The New York Rangers have prospects in recent years in attempts to win the Stanley Cup, without success. Let’s take a look at how those prospects are performing away from New York.
Being a large market team can be trying sometimes; the expectations of a team playing in a large city with a worldwide following are often “Cup or bust”. That mentality can seep into management in a team building perspective, and it can be difficult to hold back on making blockbuster deadline trades.
The New York Rangers have been guilty of this in recent years, sacrificing young future assets for stars on expiring contracts in order to bolster the roster for a Cup run. If it succeeds, the GM looks brilliant, even if the moves are questionable long term.
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The Rangers of today, however, haven’t reached the pinnacle of success that they did in the past, and some of these trades are having repercussions on the team’s ability to succeed in the future. Let’s take a look at the big ones from the past two seasons:
Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a conditional first round pick & a second round pick in exchange for Keith Yandle (50% salary retained), Chris Summers & a fourth round pick
At first glance, this trade seemed like a spectacular move. The Rangers acquire an offensively potent puck moving defenseman, something they desperately needed at the time. The cost at the time was John Moore and a first round pick, as Anthony Duclair had been shipped away to juniors.
The real deciding factor was the Rangers ability to re-sign Yandle once his contract was up. Yandle had a splendid, albeit short, Rangers career in both the regular season and in the playoffs. He became a cap casualty, though. Now, Anthony Duclair, a member of the Arizona Coyotes, seems like a young asset let go way too soon.
Duclair scored 20 goals and 24 assists in 81 games for the Coyotes last season, although he managed to do so taking only 104 shots, leading to a high shooting percentage of 19.0%.
This was cause for concern, as it is considered very unsustainable to shoot at such a rate. Perhaps his shooting percentage last season was an indicator of things to come, as Duclair is currently suffering from a sophomore slump this year, having only scored 3 goals and 4 assists in 33 games.
It is yet to be known if the incredibly talented Duclair will develop into a consistent goal scorer, though whether or not he does matters little; the Rangers lost their chance to develop Duclair, and thus lost a talented young asset with nothing left to show for it.
The first round pick was eventually moved in the Datsyuk contract trade, going to Detroit, and was used to select defenseman Dennis Cholowski in the 2016 NHL Draft. Talented forwards Julien Gauthier & German Rubtsov were selected with the next two picks afterward.
Aleksi Saarela & two second round picks in exchange for Eric Staal (50% salary retained)
This one stings a little more, mostly due to Eric Staal’s short and inglorious Rangers career. He scored 3 goals and 3 assists in 20 regular season games, and then went pointless in a short, crushing series against Pittsburgh.
Even if the Rangers had given up little for Staal, that performance is simply too poor to justify. On top of this, the Staal trade was made during a season that the Rangers chances of winning anything were slim to none.
Aleksi Saarela was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Saarela is a terrific goal scorer with a lightning quick release, and his prowess in that area helped him finish with one of the highest scoring U-20 seasons in Liiga history, netting 20 goals in 51 games for Assat in 2015-16. It was during this season that the trade was made, as his value surely increased with each goal scored.
Carolina was hoping to see a similar season of sorts this year, but Saarela’s goal scoring totals have dropped back a little. On loan with Lukko, he has scored 8 goals in 24 games so far this season. He has been hot recently, with four of those goals coming in his last four games.
Regardless, Saarela has high potential as a goal scoring prospect, and those numbers aren’t too shabby for that league at his age.
At present, we don’t know how Saarela’s abilities will translate to the NHL, as European hockey differs in some ways from North American hockey. Saarela also has a history of injuries, which may play a part in his future development.
Still, the trend of trading youth for playoff additions with no payoff continues to hurt the Rangers future chances to build a winning team.
One of the two second round picks was used in the 2016 Draft: Carolina moved that pick to Chicago in the Teuvo Teravainen trade, and Chicago used that pick to select Artur Kayumov 50th overall. Defenseman Kale Clague and forward Taylor Raddysh were selected shortly after, two players who are currently competing for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship.
While it is tempting for the Rangers to always make the big splash at the deadline, management needs to realize that it is taking an extreme risk doing so.
Whether these prospects develop into NHL players matters not; losing young assets year after year lowers the chances of future success with each trade made. The Rangers need to reel it in for the next few seasons and develop a solid prospect pool, or risk having nothing to build upon going forward.