The NHL’s mandatory bye week did not treat the New York Rangers so well.
In their two games back from a five-day break, the Blueshirts have gotten stomped by two divisional rivals. First, it was a 7-2 thrashing at home at the hands of the New York Islanders before going to Pittsburgh and dropping a 5-2 decision to the Penguins.
The Islanders have owned the Rangers as of late, but an embarrassing home result like that should have given the team plenty of motivation to come out and fly against the Penguins on Sunday night. Instead, the Rangers looked unmotivated, lifeless as they were outshot 47-28 against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Despite still holding the last Wild Card spot in a packed Eastern Conference, the Rangers’ recent run of form makes falling out of playoff contention just a matter of time. In their last 10, New York has lost seven while being outscored 31-20.
An offense that has struggled to capitalize on scoring chances paired with a defense leaving Henrik Lundqvist out to dry has made it clear that this team can’t compete in the Metropolitan Division or the Eastern Conference with the current formula they have. With the NHL’s trade deadline coming on Feb. 26, the Rangers might be sellers this time around.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Rangers could be preparing to take calls and start listening to trade offers on players up and down the roster, regardless of contract status.
The obvious name that first comes to mind in a potential deal is left winger Rick Nash, whose contract expires at the end of this season with little progress made between him and the Rangers about an extension or new deal. As he continues to age in his age 33 season, Nash’s role on the team and his numbers continue to diminish as he has just 18 points through 44 games while averaging just 16:59 of time on ice.
New York also has Michael Grabner and David Desharnais with expiring contracts that could be dealt before the deadline.
Friedman noted though that there are some players with some time left on their respective deals that the Rangers could consider hearing offers for including captain Ryan McDonagh and fan favorite Mats Zuccarello. He was quick to add though that there is “no guarantee they do it.”
McDonagh, who has been a steady presence on New York’s blueline since 2010, and Zuccarello, who has led the team in points in each of the past two seasons, are signed through next season.