There were never any half measures when it came to this Rangers rebuild.
General manager Jeff Gorton has not been coy about the direction in which the team is going and what it could mean to players and fans alike. He and president Glen Sather even penned an open letter to that effect: It wasn’t going to be easy, they wrote three weeks ago, but it sure was going to happen.
Last Thursday, it meant saying goodbye to Michael Grabner, and on Sunday, it meant parting ways with one of the most pivotal Rangers in recent years, Rick Nash. The six-time All-Star, who is set to be a free agent at the conclusion of this season, was sent to the Bruins for a first-round pick in the 2018 draft, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, and a seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft. The Rangers will retain half of Nash’s salary and the Bruins will pick up half of Beleskey’s.
This is the Rangers’ second trade with the Bruins in the last week; on Tuesday, they sent defenseman Nick Holden to Boston for another defenseman, Long Island native Rob O’Gara, and a third-round pick.
With the trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. Monday, the Rangers hold nine picks in this year’s draft, including six in the first three rounds. And they might not be done, Gorton said.
“I think there’s a lot of work that can be done, could be done” before the deadline, he said Sunday. “Will it get done? We’ll see . . . There’s a lot of time for this. There are other opportunities [other than the deadline] . . . Right now, we’re 24 hours or less than that from the deadline, so we’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours.”
One option for exit is Ryan McDonagh, who has one more year on his contract and is on the mend from an upper-body injury. Gorton declined to address the rumors around the 28-year-old captain.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do . . . We’ve got enough things going on around the room right now besides naming the guys,” he said.
It’s clear that McDonagh could bring a significant return for a team looking for a relatively inexpensive rental (his cap hit would be about $4.7 million).
As for Nash, 33, his departure ends a pivotal era in Rangers history. Acquired after the 2011-12 season after nine seasons with the Blue Jackets, he had 145 goals and 107 assists with the Blueshirts. He has 18 goals and 10 assists in 60 games this season.
“It was a strange last few weeks in New York, but I’ve moved on and I’m excited about this opportunity,” Nash told The Associated Press after suiting up with the Bruins.
Nash has a limited no-trade clause in his contract and — responding to a request by the Rangers — had submitted a list of the 18 teams he didn’t want to join in a trade. Boston was among his preferred landing spots, he said. “I wasn’t going to hold them hostage or anything like that,’’ he said, “but I wanted to go to a place that wanted me and a place that had a chance to win, and I think Boston fits those perfectly.”
After the trade, the Rangers saluted Nash on their Twitter account and Gorton thanked him for his contributions. The trade, he said, has basically been in the works since the Bruins visited Madison Square Garden on Feb. 7, the day before Gorton and Sather released their letter.
“Rick was somebody they coveted,” Gorton said. “It’s a hard call to make, when we call someone who’s meant a lot to us and every time he went on the ice, he gave us everything he had . . . We’re doing what we think is the right thing to do to move forward and go where we want to go.”