Rangers’ Drury Gets Nice Return in Nils Lundkvist Trade

New York Rangers general manager (GM) Chris Drury traded right-handed defense prospect Nils Lundkvist to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a conditional first-round pick in 2023 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2025. If the Stars’ 2023 first-round pick is in the top 10, they will keep that pick, but the Rangers would receive their unprotected 2024 first-round pick.

Though Lundkvist has the potential to develop into a very good two-way defenseman, Drury deserves credit for the big return in the trade. The move also shows growth from him after his questionable Pavel Buchnevich deal last offseason.

Why Drury Made the Lundkvist Trade

One of the Rangers’ strengths is their depth on defense, as they have four reliable defensemen in Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, and Jacob Trouba. They also have three talented defense prospects: Braden Schneider, Zac Jones, and Matthew Robertson.

Fox, Trouba, and Schneider are all righties, which put Lundkvist in a tough position. Fox and Trouba are both signed to long-term contracts, and Schneider played very well in the NHL as a 20-year-old last season. Lundkvist would also have likely had to play on his off side in order to stay in the Rangers’ lineup.

Nils Lundkvist New York Rangers
The New York Rangers got a nice return in the trade that sent Nils Lundkvist to the Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Lundkvist dominated while playing for Lulea HF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), but he did not play to his full potential last season with the Rangers. He played well defensively but also cautiously and did not produce offensively, and finished with just one goal and three assists. It certainly did not help that he spent most of his time paired with Patrik Nemeth, who struggled all season.

It is impressive that Drury still managed to acquire a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick (which is conditional and could become a third-round pick) in exchange for Lundkvist even after he had a quiet 2021-22 season. He also avoided taking on any bad contracts from the Stars in the deal, which will help the Rangers find a way to stay under the salary cap.

Drury’s Growth From Last Offseason

During the 2021 offseason, Drury traded Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Sammy Blais and a second-round pick. Buchnevich had a breakthrough 2020-21 season, finishing with 20 goals and 28 assists in just 54 games while also playing very well defensively.

Related: Rangers Nervously Watching Buchnevich’s Blues Rise

Blais was a decent bottom-six forward for the Blues, but he repeatedly missed time with injuries and had never produced more than eight goals or 15 points in a season. Last season, he tore his ACL and finished with no goals and four assists in 14 games with the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Buchnevich built on his impressive 2020-21 season and finished with 30 goals and 46 assists in 73 games with the Blues last year. The Rangers lacked scoring depth, and the trade certainly hurt them.

In part because of the loss of Buchnevich, Drury made a lot of moves at the trade deadline to give the Rangers more depth, including acquiring Andrew Copp from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for two conditional second-round picks and a fifth-round pick. However, one of those second-rounders became a first-rounder because New York won two playoff series, and Copp played in more than 50 percent of the team’s games.

Chris Drury New York Rangers
New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury has shown growth from a year ago (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Drury is proving he has learned from his earlier trades, and when he made the Lundkvist trade, he set conditions that make it possible for the Rangers to receive an unprotected 2024 first-round draft pick. Those conditions could end up paying off for the team in a big way. Though he rushed to trade Buchnevich before the NHL Draft last offseason, he stayed patient before dealing Lundkvist, and it resulted in a better deal for the Blueshirts.

For Drury & the Rangers Moving Forward

Lundkvist has the potential to become a top-four defenseman in the NHL, but a first-round pick and an additional pick (either in the third or fourth round) is a very good return for the Rangers. Now, they continue developing the young blueliners they held onto (Schneider, Jones, and Robertson) and trust that they can form a reliable third defense pair this season. All three have a big opportunity, and they all have the potential to become difference-makers for the team, both this season and for years to come.

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