The New York Rangers have some things to contemplate over the All-Star break – they need to decide which way they want to turn before the season ends. Do they want to make some big trades that might bolster the team for a playoff run? Or, do they cut some ties and reload for the future? Do they want to allow some of the youngsters to get more playing time and develop? Or, maybe they feel they have enough juice to do something worthwhile in the playoffs (if they can get there) with an addition or two at the Feb. 24 trade deadline?
One thing is for sure – the Rangers’ front office will be contemplating a great deal and possibly making some calls over the break. The consensus is they are on the fence about which way to turn at the moment, and they’ll probably wait right up until the deadline to make a decision.
The biggest need the Rangers have right now is defense. Going into the break, they have given up 159 goals against which puts in them in the bottom half of the league in that department. They are a minus-one in goal differential, which is in the middle of the NHL pack. They’re also right about in the middle with their penalty-killing percentage.
You can see where this is going, right? If the Rangers decide to dive into a deeper rebuild for next season then they’ll focus more on attaining draft picks or prospects, but as of now, they are still toying with a playoff run, and that calls for strong defensive play. However, they are sitting on the fence and can teeter either way quite easily it seems.
This is why management is trepidatious for now and nobody wants to jump the gun until things clear up a bit. The Rangers’ goal production is solid and their power play is at a respectable 21.6 percent, so defense is where they could probably make the best headway, not just on the back-end, but team defense in general. They have three competent goaltenders, one of them being a future Hall of Famer, and may just sit tight with all three of them until the off-season. However, moving one of them for a defensive stalwart might become an option. One thing to note is that they’ve been sellers the past two seasons at the deadline under general manager Jeff Gorton’s watch.
Who Can or Should They Get?
Most GMs will tell you just about anybody can be traded at almost any time. However, that’s not really the case since you have to take into account contracts, no-trade clauses, free agency and waiver issues.
Zach Bogosian is a veteran that can provide some extra help on the back-end and he’s reported to have requested a trade from the Buffalo Sabres. He would come with a $5.14 million cap hit and injury problems.
The 2019 NHL Man Of The Year hasn’t played much this season after a hip procedure this past spring and a previous one last February. He’s currently a plus-three in 18 games, and might come at a low cost to provide some defensive depth.
Alec Martinez is another name being talked about as the deadline approaches. The Los Angeles Kings’ defenseman doesn’t have a no-trade clause and can provide Stanley Cup championship experience, though he’s not having his best season thus far. He would come with a $4 million salary and a year remaining on his current deal.
San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Brenden Dillon is a possible player the Rangers could pick up. He would provide size and tenacity at the backend and give the Rangers the extra grit they need right now.
Dillon, who is in his ninth full season in the NHL, logs close to 20 minutes of ice time per game.
Ron Hainsey is a blueliner for the Ottawa Senators. He’s being talked about in trade rumors these days and could provide the Rangers with a steady defensive presence going into the homestretch. He’s a plus-six on the season and plays just over 20 minutes per game for the Senators.
Who Could They Give Up?
There has been no shortage of speculation on who the Rangers are looking to move at the deadline. Rumors have been floating around since before Christmas of what the Rangers might do and who they’d be willing to part with. One thing is for sure – the Rangers’ front office won’t just give someone away. They feel they’ve got some undervalued talent on the roster and probably won’t allow teams to take advantage of that. Two of the most talked-about players have been Alexandar Georgiev and Chris Kreider.
It’s no secret the Rangers have a goaltending logjam. With Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin and Georgiev all on the current roster, many feel that something has to give. Georgiev seems to be the odd man out at this point. He should garner some value in a trade and his salary is at just under $800,000, which, coupled with his solid play this season, definitely puts him on the radar for several GMs around the league, particularly for those who are looking to shore up their goaltending situation heading into the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed interest, but nothing concrete has come to the table. Georgiev, who turns 24 years old next month, carries a 3.02 goals-against average in 66 career games.
Perhaps the most talked-about player nearing the Feb. 24 deadline is the Rangers’ Chris Kreider. He’s been with the team since the 2012-13 season and was just named to the All-Star game as a replacement for Artemi Panarin.
He scored over 50 points last season and has 32 points so far in this campaign while playing all 48 games. The Rangers will most likely want to move Kreider since he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in the off-season and there seems to be a ton of interest in him around the league right now.
The Rangers are staring at a lot of options at the moment, and they’re definitely facing some big-time decisions in the coming weeks. We’ll have to sit tight and see how it all plays out.