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It’s hard to believe, but it’s only two seasons ago that the Rangers were a playoff team. In ’16-’17, the Rangers had 102 points, won a playoff round over the Canadiens, and were bounced by the Ottawa Senators. It feels like it happened in a different lifetime. Maybe because it was just another incarnation of the same, nondescript Rangers team they’d been rolling out for a decade, filled with small, quick forwards who just aren’t THAT good and Hank. Maybe it was because they beat one garbage team in the playoffs and then lost to another. Either way, it doesn’t feel like it was in recent memory.

Credit to Jeff Gorton. Because most teams would have seen a second-round trip as a platform to keep trying to go for it, make some signings or trades, and believe you’re right there. How many have done so? The Habs haven’t even gotten that far and they keep doing it. The Senators did the same, look where they are. We could keep going.

Gorton wasn’t fooled. He had an aging team that had maxed out that was looking at a slow, painful death. Last season didn’t start out well, and that’s all the proof he needed. It’s kind of amazing how he got this past James Dolan, who has watched his basketball team limp around like incomplete roadkill for the better part of 20 years now. Then again, Dolan doesn’t give a shit about the Rangers, so you can do just about anything as the Rangers GM. Still, MSG just completed a complete renovation and you’d think ownership wouldn’t exactly be comfortable with a couple seasons of meaningless product. And yet here we are.

Gorton has done what he can so far. Rick Nash, that playoff dynamo that teams were lusting after at the deadline for reasons they’ll be recounting at the bar in five years when they’re explaining their firing, turned into Ryan Lindgren and a first-round pick as well as a couple pieces. Ryan McDonagh, the biggest bauble Gorton had to flog, turned into two prospects (Libor Hajek and Howden), another 1st round pick for this past draft, and at least a useful player in Vlad Namestnikov. Those two trades along replenished a pretty empty pipeline.

Where Gorton goes from here is a question. Clearly they want to get into Jack Hughes range, but probably have enough players and Henrik Lundqvist from getting that close. Chris Kreider is a player a lot of teams would want at the deadline. Fuck, look what Nash netted and Kreider actually bothers to breathe in the playoffs, and his value is at its peak with another year on his deal after this one. But he’s only 27 and still quite effective, and could be part of the next good Rangers team. Kevin Shattenkirk is signed for another two years at $6.6M and is 29. Right-handed, puck-movers are basically caviar at the deadline. Could he get someone to bite?

Kevin Hayes is in the last year of his contract, and you can always sell some drunk GM on a big player who can at least make a fist of it at center (and be quite drunk himself. All hail Captain Stairwell!). Mats Zucarello also will be a free agent and is 31. He can score. Everyone needs scoring, just like everyone hates birds.

At this point, if you’ve started rebuilding there’s no reason to half-ass it. That’s what their roommate in MSG have been doing, and they’re a national joke. Not that any hockey team could be a national joke, but you get the idea. They’re even timed well, because the Penguins and Capitals won’t be able to do this forever and the Jackets are about to lose their two best players. Three years from now the field could be open for the Rangers.

Good thing Dolan doesn’t care about hockey, huh?

 

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There’s little question that the Vancouver Canucks have been floating in a fowl, still body of water for a few years now. They may be heavily deluded by the playoff appearance of 2015 that they somehow spasmed out of nowhere, but the two seasons after that hasn’t seen them clear 75 points and they’re certainly going to get nowhere near that this season. Anyone with half-decent eyesight and at least five functioning neurons upstairs could see this team needs big changes. It has one player it can build around in Brock Boeser, and maybe a decent piece in Bo Horvat, Troy Stetcher, and Ben Hutton. Maybe. Clearly, there’s a long way to go.

The Canucks had some things that they might have been able to move along for at least additional draft picks, and the more spins at the draft wheel you get the better chance you have of landing something meaningful.

Erik Gudbranson, who uncategorically sucks and that’s not even a phrase, was heading into free agency this summer. Thomas Vanek was another. Alex Edler might be starting to have old man stink, but he’s only got one year after this left on his deal and if the Canucks ate just a touch of his money due, they might have been able to convince some idiot that he can be a puck-moving bum-slayer. Chris Tanev has two more years after this one, and would have been harder to move, but given that he’s 28 and can actually still play, that might have been worth kicking the tires on too. And kicking this season into the can as hard as possible raises the odds of Rasmus Dahlin landing in town, which is a real start. Hell, maybe even flogging Lisa Ann’s favorite defenseman Michael Del Zotto would have been worth inspection.

The Canucks did… none of this.

They only made two trades. One was of Philip Holm, a young d-man who couldn’t crack their lineup, to Vegas for reclamation project Brendan Leipsic. Like, ok, maybe the Canucks can get Leipsic to the heights of a third line player. So…fine. And they did move Thomas Vanek…

…for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte.

HUH?!

The Canucks tried to claim that there was no picks available for Vanek. But he got a third round pick at the deadline just last year. Surely a lower pick could have been had. And what the fuck are the Canucks going to do with Jokinen and Motte other than have other jerseys to make? Jokinen will play for all 31 NHL teams by 2020 at this ace, and Fifth Feather called Tyler Motte an ECHL all-star upon one viewing of him in preseason. Are they really selling that a player on his third organization by 24 is going to be a piece?

Not only that, they re-signed Gudbranson for another four years. He’s a big, dumb d-man in a league that’s getting smaller and faster. This deal is going to look awful…well, now. They didn’t move Edler, who is only going to lose value now, and they didn’t move Tanev. Tanev still has use but will he at 31 or 32 when the Canucks are good again? Assuming they do everything right, which they won’t.

The Canucks will spend $23.2 million next year on Gudbranson, Brandon Sutter, Sam Gagner, Loui Eriksson, and Bo Horvat. Only Horvat isn’t a synonym for “millstone” at the moment, and only just barely away from that. And remember, they might not get to 65 points this year.

Sure, Adam Gaudette and Kole Lind are in the pipeline already. But look at how much more the Nucks need? This was a whiff.

 

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