The New York Rangers continue to prove they are a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup, as they are in first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Blueshirts had six unanswered goals in the game on Jan. 22 against the Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers were not playing well at all against one of the worst teams in the NHL as they were trailing 3-1 before their offensive surge.
Even though the Rangers did not play well for a full 60 minutes against the Coyotes or on Jan. 21 in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Blueshirts have shown they are capable of competing against any team in the NHL. While they may be one of the youngest teams in the league, head coach Gerard Gallant has made quite a difference. In his first season as the head coach, he has transformed the team from rebuilder to contender. The organization will be buyers at the trading deadline as president/general manager (GM) Chris Drury will be looking to acquire players that turn the team’s weaknesses into strengths.
The Arizona Coyotes are in the midst of a rebuild and will be trading some players to playoff-contending teams who are seeking a Stanley Cup. The Coyotes will be looking for players or draft picks they can use to complement young star, Clayton Keller. The team has some veterans who will likely be traded by the deadline, especially if they are pending unrestricted free agents (UFA). Here are four Coyotes trade targets the Rangers could inquire about by the trading deadline.
The Boca Raton, Florida, native has been the subject of trade speculation this season. GM Bill Armstrong will be looking to acquire a decent amount for Jakob Chychrun if he is traded by the deadline date of March 21. The Coyotes defenseman is 23 years old and has three more years remaining on his contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $4.6 million.
Chychrun only has two goals and six assists in 29 games this season. He finished with 12 goals and 14 assists in 63 games during the 2019-20 season and totaled 18 goals and 23 assists in 56 games during 2020-21. According to Jeff Marek of Sportsnet, the Coyotes are seeking a return of a prospect, a first-round pick, and a young player for the defenseman.
Marek mentioned on 32 Thoughts during Hockey Night in Canada on Jan. 22 that the Rangers reportedly offered a trade that includes Vitali Kravtsov. The forward was selected with the ninth overall selection in the 2018 Draft by the Blueshirts. He is currently on loan playing with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Kravtsov refused his assignment to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) after not making the Rangers’ roster before the regular season. Drury will be listening to offers for the first-round pick, as his playing career with the Blueshirts has been in doubt. Chychrun would upgrade the Rangers’ defensive depth beyond the top pair of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren.
K’Andre Miller has struggled in his second season and could get traded by the deadline. If Miller gets traded and the Rangers acquire Chychrun, the latter would potentially pair up with Jacob Trouba, who is usually partners with the 22-year-old Miller. The Coyotes defenseman’s play would improve if he were to be traded to a playoff contender. He has a minus 31 in plus/minus (+/-), which would be boosted playing on a better team.
The price for Chychrun is steep, which could have Drury looking elsewhere to upgrade one of the youngest teams in the NHL. If the president/GM does not part with the youth at the deadline, the expectation would be that he acquire players who are viewed as rentals for the rest of the year before they become UFAs. The Coyotes defenseman would be another young talent the Rangers would have besides Fox and Lindgren on the blue line, but the cost may be too high for Drury to consider depending upon Armstrong’s demands in return. If the Coyotes’ GM wanted Alexis Lafreniere, that would be a deal-breaker for the Rangers.
The 34-year-old veteran has Stanley Cup-winning experience, which would be valuable to a young Rangers franchise looking to become a contender in the Eastern Conference for the next several seasons beyond 2021-22. Phil Kessel’s stats have dropped since he was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Coyotes during the summer after the 2018-19 season. He had 14 goals and 24 assists in 70 GP during the 2019-20 year and followed that with 20 goals and 23 assists in 56 GP during the shortened 2020-21 season.
Kessel has a history of contributing to the power play, as his career-high in power-play points (PPP) was 42 in 2017-18. He had done well on the man advantage in consecutive seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Penguins. He would be a good addition on the Rangers’ top line of Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad or with the line combination of Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
The veteran will be a UFA after 2021-22 and has a modified no-trade and no-movement clause (M-NTC, NMC) in his contract. Kessel would submit a list of eight teams to the Coyotes where he would be willing to accept a trade, and the Blueshirts could be a candidate among the eight organizations that he would accept a trade. All of the franchises where he would prefer a trade, playoff contenders this season would be preferable if he would like to win another Cup before he retires.
Given that Kessel is viewed as a rental player due to being a veteran in the NHL and in the last year of his contract, it would not take much for Drury to acquire him in a trade with the Coyotes. His experience playing with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang of the Penguins for four seasons led to being a member of back-to-back championship-winning teams during 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Coyotes forward would share what he learned playing with one of the great core of Penguins players with the young Rangers who are looking to gain playoff experience.
The former Ranger could fit what Drury is looking for in terms of adding a defensive defenseman over an offensive-minded defenseman such as Coyotes’ Shayne Gostisbehere. Anton Stralman was with the Blueshirts from 2011-12 until the end of 2013-14. The Rangers were last considered a Stanley Cup contender during the time the now-35-year-old defenseman was a member of the roster.
Stralman has an M-NTC in his contract in which he would submit to the Coyotes a list of 16 teams he would not accept a trade to. He is in the last year of his deal and will be a UFA after 2021-22. He could allow a trade to the Rangers if he prefers to go back to the Blueshirts. He likely would be on the third defensive pairing and on the penalty kill.
If the Rangers suffer an injury to a defenseman who plays on the left side by the deadline in March, the veteran defenseman could be a trade target for the Blueshirts. He would be an acquisition that would not cost much in a trade and would add depth to the Rangers’ defense.
Another defenseman with experience who is expected to get dealt by the trade deadline is Shayne Gostisbehere. He is an offensive-minded defenseman who is having a good season with the Coyotes after struggling in recent years with the Philadelphia Flyers, partly due to issues with injuries.
Gostisbehere is 28 and has one more year remaining on his contract with an AAV of $4.5 million before he becomes a UFA. Between injuries and struggling with former Flyers coach Alain Vigneault’s defense, he only played in 42 games in 2019-20 and in 41 of 56 games during 2020-21. However, he has remained healthy and has played in all 40 games for the Coyotes this season.
Before 2019-20, Gostisbehere did put up some good assist totals between 2015-16 and 2018-19 — he had 29, 32, 52, and 28 in consecutive seasons. He has 7 goals and 18 assists in 2021-22 , leads Coyotes defensemen in assists and is second on the team in the category. Depending on what the Rangers end up needing by the March 21 deadline, Drury could consider him if they need offensive production along the blue line.
The Coyotes will be sellers given their current standing in the NHL and plan to acquire more young players and future draft picks. There are several teams rumored to be involved in the trade speculation for Chychrun. Drury may be more likely to add rental players given the extensions that will begin next season for Fox and Zibanejad, in addition to several young players who are considered the future of the franchise.