This week off signals the start of trade deadline season, with just under six weeks until the March 8 deadline. Coupled with the Rangers’ descent into mediocrity the last two months, hitting the break 12-12-2 in their last 26 games after their torrid 18-4-1 start, there was already plenty of urgency for GM Chris Drury to try and upgrade his roster, particularly at forward.
Then came Friday. In his second time on the ice after nearly two months away due to a concussion, Filip Chytil had to be helped to the Garden dressing room after taking a spill during a three-man morning skate. The expected announcement came on Sunday that Chytil is shut down for the remainder of the 2023-24 season, including the postseason, a horrible development for the 24-year-old.
So now Drury must proceed with the aim of finding a center, perhaps an even bigger priority than finding a right-side forward for the top nine for the third deadline in a row. Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp were big hits in 2021-22; Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane were a mixed bag last year.
The Rangers will have Chytil’s $4.44-million cap hit from long-term injured reserve, which is the only silver lining in this whole situation. That certainly increases the options for Drury, perhaps even to the point of being able to acquire two forwards if all breaks for them.
We had some of these same names on our very early list last month, but there’s a few more to keep an eye on now.
Adam Henrique, Ducks: Makes the most sense as a very capable No. 3 center who can still produce, as he showed with two goals against the Rangers in Anaheim last weekend. He won’t make the Rangers demonstrably faster but he plays an all-around game and would not look out of place between Will Cuylle and Kaapo Kakko, giving the Rangers a threatening third line. The Ducks appear willing to eat some of his $5.825-million cap hit, which means the pool of buyers could be deep. He’s not worth a first-round pick, but a second might be worth giving up to make this happen.
Elias Lindholm, Flames: If Drury is going for it — and, as one Eastern Conference executive noted earlier this week, “why wouldn’t they be all-in when the East is so wide open?” — Lindholm might be worth paying a big price to acquire. The pending UFA is far out of the Rangers’ range on a contract so this would be strictly a rental and an expensive one at that, given that other teams may want to sign Lindholm after trading for him. A first-rounder is surely part of any ask by Calgary, but Lindholm would give the Rangers dangerous depth down the middle.
Jack Roslovic, Blue Jackets: Has plenty of appeal for the Rangers since the 27-year-old plays center and right wing and offers some scoring pop to go with a decent third-line profile. He’s also a pending UFA who might not break the bank beyond this season and would definitely cost no more than a second-rounder now.
Sean Monahan, Canadiens: An ideal fit in the mold of Henrique, but people briefed on the situation have been saying for weeks what Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday night: There is no love lost between former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, now the top Montreal executive, and Drury. There’s also the matter of Gorton having hired two of the longtime Rangers employees Drury has fired, scouting director Nick Bobrov and medical trainer Jim Ramsay. A person who talks to the Canadiens regularly said Montreal’s front office has believed for a while now that there’s no chance Drury even reaches out to Canadiens GM Kent Hughes. Perhaps that changes, but indications are both sides are looking elsewhere.
Alexander Wennberg, Kraken: Another pending UFA who doesn’t bring the same sort of well-rounded game as Henrique but would help the Rangers. Cost might not be so high, though it seems Seattle still isn’t convinced that it’s selling.
Yanni Gourde, Kraken: This one would take some creativity, given Gourde has another season at a $5.16-million cap hit after this. So the Rangers would have to send a contract the other way — those clamoring for Barclay Goodrow to be gone, take note — plus some assets to make this work. Farfetched, but Gourde has the right makeup to be a solid 3C for the Rangers.
Kevin Hayes, Blues: Welcome back, old friend? Hayes was a popular Ranger and would be again five deadlines after he was dealt to the Jets for a first-round pick. The main problems here are the Blues are making a playoff push and Hayes has two years left at a $3.57-million cap hit. If the Blues could retain some salary it might work and give the Rangers a very capable third or fourth center for a bit of time.
Morgan Frost, Flyers: A bit of a different option here as Frost, the 27th pick in the 2017 draft, has plenty of talent but not a very big fan in Flyers coach John Tortorella. The Rangers do need to get younger down the middle at some point, even if Chytil can return in the future. Frost would cost them a first, for sure, but he’s cost-controlled the next two years beyond this one.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Senators: Ottawa would have to retain salary on Tarasenko’s $5-million cap hit to make this one work, especially in tandem with another move for a center, but a reunion makes some sense. Tarasenko was a solid addition to Mika Zibanejad’s wing last season and will be motivated to earn himself a longer deal with a decent spring and playoff run. As long as there’s no other trade for a right wing coming up behind him this time, Tarasenko could be the answer to the right-side woes once again.
Jordan Eberle, Kraken: Maybe Drury can fill both key forward spots in one deal by adding Eberle, still a solid top-six RW, to one of the centers above. Of the pending UFA forward crowd the Rangers could do a lot worse than Eberle, who had a couple of big playoff runs with the Islanders not too long ago.
Anthony Duclair, Sharks: Ignore the hideous metrics, since everything San Jose does data-wise this season is colored a deep red on every chart. Duclair still has game-breaking speed and a more rounded game since he was a teenager fighting for ice time as a Ranger. Also wouldn’t cost much.
Alexander Barabanov, Sharks: The sort of high-motor third-liner the Rangers don’t seem to possess. Has a bit of a scoring touch too. He’ll be one of those guys dealt at the deadline who ends up making a difference somewhere.
Jason Zucker, Coyotes: Arizona is still in the playoff mix out West so this may finally be the year the Coyotes don’t sell everything that isn’t nailed down. On the other hand… Zucker is still productive and likes to get his nose dirty, a couple of attributes the Rangers could use.
Frank Vatrano, Ducks: He’s headed to the All-Star Game and the Ducks aren’t exactly spilling over with talent, so moving him seems like a long shot. He worked well with Chris Kreider and Zibanejad two years ago, though, so it’s worth a call from Drury at the very least.
Brock McGinn, Ducks: A guy who scored some big goals in Carolina and Pittsburgh and has done nothing in Anaheim. He has another year left at $ 2.75 million so this would be one of the cheaper adds the Rangers could make asset-wise, but maybe not a guy you want to be committed to for another season.
Patrick Kane, Red Wings: Just kidding.
(Photo of Frank Vatrano (77) and Adam Henrique (14): Andrew Mordzynski / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)