The New York Rangers have one of the NHL’s best playmakers in Artemi Panarin, but they are not playing him on a line with their top forwards, as right now he is on a line with Ryan Strome and Dryden Hunt. Though Hunt had an impressive performance in New York’s 7-4 victory against the Dallas Stars on Sunday, he has just four goals and 10 assists in 54 games this season and should not be a top-six forward.
With Kaapo Kakko out at least a few more weeks, the Rangers should look to make an adjustment. They have a few players on the team who deserve an opportunity to play on Panarin’s line, and the Blueshirts could also look to make a trade before the deadline.
Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil
Goodrow is a gritty, effective two-way forward with a similar style to Jesper Fast, who had success playing with Panarin and Strome two seasons ago. Goodrow is effective on the forecheck, goes to the front of the net, and has also shown a knack for scoring timely goals late in close games.
In 56 games this season, Goodrow has a career-high 13 goals and he also has 11 assists. Additionally, he’s won 48.9 percent of his face offs, and he can take some pressure off of Strome, who has won just 44.9 percent of his face offs.
However, Goodrow has been New York’s best bottom-six forward, and the Rangers would have a very weak bottom-six forward group without him, especially with Kevin Rooney out injured. Still, it may be worth it for the Rangers to make the change in order to get the best out of Panarin and Strome.
Another option for the Rangers is moving Chytil from their third-line center to a second-line winger. He has struggled at center this season and played well in a brief stretch of games at right-wing on a line with Panarin and Strome earlier this season.
Chytil has just six goals and nine assists in 47 games this season, but he has recently generated more scoring chances and shown signs of breaking out. He has three goals and five assists in his last 16 games. He’s a good skater and has made occasional highlight-reel plays but has struggled with consistency. Still, he certainly has more offensive upside than Hunt and could benefit from Panarin’s playmaking if he moved to the wing.
Trade Possibilities: Rickard Rakell and Phil Kessel
The Rangers could also look to trade for a winger before the deadline. There are a lot of players who could be moved soon and an intriguing option is Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks, who have struggled lately, may be sellers at the deadline, and Rakell will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Swedish winger has scored more than 30 goals twice in his career but hasn’t scored more than 18 goals since the 2017-18 season. He has 16 goals and 12 assists in 51 games this season.
Rakell has a strong, accurate shot and would be a massive upgrade for the Rangers on Panarin’s line. This season, Strome and Hunt have missed far too many scoring opportunities and though Rakell isn’t having one of his best seasons, it should certainly help him to play with an incredible playmaker like Panarin.
Another potential trade target for the Rangers is Phil Kessel of the Arizona Coyotes. Like Rakell, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and though he is having a down season, he certainly has a lot of talent. The 34-year-old has had six 30-goal seasons, and is approaching 1,000 career points.
Kessel could definitely help round out New York’s top-six forwards, and his high-end offensive ability could provide a big spark for the Rangers on a line with Strome and Panarin. He has also repeatedly proven to be a clutch performer, which would help this young Rangers team as they try to make the postseason for the first time in five years.
For the Rangers moving Forward
Whether or not the Blueshirts make a trade at the deadline, they have to make an adjustment and find a better winger to play with Panarin and Strome. Hunt is a capable fourth-line player but he should not be a top-six forward for the Rangers. Rakell and Kessel are intriguing trade options but the Rangers could also benefit from giving Goodrow or Chytil a chance to play with Panarin and Strome.
Panarin has continued to produce offensively even though Strome is having a down year and Hunt has struggled on their line. However, the Rangers need to make a change and find a better linemate to play alongside Panarin and Strome in order to get the best out of their star winger.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.