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No excuses: Rangers MUST reward Copp with extension to maximize 1st round return

Rangers see Vatrano, Copp and others leave in free agency
New York Rangers center Frank Vatrano (77) celebrates with center Andrew Copp (18) after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals.
AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

When Andrew Copp was traded to New York, it was a sign that general manager Chris Drury was ready to go all-in on the Rangers playoff hopes for the 2021-22 season. 

It also meant the championship window is wide-open for the Rangers. 

By all accounts, the Copp trade that sent Morgan Barron, a first, second, and fifth round pick was a resounding success. 

The Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014, and Copp was fourth on the team in playoff points, and tied for second on the team in playoff goals. 

While Copp’s 2021-22 season with New York was an excellent example of why going all-in on top players is worth it, there can also be a cautionary tale with free agency expected to begin. 

New York traded three picks and a player for a potential rental player in the former Winnipeg Jets’ star. While the results in 2022 were above expectation, what happens next will be key. 

One of the major Rangers storylines this off-season will be what they do with Copp. The former Michigan man is a free agent this off-season and is expected to command a hefty contract extension shortly. For the Rangers, they are in a sticky situation.

Are the assets they gave up for Copp more than enough of a reason to extend the top player? Is it smart to give up that many draft assets for a rental play?

The answer, in short, is simple. The Rangers making the investment on Copp by giving up multiple selections means that they MUST come to terms on an agreement no matter the cost. 

Copp’s Return on Investment

In 16 games played with the Rangers, Copp accumulated over 18 points with eight points and 10 assists. The balanced production is important for a team with a young core like New York currently employs. 

But production can be replaced by any group of players. So what makes Copp’s resigning so important?

It’s a return on investment. Any time you give up a lot of draft capital to get a rental on your team, your sacrificing future assets for what could potentially be a two month fling. To miss on a contract extension would mean the Rangers will have sacrificed three draft picks for one playoff run that didn’t even get to the Cup Final.  

Was the 2021-22 season a success? Of course. 

But when talking about rental players, and trading for rentals, anything less than a championship puts you behind the 8-ball. 

There’s evidence in other sports of this being the case as well. The Los Angeles Rams traded for a rental in receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller. The rentals worked because the Rams ended up winning the Super Bowl.

It can work the other way as well. The New York Mets traded one of their top prospects in 2021 for a rental player in Javier Baez. New York ended up missing the playoffs and Baez accepted a deal with Detroit just a couple months after the trade. In terms of a return on investment, the Mets deal was awful because they didn’t resign Baez, didn’t win the championship, and gave away a top prospect. 

There’s no set-science to building a perfect team. The Rangers have a lot of important pieces already filled out on the roster, and expectations have clearly heightened for year two under Gerard Gallant. Copp isn’t the only free agent either. The futures of Ryan Strome, Kaako Kakko, and other rentals like Frank Vatrano will all be questioned.  

But when you give up multiple selections (including a first round pick) for a very good player like Copp, the team needs to make sure that good player stays with the team as well. Otherwise, a need opens up on the top lines that would have been solved if you just spent the necessary money to keep the player you once had. 

The Rangers also put themselves in this position by trading multiple draft picks for several rental players like Vatrano and Motte. Giving away a lot of draft picks means that one or two players need to be a top priority whether or not cap space is an issue. 

Rangers have decisions to make on pending free agents
New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates the puck up the ice in the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

New York is expected to have close to $12 million in cap space once free agency starts.

 The New York Rangers had an excellent season this past year. With free agency set to start on July 13th, it’s important that their most talented free agent stays in New York City for a few more years. 

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