New Era for Rangers Begins in Vancouver

On Feb. 8, GM Jeff Gorton and President Glen Sather announced that changes were coming in RangerLand. Sure enough, they were true to their word as sweeping changes have been made.

The culmination of which was the dispatching of captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay in the waning moments of the trade deadline Monday. In all reality, this process really began last spring when the Blueshirts were eliminated from the playoffs by Ottawa.

[Read: Blue Skies on the Blueshirts Horizon After Deadline]

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton talks about dealing captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning, what the Blueshirts got in return in the trade and the areas where he thinks the team still needs improvement.

At that time it was not so much the loss, which certainly hurt, it was how the team went down with very little pushback. That would continue this season as there were too many nights where the lack of a competitive pulse was disappointingly evident. I’m not sure anyone expected this thing to play out as quickly as it did, but you do have to respect a management that concluded what they were watching wasn’t good enough now, let alone down the road, and changes had to be made.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free]

Moving ahead, there is still a ton of work to be done. Patience is going to be required and the future rests in the hands of unproven assets. There will be further moves during the offseason whether through trades, the amateur draft or free agency. Nearer term, Gorton and his staff will need to figure out ways to stay NHL competitive with a product that shows signs that at the very least, we are heading in the right direction.

Not an easy task, but given the kudos from around the league for it’s handling of everything that went on up to the last minute of the deadline, this management team seems to know what it is doing.

It is crucial to recognize the contributions that were made by each guy that was moved in the past 10 days or so. All with various times of tenure as Rangers, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, J.T. Miller and captain Ryan McDonagh will be missed for who they were both on and off the ice. Each will suit it up for a playoff-bound team, and while not all of them can win the Stanley Cup this spring, I do hope that “Nasher” and Nick with the Bruins, or “Mac” and “J.T.” with the Lightning, or “Grabs” with the Devils get their chance to take a drink from the NHL’s Holy Grail.

Alain Vigneault talks about how difficult it is to trade away a player like Rick Nash and what the Rangers are getting in return from Ryan Spooner.

To the task at hand, the Rangers take on the Canucks in Vancouver tonight for the second and final time this season. Behind Jimmy Vesey’s third-period game-tying goal and shootout winner, the Blueshirts prevailed 4-3 in November at MSG. Vladimir Namestnikov acquired from Tampa Bay, is expected to make his Ranger debut.

It would be good stuff if he kicked off his career on Broadway in the manner of Ryan Spooner, who had two assists in his first game as a Ranger after arriving in the trade with Boston for Nash. The team may need nametags with all the new bodies, but as Henrik Lundqvist told me yesterday, it is up to the guys who pull on the Ranger jersey to go out and give it their best shot. I would expect just that tonight.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free]

KEYS

1. Lundqvist

Henrik, while being stunned at the finality of the deadline events, is determined to be as important moving forward as he has been in the past. A little more patience with his game and with the game of the team in front of him will be necessary as we move on.

2. Talking it Up

With so many new components and so little time to develop any playing chemistry, it will be so important that there be extensive on-ice communication. From Henrik on out, there cannot be too much chatter.

3. Boeser

Brock Boeser, one of the leading rookie of the year candidates, leads the Canucks in goals with 27. With an Ovechkin-like penchant for shooting the puck, he needs to be paid attention to in the defensive zone.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free]

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BWP Embraces Veteran Role

When Bradley Wright-Phillips arrived in MLS back in 2013, he was one of the younger players on a New York Red Bulls squad that was veteran-laden.

But it is a new era for the Red Bulls, leaving Wright-Phillips as one of the senior citizens of the squad at the ripe old age of 32.

The Red Bulls might just be the youngest team in MLS this year and almost certainly have the youngest squad they’ve ever assembled, even dating back to their nascent days as the NY/NJ MetroStars in 1996. When Wright-Phillips came to this team, he was the unknown trying to fit in with the likes of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. It was a different time in the league’s development and the Red Bulls, much like the rest of MLS, were filled with older (and pricey) European or South American players.

About to enter his sixth year in the league, BWP is now the proven commodity on a team that is young and still maturing. Considering that most of this team’s influential players are in their late teens or early 20s and Wright-Phillips is starting to feel a little old.

