NHL Trade Deadline: Ranking the Likelihood of a Trade for Each New York Ranger
There are 23 players on the New York Rangers’ roster. How likely is each to be traded by the February 25th deadline?
With just five days left until February 25th’s deadline, teams are just about at the point where they need to create their blueprints for the trading period. As “Hockey Insiders” are frequent to mention, things can change very quickly around this time of year, and so general managers have to be open to ideas and prepared to go with the flow. However, they need to have a general script for what actions they plan on taking depend on how different scenarios might play out. Improvising at this time of year can only end in disaster.
The New York Rangers are about as open for business as any team in the NHL. While they maybe have not been successful this season in the standings, they do have a number of players on the roster who will individually pique the interests of other NHL teams looking to improve. General Manager Jeff Gorton will soon meet with his staff - if he hasn’t already - to come up with a generic framework for the team’s deadline plan; who will be actively shopped, who is off limits, and where in-between are the remaining players?
I am not Jeff Gorton, which means that I do not know with 100% certainty what his plan for every player is, nor would I necessarily agree 100% even if I did. Nonetheless, we can use available information and make reasonable inferences in an attempt to rank every Ranger by the probability that the team will trade them.
The Rangers have been shopping these players and there is little chance that they are on the team when the trading deadline passes.
1. Kevin Hayes
If the Rangers and Hayes could not get anywhere close to agreeing to a long-term contract over the last nine months, then there is little reason to believe they will find common ground over the remaining few days. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks recently reported that the Rangers had re-opened discussions with Hayes, but that is most likely the Rangers leaving no stones unturned as well as trying to create trade leverage. The only real uncertainty with Hayes is how much Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene impact the market for him.
2. Adam McQuaid
We can debate the merits of acquiring McQuaid in September, but as far as the Rangers are concerned, at least, he has served his purpose. They wanted a character veteran presence on defense whom the coaching staff was willing to put on the ice, and that’s what they got. The Rangers will now trust that there’s enough leadership left in the room to safely guide the ship to shore over the next month-and-a-half. As a big, physical right-handed player who has won a Stanley Cup, McQuaid personifies the kind of depth addition that NHL teams love to add for playoff runs.
3. Mats Zuccarello
The Rangers would love to keep Zuccarello, Zuccarello wants nothing more than to stay, and it’s hard to imagine that the two sides would have a hard time agreeing to a contract. Even still, Zuccarello will almost certainly depart within the next five days. This is a rebuilding team and Zuccarello will be 32 next season. The ideal scenario for the Rangers is that Zuccarello brings the Rangers a nice combination of futures, tries to win a Stanley Cup for a few months, and then re-signs with the Rangers in the summer. It’s not clear that Zuccarello would be on board with this idea.
I will offer one caveat for Zuccarello. Whereas Hayes and McQuaid will be traded on principle, the Rangers’ return for Zuccarello will have to outweigh the merits of re-signing him. If the market collapses for Zuccarello due to the talent available (see Thomas Vanek last season), then at that point he’s more valuable than whatever mediocre draft pick the Rangers can coax from a team. Still, the Rangers are likely going to identify a suitable trade in the coming days.
Serious Consideration Given
There is no immediate mandate to move these players, but the Rangers will have to think hard about any serious offers.
4. Vladislav Namestnikov
Namestnikov is a quality 200-foot player with enough offense to chip in on occasion, making him a great bottom-six forward. Even if he makes too much money ($4M per year through 2020), he is still a quality hockey player. Nonetheless, the Rangers know he is probably not a long-term solution and they’ve already engaged in trade talks with other teams. He’s not going to be traded just for the sake of trading him, and if no deal is made, the Rangers will be content to keep him for another season and explore their options next year. But if a suitable offer for Namestnikov is made then there’s no point in delaying the inevitable.
5. Chris Kreider
There are no easy answers for how the Rangers should deal with Chris Kreider going forward. On one hand, he has played at an all-star level over the last two seasons and there is a decent argument to be made that he should be the team’s next captain. However, he becomes a free agent in 2020 and will require a massive contract that will start as he’s approaching 30 years old. How realistic is it that Kreider’s peak will align with the Rangers’ window of contention?
