The New York Rangers have found themselves in an interesting spot in the early portion of the 2019-20 season. After a deflating 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, the Rangers are in playoff limbo. The Rangers are in the midst of a tight wild-card race and offensive juggernaut Artemi Panarin is helping to keep the Blueshirts in playoff contention.
But, general manager Jeff Gorton has shown these last two years that he’s not afraid to sell assets at the deadline to continually replenish the Rangers’ prospect pipeline along with draft picks. If Gorton decides to deal players at the Feb. 2020 deadline, here are the players that have the greatest chances to be dealt.
Ryan Strome is performing much better than expected this season as one of the Blueshirts top forwards and that’s playing directly into Gorton’s favor. The former No. 5 overall selection in 2011 isn’t getting any younger and playing on a line with Artemi Panarin certainly has helped inflate Strome’s point total.
Through 30 games, Strome has totaled six goals and 20 assists, good enough for 0.86 points per game so far. The 26-year-old center could be of interest for multiple teams needing forward and center depth come the trade deadline. If Strome is able to perform at his current rate, his value should only increase as the deadline approaches and Gorton will be able to ship him for a decent return.
There have been rumors that long-time Ranger Chris Kreider could be on his way out of New York before the Feb. 2020 trade deadline passes. Kreider, whose game is built on speed and physicality, hasn’t really proven that he deserves a long-term contract from Gorton after his four-year contract with a $4.625 million cap hit expires after this season. The now 28-year-old has accounted for 15 total points in 30 games played, with just eight of those points coming as goals.
For a player performing on an expiring contract, this is not ideal. However, Kreider has always been a solid playoff performer, with 37 points in 77 career playoff contests. This kind of production from a traditionally gritty winger like Kreider can be very valuable to a team that is either locked into a playoff position or hunting for a postseason spot. Kreider, who has played all of his 490 games in the NHL with the Rangers, might be a victim of the mass exodus of veterans that Gorton has orchestrated in recent seasons.
Brett Howden, a former first-round selection by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016, is a player that hasn’t been a standout Ranger this season. He’s been overclouded by the many other contributing youngsters on the Blueshirts, including Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. Primarily in a bottom-six role in the center position, Howden has only totaled three goals and five assists in 30 games played so far this season.
For a team that is looking to keep developing their youngsters, you have to wonder whether Howden is worth keeping on the roster when a player Lias Andersson is being buried in the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Andersson, who also plays the center position, certainly has a higher floor than Howden despite the latter getting the majority of the NHL experience. Howden can be acquired from the Rangers with a mid-round draft pick most likely, making a departure in 2020 a possibility.
Lias Andersson’s career with the Rangers has been a rocky one at best. The former No. 7 overall selection has struggled at the NHL level and he’s been back and forth between the Rangers roster and the Wolf Pack roster. Andersson totaled only one point, an assist, in 17 games played during NHL contests when he was on the Rangers’ team this season.
With Hartford in eight games played, Andersson has shown some scoring prowess with four goals and five points total. If Andersson remains buried in the AHL, despite playing well, does he become a trade chip for Gorton? It was already reported that and Andersson for Jesse Puljujärvi of the Edmonton Oilers almost happened, so Gorton clearly weighed his options with the struggling swede. If the growing pains continue for Andersson, Gorton could opt to continue to find a trade partner near or before the trade deadline.
Gorton and the Rangers will have tough decisions to make as the deadline approaches, especially if the Blueshirts remain in the thick of the playoff race for a wild card spot. It could mean the departure of well-known Rangers for a chance to keep restocking the prospect pipeline and to keep adding additional draft picks.