[Watch Red Bulls-Timbers March 10 on MSG 2 & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

Head coach Jesse Marsch even talked with Wright-Phillips about developing him as a leader on this team.

“Sheez. I didn’t think about it [but] I’m the oldest outfield player,” Wright-Phillips told MSGNetworks.com. “I’m going to have to start setting an example. I like it though, I’m embracing the challenge … It’s good. When I came here, I was a younger guy learning from some of the older players. It is good.

“I try to lead by the example. I’m not one to be overly talkative. When I do talk, sometimes it comes across as a bit negative on the field even though I don’t mean it like that. For me, I’ve been working on positive things, especially with a younger squad – you don’t want to send out the wrong messages.

“Since Jesse’s been here, he’s challenged me to be a bigger leader. I’m setting out to do it the best I can.”

Then again, he did score 17 goals in league play last year and 23 goals across all competitions. With that track record, it looks likely that the Red Bulls won’t be forcing the old man off their roster anytime soon.

In other words, it’s not time to turn the “Run BWP” moniker into “Powerwalk BWP.” Not close.

For the only man in MLS history to twice top 20 goals in the regular season, Wright-Phillips has very little left to do or accomplish individually in this league. Twice having won the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record in MLS, the Red Bulls still have yet to win MLS Cup.

They did make MLS Cup in 2008 before losing to the Columbus Crew. The team went on a run to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup last year, but lost at Sporting Kansas City.

Wright-Phillips is hoping that this year, the young Red Bulls can finally be the team to put an MLS Cup in their trophy case alongside the Supporters Shield as well as the La Manga Cup and the Emirates Cup.

“It’s something that is on my list and not just for me, obviously,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think this club needs a big trophy, for the players it has had here and have never had a big trophy. I want to be a part of it. Bring it here.”

[Watch Red Bulls-Timbers March 10 on MSG 2 & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

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A Tale of Two Golds

When I embarked on my journey to PyeongChang to call 19 men’s and women’s hockey games in a 12-day span, I never would have imagined both gold medal games would end in thrilling fashion past regulation.

[Where’s Kenny? Olympics Edition]

Redemption was on the minds of all 23 members of the U.S. women’s squad – not only the 10 players who suffered a bitter defeat four years earlier in Sochi, but the 13 Olympic rookies as well who watched the 2014 overtime loss (after leading 2-0 with under four minutes remaining in the third period) on television. The U.S. – captained by Cammi Granato – last won gold in Nagano in 1998.

Since then, the Americans lost three gold medal games to Canada (2002, 2010, 2014) and did not even reach the final game in Torino in 2006. The two countries are so evenly matched. In the preliminary round in South Korea, one week prior to the gold medal match, the U.S. fell short against their neighbors from the north 2-1, despite outshooting the Canadians, 45-23.

When I arrived at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 22 – the 38th Anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid – there was a sense of excitement and anticipation. I met with U.S. head coach Robb Stauber two hours before the opening faceoff along with my broadcast partner A.J. Mleczko, a member of the 1998 gold-medal winning team.

Stauber, a former Los Angeles Kings goaltender, told us his team was very focused. He also said he wanted fans to remember his team as “one of the most creative they’ve ever seen, thanks to speed, puck possession and skill.” His comment proved to be prescient.

The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on a power play deflection by three-time Olympian Hilary Knight in the first period. However, the momentum swung in the middle period when Canada scored twice in the first 6:55, including one from Marie-Philip Poulin – her fifth goal in the last three gold medal matches against the United States. The tension built with every shift in the third period. When Monique Lamoureux-Morando beat Shannon Szabados on a breakaway with 6:21 remaining in regulation to tie the game, the United States bench exploded. My heart was palpitating while calling the 20-minute, four-on-four overtime period, which included a Canada power play for the final 1:35.

It was on to a shootout.

Canada took a 2-1 lead after four shooters. Amanda Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson scored spectacular goals for the United States, and 20-year-old goaltender Maddie Rooney (who was 7 1/2 months old when the U.S. won gold in Nagano) shut the door by stopping the final two Canada shooters. Rooney came charging out of her crease to celebrate with her ecstatic teammates.

