(Photo credit: Robert Kowal)
End of an era
It's time to pour one out for the New York Rangers.
Losers of eight of their last 12 games and sitting in last place in the Metropolitan, New York finds themselves in a position they haven't been in since the 2009-10 season: outside of the playoffs.
While the team is only two points out of a playoff spot as of writing, it feels like this is a group that doesn't have what it takes to make a run to the postseason, let alone the Stanley Cup. And it appears management feels the same way.
It's a sign that the end of a window that saw New York fail to win a Stanley Cup and only make it to the final once in 2014 is here.
It had been rumored for a while that the Rangers could decide to, for a lack of a better phrase, blow things up before the February 26 NHL Trade Deadline in an effort to start a small rebuild for the organization.
As Larry Brooks of the New York Post put it, it would be to "refresh and replenish" the cabinets in the locker room. But what would an actual refresh look like? Based on a report from TSN's Bob McKenzie on Monday, that refresh starts with the potential unloading of winger Rick Nash.
Nash was asked by the team to submit his no-trade list which includes 18 teams he can't be traded to unless he were to waive his clause. Should he not waive — which is likely — the Rangers have 12 teams that Nash would be willing to go to, and one would assume that those 12 teams are those in current playoff position.
A pending UFA, the 33-year-old forward comes with a cap hit of $7.8 million. He may be getting up there in age, but the former All Star can still provide help to a team looking to add not only more scoring, but a big-bodied player. Aside from Buffalo's Evander Kane, Nash could be poised to be the most sought-after rental player in the league especially if the Rangers were to cover the max 50% of Nash's cap hit.
In addition to Nash, there are rumblings that the team could look to unload long-time Rangers Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello, both of whom are set to become free agents after the 2018-19 season. With Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk and Mike Zibanejad under long-term deals, it's hard to see New York shelling out more long deals for players that are a big part the teams that just weren't good enough to get the job done.
Then it comes to the face of the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist.
At 35 years old, Lundqvist is getting close to the end of his career, and one has to question if it will end with the only organization he's ever known.
Under contract with an $8.5-million cap hit until 2021, Lundqvist holds a full no-movement clause. If this quick replenish general manager Jeff Gorton is planning doesn't work out the way he and head coach Alain Vigneault hope, then it's possible Lundqvist becomes the last core player to waive his clause to facilitate a move to a contending organization.
Should that happen, not only would it be the end of an era for the Rangers franchise, but you could see the organization return to the same form it saw in the late 1990s and early 2000s where the team missed the playoffs seven straight years before the turnaround began.
There's still time to make things right in the Big Apple, but if things don't happen soon, fans could be staring at some dark times ahead.