An Updated Look at the Rangers Trade Deadline Approach

An Updated Look at the Rangers Trade Deadline Approach
Dec 23, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Seattle Kraken defenseman Will Borgen (3) moves the puck against Anaheim Ducks right wing Frank Vatrano (77) during the third period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still about a month out from the NHL’s Trade Deadline but a lot has happened that gives us a better idea of what the Rangers could look to accomplish heading into it. A couple of massive trades have already taken place around the league which not only eliminate some potential candidates, but give us a better idea of the market prices for various players. Unfortunately for the Rangers, most of that doesn’t necessarily come as great news considering the steep prices other teams have already paid for certain players. With that in mind, let’s take a look at where the Rangers are at in terms of needs and what they potentially have to work with.

What The Team Needs:

At this point, the team’s needs are pretty obvious. From the get go, the Rangers knew they would likely need help on the right wing and have been trying to fill that hole on the line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad for years. The hope was for Kaapo Kakko to be able to cement himself there but even if he stayed healthy and managed to work out in that role, the team would still benefit from adding a play-driving right winger who isn’t afraid to shoot the puck every so often. Heading into the playoffs, Kakko is fine on that third line opposite of Will Cuylle. The only other potential need this team has is someone to slot in down the middle between those two.

With Filip Chytil being shut down for the season, the Rangers have kind of scrambled to replace his role on that third line. They tried Nick Bonino which not only failed but essentially drove him out of the league or at least off of this team altogether. For the money Barclay Goodrow makes, he should be more than capable of filling in there but as we’ve all learned by now, is best used in a fourth line role. Which now leaves Jonny Brodzinski as the third line center which honestly, he hasn’t looked bad there at all. However, as much as I or anyone may like what Brodzinski brings to this team, it isn’t necessarily the best case scenario to have him as a top-nine forward on a team trying to make a cup run.

What’s Happened So Far

The NHL’s All-Star weekend is supposed to be a nice break in the schedule for most team’s and allow focus on a fun couple of days for the league to entertain the fans. Typically, you don’t count on it acting as a ‘trade deadline junior’ sort of day but in this case, that’s exactly what it kind of felt like. Two of the bigger name trade deadline targets were quickly taken off the board throughout the weekend’s festivities which added a whole layer of drama to what became a rather entertaining couple of days. One of which required a particular NHL All-Star to end up representing a different team than the one he was selected to attend the event as a part of. Elias Lindholm, who was arguably the grand prize ahead of the 2024 trade deadline, was shipped from Calgary to Vancouver in exchange for quite the bundle.

This would be the first of two big trades involving available centers as the Winnipeg Jets went out and acquired veteran Sean Monahan from the Montreal Canadiens for a bit of a king’s ransom as well.

Monahan, as well as Lindholm, were both names of interest to the Rangers and as we know according to Darren Dreger on Insider Trading, the Rangers did indeed make an offer for Lindholm that obviously was not accepted given the fact that he is now a Vancouver Canuck. This wouldn’t be all that we learned from Inside Trading about the Rangers Trade Deadline approach…

What’s In Play for NYR

We know the Rangers want to add a forward. Whether that be a center, a right winger or both, this team is going to look to be buyers to an extent at the deadline. However, Darren Dreger also reported that James Dolan, the Rangers owner, does not want to offer their 2024 first round draft pick in any potential offers. Why? Because that draft is going to be taking place at.. The Sphere in Las Vegas. And who owns The Sphere? That would be Mr. James Dolan. Is that a good reason for not trading the pick? We can leave that up to debate in the comments.

You can check out that clip of Insider Trading right here:

Larry Brooks reported, however, that the Blueshirts have no restrictions when it comes to trading the pick, so who really knows what will happen?

But if we were to pretend that pick is off limits, what will actually be in play for the Rangers heading into trade negotiations? Well that’s going to be tough to speculate on. Rumors have already circulated that Chris Drury is willing to shop Kaapo Kakko, however given the fact that the big fish is already out of the pond (Elias Lindholm) it’s hard to see any other move that would make sense to include Kakko. You have to keep in mind that arguably, right wing is the team’s biggest need right now and aside from Blake Wheeler, Kakko is their only natural right winger. The price would truly have to be right to consider shipping Kakko out of New York and unless something truly groundbreaking takes place, I, like many folks, just don’t see that happening.

So if the Rangers aren’t going to trade their first round pick in the upcoming draft and it doesn’t make sense to trade Kakko, what is left to negotiate with? They don’t have many other draft picks to use as trade chips seeing as they’ve already moved their 2024 3rd rounder, 2025 2nd rounder, 2025 3rd rounder, and 2026 2nd rounder. So essentially, all they have in play is their 2024 2nd and their 2026 3rd as well as their 1st rounders for the next two seasons.

Given the talent in the Rangers prospect pool and given how young several key pieces to this team are, the Rangers shouldn’t really be too concerned with trading a future first if the price is right. While some key pieces are young, the majority of this team’s core is either in their prime or close to being out of it. This means that the window for contending isn’t opening any larger in the foreseeable future so if there’s potential to buy, it has to be considered. So if Dolan wants the team to keep their 1st for next year so he can be an active host at his big draft party then by all means. But trading future, conditional firsts should absolutely be on the table.

As for what shouldn’t be on the table, Gabe Perreault and Brennan Othmann should be untouchable unless the Rangers are bringing on a superstar that can be a part of this team for at least the next 3-5 years if not longer. You have to think that potentially shopping Kakko also goes to show that they value those two prospects and see them in their long term plans to the point that they could eventually establish themselves in the team’s top-nine, perhaps even ahead of Kakko.