A mere 7,311 days after winning gold in Nagano, the American women were once again Olympic champions. Their lives will be changed forever. The entire team headed to the “Today Show” a few hours after the game ended, and will now head on tour – including a stop at The Garden where they will be honored during the Rangers game against Winnipeg next Tuesday.

It was a huge honor – and one of the highlights of my career – to call the United States victory, as well as the men’s tournament. Despite a huge coming-out party from collegians Ryan Donato and Troy Terry, the U.S. men fell short in a quarterfinal shootout against the Czech Republic.

The men’s gold medal game between Germany and the Olympic Athletes from Russia proved to be just as exciting as the women’s game three days earlier. Germany shocked the hockey world by advancing to the gold medal game for the first time in Olympic history, and they held a 3-2 lead (with a power play!) in the final moments of regulation. The Olympic Athletes from Russia tied the game with a shorthanded goal with 56 seconds left, then won the game on a power play goal from Minnesota Wild draft pick Kirill Kaprizov in overtime.

Another fun aspect of calling hockey at the Olympics was fraternizing with the former NHL stars who provided TV commentary for various networks in PyeongChang.

How would this team of analysts have done on the ice?

Goaltender: Brian Boucher

Defensemen: Kimmo Timonen, Mike Milbury, Calle Johansson, Enrico Ciccone

Forwards: Peter Forsberg, Jeremy Roenick, Alexei Yashin, Ray Ferraro, Mariusz Czerkawski, Keith Jones, Jocelyn Lemieux, Tuomo Ruutu, P.J. Stock

Coach: Pierre McGuire

KENNY’S PICS FROM PYEONGCHANG

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What Knicks Can Learn From Warriors Process

5 thoughts on the loss:

1. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen some of the NBA‘s best teams, some of the most entertaining in the game’s history just like the Warriors, come to The Garden and put on a show that has this basketball-obsessed city buzzing.

I vividly remember a game in 2006-07, when the Phoenix Suns, at the height of “Seven Seconds or Less,” on the court during pregame warmups and a fellow reporter leaned over to me in awe and said, “Can you imagine if this team played here in New York?”

We said the same about the Shaq & Kobe Lakers and we’re saying the same about this current Golden State squad.

You know what would be great? If we could ever get to a point where there is a team here that electrifies The Garden like these teams do (like those teams in the ’70s and ’90s). But what we have to understand is teams like this are not built overnight. And if there is anything to learn about the Warriors, it’s that this was something that took almost half a decade — and a lot of losing — to create.

[Watch Knicks-Clippers Friday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

I talked about it on my pregame Knicks Fix segment on MSG Network. The Warriors were once a rudderless franchise mired in poor drafts and bad contracts. The core of their championship era was built on the pain of four straight years in the lottery.

And, for Generation Tank, take note that not a single pick they made in this run was in the top-5. Also, note that the highest pick they made over this four-year run wound up the least talented player of the bunch.

2008-09: (29-53) — Steph Curry (7th overall)
2009-10: (26-56) — Ekpe Udoh (6th overall) <— ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2010-11: (36-46) — Klay Thompson (11th overall)
2011-12: (23-53) — Harrison Barnes (7th overall); Draymond Green (35th overall)

It was late in that 2011-12 season when a fed-up fan base loudly booed team owner Joe Lacob during Chris Mullin‘s jersey retirement ceremony. The team had just traded guard Monta Ellis, which meant it was making a full commitment to Curry — who had some injury issues — as their lead guard.

The following season, the Warriors finally made the playoffs. They won their first title two seasons later.

Let’s also point out that Golden State went through four coaches in a six-season span before their championship season.

There is no easy button.

2. There is an obvious answer to why the Knicks were not able to continue their strong first half (they led 64-63 at halftime) into the second half. It’s quite simple and has nothing to do with coaching adjustments or effort.

I’ll let Steve Kerr explain:

“Obviously we have a lot of talent. We have four All-Stars out there. It’s not like we’re making big adjustments.”

The Warriors are the NBA’s best third quarter team. They average 30.4 points per game in the third quarter, which is the highest in the league. They also shoot a league-best 52.9% from the field and 44.2% from three-point range in the third quarter.