This is not a decision the Rangers need to make just yet. He’s signed through 2020, which means the Rangers can defer to the summer or even next February. That being said, a contending team that is prepared to part with major assets might prefer to acquire Kreider for two Stanley Cup runs with a decent chance of re-signing him rather than renting Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone for a few months. Kreider’s value will never be higher than it is right this moment. The Rangers have to seriously consider trading him in the next few days, but they have no reason to compromise in their demands.
6. Fredrik Claesson
An unrestricted A restricted free agent in the summer, Claesson has been one of the brighter spots on the Rangers’ defense. To be honest, I’m perplexed as to why he hasn’t even received a cursory mention as a trade candidate in mainstream circles. He would be a savvy pickup for a team that wants to shore up its defensive depth; similar to Washington’s acquisition of Michal Kempny last year. If the Rangers do not trade him, then there would be plenty of sense in re-signing him to a multi-year contract.
There is logic to trading these players, but circumstances make that far easier said than done.
7. Kevin Shattenkirk
The Shattenkirk-Rangers marriage was well intended but star-crossed. Shattenkirk’s injuries have taken their toll on his play, while the Rangers’ competitive window abruptly ended upon his arrival.
Shattenkirk has two years left on his contract and he’s not a player that most teams can casually fit under the salary cap. However, he’s still Kevin Shattenkirk. The market for defensemen this deadline is lacking; particularly for offensive defensemen. The Rangers have no particular pressure to trade him because his contract is not an immediate hindrance. If he recaptures his previous form then he’s an asset for the team, and if not then he’s still a needed veteran presence whose value will improve as the contract expires. He likely stays, but a trade is plausible under the right circumstances.
8. Brendan Smith
Whereas the Rangers and Shattenkirk are likely perfectly comfortable together, Smith has seemingly worn out his welcome. He’s spent a lot of time moving between the press box and fourth line as a forward. Other trades would be about acquiring assets for the future, but Smith would almost certainly be a salary dump or a swap of problematic contracts. Both parties would benefit from a move, and Smith’s departure is inevitable. It will just be hard to find a suitor in the next few days.
Willing to Listen, At Least
The Rangers have no plans or eagerness to move these players, but they have to conduct due diligence and acknowledge any teams coming in with credible interest. Still, interested teams better come in hot or else discussions will end quickly.
9. Jimmy Vesey
He’s 25 years old, his cap hit is fine, and he’s under contract through 2020. His long-term fate will be an interesting discussion point next season, but for now there’s no urgency to find a market for him. Not when the Rangers have more pressing tasks. Nonetheless, he’s not a central piece to the rebuild and will become an unrestricted free agent in two summers. If teams looking to add secondary scoring come calling then it’s worth seeing what his market is.
10. Jesper Fast
A defensive maestro with a bargain contract, Fast is essentially the ideal depth winger. He’s also a silent leader on the team. There should be little desire to move Fast right now, but the situation is similar to Vesey’s; his contract expires at the end of next season and he might price himself out of New York. So, they have to at least listen.
What’s interesting about Vesey and Fast is that they might be of particular interest to low-end playoff teams. Teams like Minnesota and Montreal, who aren’t contenders, are in no position to be spending on rentals. However, Fast or Vesey offer them a chance to immediately improve the team while still building for beyond this season.
Limited Trade Value
Regardless of the Rangers’ intentions with these players, they are likely not going anywhere due to a limited market for their services.
11. Boo Nieves
Nieves is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and has played pretty well, so I could at least see the logic in a team trading a late draft pick to add Nieves. Still, it’s hard to imagine that teams will be clamoring to add Nieves, and the Rangers should have a good shot at re-signing him. He has more value to the Rangers as potential cheap depth for the next few seasons.
12. Ryan Strome
Strome’s underlying numbers are ugly, but he is at least giving the Rangers secondary scoring. Right now, it seems unlikely that another team would be willing to take on Strome’s $3.1M cap hit for next season.
