There it is, Rangers fans. The end of the Rick Nash era coincides with the start of a rebuild in NY. Holden was moved for a 3rd & a defender (O’Gara). Grabner for a 2nd and a defender (Igor Rykov). Jeff Gorton kept the UFA’s moving this morning, sending Nash to the Bruins for a 2018 first, 20 year-old U of Minnesota D prospect Ryan Lindgren, 26 year-old F Ryan Spooner & (assumedly just the contract of) Matt Beleskey. Rangers will eat half of Nash’s salary for the year while Boston will eat half of Beleskey’s remaining 2 years at $3.8M per. It’s not the top-flight prospect like some of the names being kicked around in the rumor mill/fantasy land, but this is a very solid return for the Blueshirts.
First, for a team looking for a quick rebuild they’re surely looking to stock up at the upcoming draft. The Rangers now have two picks in each of the first three rounds – and they might not be done (McDonagh?). They also landed blueline prospect Ryan Lindgren. All scouting reports project him to have an exceptional defensive-first mind. He plays strong, loves puck battles in front of the net & around the boards, has a powerful stride and excellent anticipation in his own zone. He doesn’t make mistakes, has a high compete level and plays with an edge. Lindgren doesn’t get the hype others get because he’s yet to show the ability to contribute much offensively, but the Blueshirts need a guy in their top 4 who is mobile, defensively responsible and tough. Lindgren’s makeup is exactly that. He’s in his sophomore year as captain of the Gophers and I’m not sure if he’s gonna stay there for another year or not. I’d guess he will.
Ryan Spooner is a great addition for a team looking to improve up the middle. He’s versatile, having played C & W in Boston. He’s produced offensively for a couple years already and has racked up 25 points in just 39 games this season. Very good playmaker, excellent PP skills. The Bruins let him go simply because there is no room for him in their top-9 with Nash in town – but he’s a legitimate talent. He’s an upcoming RFA and I assume the Rangers intend to re-sign him, but he’s got value if for some reason they decide to flip him like any of their other current assets.
Matt Beleskey is basically just a contract NY agreed to eat half of so they could get the haul they wanted. I highly doubt he sees any action over the next two years, but if Glass & McLeod can get some run I guess anything is possible. The Rangers will be on the hook for $1.9M the next two seasons if Beleskey dons a Rangers sweater. If they bury him in the AHL like the Bruins have, only about half of that will count against the books. Not terrible by itself, but Girardi’s buyout counts as $3.6M of dead money at the same time.
AS for Nash in Boston, I think he’s a great fit for a win-now team. The onus is no longer on his shoulders. Not everyone with superstar talent is capable of being “the guy” and he won’t have to be on a loaded Bruins squad. Unfortunately, that’s what the Rangers needed. Let’s look back on Nash’s tenure with the Blueshirts.
In his Rangers debut for the lockout-shortened 2012-13, the 28 year-old Nash was as advertised. 21G/21A in 44 games was exactly what NY signed up for – but he disappeared in the playoffs with just a lone goal in 12 contests. Although the Bruins took the second round 4-1, 3 of those losses could’ve gone much differently had their new superstar lit the lamp a couple more times. The following season was derailed after Nash suffered his second concussion within an 8-month window just 3 games in. He bounced back though to pace his squad with 26 goals – only to contribute a mere 3 in 25 postseason tilts. With 3 OT losses in the Cup Final, another couple finishes could’ve made a historical difference for his career & the organization.
2014-15 was unquestionably Nash’s best season on Broadway. His 42G were a career high as he led the Blueshirts to the Presidents’ Trophy. He received league recognition by finishing 7th in the Hart race as well as a handful of Selke votes for his defensive skills. Most importantly, he finally had a respectable playoff stat line. All I’ll remember though from that ECF loss to the Bolts in 7 games were the goose eggs on home ice Games 5 & 7. Nash had 3 goals that series but a pair of them came in garbage time of blowout wins. When NY needed their superstar most coming off his greatest season, he once again left his squad unsatisfied.
His last three seasons were marred by a nose dive in production & a couple injuries that cost him significant time. Apologists were left with neutral/defensive zone play & scoring chances as the last line of defense for Nash. In the end though, his tenure will be defined by mustering just 14 goals in over almost a season’s worth of Rangers playoff games (73). His team’s playoff shortcomings weren’t ALL his fault. Stepan was equally disappointing – although at least he had some big moments. Zucc hasn’t lit it up – although a puck to his skull derailed a huge opportunity to change that. But only one guy was brought in to score the biggest goals under the brightest lights. No excuses. His effort, character, responsibility in all zones & ability to generate scoring chances made him an excellent Ranger. But a lack of clutch scoring, the biggest reason he was acquired, is the biggest reason his tenure here will be remembered as a disappointment.
I also might as well touch on the Grabner deal from Thursday. It was surprising to see the rival Devils be on the receiving end, but the Blueshirts are in no position to pass on what was assumedly the best offer. My initial thought was I thought they could do a little better, but a mid-second round pick and a 20 year-old D prospect who’s playing in front of Igor Shestyorkin in the KHL is a pretty solid return. When it comes to draft pick value, there’s not much difference between a very late first-rounder and a mid-second. As far as Igor Rykov, his stock has been on the rise.
His contract with SKA doesn’t end until after next season (same as Shestyorkin) so he’ll have plenty more time to grow his game before a potential move to the NHL. He’s already got the size (6’2″ 200) and has been skating against KHL men since he was 17. Rykov’s reputation is that of a smart, stay-at-home defender (similar to Lindgren). He isn’t a puck-handler but an efficient passer with a heavy game. The Blueshirts have a good amount of smaller, quicker defensive options. If Rykov ends up coming to North America for the 2019-20 season he’ll stand apart from that group as a potential top-4 shutdown talent.