And if you needed more evidence about their third-quarter dominance, look no further than this: they are a league-high +330 in third quarters this season. The second-highest +/- in third quarters this season is held by the Denver Nuggets. They are +164.

And if you feel like you saw that game before, you did. This time it was in Golden State on Jan. 23. The Knicks didn’t have Kristaps Porzingis in that game, either, by the way. They held a 60-58 lead at the half and went on to lose 123-112 after getting overwhelmed in the third quarter.

3. This time in the Young Point Guard Competition, it was Emmanuel Mudiay‘s game that had everyone talking. Mudiay got off to a great start by making his first four shots, including his first three-pointer as a Knick. He had missed his first 13 attempts.

Mudiay made 3-of-5 from downtown in the game and finished with 20 points and seven assists with two steals in 30:32. The best stat for the young guard was this: zero turnovers.

Most of his work was done in the first half, however, as he was just 1-for-6 in the second half. Jeff Hornacek talked about something I’ve been saying about Mudiay since he arrived: he needs to improve his conditioning.

The good news is, he’s aware of it and making an effort to do exactly that. Hornacek said he is spending extra time after practice to get in sprints. He fell out of the rotation in Denver and for a bulk of January and February, he collected a lot of DNPs, so it’s understandable that his game conditioning would fall off.

However, as I’ve said before, if Mudiay really wants to maximize his potential, he needs to dedicate himself to an offseason of serious work to get his body trimmer and lighter so he can really see what he can do with the natural physical gifts he has in size and athleticism.

4. Frank Ntilikina also has to embrace an offseason of work on his body. He had another nice game with 13 points and five rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting in 28:05 as he continues to play off the ball in a role that may define his future in the NBA.

Hornacek admitted before the game that Ntilikina, still only 19, has to improve his overall strength and it could take “a couple of years” to get there. Ntilikina has never been in a weight training program, so you would expect the Knicks to create an offseason plan for him that will involve a lot of lower body strength training and, in my opinion, a lot of agility work, too.

It will be interesting to see if he can use May and June to train and then come to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas to see how he looks and feels. Then he can go back in August and September to prepare for the season.

I’m not concerned about his desire to spend his offseason with his family in France. The Knicks can send a coach to work with him and set him up there to get in his work. When it comes to training, it’s not about where you’re doing it, it’s just that you’re doing it.

Frank Ntilikina talks about how he fell in love with basketball, his journey to the Knicks and his first season in the NBA.

5. Another item we had on the pregame Fix was about an anniversary for Curry at The Garden. It was almost five years to the day of his career-best performance on the game’s biggest stage.

Curry scored a career-high 54 points on Feb. 27, 2013 and was in video game mode as he made 11-of-13 from three-point range — I mean that’s just insane — in a wild game that had The Garden crowd roaring from one shot to the next.

But Curry didn’t steal the stage like we’ve seen in the past from other opposing stars who have had big performances in this building. Carmelo Anthony had 35 points and JR Smith buried six three-pointers to try to keep pace with Curry.

And the game came down to one big play, which happened to be defense. The score was tied at 105 with under 90 seconds to go and Curry rose up for another three. But Raymond Felton timed it perfectly and blocked the shot and the Knicks pulled out a 109-105 win.

Curry’s 54 points stands as the third-highest scoring performance by an opponent at the current Madison Square Garden. It trails only Kobe Bryant‘s 61 and Michael Jordan‘s Double-Nickel.

It’s one of seven games that an opponent went for 50 or more in the current Garden. But only the second time out of those seven that the Knicks won the game.

[Watch Knicks-Clippers Friday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

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Fashion Forward: New York Knicks

We know that you can spot your favorite Knick on the court faster than you can say ‘Knickerbockers’ – but what about identifying them off the court?

So, we’ve decided to challenge you to see how many Knicks you can identify rocking their street clothes!

Match the player to the outfit and see how you fare … Good luck!

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How Well Do You Know Your NHL Logos?

Think you know all of the logos of your favorite NHL teams? Test your knowledge!

Match the team with the correct logo and get your score!