13. Connor Brickley
I would have never predicted that Gorton would find a way to add two draft picks and a prospect for Cody McLeod, Marek Mazanec, and Peter Holland. I’m not going to say that there’s zero chance that Brickley can’t or won’t be traded, but it’s not realistic. He is replacement-level filler for the Rangers the rest of the season.
14. Marc Staal
Even Staal’s biggest proponents around the NHL would not be eager to take on three years of a $5.7M cap hit as he hits his mid-30s. There’s also the issue of Staal’s no-trade clause. He’ll be one of the remaining veteran voices that the team will rely on the hold down the fort the remainder of the season. It would be stunning if Staal was traded.
Almost Certainly Staying
The Rangers are rebuilding and these are all young players under team control for the foreseeable future. There are theoretical scenarios where a trade is possible, but they are very unlikely to transpire in the next few days.
15. Tony DeAngelo
It’s been rough sailing for DeAngelo in New York - just as it was with his prior two NHL teams - but he’s starting to play his best hockey under Quinn. It’s fair to be skeptical that this will last, but they’ll commit to him for at least the remainder of this season.
16. Alexandar Georgiev
Georgiev’s long-term place on the Rangers is a major question mark. Igor Shestyorkin is probably coming to New York next season, so what does that mean for Georgiev? That’s a problem for the summer and training camp. He could eventually follow in Cam Talbot’s and Antti Raanta’s footsteps as a trade asset, but it’s too soon for that discussion. Keep in mind that the Rangers need to leave a goaltender exposed for the 2021 Seattle expansion draft
17. Pavel Buchnevich
Buchnevich has had his ups and downs, but at the end of the day he is a 23-year-old winger under team control whose production extrapolates to a 20-goal season. Kravtsov aside, the Rangers lack wingers with top-six upside in the prospect pool. They can’t afford to trade Buchnevich unless it’s a no-brainer scenario.
18. Brady Skjei
Skjei has followed up a poor sophomore season with a lukewarm third year. He’s also a 24-year-old to whom the Rangers are committed five more years. All other defensemen in the organization with top-pairing upside are a few years away, and so they need to try to make it worth with Skjei. It’s quite possible that management sours on him in the coming years if he doesn’t progress, but he’ll remain for now.
19. Neal Pionk
I have made clear my thoughts on Pionk’s season, but the Rangers appear to have a differing opinion. From a bird’s eye view, Pionk is a rookie, right-handed defensemen who is on pace for around seven goals and 30 points (per The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn). Would the Rangers move him as part of a package for Jacob Trouba or Dougie Hamilton? I imagine so. Such a monumental move would almost certainly come in the summer rather than immediately.
20. Brett Howden
Howden has struggled for the majority of the season, but he’s a 20-year-old rookie who was probably asked to bite off more than he can chew. He has a long NHL career ahead of him, and unless a trade offer for a bonafide star came the Rangers’ way, he’s as good of a bet as almost anyone to be a part of the team’s immediate future.
Nobody is the pure definition of “untouchable.” If Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, and Joe Thornton can get traded, then anyone can. In any case, any of these players getting traded by February 25th would be outright stunning.
21. Henrik Lundqvist
At some point, the Rangers are going to have to have some uncomfortable discussions about navigating the end of Lundqvist’s career while a young goaltender or two push for the starting job. Those discussions will not be occurring prior to this year’s deadline. Even if the Rangers wanted to trade Lundqvist right now it would prove to be a logistical nightmare. The number of teams in search of a goaltender is small. The number of teams who would be willing to take on his contract is even smaller. If the Rangers wanted Lundqvist to think about waiving his no-trade clause, then they would have come to him weeks before today. There’s also the conundrum of actually finding a mutually agreeable trade between the Rangers and another team. It’s not happening. Not now, at least.
22. Mika Zibanejad
Zibanejad is having a career year and is locked up at a reasonable cap hit for three more seasons. Kevin Hayes’ pending departure makes Zibanejad the team’s top center for now. He’s not going anywhere both now and in the immediate future.
23. Filip Chytil
A 19-year-old who is having a productive rookie season and who has all-star potential. Barring the absurd, Chytil is off-limits.