Rangers open up at home against Nashville, trading Hayes is risky unless it’s a home run


Yesterday, the preseason schedule was announced. It wasn’t too revealing. The usual allotment of games for the Rangers against rivals, the Islanders, Devils and Flyers. The only thing I hope is that there will be more evaluation of whatever prospects they take on Friday. They have picks 9, 26 and 28 in the first round.

As for the regular season schedule, it’s out. What I do know for sure is the Blueshirts open up at MSG to host Nashville on October 4.

So, the 2018-19 season begins early. That’s good. Six preseason games is as many as they should play every year. It’s enough time for the coaching staff to make up their minds. I’ve always been a proponent of less exhibition due to the risk of key players getting hurt.

Given that the current roster at the moment lacks a top pair defenseman and the firepower to score consistently up front, it’s probably going to be a long season. Rebuilds take time.

Depending on what GM Jeff Gorton decides this weekend with a surplus of picks, two possible RFA’s in Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov, who could be used as trade bait, that’ll go a long way to determining the Rangers’ future.

There’s also been talk about teams having interest in key Group II free agent Kevin Hayes. Considering how well he handled a new shutdown role under former coach Alain Vigneault, I’m not keen on trading him unless it’s a no-brainer that brings back a legit scorer in the top four, who can start on the top line and make the impact few high Rangers draft picks ever do.

Hayes scored a career best 25 goals while facing opponents’ best scoring lines, doing a solid job. He improved defensively becoming a strong penalty killer, who can be counted on in any role. He wasn’t used as much on the power play but when given the opportunity, fared well. He’s the best five-on-five forward they got.

I understand that it’ll cost Chris Kreider money to re-sign him. Hayes could be in line for in between $4.75 million to $5 million on average. He’s got good value after changing his game. So, I get why other teams would be interested.

The Rangers have a logjam at center due to incumbent number one Mika Zibanejad, and teenagers Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. So, it’ll be interesting to see what the organization decides.

We’ll have more on the Rangers leading up to Friday’s draft.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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