Did we mention this isn’t easy…

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Rating the Devils Trades: Good Grabs; Grabner and Maroon

Last September every so-called “expert” in hockey predicted that the Devils would wind up somewhere south of Tahiti and more likely in the subterranean depths of the National Hockey League.

General manager Ray Shero sure fooled them. Wheeling and dealing from training camp through the Trade Deadline, Redoubtable Ray stunned the Figure Filberts with a raft of rookies sprinkled with vets and, so far, they’ve hung on to a playoff berth.

Hanging on is not enough for Shero, he’s thirsty for a post-season round or two; maybe even three.

[Watch Devils-Penguins Tuesday on MSG+ & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

With that in mind, he corralled Michael Grabner from the Rangers and right at deadline time put a cherry on the cake with rough-tough left wing Patrick Maroon exiled from Edmonton.

With Grabner alongside team MVP Taylor Hall and also speeding up the young speed demons, who knows, Redoubtable Ray’s sextet may have something with which to fool the experts again — in the post-season.

In a conference call with the media, Devils general manager Ray Shero discusses why he decided to make the deal now for the winger Michael Grabner.

Just in case, grit and gumption round out the equation, Maroon tops the list in that daunting department.

Here’s why Shero’s acquisitions matter:

DEAL ONE

Bye-bye Yegor Rykov plus a second-round pick; hello Gabby Grabner. New Jersey obtained a gem in Grabner, alias Kid Lightning. Few pull off almost a breakaway per game which makes him one of the NHL’s top PK specialists on a good PK (11th best) team.

This from a scout: “Michael has a surprisingly good wrist shot and is willing to shoot from anywhere. Right wing Grabner would dazzle alongside left wing Taylor Hall. Actually, scary, that pair!”

MSGNetworks.com Rangers contributor, Matthew Blittner, chimes in with this: “Grabner could easily slot into New Jersey’s top line (with Nico Hischier at center) for a playoff push.”

Another scout: “Devils would be wise to consider using Grabner on the power play. He immediately makes their penalty kill better as well because of Michael’s speed.”

New Devils winger Michael Grabner talks about coming over to New Jersey, playing against the Islanders and his emotions playing for a new team.

Grabby sure didn’t hurt on Saturday night as the Devils beat the Islanders, 2-1.

If nothing else, it was a good start. After the game, Grabby and The Maven gabbed a bit, harkening back to his days on Long Island.

“I like the move to New Jersey,” he told me, “and I’m looking forward to the homestretch.”

When I asked him about the speed he brings to New Jersey, Michael grinned and added, “The Devils have plenty of speed; look at Hall, (Miles) Wood to name a couple.”

DEAL TWO

Right at the deadline, Shero nabbed tough Oilers left wing Maroon to skate alongside ex-Edmontonian, Hall. Maroon’s non-stop feistiness will add to New Jersey’s overall muscle-hustle.

To satisfy the Oilers needs, the Devils gave up a third-round Pick in the 2019 Draft and 22-year-old center prospect J.D. Dudek of Boston College.

Conclusion: These are two genuine biggies for Shero; starting with Grabner and then coming up with a darn good closer in Maroon who has tallied 30 points in 57 games for the Oilers.

For Redoubtable Ray, the most appropriate song happens to be, “Nice Work If You Can Get It — And You Can Get It If You Try.”

Shero tried — and he got!

[Watch Devils-Penguins Tuesday on MSG+ & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

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Blue Skies on Blueshirts Horizon After Deadline

The trade frenzy is over; blood pressure pills and aspirins can be put aside for the moment — unless, of course, post-deal sedatives still are needed.

Rangers blockbuster moves such as Michael Grabner to the Devils and Rick Nash to the Bruins further fulfilled the Glen SatherJeff Gorton promise to streamline their skaters and speed in the right direction.

Then Jeff tossed a last-minute match on the trading TNT with an 11th-and-a-half-hour move, dispatching captain Ryan McDonagh and left wing J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay for a bundle of gifted prospects.

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton talks about dealing captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning, what the Blueshirts got in return in the trade and the areas where he thinks the team still needs improvement.

Inside the Lightning gift wrapping, the Blueshirts unearthed something resembling Christmas in February.

To wit:

1. Center Vladislav Namestnikov; 2. Center Brett Howden; 3. Defenseman Libor Hajek; as well as a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 conditional first-round pick.