As far as any other players the Rangers could look to include in a potential trade, unless they find a way to unload Barclay Goodrow’s cap hit, it doesn’t make sense to include any current roster players. The Rangers do have a ton of “b level” prospects in the system that they could include in a trade to bring someone on to help them in the playoffs. However, with their limited draft capital and short list of excitable names potentially available by other teams, it’s going to be difficult for the Rangers to piece together an offer that can lure bigger name players away from opposing GM’s.

Teams and Players to Target

Seattle Kraken – In my opinion, Seattle should be atop the Rangers shopping list. They’re a team that hasn’t officially decided if they want to be sellers but have fallen a bit out of the playoff picture. If that decision comes, the second it happens Drury should be on the phone figuring out a way to bring on Alexander Wennberg and Jordan Eberle. I mentioned this in a tweet but adding those two without losing any current roster players might make the Rangers a complete team. You put Eberle on the right side of Zibanejad and Kreider, throw Wennberg between Kakko and Cuylle and you’re good to go. Both players would likely need salary retention and given their abilities, could require a big price.

The Rangers would likely have to start the conversation with a 1st so let’s say their 2025 pick since they want to keep next years. You’d potentially have to throw in next year’s 2nd rounder as well and perhaps one or two of Ryder Korczak, Karl Henriksson, Matthew Robertson, something along those lines. Zac Jones could very well be in play as well but at the end of the day, Wennberg and Eberle are a pair of players the Rangers should be willing to give up a respectable package for seeing as there isn’t much else out there.

Anaheim Ducks

There’s been a ton of talk linking the Rangers and Ducks in a potential deal. Frank Vatrano mentioned in his first All-Star appearance that he felt Mika Zibanejad is one of the most underrated players in the league and said nothing but good things about his time in New York. There’s no doubt that he said those things with the intention of expressing interest in a potential reunion. The Rangers know he works with Zibanejad and Kreider, but he does carry a bulky cap hit that carries him through next season as well.

Vatrano isn’t the only name of interest to the Rangers as veteran center Adam Henrique is a strong candidate to fill in on the third line in place of Chytil. He’s a realistic option for the Rangers if they want to address center depth and is having a great year, however with how much Montreal was able to get for Monahan, Anaheim could ask for a similar return which you could argue would be an overpayment for Henrique. If the Rangers can pick up both of those players and only give up picks in the process, it could be worth it but again, I wouldn’t bother piecing together a massive bundle for those two.

San Jose Sharks

There’s obviously a relationship between Chris Drury and Sharks new GM Mike Grier. It’s worth it for the Rangers to check in and see if there’s any business to do here, even if as a last resort, hail mary sort of option. Similarly to Vatrano, there’s another potential reunion that can happen with a trade involving San Jose. Anthony Duclair, a former third round draft pick by the Rangers, is on an expiring contract and will likely be dealt at the deadline. He hasn’t had a particularly excitable season but he is also on one of the basement dwelling teams in the NHL. Perhaps a change of scenery and reunion could spark his game but perhaps not.

There’s a couple other names of intrigue there. Kevin Lebanc is coming to the end of his deal in San Jose and could be a cheaper buy, however doesn’t make this team a whole lot better as a result. Luke Kunin can play the wing or center and is another cheaper option but again, nothing to get overly excited on. Even Nico Sturm could be a nice depth pickup but at $2 mil through next season, probably isn’t worth it. Alexander Barabanov could be worth a look as well but would have to agree to waive his NMC.

Miscellaneous Teams & Names

Nashville: Thomas Novak, Yakov Trenin. Both centers that could add depth to the Rangers bottom-six. Novak is a younger center with upside that could essentially replace Chytil for this season whereas Trenin is more of a 4th line, utility sandpaper guy. Neither of which would likely break the bank but as a result, probably wouldn’t make or break this team’s playoff outlook. If the Rangers want to play things safe, this could be more their speed if Nashville is interested.

Buffalo: Casey Mittelstadt, highly unlikely but would be a great addition to the Rangers center depth. If there are concerns with Chytil’s long term availability, it could be worth bringing a guy like him on as well. Zemgus Girgensons is another enticing thought but given his tenure with Buffalo, I don’t see him going anywhere unless he wants to and the offer is noteworthy enough.

Calgary: Yegor Sharangovich would be a really great get for the Rangers but his name hasn’t really been mentioned at all and I don’t see Calgary moving him unless they get a return similar, if not more costly than what Montreal got for Monahan. Which for the Rangers, wouldn’t really be worth it.

Chicago: The Blackhawks really aren’t in a position to do anyone any favors unless it involves salary retention. Tyler Johnson could be a name of interest for the Rangers but the Blackhawks also need living breathing humans that make a significant paycheck to remain on their roster. For that alone, I don’t know that Chicago will really go out of their way to sell, especially since they already have seven picks through the first three rounds of next year’s draft alone but leave no stone unturned right?

Ottawa: I’ll just say the name that everyone probably wants to read, Vladimir Tarasenko. There seems to have been some uncertainty about whether or not the Rangers can actually re-acquire him but if it’s possible, it’s worth looking into. Tarasenko loved New York, the Rangers loved him, the money just wasn’t and still isn’t really there. It would involve salary retention and a price that could be steep but nevertheless, it’s a trade that would certainly appease the fanbase.

What Will Happen?

Well, that’s obviously the million dollar question. Truthfully, I feel that Rangers fans should prepare for an underwhelming trade deadline. Unless the stars align to bring Vatrano back or they can pick up a veteran center option without breaking the bank, there really isn’t much available to them that is going to be beneficial for a playoff run. Perhaps last year’s early playoff exit was a strong enough lesson that in order for this team to be successful, their top guys need to perform in the playoffs. We know this group is capable of it, they just have to find a way to get it done.