It’s been 916 days since Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather released a statement about the condition of the New York Rangers.
That statement was released in the form of a letter to the fanbase, and is now simply known amongst fans as “The Letter.”
The Letter praised the loyalty of the Rangers fan base and stated that rebuilding could result in the loss of some “familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect.”
The following months consisted of the trading of then-captain Ryan McDonagh and prime forward J.T. Miller. Since then, we’ve lost household names such as Kevin Hayes, Dan Girardi, Mats Zuccarello, Brady Skjei, and more.
And here we are.
On February 8th, 2018, Rangers fans were groaning with the exasperation that was the idea of a rebuild. What was once an experienced, Stanley Cup Final bound team would be scrapped for new, younger, unheard-of names. That was just over two years ago.
On Monday, Rangers fans were cheering at their TVs as commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the New York Rangers had won the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
What seemed utterly impossible became a reality.
Canadian forward Alexis Lafreniere is projected to first overall. There is no doubt that he will make a great impact. Lafreniere already has a very impressive track record: he was named to the QMJHL’s First All-Star team, won CHL Player of the Year, won the Michel Briere Trophy (QMJHL MVP) and won the Paul Dumont Trophy (QMJHL Personality of the Year), on top of leading Team Canada to gold at the World Junior Championships back in January.
With Lafreniere, the end of the Rangers’ rebuild is insight.
The Rangers are no strangers to strong drafting, as they approach the 2020 draft with their second top 2 pick in as many years. Last year they selected Kaapo Kakko, who was able to get some valuable NHL experience this past season.
New York has also attracted big market talent. Artemi Panarin, the coveted free agent from the year prior, has become a new household name on the Blueshirts and is a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Defenseman Jacob Trouba, after being traded from the Winnipeg Jets, was developed into a top-pair defenseman and played a solid, shutdown role.
On the development side, it’s amazing what Gorton and company have done in just three trade deadlines, two offseasons, and two drafts. The Rangers’ prospect pool consists of promising talent, including defensemen K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, and Zac Jones, alongside forwards Morgan Barron and Vitaly Kravtsov, to name a few.
So, yes– it’s definitely been quite the week, between recovering from a brutal Stanley Cup Qualifiers sweep to watching a ping pong ball with the Rangers’ crest get chosen in the draft lottery.
But as we continue to watch Alexis Lafreniere highlights, awaiting an NHL draft as late as October, and looking forward to a season that won’t revolve around the sale of veteran players and more losses than wins, let’s continue to appreciate the historic rebuild this team has gone through.
More changes will still need to be made, but the hard part is certainly behind us.
It won’t be much longer until we battle in the postseason once more.
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