Showtime has finally arrived on Broadway.
The trade the world heard about for three weeks finally officially happened Tuesday afternoon, with Chris Drury finalizing the move to acquire Patrick Kane from Chicago.
In truth, this was something of a perfect storm for the New York Rangers, but it didn’t come without some savvy work from Drury who deserves a lot of credit here and it gives the Rangers one of the most loaded lineups I have ever seen in my life.
When the Rangers were in the process of officially bringing in a secondary gun for the offense, rumors of Kane were swirling like a hurricane. Rumor on the street was he wanted to come to New York, and the two sides have been loosely linked for years – if for no other reason than Kane was a superstar and the Rangers seem to always get superstars.
This time, however, there was a bit more juice to things. The Rangers wanted to add secondary scoring, and Kane – a pending UFA – was likely going to be granted a soft landing by the organization he has done so much for over his career. A move to New York was possible.
Drury had other ideas, though. Reportedly the Rangers walked down the path to acquire Kane – and maybe really far down that path – while also speaking with St. Louis about Vladimir Tarasenko. Leaks about the Rangers are pretty rare on the national and local front – what you hear is normally what the organization wants you to hear – and as usual the Tarasenko trade seemingly materialized out of nowhere. For the price of Sammy Blais, Hunter Skinner, a conditional 1st round pick this year (it’s the worst of the two the Rangers have), and a conditional 4th round pick. Oh, and hulking defenseman Niko Mikkola came too.
It was not a steep price to pay for an enormous upgrade to two core needs of the team. Tarasenko’s bromance with Artemiy Panarin aside, Vlad is a shoot-first winger who fills in as the trigger man on a team who desperately needs another one, and a power play option if things aren’t clicking. I know Vlad hasn’t really exploded onto the scene in New York, but he’s gotten stronger with each game and I maintain it’s a harder than expected transition for a shooter to find his space on a new team. (I wrote this before the win over the Flyers Wednesday, so you’re welcome.)
More importantly, it was clear Drury was not willing to wait out the Timo Meier market, and didn’t want to wait for Kane, either. When St. Louis dropped their price for Tarasenko he pulled the trigger — likely because the price was so affordable and because it ensured the Rangers got what they needed regardless of the steep market increases as the Deadline drew closer. It also gave Tarasenko more time to mesh with the team before the playoffs.
Within that trade, though, there was another wrinkle. The Blues retained 50% of Tarasenko’s salary, leaving the door juuuuust wide enough for the Rangers to potentially fit someone else.
And then the gears started turning in Chicago. Right after the Tarasenko trade went down Kane had some shockingly open comments about the situation.
Patrick Kane on the Rangers' Tarasenko deal: "It’s not like the happiest I’ve been to hear about a trade. ... If things are going to happen, that was a team I was definitely looking at. It seems like they kind of filled their void and went ahead and made a deal."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 10, 2023
And there’s the rub, right? No movement clauses can be horrible, terrible things, but they can also be incredible things when the stars align. Kane – feeling the door was open to win another Stanley Cup in New York – told the Blackhawks (I would assume) he wanted NY or bust. And Drury pounced as anyone in his position would have.
To think the Rangers would bring in Kane and Tarasenko – not to mention Mikkola – without giving up any prospect of note (more on Vitali Kravtsov in a moment) is incredible work. Regardless of Kane wiggling his way out of Chicago, Drury did not panic and landed two of the biggest names on the market to New York for cents on the dollar. And with New Jersey, Toronto, Boston, and potentially Carolina loading up for the arms race that is the Eastern Conference Playoffs, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
(Note on Kravtsov: There’s more I want to say on this at a later date, but it was clear Kravtsov had completely fallen out of favor with both Gallant and Drury. While I personally don’t understand why the Rangers couldn’t even attempt to find a space for him in the lineup – and were actively worse without him this year while forcing JL as the 4C – they were never going to play him and clearing out his cap space for Kane was the best addition they could get. Drury was not overseeing the scouting group that reached for Kravtsov in the first place, but there’s something deeper to the Rangers reaching for prospects in high spots on the draft board and then just … not nurturing them. But that’s for a different day.)
And today? Well the team is so much better today than they were Monday.
I had often maintained the New York Rangers didn’t need or want Kane as the main piece of their acquisitions at the trade deadline. His metrics aren’t great (granted Chicago is an absolute abyss), his hip was noteworthy enough to become public speculation, and the price tag was (assumed to be) massive.
Tarasenko – I felt – fit more of a need for a Rangers’ offense that goes hot and cold with scoring far too often and wouldn’t cost nearly as much. Having another trigger on the power play, or another gun you can move up and down the lineup, was such a valuable piece of the depth puzzle – which you saw Wednesday night. (OK I added this piece this morning.)
Kane is different. He’s a unicorn. He’s gunning at a 0.83 point per game metric, which is still somehow way off his career average. Last year he posted 26-66-92 in 78 games. He has 132 points in 136 playoff games. This is not some washed up vet who hasn’t done anything good the past five years. Kane could compete with Panarin for the most skilled forward on the team — and pairing them together when the Rangers need offensive boosts create a winger combo that could make Filip Chytil a 900-goal scorer.
This move changes the entire dynamic of the Rangers from top to bottom. Kane fits anywhere with anyone. If Gallant is keen to keep the kid line together – and early indications appear that he is – then Kane can slot in with Trocheck and Panarin (something Gallant has hinted out).
Kreider - Mika - Tarasenko
Panarin - Trocheck - Kane
Laf - Chytil - Kakko
Vesey - Goodrow – Motte
This lineup is a damn problem. Not only does Kane allow the fourth line to shift to an actual fourth line – contract aside, Goodrow as a 4C is insane – but there’s not another lineup in the NHL that this offense can’t punch with. Especially if the kids continue their ascent and are anything like the kids we saw in the playoffs. And having a fourth line that can actually eat the tough defensive matchups while allowing some of the other lines to fly looser is going to make such a difference down the stretch.
It also adds a totally different dynamic to the power play, 4-on-4 situations, and a host of other options Gallant can roll with when he goes to the line blender. And with a crash course seemingly all but guaranteed against New Jersey, the Rangers are gonna need it.
In short: it was a no brainer.
The Rangers haven’t had a player of Kane’s skillset sine Panarin, and now they’re on the team together.
The team will run lean though, and I mean lean. With their cap constrains the Rangers were forced to play shorthanded against the Flyers on Wednesday and could opt to use an emergency call up situation tonight if needed. The 21-player cap will run until the playoffs where the cap requirements dissipate and the Rangers have a little more flexibility.
But that’s a worthy price to pay for getting Kane.
The Rangers might not have ever been more exciting on the ice.
Welcome to Showtime.