With two weeks away until the trade deadline on March 21, the New York Rangers have been rumored to be the destination for some players on struggling franchises. The organization needs an addition at forward on their top six. The Rangers could also benefit from acquiring a depth defenseman that can be slotted into the third defensive pairing.
President/general manager (GM) Chris Drury is likely to focus on adding depth players since that is the area of need for the team. The Rangers are an improved team, but are not yet a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. The team is a minimum of two years away from being considered a candidate for a championship. Here is a list of some of the trade targets that are rumored to be traded by the deadline to the Rangers, and the rumored trade targets are listed according to how likely I think the Rangers will acquire them by the deadline.
Less Likely – J.T. Miller
The former Ranger has been rumored to be headed to Manhattan for some time. J.T. Miller is having quite a season, as he leads the Vancouver Canucks in goals, assists, and power-play points. The Canucks would get a decent haul in return if GM Patrik Allvin were to decide to trade him.
However, with the season the forward is in the midst of, the argument could be made the Canucks GM would be making a mistake trading away one of the best players on the roster. If the Canucks did not get off to a bad start in 2021-22, the organization could be in a better position to make the postseason. Due to the organization’s improvement after making a head coaching change in December, Allvin may believe the team needs to get off to a better start in 2022-23 in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Given the asking price for Miller — which may include the Rangers giving up Alexis Lafreniere, Vitali Kravtsov, or Kaapo Kakko, a young defenseman such as Braden Schneider, Zac Jones, K’Andre Miller, or Nils Lundkvist, and some draft picks — Drury should look elsewhere for roster improvements to make by the deadline. The Canucks center has only a year after this season under his current contract in which he has a $5.25 million average-annual value (AAV). He will be looking for a higher AAV with his next contract. If the Rangers were to acquire him and not able to come to an agreement after 2022-23, they would risk losing him after giving up a lot in a deal to bring him back to New York.
The potential cost in a trade for Miller is too high for the Rangers. The Rangers are only beginning to blossom into a contender under head coach Gerard Gallant. Drury would prefer not to give up some of the younger talents on the team that was accumulated during the organization’s multi-year rebuild.
More Likely: Rickard Rakell
The Anaheim Ducks forward is in the last year of his contract with a $3.789 million AAV. Rickard Rakell is a winger that the Rangers could use on their second or third line. Acquiring him would not cost the Rangers as much compared to a trade for Miller.
Elliotte Friedman recently said on an episode of the 32 Thoughts podcast that the Rangers’ approach at the trading deadline will include a “big swing,” “When I look at (the Rangers), they can win playoffs series because of (Igor) Shesterkin. They obviously got left a lot of talent by the Jeff Gorton regime. Chris Drury has made his tweaks and I think he’s going to take a big swing at the deadline this year.”
Derek Lee, who covers the Anaheim Ducks for The Hockey Writers, said on the Mar. 2 episode of The Hockey Writers Podcast that, “the Rangers especially would be a really good landing spot for Rakell if he was to be dealt, just because they do look like they need scoring depth. Kaapo Kakko has been out since January with an upper-body injury, and Sammy Blais tore his ACL back in November. Those are two guys the Rangers were really looking forward to having provide some of that depth. Rakell has a team-friendly deal because he is only making $3.78 million for the rest of the season.”
Rakell has not totaled more than 20 goals since 2017-18. However, he has 15 goals in 47 games this year and has a good chance of exceeding the 20-goal mark for the first time in four seasons. His production could be what Drury is looking for in terms of acquiring more forward depth by the deadline.
Kakko will be out for longer than anticipated, which was originally a month. Kevin Rooney was recently placed on injured reserve (IR) on Mar. 3 with an upper-body injury. He will be out for a minimum of one week.
The team’s depth will be tested as the trade deadline nears. Acquiring a player such as Rakell would require the Rangers to part with a draft pick or possibly one of their young defensemen such as Jones or Lundkvist. Hampus Lindholm is due to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season and the Ducks may trade him by the deadline or lose him in free agency. The Ducks may be looking to acquire a replacement for Lindholm.
Less Likely: Jake DeBrusk
Jake DeBrusk of the Boston Bruins has been in trade rumors for most of the season. He is a pending restricted free agent (RFA) after 2021-22 and the Bruins have a lot of money already committed to other core players. Charlie McAvoy is due for a $4.6 million raise next season. He has a $4.9 AAV this year and he will have a $9.5 AAV for the next eight seasons.
The Rangers have two core players of their own, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox, whose extensions begin next year. Zibanejad will have a $3.15 million AAV increase in his next contract. His AAV will be $8.5 million beginning in 2022-23 and lasting for the next eight seasons. Fox is in the last year of his entry-level contract in which he is earning $925,000. His AAV will be $9.5 million in 2022-23 and last until the end of 2028-29. Ryan Strome is due to be a UFA and he may reach an agreement on a new contract as well with the Rangers during the offseason. DeBrusk does not appear to be on the Rangers’ radar in terms of players they are rumored to have an interest in.
More Likely: A Depth Defenseman
Some players the Rangers may target in terms of adding a veteran defenseman are Ben Chiarot of the Montreal Canadiens or Mark Giordano of the Seattle Kraken. The Canadiens and the Kraken will be sellers, and both defensemen will be UFAs at the end of 2021-22. Chiarot is 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, a big defenseman, which is a quality the Rangers would like to add by the deadline.
The addition of a defenseman by the deadline would give Gallant the option of partnering the acquired veteran or Patrik Nemeth on the third pairing with Schneider. Kraken GM Ron Francis has commented before that he is taking calls from other general managers in regards to the availability of many players on the roster. The Kraken GM would presumably inquire about the availability of the Rangers’ young players should Drury have interest in trading for Giordano or another player from Seattle.
The Rangers will be buyers at the deadline. Drury may add pending UFAs that will be viewed as rental players for the rest of the season or decide to make a big trade that will be the talk of the NHL trading deadline. Fans will not need to wait much longer to see what moves Drury makes as the deadline is approaching.