Grading Rangers’ Offseason so Far

The New York Rangers have had an offseason that will be remembered for a long time to come. With the organization’s rebuild now in it’s second summer, general manager Jeff Gorton decided to rapidly accelerate the retooling of their young roster.

With this said, it is not known yet just how much of an impact any of these moves will have on the Rangers’ play next season until it commences. But if the Rangers do succeed next season, whether that means reaching the postseason or not, it will be in large part due to the moves made in the past couple months.

Offseason Trades

The Rangers have acquired a handful of players that will quickly help advance the team to the next phase of the rebuild. The first of these trades was on April 30 when they acquired the rights to stellar defensive prospect Adam Fox from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Fox is a skilled right-handed defenseman, a specimen hard to find in the NHL sometimes. He likely won’t be rushed into the lineup, but should prove to be a quality acquisition. Fox has top-four potential and has offensive skills unparalleled by most his age.

The jury is obviously still out on Fox as an NHL defenseman, but I don’t have any doubt that he will quickly develop into a quality player.

The Rangers made another trade on June 17, acquiring Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets’ return was a first round pick in the draft (the one they had sent to New York at the trade deadline) and defenseman Neal Pionk. The general consensus following that trade was that the Rangers got the better deal.

Jacob Trouba Winnipeg Jets
New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports)

Trouba is a talented puck-moving right-handed defenseman who is likely going to quarterback the first powerplay unit. The Rangers have been searching for this kind of player for a very long time and finally have him.

Trouba is only 25 years old, which means that his best hockey may be ahead of him. If that is the case, then the Rangers will have made a fantastic trade. Trouba will start the season paired with Brady Skjei, the talented smooth skating lefty.

Rangers’ 2019 Draft Picks

Possibly the biggest move made by the Rangers this summer was the drafting of Finnish superstar Kaapo Kakko at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Kakko is an elusive, big-bodied winger who can score or set up teammates with equal ease. He has been called today’s version of the great Jaromir Jagr.

The Rangers selected Kakko second overall. They had not selected that high in a draft since selecting Brad Park in that same spot in 1966.

Kappo Kakko Rangers Draft
Kappo Kakko, New York Rangers, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kakko is going to play for New York immediately, likely on the right wing next to Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. This combination is one that could some day be one the of leagues most dangerous lines.

Signings & Entry-Level Contracts

Two days after acquiring him, the Rangers inked Fox to an entry level contract. There was not any question that this would occur after his acquisition, but it took a couple days to get the deal done.

One day after signing Fox, the Rangers signed a couple of their coveted Russian prospects, Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin. Kravtsov has first line potential and could someday become a 70-plus point scorer. Shesterkin is a prized goalie prospect expected to be the successor to Henrik Lundqvist.

A couple weeks after that, the Rangers signed another one of their Russian prospects, Yegor Rykov. He was part of the return from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Michael Grabner several years ago. Rykov is a solid two-way defender who could easily slot in on the Rangers third defense pairing if he is to beat out fellow prospect Libor Hajek.

And then there’s the big one. With days and weeks of speculation prior, July 1 finally rolled around. Despite many rumors claiming the the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders were the favorites, the Rangers were able to land Panarin, an elite scoring winger.

Columbus Blue Jackets' Artemi Panarin Washington Capitals' Matt Niskanen
Rangers forward Artemi Panarin (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Jay LaPrete)

Panarin instantly becomes the Rangers’ best forward. That is until Kakko takes that title, if he ever does. The Blueshirts haven’t had a player as efficient and effective since Mark Messier. If all goes well, Panarin will bring the entire Rangers offense to a new level.

Overall Grade: A+

It’s difficult to imagine a way to classify the Rangers offseason so far as anything less than perfect. They signed their best prospects, acquired one of the top prospects in the league and a defenseman who will now be their top guy on the back end, drafted a player expected to be a generational talent, and signed the top free agent available and one of the best forwards in the league.

Gorton and President John Davidson have done a stellar job steering the ship this summer and they’re not even close to being finished. Within just under a year and a half, the Rangers have torn apart their team and built a new one. With the snap of a finger.