While the New York Rangers players were on their All-Star break, general manager Jeff Gorton was probably hard at work. At the very least his brain is sure to have been, even if he didn’t make or take any calls during the time off. A couple of questions Gorton may be asking himself are, should I make a move that could help us climb the ladder for either this season and next? Or, should I look for a deal to help bolster our future for possibly the next three to five seasons?
Could Gorton Make a Move for Dustin Byfuglien?
Dustin Byfuglien is a high-profile player who’s been talked about throughout the season. Not so much in trade talks, but there’s been a bit of controversy where Byfuglien and his team, the Winnipeg Jets, are concerned. Byfuglien never reported to training camp at the start of the season. He told the Jets he was taking a leave of absence and the Jets subsequently suspended him before camp ended.
Byfuglien missed 40 games last season due to an upper-body injury and two lower-body injuries, the latter were more serious and happened after Christmas. Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff have been pretty tight-lipped since training camp opened when asked about Byfuglien’s status, and through the season that hasn’t really changed. Chevaldayoff however, has a decision to make now that the deadline is getting close.
Byfuglien, a 14-year veteran, has one more year left on his five-year contract after this season. He’s on the books to make $8 million in the 2019-20 season and $6 million the next. He’s played nine seasons with the franchise including one in Atlanta before the team moved to Winnipeg.
Do the Jets Still Want Him?
Maurice had a conversation with Byfuglien back in September and said it was a positive one, however, not much has been said in that regard since so it’s unclear if the relationship between Byfuglien, Maurice and the Jets is beyond repair or if everything is still fine between them. Cheveldayoff has mentioned to the Winnipeg press that Byfuglien is part of the Jets family and will be treated as such. That being said, it doesn’t mean Byfuglien isn’t on the trading block.
The most important thing the Rangers would need to figure out before seriously considering making a move to get Byfuglien is can he even play this year. On Oct. 30, 2019, TSN’s Bob Mckenzie reported Byfuglien underwent ankle surgery and would be out until the new year, while the Jets organization has cleared him to play since. That means extra diligence needs to be done before any deal is considered.
Who Would The Rangers Part With?
There are always several things to consider when a GM makes a trade. It’s not only about talent and team needs, but there are also cap issues that sometimes block deals that make perfect sense for all teams involved. One easy trade for the two teams to make would be Henrik Lundqvist straight up for Byfuglien as far as talent level, cap and contract length are concerned. However, the Jets are happy with their current No. 1 goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Although he’s not having his best season, it’s not his worst, either.
Consider the Rangers’ goaltending conundrum or wealth. They had three goalies on their roster before they sent Igor Shesterkin down during the All-Star break, and he’ll probably be called back up soon. Georgiev can’t be sent down to the minors without clearing waivers, so they might seriously consider dealing King Henrik for Byfuglien.
The Jets may feel that adding a goalie of Lundqvist’s caliber and another player or two somewhere might just put them over the edge to win the Stanley Cup. It would definitely provide the Jets with a one-two goaltending tandem the NHL hasn’t seen since maybe Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek of the Detroit Red Wings back in the 2000s.
Kreider for Byfuglien?
Chris Kreider has been talked about around the league as one of the top players that teams have a shot at before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Kreider is on pace to equal or beat his career bests in goals and points, while he’s coming off his first NHL All-Star game replacing Artemi Panarin who was injured. However, this may not seem like an even swap to some since Byfuglien is a Stanley Cup champion and a three-time All-Star.
One thing to keep in mind is that Maurice loves to have his share of big bodies on the ice. If the Jets’ front office decides it’s time to move the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Byfuglien, Kreider, the 6-foot-3, 217-pound power forward might be a good fit. Another thing here is that Kreider’s value supersedes his numbers, and Maurice might be able to get Kreider to play even grittier than usual.
This is where it gets more interesting, Kreider has just over a $4.6 million cap hit this season and a free agent after. It’s possible they could make a sign and trade type of deal though. On the other side, Gorton and Rangers’ head coach David Quinn would need to be certain they are getting a healthy Byfuglien to proceed. Kreider is well thought of in New York and fans won’t take getting rid of him lightly, although that may happen during the offseason anyway.