The New York Rangers were fairly busy in the week leading up to the 2021-22 NHL trade deadline. President and general manager (GM) Chris Drury made some savvy moves and didn’t break the bank. They acquired five players and gave up anywhere from second- to fifth-round picks, plus a couple of regulars in their lineup.
Copp for Barron and Conditional Picks
The Rangers acquired Andrew Copp and a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Morgan Barron and two conditional second-round picks. The first of the two picks they parted with is in the 2022 Draft and could turn into a first-round selection if the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Final and Copp plays in at least 50 percent of their playoff games. The second of the two will either be the St. Louis Blues’ second-round selection in 2022 or the Rangers’ own second-round pick in 2023.
Copp, an Ann Arbor, MI native, has played his entire career in Winnipeg and earned 184 points in 467 games. He also has a career plus-56 rating so far this season. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound forward has only played one game with the Blueshirts as of yet and registered two assists.
Vatrano for a 4th
Frank Vatrano came over from the Florida Panthers a day after scoring the tying goal in the third period and netting the winner in overtime for the Panthers. Drury made the move to get him for one of their fourth-round selections in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. It will be the latter of the two Blueshirts’ selections in that round, which will either be their spot or the Winnipeg Jets pick that the Rangers had previously acquired.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound center has played four games for the Rangers thus far and has one goal. Head coach Gerard Gallant is still trying to find the right spot for him on their roster, but the 28-year-old will add depth to the lineup coming down the home stretch and entering the playoffs. Vatrano had 10 goals and nine assists in 49 games this season with the Panthers. He had seven game-winning goals during the shortened 2020-21 season in Florida and scored three of them in overtime.
Motte Over from Vancouver
Tyler Motte is another player that will add depth for the stretch run. He’s already achieved a career-high in assists this season (8) and needs one more point to tie his career high (16) in that category. However, what he lacks in point production he provides in other categories both on and off the ice.
Since the 2017-18 season, the 5-foot-10, 192-pound forward led all Vancouver Canucks skaters with 555 hits, and he’s a solid locker room guy who was voted “Unsung Hero” by the Canucks fans and also won the Daniel & Henrik Sedin Award for “Community Leadership” while in Vancouver.
Braun Brings Experience to Manhattan
Justin Braun was another deadline move and will add depth, grit and experience to the back end. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman has played 784 career games and recorded 298 penalty minutes. The Rangers acquired him from the Philadelphia Flyers for a third-round pick in the 2023 Draft.
He racked up 114 blocked shots and 79 hits so far this season and logged just over 20 minutes of ice time (TOI) per game. He’ll be able to eat up some minutes coming down the stretch, providing a breather for the Rangers’ defensive core.
Merkely Added From Sharks
Durry also acquired Nick Merkley from the San Jose Sharks for Anthony Bitetto. Merkley, a 24-year old forward, has spent most of his time this season with the Sharks’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate the San Jose Barracuda where he registered 36 points in 43 games. He played nine games for the Sharks in 2021-22 and scored one goal with two assists. The former AHL All-Star has played 41 career NHL games for three teams.
Strome & Kravtsov
Ryan Strome was a player some around the league might have thought was on the trading blocks at the deadline. However, according to Larry Brooks, Drury has been in talks with Strome’s agent since January about a contract extension (from ‘Inside Rangers’ contract talks with Ryan Strome, option they won’t choose’, New York Post, 1/26/22). The Rangers’ GM didn’t put a sign or trade ultimatum in front of the soon-to-be, unrestricted free agent (UFA). Instead, he made it clear that if he couldn’t get the center signed by then, they’d resume talks after the playoffs and try to get something done before the July 13 free-agent signing period begins.
Vitaly Kravtsov is staying in Russia for the time being. Many thought one of the Rangers’ top prospects, who’s disgruntled since informing the team he wouldn’t accept an assignment to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL earlier this season, would have been a piece the team used to shore up their lineup at the deadline. The 22-year-old, 2018 (ninth overall) Rangers’ draft pick’s stock is apparently at its lowest. He’s played 20 NHL games for the Blueshirts and has only four points. Drury was rumored to only be willing to give him up for a top prospect. However, it appears that they’ll have to wait for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and take a second- or third-round pick for his rights if they so choose.
Trade Deadline Moves Were a Success
Sure, the Rangers didn’t make any blockbuster moves, but they did make smart ones. Drury didn’t give up a lot but added much-needed depth for the playoffs. One often-overlooked point is that making moves in the latter half of the season can upset team chemistry. The Rangers are one of the tightest knit teams in the league, and that goes a long way during a Stanley Cup Playoff run. Hopefully, the pieces they’ve added make them an even tighter bunch.
Scott Blair is an author and journalist from Los Angeles, CA, by way of Detroit, MI. Uniquely diverse experiences have shaped Scott’s life in both of those places he calls home. He is now traveling the world, learning and growing as a human and a writer. He was a professional hockey player and then turned to the arts, becoming an actor for about 15 years. His passions turned to poetry, prose, politics, and journalism when he got tired of the Hollywood machine and what it represents. Scott is available for interviews and welcomes questions and topic ideas.