That sound you just heard was Glen Sather pushing all of the chips into the middle of the table. Realistically, the New York Rangers have about a 15-month window to get the veteran general manager a sixth Stanley Cup following a whopper of a deal to land Keith Yandle.
After falling three wins short of a championship last spring, the Rangers doubled down by parting with 19-year-old prospect Anthony Duclair, 24-year-old defenceman John Moore, a 2015 second-round pick and 2016 first-round pick in Sunday’s blockbuster.
Arizona retained half of Yandle’s salary and threw in defenceman Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth-round pick, but this deal was all about the now for the Rangers.
They are among the top teams in a wide-open Eastern Conference and boast an impressive blue-line following the addition of Yandle, an offensively-minded defenceman. The 28-year-old is under contract for one more season beyond this one, which coincides nicely with a period where the Rangers can expect to contend.
“I think Keith could be the final piece of a Stanley Cup-winning team,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said Sunday on a conference call. “When you look at that defence there and he comes underneath a couple strong defenders in Marc Staal and [Ryan] McDonagh and ‘Wow, that is dynamic.”‘
Sather has emptied the cupboard in pursuit of a championship, trading away two first-round picks to get Marty St. Louis from Tampa last year before unloading another one in the Yandle deal. Duclair was also considered one of the organization’s top prospects.
It’s an understandable push with star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turning 33 on Monday, but there will be consequences down the line.
Within hours of the Yandle deal, the Rangers also traded their own 2016 fourth-round pick to San Jose for forward James Sheppard and sent Lee Stempniak to Winnipeg for minor-leaguer Carl Klingberg.
If we’ve learned anything during the hectic period leading up to Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, it’s that a number of GMs expect the coming playoffs to be even more unpredictable than usual.
How else to explain all of the valuable draft picks changing hands in these deals?
The NHL is without an elite team at the moment. The closest it has to a favourite is Los Angeles and the Kings again find themselves in a late-season battle just to earn a playoff berth.
The biggest beneficiaries in a unique seller’s marketplace will almost certainly be teams parting ways with assets like Yandle. The Coyotes have resisted the temptation to deal him away in the past, but couldn’t say no to a massive return like this one.
“We’ve had many meetings and realized that we need to step back, we need to retool, we need to find more younger assets. It’s the only chance we have to get back to respectability,” said Maloney. “There will be some harder days ahead, but we really look what’s accumulated over the last two days and feel like we’re leaps and bounds from where we were.”
The Coyotes are a long way from a Stanley Cup, but appear well-positioned to rebuild the right way. Duclair joins world junior linemate Max Domi in the organization’s prospect pool and the Coyotes now boast two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts.
They are also languishing near the bottom of the NHL standings and will have decent lottery odds of landing either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in June.
“The one benefit of having such a miserable season is that there’s a pretty big reward being a bad team this year coming in the draft and we know that,” said Maloney. “There’s a couple of those players at the top of the draft I believe will be playing in the NHL next year.”
By June, all the Rangers hope to be worried about is winning the Stanley Cup. They undoubtedly have a better chance with Yandle on the roster, but they’ve taken a pretty big risk to up those odds.