Welcome to the All-Star break; a time where teams and players get a chance to relax a bit before gearing up for the push to the postseason. For the New York Rangers and their fans, though, this time is just a prelude to the trade deadline and The Big Sell-Off 2: Electric Boogaloo. As the first half of the season has trudged along, the rumors and speculation have been a bit quiet, but with the entire league and it’s media descending upon San Jose for the All-Star Game this weekend, prepare for things to heat up.
Here at Blueshirt Banter we’ve talked all first half about who the Rangers should and should not trade along with what the prospective values and returns for those players should be, but now it’s time to focus our attention on what teams the Rangers should be in business with. Phil got the ball rolling by taking a look at the Colorado Avalanche and how the two teams match up as trade partners, he also talked about how the Rangers should be aggressive this trading season and set the market in the lead up to the February 25th trade deadline.
It’s on that last point that I want to jump off of with a rather bold statement; Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers should rob the Edmonton Oilers blind.
While that might seem a bit aggressive, let’s take a look at the Oilers’ current position in the standings as of Martin Luther King day:
The Oilers sit just three points out of both Wild Card spots in the West after 49 games played. Given the general mismanagement that has haunted the team, this result is not too shabby, and they are looking like a team that is set to add a rental or two to make that push to get into the playoffs, especially when you have a player like Connor McDavid as your top center. There are only so many years they can waste with McDavid, and with season ticket renewals looming, Edmonton seems like a team that would be willing to do business with the Rangers to acquire players who will help them make the playoffs.
From the article linked above via the Edmonton Sun:
The Oilers Entertainment Group has about 2,000 premium ticket accounts involving suites, club seating, loge seating, etc. Fortunately, OEG didn’t make the same mistake as the Montreal Canadiens when they moved into the Bell Centre and signed all premium ticket customers to three-year contracts. The Oilers managed to get those customers divided equally on three-, five- and seven-year plans. Still, those on the three-year plans are coming due at the end of this season.
While the organization has been working hard all season with those customers and have managed to get a number to take early renewal, there are still a significant number who remain uncommitted.
These real world business implications could ultimately force the Oilers’ hand, and the Rangers could be a bit of a one-stop shop.
Now, why do I say that the Rangers should rob the Oilers blind? Well, because Peter Chiarelli is the one making the phone calls for Edmonton and Peter Chiarelli is a desperate man who has made some very bad moves for the Oilers. It’s no secret that the Oilers are a poorly built team and that Chiarelli is probably on his way out if they don’t make the playoffs this year. The thing is, Chiarelli doesn’t understand what exactly his team needs in order to achieve that goal, and that is where the Rangers can strike gold.
The Oilers have made no secret about being aggressive this trade season and there is rumor that they are willing to part with younger talent and draft picks for improvements to their roster upfront.
Oilers organization is on a full court press to find help at forward. Scouts and staff deployed en masse.— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) January 14, 2019
Cap situation could make it tough, but first round pick, a goaltender, maybe a young developing forward likely all in play.
It’s also no secret that Peter Chiarelli is not a mastermind when it comes to making deals as he is the man who traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, straight up, and he’s the man who turned Jordan Eberle into literally nothing, as Ryan Spooner was placed on waivers after being traded to Edmonton by the Rangers for Ryan Strome who was acquired by the Oilers for...Jordan Eberle.
Waivers: TY RATTIE— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) January 21, 2019
So, you have a General Manager who isn’t the best at making trades helming a team that is on the cusp of getting into the playoffs with one of, if not the best, players in the game and is looking to save his job. This is the perfect storm for a team like the Rangers to get a haul, but what could that haul look like? Well, it depends on who is going the other way.
Let’s start with the big names; the ones everyone has been mentioning as we head into February: Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers two big rental pieces. It’s no secret that the Oilers are looking for forward help, in fact Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his 31 Thoughts column just a couple of weeks ago that the Oilers had been looking into Mats Zuccarello already, with the idea that he might get a similar return to the Michael Grabner trade a year ago (a mid level prospect and a 2nd round pick).
That’s a good start, but we can do better. Sure, Zuccarello could bolster the Oilers attack but that’s pretty easy to do when you have the Milan Lucic’s contract dragging down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, let’s think bigger both literally and figuratively.
Kevin Hayes should be the focal point for the Rangers when dealing with Peter Chiarelli, not only would the big pivot clearly help a beleaguered Oilers offense, but his physical attributes (BIG) should be enough to sucker the Oilers into parting with some very valuable future pieces. What pieces are we talking about? If I’m General Manager Jeff Gorton — the man who was fired by Chiarelli when he was an Assistant GM in Boston back in 2007 — and I am very much not, I start with Kailer Yamamoto and work from there.
Taken one spot after Filip Chytil in 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Yamamoto is a 5’8” scoring machine out of the WHL and currently playing in the AHL as a 20 year old. While the lack of size might scare some people off, Yamamoto’s skill is superlative and would be the right handed boost on the wings that the Rangers have been dying for. Sure, it might seem a bit rash for the Oilers to trade a player that they drafted just two years ago, but Edmonton is in that wonderful position where they might do just about anything to get into the playoffs and that could mean selling the future to bolster the present.
Another target for the Rangers? Jesse Puljujarvi. Drafted No. 4 overall in 2016, Puljujarvi has been stopped and started by the Oilers so many times that it’s hard to believe he’s still only 20 years old. The 6’4” right handed winger hasn’t quite found his place with the Oilers, though that could also be because the Oilers keep bouncing him around, and a new start on a team that will have top six ice to spare could be what the young Finnish forward needs.
While Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello are the two standouts when it comes to trade pieces, the Rangers can also utilize guys like Vlad Namestnikov or Jimmy Vesey to entice Edmonton up front or throw big, tough former Boston Bruin Adam McQuaid in Chiarelli’s face and see if he bites. Then, there’s the biggest fish; Chris Kreider.
With a contract set to expire next offseason; Kreider might be the biggest trade piece of them all. While Hayes and Zuccarello might garner one of Yamamoto or Puljujarvi and a draft pick, Kreider can really whet Chiarelli’s appetite and get a really nice package out of Alberta centered around the young forwards and a 1st round pick.
The Rangers have a lot of enticing pieces for many buyers going into the deadline, they are a team that is open for business, and the Oilers are a team just desperate and crazy enough to play into the Rangers’ hands. It’s just a matter of how desperate Edmonton is and how aggressive, and cutthroat, General Manager Jeff Gorton wants to be.