New York Rangers president and general manager (GM) Chris Drury is being cautious as we reach the NHL trade deadline. He acquired Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers for a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft on March 16 – the Panthers and Colorado Avalanche have been aggressive ahead of the deadline.
The Rangers have been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, given that they are likely to qualify for the postseason, and are considered buyers because New York is a popular market. Ben Chiarot, Rickard Rakell, and Mark Giordano are some of the players that have been linked to the Rangers. However, Chiarot is now a member of the Panthers, Giordano has been acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the price to acquire Rakell remains high. Here’s a look at the reasons for Drury’s approach on deadline day.
Drury is Not Interested in Overpaying for Players
The Panthers acquired Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens for Tyler Smilanic, a fourth-round pick in the 2022 Draft, and a 2023 first-round pick. GM Bill Zito traded a lot for a player that could end up signing elsewhere during the offseason. A team that is successful during the season is likely to part with prospects and draft picks to acquire a veteran player in order to increase their chances of winning the Stanley Cup.
Drury is not interested in surrendering multiple picks, prospects, or players for a veteran who might not return. Rakell is a logical fit for the Rangers given their lack of forward depth. However, is Anaheim Ducks GM Pat Verbeek’s asking price of a high draft pick and maybe more for Rakell preventing Drury from pursuing a trade?
Drury is right to be cautious since he can also wait for the offseason to make a trade that improves the Rangers when he might not have to overpay.
Rangers Have Young Players With Potential
The Rangers have young players such as Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Braden Schneider, to name a few, who have generated interest from other clubs. Drury does not want to trade any of them, but that has not stopped their names from appearing in trade rumors. While Kakko has been out with an injury, Lafreniere and Schneider have emerged.
Related: Rangers’ Rookie Braden Schneider Has Arrived
Lafreniere has done well when he has played at right wing on the top line, while Schneider has taken over one of the spots on the third defensive pairing. The Rangers are hoping Lafreniere can continue to play like a forward who is capable of producing offensive numbers and worthy of playing on the top two lines. If he can add offense consistently when he is moved to the bottom six, it would increase the team’s scoring depth. The Rangers are looking for players to step up offensively besides their two scoring lines.
Other general managers seeking prospects and draft picks realize the Rangers have young talent. If Drury pursues a trade for Rakell or the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Max Domi, he has to be comfortable with the risk of giving up some young players from either the Rangers or the American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. He also has to be aware of the risk that either forward might only be with the team for a short while, and I don’t think he would pay a high price for that type of player.
Rangers Are Not Yet a Stanley Cup Contender
To reiterate, the Rangers have made progress this season, and they appear to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. However, they are not yet a top team like the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, or Panthers. The Rangers have managed to win close games when they have not played their best – a sign of a good team. However, they are too reliant on the play of their goaltending, and they lack scoring beyond their top lines.
It remains to be seen who can step up for the Rangers if Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, or Artemi Panarin struggle during a playoff series. They defeated the Hurricanes on March 20, but Carolina consistently swarmed the offensive zone, creating numerous scoring chances in the third period. The Hurricanes’ style will be difficult for the Rangers to contend with in a playoff series unless New York can match their offensive play.
The Rangers’ roster is coming into its own but needs a few more seasons to reach elite status. They need to experience what it is like to play in the postseason before they take the leap to being a Cup favorite. Overpaying for a player such as Rakell or Domi improves their offense in the short term, but either one might not be with the team beyond the season. If Drury makes other deals before the deadline, the trades will likely be similar to the Vatrano deal. They are more likely to make a blockbuster trade during the offseason.