Now the ex-Rangers captain, McDonagh will be a teammate of another former Blueshirt who wore the “C,” Ryan Callahan, as well as ex-New Yorkers Anton Stralman and dauntless Dan Girardi.

Or as my trusty sidekick, Gabbi Riggi puts it, “Like some New Yorkers, they picked up and moved to Florida.” (Mind you, that’s not The Maven’s line.)

Regarding Grabner, for the Blueshirts, there was a tangential effect since New Jersey’s drive to solidify a playoff berth is rooted in the Grabner grab and was underlined with Saturday night’s 2-1 win over the Islanders.

Now we must X-Ray the results and determine how the Rangers moves — and non-moves — have positioned the team for the months and seasons ahead.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks Wednesday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

DEAL ONE

Bye-bye Nick Holden, hello Rob O’Gara. The Blueshirts unloaded a third-pair defender who played some good hockey for them in spots. New York also gets a third-round 2018 draft pick.

Call it a draw until we have a year’s worth of O’Gara looks. Conceivably, Rob could turn into a young Ryan McDonagh; and wouldn’t that be nice.

One scout puts it this way: “O’Gara could supplement the bottom D-pairing. Responsible defensively, he was key at Yale pushing the puck to the periphery as well as blocking and clearing the zone.”

For the Rangers to get a roster player in O’Gara and a pick in exchange for a UFA is a good investment.

Rob O’Gara, who was acquired in a trade with the Bruins, talks about growing up an Islander fan and now having the chance to find a role with the Rangers.

DEAL TWO

Au Revoir Michael Grabner; bonjour Yegor Rykov. For starters, this is a shocker among shockers simply because this is the first Rangers-Devils deal in 35 years of the Devils’ existence. From the Blueshirts’ end, Grabner had to be moved because he’s a UFA and the Rangers are in the midst of a publically-acknowledged rebuild. Plus, New York gets a second-rounder in the package.

The equation Gorton had to solve involved losing the Rangers’ leading scorer over the last two years and what it means to the club, long-term. Of course, it won’t mean a thing if after Michael completes his “rental” he returns to Seventh Avenue.

When I asked Jeff Gorton about making a first-ever Rangers-Devils deal, he replied, “If I can make a trade that helps my team, it wouldn’t matter which team I trade with. Same goes with my former club, the Bruins.”

As for youthful (20) Rykov, he’s not flashy but does nearly everything well. That includes making a good first pass and playing well in his own end. Yegor was a teammate of Pavel Datsyuk on SKA St. Petersburg.

Rykov could have future ties to the Blueshirts since fellow Ranger goalie prospect Igor Shestyorkin has worn the SKA sweater for a few years. Rykov also could prove a catalyst for Ilya Kovalchuk to sign on with the New Yorkers. Trouble is, Rykov has two more years (2019) on his KHL contract. The trick will be finding a way out of the pact.

DEAL THREE

Adios Rick Nash; Buenos días to a first-round pick in 2018, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, forwards Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and a seventh-round pick in the 2019 Draft.

Sather and Gorton are the clear winners, replenishing their roster for the future. No matter how you shake it, Alain Vigneault needed more red lights from Rick in the fall and early winter.

The Rangers receive a useful RFA in Spooner, the hope that Beleskey finds his scoring touch of yesteryear, yet another defensive prospect in Lindgren — The Maven’s choice as the real sleeper — and the pair of draftees to come later.

As my Bruins-Rangers-keen-watcher Gus Vic opines, “If two of the prospects from the Holden/Grabner/Nash deals pan out, two-to-three of the nine picks this year become bonafide NHLers — and the Blueshirts smartly splash in the free agent pool, the club’s turnaround could be quick and make the core-gutting worthwhile.”

Also, figure the Boston panic into Boston’s interest in the deal. When Patrice Bergeron left Air Canada Centre in a walking boot after the recent Maple Leafs game, the Bruins were dealing from a point of weakness.

Alain Vigneault talks about how difficult it is to trade away a player like Rick Nash and what the Rangers are getting in return from Ryan Spooner.

