The New York Rangers have had decisions to make like every franchise in regards to which players to bring back and which to move on from. The choices that are made by the front office depend upon performance, salary, and age but are not always simple to make. Here are three former members of the Blueshirts who are having good seasons and three who are not in 2021-22.
A Good Season: Pavel Buchnevich (St. Louis Blues)
During his time with the Rangers, Pavel Buchnevich displayed traits of being good and inconsistent at times. It was challenging to determine if he could be relied upon to be a top player for the organization. After being unable to come to an agreement on a long-term contract with the former third-round selection, new president/general manager Chris Drury traded him to the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and a second-round draft pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Days after the trade for Buchnevich, the Blues agreed to an extension with him for four years with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.8 million until the end of the 2024-25 season. The sixth-year forward is having an excellent first year with the Blues, as he has 13 goals and 21 assists in 33 games played in 2021-22. His previous career-high in points was 48 in 2020-21. so he will certainly achieve a new high in points before the conclusion of this season.
Buchnevich ranks among the top players for the Blues in several offensive statistics and leads the team with 12 power-play points thus far in 2021-22. Many Ranger fans were frustrated with his play when he was in a slump, but there are many supporters who would like for the team to have kept him, considering what he has done for the Blues this season. The Blueshirts have had difficulty finding consistent production in 2021-22 from players who play the wing positions. The former Ranger clearly has proven he has been worth the trade and contract for the Blues in the 33 games he has played for them.
Struggling: Kevin Hayes (Philadelphia Flyers)
The Rangers traded away Kevin Hayes to the Winnipeg Jets in the middle of the 2018-19 season for Brendan Lemieux, a 2019 first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round selection in 2022. The Philadelphia Flyers signed the native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, to a seven-year contract with an AAV of $7.14 in June 2019. The orange and black had expectations he would be one of the acquisitions to lead the team to playoff contention.
However, Hayes has struggled mightily in 2021-22, with nine points in 17 games played. He spent the last offseason recovering from sports hernia surgery before having abdominal surgery in Sept. 2021, shortly before training camp was due to begin. And unfortunately, his brother, Jimmy, passed away back in August. After coming back in November, he suffered a re-injury to his abdomen that would keep him out until the beginning of December.
Hayes had a difficult year in 2021, both personally and professionally, and is dealing with struggles on a Flyers team that is in the midst of another disappointing season. It is fair to wonder what his future holds with the orange and black, as the team may look to make a number of changes to its roster during the trade deadline and this offseason. After predicting the Rangers would regret trading him, his career has not progressed as he would have liked up to this point.
A Good Season: J.T. Miller (Vancouver Canucks)
The current member of the Vancouver Canucks spent his first five full seasons in the NHL with the Rangers. J.T. Miller was traded with Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Feb. 2018 for Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, Vladislav Namestnikov, a 2018 first-round pick, and a conditional second-round selection in the 2019 draft. The Blueshirts were looking to rebuild their roster by trading away veterans who had been with the team for several seasons in order to acquire younger players.
Miller spent the rest of the 2017-18 season and all of 2018-19 with the Lightning before the Canucks acquired him in June 2019 for Marek Mazanec, a third-round pick in 2019 and a conditional pick in 2020. In 2019-20, the East Palestine, Ohio native set a career-high with 27 goals and 45 assists in only 69 games. During 2021-22, he is the team’s best player, as he leads them with 36 points and 16 power-play points in 35 games.
Miller is tied with Nazem Kadri and Adam Fox for fifth overall in the league with 16 power-play points and has been a key contributor to the Canucks success since Bruce Boudreau was named head coach of the franchise on Dec. 5. Miller has progressed as a player since the Rangers traded him nearly four years ago. Many fans of the Blueshirts would like to have him back based on the year he is having for the Canucks.
Struggling: Derick Brassard (Philadelphia Flyers)
Derick Brassard was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Rangers along with Derek Dorsett, John Moore, and a sixth-round draft pick in 2014 for Marion Gaborik, Steven Delisle, and Blake Parlett. Brassard spent the remainder of the 2012-13 season and three more years thereafter with the Rangers before being traded to the Ottawa Senators. During July 2016, he, along with a 2018 seventh-round draft pick, was acquired by the Senators for Mika Zibanejad and a second-round draft choice in 2018.
After his stint with the Senators, Brassard has spent time with several teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, and Arizona Coyotes, before playing for his current team in the Flyers. The orange and black signed the 34-year-old forward in August, but he has struggled with injuries in 2021-22, as he has only played in 19 of the team’s 35 games thus far. He could end up getting replaced in the lineup if he continues to struggle with injuries this year.
A Good Season: Tony DeAngelo (Carolina Hurricanes)
The Sewell, New Jersey native was involved in an incident with a Rangers teammate in Feb. 2021, which ended his season, as he was placed on waivers by the team and was told not to report after he went unclaimed. The Blueshirts placed Tony DeAngelo on unconditional waivers so the remainder of his contract could be bought out by the team. It was a legitimate question as to if another NHL team would give him another chance, given the incidents he had been involved in during his playing career.
But the Carolina Hurricanes signed DeAngelo to a one-year contract last July, and he’s been a bargain for the franchise up to this point. The defenseman is one of the top players on the team, as he is second on the team with 18 assists and is fourth on the Hurricanes with 24 points in 26 games played. He has done well in 2021-22 and could be re-signed by the franchise if he continues his strong play and is not involved in any more controversial issues.
Struggling: Derek Stepan (Carolina Hurricanes)
Derek Stepan was one of the more reliable players during his seven-year tenure with the Rangers. For the past three seasons, his point production has dropped below his previous average of over 50 points. In 2018-19, he had 35 points in 72 games, followed by 28 points in 70 games before his three years with the Coyotes came to an end.
Stepan endured the most difficult season of his career last year with the Ottawa Senators, as he only had six points in 20 games played. His season was cut short, as he underwent surgery in March for a torn labrum. The Hurricanes signed Stepan to a one-year contract last offseason, but he has struggled, with eight points in 26 games so far in 2021-22. The 31-year-old forward appears to be a depth forward at this point in his career.
The Rangers have made some decisions that turned out well and some that have not in terms of moving on from former players. The team appears to have made more right moves in regards to how the current season has unfolded for them as the halfway point approaches. Their front office will be making more roster moves as they add some players to fix the weaknesses they have as the trade deadline approaches in March.