The Vegas Golden Knights have been in a competitive back and forth with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings over the last few weeks for supremacy in the Pacific Division. Vegas is currently in first place with 59 points, while Los Angeles and Anaheim each have 55 points, with the Kings having a game in hand over the Ducks. The Golden Knights and New York Rangers are two teams that will be buyers by the trading deadline.
Jack Eichel was acquired by the Golden Knights from the Buffalo Sabres previously in November. The second overall selection by Buffalo in the 2015 NHL Draft is close to returning from disc replacement surgery — he was no longer in a no-contact jersey as of Feb. 7. He has a hefty average annual value (AAV) at $10 million per season until the end of 2025-26.
The Golden Knights have some players they may trade to compensate for players signed to expensive contracts with no movement or modified no-trade clauses in their agreements. Rangers president/general manager Chris Drury may inquire about some of the roster members on Vegas by March 21. Here are three Rangers’ trade targets on the Golden Knights.
The native of Mimico, Ontario, Canada, is in the final year of his contract with a $5 million AAV. Reilly Smith has been rumored to be a deadline addition to the Blueshirts. He represents one of the ideal fits for their need for depth at the right wing position since they traded Pavel Buchnevich last summer.
Smith has been a model of consistency since 2013-14 and has remained fairly durable, posting 13 goals and 19 assists in 45 games for the Golden Knights in 2021-22. The 30-year-old forward would be a fit on the Rangers’ first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider or on the second line with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin.
Due to Eichel’s return, Smith is a candidate to be moved by GM Kelly McCrimmon by March 21, as he may be a rental player for a playoff team before he becomes a free agent. The Rangers would likely use him for the remainder of the season and playoffs before letting him become an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
The native of Stockholm, Sweden, Mattias Janmark is a two-way forward who would provide depth to the Rangers’ roster and will be a UFA after 2021-22. Trading for a player with his skill set would allow for more line flexibility for Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant.
The Blueshirts head coach could move Barclay Goodrow or Alexis Lafreniere up to the second line on a more permanent basis if Janmark is acquired. The Golden Knights forward has seven goals and 10 assists in 42 games played this year and would fit on either the third or fourth line for the Blueshirts. The 29-year-old would be used on the Rangers’ penalty kill, given his ability to be a defensive forward.
Unless McCrimmon prefers to try and sign Janmark to an extension, the forward could be elsewhere by the deadline or sign with another team in the offseason. The Rangers may end up needing more forward depth between now and the deadline if Drury elects to trade for more experienced players instead of continuing to use younger players who have split time this season between the Blueshirts and the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). The cost for Janmark would not be much given the role he plays and his current AAV.
The 34-year-old defensemen’s future with the Golden Knights may be in question with the extensions given to Whitecloud and McNabb. Given the young defensemen in Hague and Miromanov, who are due to be restricted free agents (RFA), in addition to the other expensive contracts on the roster, could Vegas trade Alec Martinez? If McCrimmon prefers to not trade Smith or Evgenii Dadonov by the trade deadline, the veteran defenseman could be heading elsewhere.
Martinez would bring Stanley Cup-winning experience to a young Rangers roster. The Rochester Hills, Michigan native has had an injury-plagued 2021-22 season, as he has not played since Nov. 11 due to a laceration on his face and head injury. He is due to return from his injuries to the Golden Knights.
Vegas signed Martinez to an extension last summer in which he will earn $5.25 million this year and for the next two seasons. He has a modified no-trade clause in his contract in which he can submit a 16-team no-trade list this season, a 12-team no-trade list next year, followed by an eight-team no-trade list in 2023-24. The veteran defenseman could be on the Rangers’ third pairing with Braden Schneider or another young defenseman. While McCrimmon may try to keep Martinez, his ability to be used on the penalty kill and on the third defensive pairing could be intriguing to Drury if he is seeking to add more experience on the blue line by the deadline.
The Rangers and Golden Knights are two teams who have a good chance to be competing in the postseason in their respective conferences. The franchises do not have to look at players exclusively from other organizations who will be sellers. It will be interesting to see if playoff-bound teams trade with one another by the deadline.