DEAL FOUR

To some of the Blueshirt faithful, the dismissing of McDonagh is a craw-sticker because the defenseman had built a strong following over the previous years. Ryan was well-liked up and down the line, from fans to media to the general staff.

When I directly — and first in line — asked Gorton on Sunday night at The Garden about a possible McDonagh deal, he demurred. After all, he had done all the dealing over the weekend but that, significantly, didn’t mean Monday.

Yes, siree, Bob, there still was time and, sure enough, Gorton answered the question I directly put to him at 6 p.m. last night at The Garden. “WHAT ABOUT MCDONAGH?”

The answer was abundant and now that the deadline has come and gone, we must ask the pertinent question: What does all this, all mean?

It means that Sather and Gorton were true to their words of a few weeks ago that their club would be revitalized with new faces, new spirit and much good beyond the Blueshirt horizon.

McDonagh has been in the Top-20 of the Norris Trophy possibility five times in his eight-year career.

But Sather and Gorton now have enough prospects around which to build a throbbing new contender which next will require honing to sharpness. That will immediately begin at Vancouver on Wednesday night.

Bottom Line

The high command was true to its word and now Rangers fans can sing a chorus of “There’s Gonna Be A Great Day” with a good measure of conviction.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks Wednesday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

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Isles Find Missing Defensive D-Man And a Chimera Replacement

Still in playoff contention, the Islanders nevertheless announced weeks ago that they would not trade John Tavares, their captain and premier sharpshooter.

Which meant that a potential blockbuster exchange essentially was removed from the table in Brooklyn while other plans were evaluated.

Through Sunday, the Islanders’ high command was satisfied with the lone trade for ex-Oilers and Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson while also locking Josh Bailey in with a new pact making JB virtually a lifetime member of the franchise.

But on Monday, Garth Snow returned to the trading jamboree by dispatching veteran Jason Chimera to the Anaheim Ducks for the much younger forward Chris Wagner.

[Watch Islanders-Canadiens Wednesday on MSG+ & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

The big question, of course, is whether the trades — and assorted hope-for-trades-that-were-non-trades — can enable the Islanders to reach the postseason.

Here are my evaluations:

SIGNING NUMBER ONE

Hello again, Josh Bailey. Celebrating his 10th year with the Isles, Ace signed a six-year, $30 million deal. Which inspires the query, is that good or bad?

Good for Ace and good for the Brooklyn-Long Islanders.

Why? Because Bailey set a career high in points last season (13-43-56) and already has eclipsed that this year (15-47-62) despite missing four games. Ace has 19 games remaining to further up his total.

Josh instantly replaced Frans Nielsen as the best two-way Islander and has developed chemistry with captain JT and left wing Anders Lee. Once Nielsen and Kyle Okposo departed, Bailey became a team leader.

Off the charts, Ace has the ability to adapt to a teammate’s style of play whether its Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal or Andrew Ladd. As one Islanders-watcher, Rob Taub puts it, “He leaves his heart out on the ice without taking a shift off.”

DEAL NUMBER ONE

The Islanders obtained defenseman Brandon Davidson from the Oilers for a third-round pick in the 2019 Draft. Davidson was drafted in the sixth round in 2010. Overall, he’s totaled 20 points in 137 career NHL games.

Davidson’s experience with both the Oilers and Habs convinced Snow that Brandon would give the Islanders a backliner who will be responsible behind the blue line.

Teamed with Davidson in Edmonton, the Isles Eberle waxed positively about his former Oilers pal, now a buddy with the Isles; especially considering the difficulty coach Doug Weight‘s team has had in securing victories. A fresh defender could just be the prescription for goaltending survival.

Notorious for losing games in the third period — Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to New Jersey is Exhibit A — the Islanders needed at least one new face on the blue line. Davidson could be the backliner the club sorely needs for third-period lead preservation.

With a day left to execute another move, Snow chose to make another exchange, and while not a headliner, it does have some significance to insiders such as Yours Truly. To wit:

DEAL NUMBER TWO

Snow unloaded hugely-disappointing (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) Chimera to Anaheim for Wagner. No matter how you shake this — even if you insert this in an NHL blender — the Islanders win the exchange.

