Regarding the Rangers, into Day Three of this week’s organizational meetings pending the anticipated inauguration of John Davidson that most surely will be the biggest one ever:
1. JD: It has long been believed Davidson’s contract with Columbus includes a clause that allows him to leave if offered the Rangers’ presidency. The official request is expected in short order following the Blue Jackets’ second-round elimination on Monday. Barring a dramatic, unforeseen development, it should not be long before one of the most popular individuals in recent franchise history returns to New York at the top of the directory.
Davidson will establish the vision for the operation, though in this case that presumably means reinforcing the organization’s commitment to the building program that was adopted 15 months ago and is now in full swing, if not yet full bloom. But the question is whether (and to what degree) to attempt to accelerate the process via free agency and trades.
2. To that end, no one will be able to give general manager Jeff Gorton and the Rangers a better read than Davidson on pending unrestricted free agent Artemi Panarin, who had 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) for Columbus. Of course, the Blueshirts will be in on the 27-year-old elite offensive talent, but at what price and for how long in an expected bidding war with the no-state tax Panthers and perhaps the Islanders and Blackhawks? The front office will at least be as educated as possible in making those determinations.
3. Gorton last week told The Post the Rangers would wait until the hiring of a president to succeed Glen Sather to begin their search for a head coach and staff for the AHL Wolf Pack following the dismissal of Keith McCambridge and his assistants. Bolstering the operation in Hartford, where the club has missed the playoffs the last four seasons, will be a major priority for the organization.
4. The three most critical decisions regarding current roster players are whether to extend Chris Kreider’s contract or trade him before the clock starts ticking on the final year of his contract; and what to do about Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith, both of whom could face buyouts if the Blueshirts are unable to deal the defensemen.
A new contract for Kreider would likely cost in the $37 million to $42 million range over six years. If the Rangers opt to deal their third-most senior player (behind Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal), the acquiring team would have to be prepared to sign him to the extension in order for the Blueshirts to maximize their return.
Obtaining Kreider as a rental is not an especially enticing proposition. That’s why teams like Edmonton and Winnipeg, who might otherwise have interest in the winger, won’t be in the mix if the Blueshirts decide against an extension that would kick in at age 29.
5. As currently constituted, and assuming it would cost approximately $12 million to keep pending restricted free agents Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux, Tony DeAngelo, Neal Pionk and Fredrik Claesson, the Rangers would have maybe $10 million of space with which to work entering July, not including the additional summer allowance.
That obviously represents an untenable situation for an organization that ideally would add a significant piece up-front and another one on the right side of the blue line. Hence, Gorton will have to make significant subtractions before jumping into the pool in search of noteworthy additions.
Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey thus join Shattenkirk, Smith and Kreider, and perhaps Pionk and Buchnevich, as endangered species, understanding that the Blueshirts will have to yield something of value in order to acquire a top-pair righty or top-six winger of physical substance.
6. A Dallas victory in Tuesday’s Game 7 in St. Louis would send the Stars’ first-rounder to the Rangers and thus bring the Blueshirts’ total to three, including their own at second-overall and Winnipeg’s that now sits at between 18th and 20th. Coming away with this additional first-rounder as per conditions of the Mats Zuccarello deal would allow Gorton to be even more aggressive than anticipated attempting to get a double-dip into the draft’s top 10.
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