Who are The Rangers’ Most Valuable Trade Assets?

With the Rangers floundering, it’s time to start asking some uncomfortable questions

For the first time since the 2005 lockout, the New York Rangers are a bad hockey team. They lack top-level scoring; their defense, which was thought to have been fixed in the off-season, is still a mess; Henrik Lundqvist looks like father time has caught up to him; and the coach, Alain Vigneault, still hates young players.

With Vigneault’s seat looking like the burning dumpster GIF, it’s time to start asking uncomfortable questions about certain players’ futures. So with that in mind, let’s look at who the Rangers’ best trade assets are.

Rick Nash

Contract status: One-year remaining, $7.8 million cap hit with a modified no-trade clause

2017–18 stats: two goals, one assist, -5 rating, 51.4 CF% (5-on-5)

Nash is the easiest choice due to his rental status. Nash isn’t the 40-goal scorer he was a few years ago, but a contending team looking for a great two-way player in their top-nine can do a lot worse than Nash. His evolution into a 200-foot player has been spectacular. He’s always in good position, and he knows how to use his stick to breakup chances.

He can still use that big body of his to drive to the net, albeit with mixed results.

Depending on the team’s desperation level, Nash could fetch a nice return at the trade deadline if the Rangers play their cards right.

Ryan McDonagh

Contract status: Two years remaining, $4.7 million cap hit with a modified no-trade clause

2017–18 stats: 0 goals, five assists, -1 rating, 54.4 CF% (5-on-5)

McDonagh becomes the most valuable asset on the team if the front office decides to blow it all up. His numbers are solid this year despite playing with a ton of different partners, but he’s struggled with turnovers, including this ghastly one in overtime against the Penguins.

McDonagh’s contract is a bargain, and he’s still a terrific player; just because he’s struggled to start the season—like pretty much every player on the roster—that doesn’t mean he “sucks” like all the fools on Facebook and Twitter say. Vigneault seems to think McDonagh is an elite power-play quarterback, and trots him out there constantly despite poor results. McDonagh would be a great for a team that wants a shutdown defenseman who can play against top competition and add some offense. Again it’s worth restating: trading McDonagh should be a last resort and is literally the worst case scenario for the current team. And if you’re trading him, you best be getting a significant amount in return (roster player, prospect, picks).

Mats Zuccarello

Contract status: Two years remaining, $4.5 million cap hit with no clauses

2017–18 stats: two goals, six assists, -9 rating, 50.5 CF% (5-on-5)

This one hurts the most. Zuccarello is fan favorite who goes balls-to-the-wall every night, but he—again, like most others—has had a nightmare start to the season. He’s been on the ice for a ton of goals against, and while +/- isn’t the best stat, it’s still staggering to see him with a -9 rating. Zuccarello is a great locker room presence as well; keeping him around for a rebuild, if the Rangers decide to go that way, would be great for showing young kids how to be a professional athlete.

His contract is also a bargain, and he adds value to any team he’s on. He’s played on successful teams as a top-line player and as an ancillary piece. While he doesn’t do anything exceptional, there’s nothing he does poorly. A return for him would likely be picks or a really young prospect, but once again, if the Rangers want to blow it up, he immediately becomes a great trade chip.

Chris Kreider

Contract status: Three years remaining, $4.625 million cap hit, no clauses

2017–18 stats: Two goals, three assists, -3 rating, 48.9 CF% (5-on-5)

Kreider is the most divisive player among Rangers’ fans. All the physical tools are there: great shot, transcendent speed, a wicked wrist shot, ridiculous strength. But then there’s the bad: mental errors, horrible penalties, disappearing for games at a time. The concerning thing with Kreider is that he’s not driving possession like he has in years past, and some of that has to be tied to Derek Stepan’s departure. Stepan was great at feeding Kreider those long off-the-boards passes to spring Kreider on breaks. Some, myself included, thought Zuccarello would be the one to replace that, but given the Vigneault’s constant line shuffling, we haven’t seen those two together much.

There’s also Elliotte Friedman reporting that Kreider might be a playeer the Oilers would be interest in. I’m a big believer in “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” so some of this has to be true. Kreider could potentially net the biggest return out of anyone on the roster because the physical tools are too hard to ignore. It’ll be real interesting to monitor his situation if the Rangers continue to suck.

There’s still time for the Rangers to turn this around, but it’s got to change now. Digging yourself in a huge hole early is insurmountable (just ask the Islanders about last season). But if the team’s garbage play continues, changes will be made, and if a rebuild is the new direction, these players are going to be in a ton of rumors.