At age 38, Chimera easily was the most under-achieving Islander this season. A 20-goal scorer for the Brooklynites last season — with 13 assists; and don’t ask me how — the vet had posted a mere two goals in 58 contests this semester before being benched by Weight.

A dozen years younger than Jason, Chris checks in at 6-feet, 198 pounds and no doubt will be given a shot at fourth line work to determine his usefulness in the homestretch.

Suffice to say that The Maven has never seen a player speed around the ice — Chimera still could skate — and do less than Jason did this season. (He was, however, a good interview.)

Snow did well on both of them. While neither falls in the spectacular category, who says headline-making is necessary for wise exchanges.

Many believe that with some tinkering — tweaking if you like that better — the Islanders still can make it to the postseason.

To do so, The Maven will borrow goalie Jaro Halak‘s deathless words of a few weeks ago which should be the formula for success moving forward toward the Finish Line: “Execution, Effort and Heart.”

The pair of additions should contribute in those departments but, more than that, the successful progress prescription must come from the club’s core and that remains to be seen as they prepare for their game on Wednesday in Montreal.

[Watch Islanders-Canadiens Wednesday on MSG+ & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

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Hardaway Breaks Out In a Big Way

Players often talk about doing the extra work. But what if the work becomes part of the problem?

What if you’re stuck in a shooting slump and all those extra jumpers in practice are clanging off the rim just like the shots in games?

So when Tim Hardaway Jr., mired in the worst shooting slump of his career, showed up at the Knicks training facility, he knew he needed to find another approach to breaking out.

[Watch Knicks-Warriors Tonight on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free.]

“Went in on an off-day with coach [Jeff] Hornacek and [assistant coach] Jerry [Sichting],” Hardaway told reporters. “Those guys helped me out and helped me with my rhythm, helped me with my shot, made sure I kept my balance, made sure I was out there focused, but also enjoying myself.”

Often the joy of the game can be sapped by the grind of the season, especially if the shots aren’t dropping and the losses are mounting.

For Hardaway, there was the added burden of knowing he had to up his offensive game. When Kristaps Porzingis was lost for the season with a knee injury, Hardaway became the team’s No. 1 option.

“I know how much this team needs me and how important I am to this team,” Hardaway said. “Everybody needs help, you know? I want to be out there helping.

“So whatever I have to do, I’m going to continue to stay in the gym, keep getting extra reps, continue to stay locked in and keep firing away when they’re open.”

Over a seven-game stretch, Hardaway went 24-of-93 (25.8 percent) from the field including 5-of-44 (11.4 percent) on 3s.

As frustrating as it was to see the shots not drop was the feeling that, technically, there was nothing wrong.

“They feel great, man,” Hardaway said of his shot. “Some rattling in and out. They’re all in line. None are going left, none are going right, none of them are air-balling. Leave my hands great, feel good.’’

Hardaway has had reason to feel good of late. In his first game after meeting with Hornacek and Sichting, Hardaway scored 37 points in a 118-113 loss to the Washington Wizards on Valentine’s Day.

He was 14-of-23 from the field and 6-of-9 on 3s.

In the last three games, Hardaway is averaging 25.7 points on 30-of-58 shooting (52-percent) from the field including 10-of-23 (43-percent) on 3s.

The Knicks (24-37) will need all the offense they can get from Hardaway tonight (7 p.m.; MSG Network & MSG GO) when they host the Golden State Warriors (46-14) at The Garden. The Warriors are the NBA’s highest scoring team at 116.1 points per game. The Knicks average 104.1, tied for 19th.

It was in the breakout game against Washington that Hardaway was reminded of his new role on the team. The Wizards focused their defense on Hardaway in the second half, holding him to five points after the 32-point first half.

This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Hardaway. Never before in his NBA career has he been the focal point of the opponent’s defensive game plan.

If he learns from it, he can take his game to another level and give the Knicks a powerful duo next season when KP returns.

“I got to be more … just demanding a little bit more, being a little bit more aggressive and drawing double-teams, drawing triple-teams and kicking it out to my guys for easier shots than they had today in the second half,” said Hardaway.

“Just try to have that killer instinct to put teams away is the next step.’’

[Watch Knicks-Warriors Tonight on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free.]

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