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2019 Report Card: Traded Players

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

To bookend our 2019 New York Rangers Report Cards, we’re wrapping up with a few players who started the season with the New York Rangers, but finished it elsewhere.

Mats Zuccarello

Zuccarello meant a lot to the Rangers throughout his tenure for what he did both on and off the ice. He’s a player that most fans, no matter their perspective, rooted for.

At the 2019 trade deadline, Zuccarello was traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for two conditional draft picks. For the purposes of these report cards, we only will be looking at the on-ice performances of the players moved at the deadline, not at the returns in any of the trades.

Zuccarello scored 37 points for the Rangers in 46 games; even before the deadline, his season was cut short due to injury. Of his 37 points, 26 were primary between his 11 goals and 15 assists. To better weigh those points, we can look at his scoring rates to see how they compare to years past. Zuccarello’s 2.41 points per 60 pre-trade deadline was the third best of his career, after his 2.68 per 60 in 2012-13 and 2.45 in 2015-16.

Compared to the rest of the team, Zuccarello’s 37 points ranked fifth — behind Mika Zibanejad (74 in 82 games), Chris Kreider (52 in 79 games), Kevin Hayes (42 in 51 games), and Pavel Buchnevich (38 in 64 games). His 26 assists ranked third, while his 15 primary assists were the second best on the team despite playing fewer games. His scoring rate ranked third to Zibanejad and Hayes.

Zuccarello scored 21 of his points at 5-on-5, which ranked sixth on the team. With him on the ice, the Rangers took 48.6 parent of the shots (fourth best on the team) and were expected to score 51.6 percent of the goals (third ranked on team).

In 2019, he formed a dynamic trio with Kreider and Zibanejad. By the numbers at 5-on-5, the KZZ line of Kreider, Zibanejad, and Zuccarello ranked second in terms of Corsi (54.5 percent, plus-9.2 relative) and expected goals (62.6 percent, plus-17.5 relative). Together, they were on the ice for 21 goals for and 10 against.

That scoring at 5-on-5 trickled into the power play as well, where the three were on a unit together. From Jan. 1 until the deadline, Zuccarello tallied 23 points in 21 games; compared to the rest of the team from the start of the calendar year through the end of the season, those points were fourth to Zibanejad (40), Buchnevich (27), and Ryan Strome (26).

The way Zuccarello sees the ice makes him a threat each and every shift, as he can design plays with his crafty passing. Though he isn’t much of a shooter, Kreider and Zibanejad’s sneaky passing led to him putting the puck into the back of the net both at even strength and on the power play.

That vision also translates to the other end of the ice, where it helped him limit shots against and be a key part of the Rangers’ penalty kill. Off the ice, he also brought his own brand of leadership to the locker room. He was undoubtedly a popular player in the locker room.

Since there were points in the season where Zuccarello’s production slowed and the critique will always be that he didn’t shoot the puck enough, that stops him from earning the highest of marks. However, he still ends his time with the Rangers with an A.

Final Grade: A

Banter Consensus: A

After the deadline, Zuccarello made an excellent debut with the Stars before he broke his arm while blocking a shot. He scored three points in two regular season games. In their 13 playoff games, he put up 11 points — four goals and seven assists — and really rounded out the Stars’ top-six scoring. His postseason performance has led many to believe that the Stars will re-sign him before he becomes a free agent on July 1.

Kevin Hayes

The expectations were high for Hayes this season. After two years of being put in more of a defensive role — as instructed by Alain Vigneault — down the middle of the third line with minimal power play time, things were expected to change under David Quinn.

In his previous gig, Quinn became quite familiar with the then-right winger of Boston College as the coach of Boston University. He saw what made Hayes a special player in college, which is why the Rangers pursued him as a free agent. The expectation was that it would mean Quinn would get him back to playing to his strengths, which is in a more offensive role.

In the 51 games he was a Ranger this season, Hayes’ offensive upside stood out with his 42 points, which were seven shy of a career high of 49 points set in 2016-17. Of course, those 49 points were picked up in 76 games, not the 51 games that Hayes played with the Rangers before being dealt. In the 71 total games he played between Winnipeg and New York, he scored 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists), which set a new high for the big pivot.

When weighing ice time, Hayes scored at a rate of 2.54 points per 60. This actually was the second highest rate of his career, second only to the 2014-15 campaign when he scored 45 points in 79 games (2.61 points per 60). The biggest difference between this past year and Hayes’ rookie season is how much he played in each game. There’s over a six and a half minute difference in average ice time between those two seasons, as Hayes reached a career high of 19:27 on average this year before the trade. Quinn and the rest of the Rangers’ coaching staff used him in every situation.

Hayes’ 42 all situation points ranked third on the team, while his 28 assists were second. That 2.54 per 60 scoring rate trailed only Zibanejad (2.63 per 60).

With 26 points at 5-on-5, Hayes continued to perform well at even-strength, as he has throughout his career. No mainstay had better underlying numbers at 5-on-5, between Hayes’ 51 percent Corsi (he was the only Ranger to break even in terms of Corsi besides Libor Hajek in five games) and 54.6 percent expected goals. The ice was tilted in the Rangers’ favor with him on the ice, and those numbers were a major improvement from years past.

