The New York Rangers had arguably one of the most praised offseasons in team history, let alone one of the best ones of the 2019 offseason. But it’s clear there are still things needed to be done, still holes needed to be filled and cap space needed to be had. It’s clear: anyone can and will be moved.
Take for instance what happened on Oct. 7: the Rangers traded forward Vladislav Namestnikov to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for minor-league defenseman Nick Ebert and a 2021 fourth-round draft selection. The move created over $3 million in freed cap space for the team, helping to offset some of the money spent during the offseason, and will allow for someone like forwards Filip Chytil or Vitali Kravtsov to make their way to the NHL club.
If it’s between freeing up cash and acquiring another star later or keeping current top talent around, the team will make the deal. If there’s a way to send off someone whose numbers and ice time has been decreasing, they will do it. Anything that will help the Rangers’ youth movement and hopes of once again being a contender for seasons to come should be expected.
That all being said, Namestnikov is not going to be the only name moved during the 2019-20 season. So who else can be potentially traded before the deadline in February?
The biggest name on this list, and perhaps the highest of these suspects, is forward Chris Kreider. In a period where the Rangers have traded away fan favorites like Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and Mats Zuccarello, it would not be surprising if he and the team parted ways sooner or later.
The team reportedly felt out offers for the winger during the offseason, as it appeared they could not pay forward Artemi Panarin and defenseman Jacob Trouba while extending Kreider. Rather than trade or extend him, he remains a part of the team, now in the last year of his current deal, with the Rangers taking a cap hit of $4.625 million on him.
New York could try to extend or re-sign Kreider — either now or after he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2020, respectively — on a short-term, team-friendly contract. But is that really the kind of deal the will-be 29-year-old would want while arguably in his prime? Is being a Ranger worth more to him than a potential big payday?
Since his NHL debut during the 2011-12 playoffs, Kreider has been consistently in the top six in terms of scoring. Last season, in fact, he was second in points and goals, finishing behind center Mika Zibanejad in both. He has been an integral part of this franchise’s roster and has won fans’ hearts.
But the rebuilding isn’t done. If the Rangers can get some assets from a team that’s a current contender, don’t be surprised if Kreider is swapped.
When the Rangers acquired defenseman Tony DeAngelo prior to the 2017-18 season, he was seen as a young player with a lot of potential, but one who consistently shot himself in the foot.
DeAngelo’s head-case status came from previous altercations with teammates and officials, and it seemed to follow him to the Rangers. He had social media spats with fans and he continued to fail to live up to his 2014 draft hype, getting demoted to the Hartford Wolf Pack before an injury.
He remained a head case throughout the last season, being named a healthy scratch on multiple occasions as head coach David Quinn referred to him having a “maturity issue.” But while the defenseman struggled mightily in the first half of 2018-19, and it looked like his time with the team was near, his performance surged for the better as the season went on.
In fact, DeAngelo led the team in terms of plus/minus rating with a plus-six and contributed 26 assists, good for a tie for third on the team (tied for second if not counting players traded during 2018-19). The 23-year-old became the sixth defenseman 23-or-younger to give the Rangers 30 points or more in a season since 1988-89.
After a long holdout lasting almost all of the offseason, DeAngelo finally signed a one-year, $925,000 deal as a restricted free agent (RFA). The head case tag has not been removed from him, but it’s good to see the Rangers continue to work with the young man and give him another chance. But there are circumstances in which DeAngelo could be gone.
If they see another team willing to take him on (and possibly give him a bigger, longer deal as an RFA), it’s possible they trade him for just-as-young assets or a draft pick(s). If Trouba and Brady Skjei prove to be a respectable unit, and/or Adam Fox and Libor Hajek live up to their rookie hype, DeAngelo could easily be gone. And if they ever have enough of his immaturity, perhaps they deal him just to rid of him.
It was last season when the Rangers acquired Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner in what felt like a nothing-for-nothing deal. However, Strome went on to have a decent season in New York, putting up 33 points in 63 games played.
Admittedly, like with DeAngelo’s case, this trade might only happen under certain circumstances, and it’s perhaps trickier considering the position at hand. Like defense, center is a concern the Rangers have at the moment. But while the team has the likes of Trouba, DeAngelo, Fox and Hajek, center has Zibanejad and not much else, with Strome currently on second line.
There was a thought entering this season that Chytil could have served in this spot, but his preseason performance was so poor he was sent to Hartford to start the season. While Brett Howden and Lias Andersson have loads of potential, perhaps, they too are not ready for second-line responsibility, leaving that role to the more experienced Strome.
So, Strome is safe for now, but that could change on a dime depending on the three mentioned. If there’s breakout play from one of them — Chytil especially — that calls for moving up the line, Strome could find himself on the block quickly.
It’s clear the Rangers are still sculpting their team to a certain mold, and with this team on a mission to rebuild, expect more moves to be made.
My name is Tom Albano and I cover the New York Rangers. I covered the team back in the 2015-16 season for a blog called Black and Blueshirts before the site network closed down. In addition, I’m a combat sports (i.e. MMA, boxing, etc) contributor for FIGHT SPORTS and host a weekly sports talk podcast called The Unspoken Podcast.