I know we just got to July but there was just too much going on in the hockey world over the last couple of weeks to completely ignore writing about it. Especially because most of the news involved my team, the New York Rangers and their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils. I am not here to rush the summer and hope for days of bitter cold, early nights and hockey ice, but that doesn't mean I am not excited for the upcoming season, and I am here to highlight those couple of moves that have renewed one of hockey's best rivalries. (In consecutive order).
1. Devils win hockey draft lottery, Rangers second
I still remember this night clearly. A couple of my friends, Devils fans of course, and I were at the Mets game. While at the game we pulled up the NBC sports app to watch the draft lottery. This was a big draft because two stud prospects, American Jack Hughes, and Fin, Kappo Kakko were coming out. Two different players with two different styles of play. Hughes was seen as the better prospect and everyone was hoping to win the draft lottery to have their choice of the two and basically guarantee Hughes. As they started flipping over the plastic square card with team logos on them announcing each pick, we sat there waiting to see both of our teams picking where they were projected to be picked. There was not a good chance for either team to be the number 1 pick going into the night... Until there was. Of course, my friends and I looking down at a phone saw our teams as the only two teams left for the #1 overall pick in the draft. We all looked at each other and were like "yoooo, this is wild." After the commercial, the deputy commissioner of the NHL flipped over the card for the #1 pick and it was the Devils. As devasted as I was, (the Mets were also losing too, of course), I still knew the Rangers were getting a top prospect at #2. More importantly, though this was the first step in bringing back that rivalry that has been lost the last couple of years.
2. Rangers trade for Jacob Trouba
A few weeks before the draft the Rangers made a big move, trading for 25-year-old star defensemen Jacob Trouba. It was a necessary move for the Rangers who lacked a true #1 defenseman. You know who else lacked a true #1 d-man? The New Jersey Devils (we will get back to this). The Devils were heavily involved with the Winnipeg Jets to try and get Trouba but the Rangers offer, plus the fact Trouba wanted to be in New York because of his wife and family sealed the deal for the Blueshirts. The guy the Devils wanted, the Rangers got.
3. Draft night, Devils select Hughes #1, Rangers select Kakko #2.
Draft night was full of buzz, and Devils fans had every right to be as excited as they were. They were getting a Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby type of franchise-changing player in Hughes. Although there was some rumblings that they would take Kakko, the 6 foot plus power forward, goal-scoring prospect number 1 overall, it was almost a given they were taking Hughes. So after the big announcement of the Devils taking Hughes, the Rangers quietly walked to the podium and selected Kakko number 2. The Rangers as an organization were almost as happy picking 2nd and the Devils were picking 1st. They believed the decision between Kakko and Hughes was too tough. Devils fans will disagree with that and that is what adds to this rivalry. Between the fans, the players themselves and the teams, everyone will be arguing for decades who is the better player, and did the Devils choose right?
4. Devils trade for P.K Subban
The afternoon after draft night I was walking on the boardwalk with my fam, and my friend texted in our hockey group chat in all caps "THE DEVILS GOT SUBBAN." I instantly put my head down and said a word I cannot type in these articles. P.K Subban kills the Rangers, he has had nothing but success against them, especially in a couple of playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. Now he is in the division. Not only that but as I noted before two weeks earlier the Rangers trade for Trouba. The Devils got their number 1 d-man they needed the night after drafting #1 and two weeks after the Rangers traded for the player they originally wanted. Although Subban is older than Trouba and is making more money, still, Subban is a star player in his prime, it was a great deal for the Devils, but one that already has fans ready to raise the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup banner at the rock.... they need to chill.
5. Rangers Sign F Artemi Panarin
The biggest free agent on the market chose the Big Apple. To make it even better he turned down deals and more money from 4 other teams, two of those being from the rival Islanders and Devils. Panarin, one of 3 players in NHL history to record at least 70+ points in his first 4 seasons in the NHL, is an absolute superstar. He is a game changer and he's ours. Signing Panarin gives the Rangers the exactly what they needed, especially in this rivalry. The Rangers now have a player to go up against MVP Taylor Hall. The matchups of number 1 lines on both of these teams is going to be must watch hockey. Of course I will say advantage = Rangers.
6. Devils Sign Wayne Simmonds.
A very underrated yet great signing for the Devils. Hours after the Rangers made the big splash signing of Panarin the Devils went out and signed the pesky Ranger killing forward from Nashville. Simmonds is familar with the division having played 7 seasons with the Flyers. (2 seasons that included playoff series against the Rangers). In game 6 of a first round series against the Rangers in 2014, Simmonds had a hat trick in a do-or-die game for the Flyers. Honestly, there are countless other moments in which Simmonds has just dominated the Rangers which is just going to add to this already heated rivalry.
In all honesty, these 6 moves spanning a little under a month has really gotten me excited for this upcoming season and especially for the games against the Devils. For the next couple of years, it will be New York vs New Jersey, Hughes vs Kakko, Subban vs Trouba and Hall vs Panarin. The moves that were made, no more than a couple of weeks away from each other, can honestly change each franchise for decades to come. Not only that but there is bound to be a playoff series between the two in the next couple of years due to the two teams being in the same division and the playoff format. This is an exciting time in Devils and Rangers land. Do I think the Devils have gotten a little too much hype this offseason? Of course, I am a Rangers fan? Do I think the Rangers have gotten just as good if not better with adding Kakko, Trouba and Panarin instead of Hughes, Subban and Simmonds? Yes, but I am a tad bias. I'm sure Devils fans feel the same way about their 3 players. Once again though, just more and more reasons to state that this rivalry is back, and it is going to be good.