Before the deadline, Hayes also played the most power play time of his career — over 126 minutes in total, which averaged 2:32 per game. To compare, the highest he had played before this season was 120:37 in 78 games in 2015-16. Hayes scored 11 points on the man-advantage this season, a career best, and was often featured on the first unit.

Before the trade, Hayes had the opportunity to play with more offensive linemates than he had in years past. Before this season, he hadn’t spent much time with Kreider on his wing. Kreider’s a winger that can drive a line and often elevates the game of the center he plays with. That was certainly true when he was paired with Hayes. Hayes’ strengths are forcing turnovers, slowing down the play, and passing the puck. Though he is criticized for his speed at times, when playing with a winger as speedy as Kreider, or Michael Grabner, his patient approach can be complimentary.

There’s no question Hayes developed under Vigneault — he shifted from wing to center and became much more aware in his own end. He became a player the Rangers could trust in defensive situations and on the penalty kill. However, his offensive production was stunted at times because of his usage and linemates, which is why it was important to see if he’d thrive in a more offensive role. Before the deadline, he did just that and was a key contributor.

Final Grade: A

Banter Consensus: A

Hayes was traded to the Winnipeg Jets at the deadline, where he went on to score 13 points in 20 games to end the regular season. In the playoffs, he tallied three points in six games, but wasn’t played nearly the ice time that he did before the trade from 15:17 in the regular season on average and 11:58 in the playoffs.

Adam McQuaid

McQuaid joined what was already a full blue line when the Rangers acquired him before the season. In exchange for Steven Kampfer, a fourth-round pick, and a conditional seventh-round pick, the Rangers added the right-handed defender from the Boston Bruins.

At the time, the Rangers’ blue line already included Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, Marc Staal, Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo, and Fredrik Claesson; McQuaid made it eight. Plus, there were players like Libor Hajek and John Gilmour trying to make the NHL team out of training camp. The deal with Boston made it seem that the Rangers weren’t particularly confident in the defenders they had. It also made the blue line older and slower, which wasn’t ideal for a rebuilding team. While the idea is to have veterans to lead younger players, one could argue that there was little space for another veteran on New York’s defense.

McQuaid averaged 14:48 minutes at 5-on-5 in 36 games with the team; compared to the defense, that ranked ahead of only Smith and Ryan Lindgren, who played in just five games. In that time, the Rangers took just under 43.8 percent of the shots. The only blueliners who were on for less were Staal, Lindgren, and Gilmour (also in a five game sample).

McQuaid isn’t known for his offense, and the Rangers really didn’t take a high rate of shots when he was on the ice. Instead, he’s known for his play in his own zone. The Rangers took shots at a rate of 58.43 per 60 with him on the ice. Of the mainstays, McQuaid ranked fourth, behind Claesson, Shattenkirk, and Smith.

When we factor in quality, the Rangers were expected to score 49.6 percent of the goals share. Again, offensively he didn’t thread the needle, but his defensive numbers were fine compared to the mainstays; he tied with Shattenkirk with an expected goals against per 60 of 2.28 and trailed Claesson.

None of those numbers seem particularly problematic or out of line with the rest of the team. For some context though, it’s worth noting that McQuaid’s numbers obviously don’t include time after the trade deadline when he was moved to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is when the team had their most glaring struggles until the year ended. Having said that, his presence on the surface doesn’t seem like a glaring issue. However, there were some problems worth mentioning.

For one, the coaches were hesitant to pull the shot-blocking, heart-and-soul defender out of the lineup. His commitment and willingness to do whatever it took endeared him to the team. However, having McQuaid in the lineup blocked other defenders. For much of the year, it was DeAngelo or Pionk because they too were competing for a spot playing on the right side of the defense. Plus, Smith was relegated to playing on the fourth line for parts of the season, and Claesson undeservedly spent many games on the outside looking in.

And there’s the issue of his play on Skjei’s right. McQuaid was Skjei’s most frequent partner, as they spent over 436 5-on-5 minutes together. Together, they had a 43.3 percent Corsi. Apart, Skjei was better without McQuaid on his right — his underlying numbers were better, and his scoring picked up. Skjei looked like a different player after the deadline.

The coaches leaned on McQuaid more than they should have this season, which made the trade that brought him to New York even more problematic. But McQuaid can’t be faulted for being traded. He can’t be faulted for his usage either, even though his presence blocked others from the lineup.

McQuaid’s leadership and veteran presence may be helpful to a rebuilding team, but his defensive style didn’t help push the puck up the ice or fit the speed game the Rangers were trying to employ. And, it didn’t make his most frequent partner’s play any better.

Final Grade: C-

Banter Consensus: D+

McQuaid was traded to the Blue Jackets at the deadline, where he appeared in 14 regular season games before his season was cut short. A hit from Andrew Shaw on March 28 ended his season, and he did not return for the playoffs. McQuaid is still dealing with the effects of the injury sustained from the hit.

Data via NaturalStatTrick

2019 Report Cards: Ryan Strome / Filip Chytil / Brendan Lemieux / Tony DeAngelo / Chris Kreider / Pavel Buchnevich / Neal Pionk / Cristoval Nieves / Kevin Shattenkirk/ Marc Staal / Jimmy Vesey / Brady Skjei / Connor Brickley / Vladislav Namestnikov/ Vinni Lettieri/ Brendan Smith / Fredrik Claesson / Assistant Coaches / Henrik Lundqvist / Alexandar Georgiev / Mika Zibanejad | Lias Andersson