26 points in 49 games, skating a team-high 23 minutes 54 seconds per night. Over three of those minutes are spent with the penalty kill and more than two minutes per night are with the power-play unit, making McDonagh one of the more versatile blue-liners in the NHL this season.
And don’t worry too much about his career-low Corsi rate of 46 percent — less than half of the team’s shot attempts are going in their favor with McDonagh on the ice, but the Rangers still outscored opponents 42 to 36 at even strength as of Friday despite starting him in the defensive zone 56 percent of the time.
Mats Zuccarello, F, 30, $4.5 million cap hit through 2018-19
Zuccarello leads the team in assists (30), primary assists (20) and points (38) in addition to helping the team create more high-danger scoring chances — shot attempts in the slot or crease — at even strength than they give up, including a 21 to 16 goal advantage from these opportunities. No player on the team has been on the ice for more high-danger chances on the power play (69) than Zuccarello, either.
Michael Grabner, F, 30, UFA in 2018
Grabner has had two of his most productive campaigns since signing with the Rangers, scoring 27 goals last season and 21 in 53 games in 2017-18. However, take him away from Miller and Zuccarello, his two most frequent linemates at even strength, and the team’s scoring-chance rate drops from 36 to 27 chances per 60 minutes this season. Goal scoring takes a hit as well, dropping from 3.4 to 2.9 per 60 minutes.
|2017-18 Rangers||Scoring chances created per 60 minutes||Goals scored per 60 minutes|
|Grabner without Miller and Zuccarello||26.8||2.9|
Rick Nash, F, 33, UFA in 2018
Considered by some to be one of the best rentals on the trade market, Nash is on a 25-goal pace with a team-leading 96 high-danger chances created in 2017-18. The latter ranks him seventh overall among 160 forwards playing at least 800 minutes this season.
The reason the 33-year-old forward ranks lower than some of his less-productive teammates is due to the price he is expecting to fetch at the deadline and his ability to limit that market to 12 teams due to a limited no-trade clause in his contract.
Nick Holden, D, 30, UFA in 2018
Holden, a left-handed defenseman, spends most of his time on the right side skating with McDonagh, another left-handed blue-liner, and that’s not ideal.
And because he skates tough minutes on the top pair — 62 percent of his even-strength faceoffs occur in the defensive zone, a career high and the first time he is above 60 percent since his debut in 2010-11 — he doesn’t have as much opportunity to put points on the board.
If he is put in an easier situation, he could flourish: When he is skating away from McDonagh at evens this year, the team sees a majority of scoring chance in its favor (51 percent), higher than when he is paired with the team’s star defenseman (46 percent).
David Desharnais, F, 31, UFA in 2018
Desharnais has six goals and 17 assists, eight of those the primary pass leading to the goal. No one is going to confuse him with Connor McDavid, but the fourth-line center could add some depth to a club looking for a dependable bottom-six forward.