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What we're hearing about Rangers with two months to go before the trade deadline


It’s never too early to tell you everything we hear about the Rangers and their roster. Now that the calendar has moved to 2023, might as well get things started.

Some basics: These articles are based on conversations with a number of NHL executives and scouts, and with two months to go before the trade deadline, there’s not a whole lot of concrete discussion out there. But the way Rangers have played through 38 games has likely shaped the internal conversations general manager Chris Drury is having with his own scouting staff as the team begins to identify where it could upgrade and who could be available.

According to Cap Friendly, the Rangers could add contracts worth $2.93 million right now. That number will continue to grow if Rangers continue to carry 22 players on the roster and rack up cap space as the season progresses. The Rangers also have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, their own and top-10 Trade Stars protege Nils Lundkvist.

Some of the players mentioned below might require retention of another team’s salary cap to make a trade work. There is plenty of time for that.

Here is the first of many for this Rangers trade season:

Are they going big?

One of the things Drury is probably wondering now is whether his team needs a major shake-up before March 3 or some smaller tweaks. The big name, of course, is Patrick Kane, who will almost certainly ask the Hawks to move him in the next two months.

Kane has a full ban clause, so he has a say in where he lands for the stretch run and the playoffs. A league source said Kane has spent part of the offseason exploring cities he’s unfamiliar with, although New York isn’t exactly in need of a reconnaissance visit. And Kane’s favorite linemate, Artemi Panarin, is there in case Kane needs to be more flirtatious.

Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin in 2017. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

If it was a case of a trade and need team, Rangers would probably pass if they were to call Kane this week. Kane is still an elite player who can distribute with the best of them — he ranks 25th in the league with 11.45 expected assists so far this season (courtesy Clear Sight Hockey). But Rangers have three higher-ranked players: Panarin, Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad. So they’re already pretty good in the passing department.

And Kane’s arrival would require a power-play reconfiguration for a Rangers team that has barely changed its best power-play unit in two years. The Rangers power play has been battered this season and currently sits 15th in the league, so it could use a jolt, but another pass-first presence? Maybe not if necessary.

Now, as one team executive noted, Kane could just tell Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson that he only wants to be a Ranger. If that happens and Drury can get Kane for nothing more than, say, what the Bruins gave the Sabers for Taylor Hall two years ago (a second-rounder and an average prospect), plus the Hawks keep 50% Kane’s cap hit, so you’re probably making this deal and sorting out the pieces afterwards.

We are still far from this scenario.

There aren’t a ton of other big-cap, high-impact players currently on offer. Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly has the kind of sharp-skilled playoff teams covet, but he’s been out for at least six weeks with a broken foot, meaning his trade deal may not materialize until the day of the deadline. Bo Horvat could still expand in Vancouver, but even if he doesn’t, his trade market will be intense and the Rangers don’t really have the assets to compete at such a high level, nor the cap space to try to sign Horvat if they did. somehow acquire it.

A redux delay?

If Drury and the Rangers choose to go with cheaper depth additions, there’s a familiar name on the list of intriguing possibilities: Senators forward Tyler Motte. The 27-year-old is currently on injured reserve with a broken finger, but is having the same kind of season in Ottawa he had in Vancouver before the Rangers acquired Motte for a fourth round in 2023 on Game Day. deadline last March.

Rangers couldn’t find a place for Motte this offseason, but it wasn’t for lack of trying before Motte signed a one-year contract worth $1.35 million with the Senators. Ottawa is seven points out of a playoff spot and would need a huge run to get back in the running, so Ottawa’s pending free agents could be available soon.

If the Rangers decide to add to their last six, they’ll have room to add another spot that Drury has been trying to fix since taking the job last spring: the left side of the third pair.

Zac Jones and Libor Hajek shot there for the first 30 games and clearly didn’t impress either Drury or Gerard Gallant. Ben Harpur, who signed an amateur tryout and then a two-way contract in the NHL, has held the position for the last eight games and has performed well.

But Drury is surely keeping tabs on the left-handed rental market. That’s as slim as it was when the GM tried to find a candidate for a pro tryout before training camp. Nathan Beaulieu dumped the Rangers and went with the Ducks, where he got a one-year deal for the minimum $750,000 vet and played 21 games for the league’s worst team. He could probably be had now for a low pick.

The Ducks also have Dmitry Kulikov, who plays 20 minutes a night on his fifth team in four years.

If the Rangers want to make a full reunion at the deadline, they could turn again to Justin Braun, who signed with the Flyers and would also be very available. The 35-year-old did a decent job on the left side for Rangers in the playoffs. They would surely prefer a southpaw this time around, but perhaps another mid-term pick would be enough to secure Braun again if other options failed.

Other names to classify

Vladislav Gavrikov is probably the Ben Chiarot/David Savard of this year: a solid defender for whom someone will pay too much to hire before the deadline. The 27-year-old southpaw and UFA standby is almost certainly going to be moved by Columbus and wind up on a big payday next summer. Rangers don’t need that kind of long-term addition and, if the cost is the same as Savard/Chiarot (a first-round pick plus another mid-round pick), it’s hard to see Drury pull the trigger unless there is a question wound on the left side.

Adam Erne could be an intriguing addition to a team that needs a back-six wing with some skill. The 27-year-old is on a career-high 30 points for the Red Wings, who haven’t lost the Eastern playoff race but aren’t heading in the right direction.

Who is coming?

If you were taking bets on the young Rangers striker who was the odd man out before the start of the season, Kaapo Kakko was probably top of the list. Now Kakko is playing well on the front line so it would be a shock if he was out of place for the likes of Kane or anyone else.

Alexis Lafrenière’s name was widely rumored with his one-game default last week, but there’s no way Rangers will move him now, as his value is low. Vitali Kravtsov gets regular average minutes, so he would also be a surprise to be moved.

If the Rangers go for smaller fish like Motte, Erne or someone similar, the odd man in the lineup is likely Sammy Blais – and he could end up in the trade market, capped at $1.525 million which could be put to better use. Blais still has no goals as a Ranger since coming from the Blues, and his 2022-23 season has been unremarkable by any measure.

Among Rangers prospects, Brennan Othmann is almost certainly off limits, especially in any rental deal. Matthew Robertson is likely too, along with goalie hopeful Dylan Garand. Drury navigated four expiring deals last spring and only dropped Morgan Barron from the organizational depth chart, so his preference again might be to retain as many of his prospects as possible and only deal from the pool. draft selection.

(Artemi Panarin top photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)




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