The Rangers have begun the 2019 trading deadline period with a flurry of moves, though perhaps not of the magnitude expected. After swapping spare parts Cody McLeod and Marek Mazanec for seventh-round picks, the Rangers last night traded center Peter Holland to Chicago in return for defenseman Darren Raddysh. Darren is not to be confused with his brother, Taylor Raddysh, who is a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect.
Soon to be 23 years old, Raddysh is a late bloomer. The right-handed defenseman was not drafted by an NHL team even though he put up respectable numbers for the OHL’s Erie Otters. Evaluators understandably attributed much of that production to a loaded offensive team featuring Connor McDavid, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome. Even after a strong overage season without McDavid, Raddysh had to settle for an AHL deal with Chicago’s affiliate (Rockford). He proved himself as competent enough and earned an NHL contract from the Blackhawks at the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Raddysh is a cerebral, puck moving defenseman. He can make plays on the puck in various ways. In both ends of the ice, he is very poised and can see ways out of trouble in tight spots. He starts rushes for his team from the back more as a passer rather than a skater, dishing quick outlets to nearby wingers or making confident diagonal passes through the neutral zone. Raddysh is a capable power play quarterback for AHL purposes. Here is some video of his passing (watch for #24 in red).
Through 54 games, Raddysh has eight goals and 18 assists.
The problem for Raddysh is athleticism. At 6’1 and 200 pounds, he’s by no means undersized. However, it’s not an advantage, either. While his skating has improved from his time in the OHL, he’s only ordinary by AHL standards. He lacks explosiveness in his stride, and that limits his ability to rush the puck or defend in transition.
Both in his strengths and weaknesses, Raddysh is stylistically similar to a defenseman like Adam Clendening.
Chicago has a glut of right-handed defensemen in their system, including Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, and Chad Krys. Raddysh was already losing minutes to the recently demoted Jokiharju, and with at least some others likely turning pro next season Raddysh had become redundant in their system. They acquire an elite AHLer in Peter Holland, and he will be a massive help to Rockford’s sputtering offense as they push for a playoff spot.
The Rangers and Wolf Pack lose the battle but win the war. As great as Holland has been in Hartford - 49 points in 52 games - he is a 28-year-old who will become an unrestricted free agent in July. Hartford is well outside the playoff picture, and so the short-term gains he would provide don’t mean much. Every defenseman the Rangers have under contract in Hartford is left-handed, and that has created a myriad of problems. Raddysh gives the Wolf Pack a right-handed defenseman they desperately need both this season as well as next; Raddysh is under contract through 2020, when he’ll become a restricted free agent.
Let’s not be cloying about the impact of this trade. It’s a depth move that will in all likelihood be forgettable 12 months from now. Still, it’s a move which only stands to benefit the organization. At worst, Raddysh will fill a massive void as a capable right-handed defenseman in Hartford for multiple seasons. On the upside, Raddysh could turn into a capable depth defenseman in the NHL. The odds of that may be low, but any chance that Raddysh provides of that outcome is better than the non-chance the Rangers had prior to the trade.