While many were expecting the New York Rangers to be aggressive in trades leading into the 2018 NHL Draft, the team stayed put at No. 9 while taking Vitali Kravtsov. The question now is what will happen next.
After a disappointing season that saw the Rangers miss the playoffs for just the second time in 13 years, the team will likely continue a rebuilding process to hopefully get back into contention before too long.
Unfortunately for fans, this is set to mean a quiet stretch in free agency.
According to Darren Dreger of TSN, New York won't go after the big names on the market:
Dan Rosen of NHL.com added that Rick Nash isn't a top target even though the team won't rule it out.
The problem isn't a lack of money as the Rangers have plenty of cap space, but instead a more conservative strategy than we usually see from this organization.
General manager Jeff Gorton said he has reached out to Nash, as well as fellow former Rangers Michael Grabner and Nick Holden, although the squad has a specific type of free agent in mind this summer, per Rosen.
"That is the expectation that we are going to provide opportunity for our young kids, but we'd like to add a few guys, some character players that can come in and maybe teach these guys the ropes," Gorton said Monday. "[Players] that have pretty good pedigree, that have done some good things to come here and help us in certain situations."
These players are more likely to choose better situations where they can earn featured roles and possibly contend for a Stanley Cup, which probably isn't part of the Rangers' immediate future.
Not only is the team going to limit its additions in free agency, it will also likely trade several of the quality players currently on the roster.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported before the draft Kevin Hayes was the most likely to be dealt, noting he "has attracted significant interest from around the league."
Although he made it through the draft, he is still on the block thanks to his status as a pending free agent next summer with an asking price of $5.5 million per year, according to Brooks. If the team isn't going to pay him, it might as well trade him while he still has value.
The same strategy could be used for some other restricted free agents.
"Trade rumors have swirled around Hayes, [Ryan] Spooner and [Vladislav] Namestnikov, and the bet here is one of those three will be moved," Jim Cerny of Sporting News wrote.
If a trade doesn't come from a money issue, it could also be a result of a lack of playing time to go around.
Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson—two centers taken in the first round of the 2017 draft—will hope to earn some actual playing time in 2018-19, which means either Hayes or Mika Zibanejad might be traded to create room on the top three lines, per Brooks.
With the team going through a rebuild, it makes sense to get the younger players enough playing time to see what they can do.
Although Zibanejad (27 goals) and Hayes (25 goals) were the Rangers' top two scorers last season, they need to test the market to see what they can get in a trade. Whichever one brings back more value should at least create strong consideration for a deal.
The Rangers are usually the ones going after the top targets in free agency, but fans need to be patient this offseason.