The New York Rangers left their fans no doubt about plans to rebuild in a letter from ownership explaining the decision Thursday. It’s a bit of an unusual move from a sports franchise to give fans a heads up about upcoming roster decisions, but it seems like the team is hoping to soften the blow from what could be a major fire sale.
Right before the All-Star weekend, it was reported by the New York Post that the Rangers planned to be sellers at the Feb. 26 trade deadline. At the time, the team was within striking distance of the postseason, but the report said ownership wanted to focus on pursuing championships rather than simply squeaking into the playoffs.
Now team president Glen Sather and general manger Jeff Gorton, in a moment of transparency, have made it abundantly clear what’s about to happen. The rebuild is on.
A Message from Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton. pic.twitter.com/Q56CXS8vDc— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 8, 2018
Key players who will be available over the next few weeks include upcoming free agents Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, David Desharnais, and Nick Holden. Bigger pieces that could also be pried free include Mats Zuccarello, Jesper Fast, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Ryan McDonagh. The team already placed Brendan Smith on waivers Thursday, so he’s definitely available, too.
Only two players on New York have full no-movement clauses: defenseman Marc Staal and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. It’s fair to say that the Rangers could land a massive haul for Lundqvist if he was willing to waive his NMC, but he said last week that he’s committed to the team even through a rebuild, so it seems like he’ll be one of the mainstays through whatever Gorton decides to do.
“I made a commitment to this organization a few years back. It was a big decision in my career,” Lundqvist said. “I hope they have the same commitment to me. I guess it would really be up to them if they have another idea, but I don’t. I want to be here.”
The comments leave open the possibility that the Rangers could convince Lundqvist to waive his NMC if they decide that’s the best path for both sides, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll push to be moved even if many of his prominent teammates are shipped out.
A Lundqvist trade would be a major shock wave to New York’s fan base, but the team’s statement Thursday seems designed to prepare fans for whatever happens. There’s no longer any debate over what the team’s short- and long-term ambitions are. The rebuild is happening, and the Rangers hope fans will stay on board.