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Regarding the Rangers, the first non-playoff team in NHL history to produce a Norris Trophy winner:
1. Of course Phillip Danault would look mighty good wearing the Blueshirt next season, so would Blake Coleman and so would Barclay Goodrow. There is not much question about that.
The three impending free agents currently playing in the final — Danault for Montreal, Coleman and Goodrow for Tampa Bay — would all bolster the grit and grind ingredients that the Rangers lack. They would all fit.
But GM Chris Drury will have to clear out space to add any one of them. I’m not talking about cap space. I’m referring to space in the lineup that does not currently exist. Where are these hypothetical additions going, where are they playing, whose spot would be taken?
That is the curiosity with the Rangers. Here’s a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in four years and there are no openings. I guess it’s because of all the prospects needing to play, but it’s kind of a comical situation.
The team needs to bulk up and reinvent itself under incoming coach Gerard Gallant, but it won’t be possible unless and until Drury does a similar kind of housecleaning with the playing personnel as he has affected with the front office.
I left out Zach Hyman as a pending free agent who would make an impact with the Rangers even though he could and should be a prime candidate under alternate circumstances. Do you know why?
Because he is a left wing, that’s why. It doesn’t matter who the left wing is and what qualities he would add, there is no room for him on a team that lines up with Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere on that side. What’s that you say? By bumping one to the right?
OK, then pretty much forget about Vitali Kravtsov having a top-nine spot with incumbents Pavel Buchnevich and Kaapo Kakko in place and in line for top-six roles. Plus, is anyone clamoring for a rerun of Lafreniere or Kreider on the wrong side?
Danault as third-line center? Fine by me if the contract makes sense, but what happens to Filip Chytil? Or you’re just figuring that the Czech will be gone before he celebrates his 22nd birthday in early September?
And now explain to me where there is an opening for Morgan Barron unless it is on the fourth line, either in the middle or on the wing.
Yes, Gallant said in his introductory press briefing last week that he is not a fan of playing kids on the fourth line, as if any coach is. But where is there a spot for Barron in the top nine?
Drury needs to be in the import and export business, just like Art Vandelay. The GM won’t be able to add players without subtracting. And that is why two-for-one’s or three-for-one’s makes sense for the Rangers. Because they cannot address their deficiencies without moving out incumbents.
2. Baseball front offices figured this out maybe 15 years ago. When a player with a large contract is traded, the money factors into the return. Or it most certainly should. That’s why it would be insane for any team to meet Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams’ outlandish demands in return for Jack Eichel.
Taking the annual $10 million hit for the next five years in a flat cap era constitutes an element of the trade. If Buffalo is willing to eat 50 percent of it, then the return would become more expensive. For $10 million a year, maybe one high-quality roster player, a prospect and a No. 1. For $5 million, another asset would be added to the mix.
3. I am not arguing or suggesting that David Quinn should have been brought back for a fourth year behind the bench. There would have been too much baggage to carry forward into next season. A new voice was needed.
But the remarkable ascension of Adam Fox from a guy competing for a roster spot as a rookie in 2019-20 to being selected the league’s best defenseman for 2020-21 as a sophomore should be a reminder that players did develop and improve playing for Quinn.
Those who proclaim that Fox was a finished product when he arrived are spouting nonsense. They are ignorant, willfully so or not.
Quinn constructed the Ryan Lindgren-Fox pair. Both improved. Both thrived under increased responsibility. Pavel Buchnevich improved under Quinn. Mika Zibanejad had the best year of his career playing for Quinn. So did Panarin. So did Ryan Strome. K’Andre Miller made the all-rookie team playing for Quinn.
That is worth remembering.
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