Rangers Rundown: Potential Trade Possibilities, Defensive Backup Plan

With the World Cup of Hockey creeping up on hockey fans everywhere in just three weeks, many have wondered what Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton is going to do to put the final touches on a Rangers team that is considerably younger than any team the Rangers have had in recent history. There have been consistent rumors throughout the offseason, speculating multiple trades including Rick Nash, even with Mats Zuccarello coming up in recent trade rumors. These rumors leave Rangers fans wondering what the next move is, with the most recent being the signing of forward Brandon Pirri, a streaky goal scoring forward who likely slots in on the Rangers fourth line this upcoming year. The question everyone is asking… Is there another move yet to come?

Trade Possibilities

With the Rick Nash trade rumors consistently swirling, anything can happen down that alley. Most tend to think that at this point in the offseason that Nash will stay with the Rangers for the 2016-17 season, as a Nash trade would leave the Rangers without a legitimate first line scoring threat. While Nash may not move, Gorton trading Brassard means that nobody is guaranteed to be safe in the long run.

The Rangers have a stockpile of forward depth that is regarded as one of the better four line systems in the National Hockey League as is, without any big moves needing to be made at this point. While this point is overlooked, this is an extremely positive sign, with Gorton going out of his way to build a system that runs on speed and the ability to score the puck. A great offensive core gives way to a less than great defensive core, with many question marks as to the potentially poor play from veterans Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. With the consistent questioning of the play of Staal and Girardi, the trade winds continue to swirl, pinning the Rangers to multiple players around the league.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Alex Edler (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s not easy to trade for quality defensemen in the NHL. While Shattenkirk rumors consistently swirl, the likelihood of him wearing a Rangers jersey this season seems slim and none.  That being said, there are a few under-the-radar options that have been constantly rumored to be on the block for their respective franchises. Alex Edler is one option who fits the bill. Edler is a talented defenseman with very good ability in his own third of the ice, which is something the Rangers could use to supplement the offensive talent in players such as McDonagh and Klein.

That being said, there are a few under-the-radar options that have been constantly rumored to be on the block for their respective franchises. Alex Edler is one option who fits the bill. Edler is a talented defenseman with very good ability in his own third of the ice, which is something the Rangers could use to supplement the offensive talent in players such as McDonagh and Klein.

Edler has had problems in the past with injuries and is likely entering the last few years of prime performance. With the Canucks likely not being a playoff team next season, Edler could be an acquisition Gorton may consider, probably not being overly costly in terms of trade value. The likelihood of an Edler trade to the Rangers is low at this point as he has a no-trade clause, but as his career winds down he may be willing to waive it to be sent to a team that is known for deep pushes in the playoffs.

Another more realistic option would be a trade for Cam Fowler. Fowler is 24 and many have speculated that he may be the odd man out for expansion in 2017, so a Rangers trade for him isn’t out of the question. The Ducks would have to retain a little bit of salary at this point, but with a weak bottom two lines, they could definitely use an acquisition of a young forward with a lot of potential, such as Nicklas Jensen or Jesper Fast. Fowler would be a big improvement for the blue line, assuming the Ducks wouldn’t ask for a top six forward in return, instead attempting to land a younger forward with potential and a few middle round draft picks.

McIlrath & Clendening Provide Good Defensive Backup Plan

If no trades are to happen, Rangers fans can feel safe knowing that there are very good options on defense past the top six if it came to the point where they were needed. Most people have made a big deal about Staal and Girardi, forgetting to factor in the significance of having two legitimate NHL defenseman scratched on a nightly basis. If there is poor play or an injury from a defenseman, there are two good players waiting to take the spot and be the next man up.

Dylan McIlrath will almost definitely end up being the odd man out in this upcoming season for the Rangers on the blue line. While most Rangers fans can say he’s significantly more valuable than Dan Girardi has been in the recent history of the team, McIlrath will almost definitely have to wait another year to get an every night spot in the Rangers lineup. A trade for a defenseman is less and less likely every day that goes on and Gorton is likely moving closer to not making a move because of McIlrath waiting in the shadows for a nightly spot.

In a similar situation as McIlrath, Adam Clendening is also around in the same capacity. Clendening will likely spend the majority of the season in the minors barring injuries on the NHL roster, but he has shown that he is a capable defenseman when given ice time. Clendening puts the puck on the net when given the opportunity while also providing an above average defensive aptitude that could find him in the NHL on an everyday basis within the next few years. Both McIlrath and Clendening could provide a lot of spark to the team in the upcoming season.

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Forward Core Seemingly Set

One thing the Rangers don’t need to worry about outside of Henrik Lundqvist is the fantastic depth in the forward core. Not only do the Rangers have a legitimate top six with Nash, Stepan, Kreider, Zuccarello, Zibanejad, and Miller, the bottom six is going to be absolutely spectacular, whether or not any more moves are made. At this point, the possibility of an addition at forward is slim and none, with an abundance of NHL-level forwards ready to step into the bottom six.

While adding a forward is almost guaranteed to be out of the question at this point, subtracting a forward through a trade is very likely. With Vesey, Buchnevich, Hayes, Grabner, Pirri, Fast, Lindberg, Hrivik, Glass, Gerbe, Jensen and Jooris all vying for a spot, there’s going to have to be a significant move within the organization made within the next few weeks. There is no sense in not having Vesey, Buchnevich, and Hayes as the third line, with Grabner guaranteed a spot on the fourth line. Glass and Hrivik are both AHL-bound in this scenario, and Lindberg should be placed on the Long Term Injured Reserve list after his hip surgery in May.

With Pirri, Fast, Gerbe, Jensen, and Jooris remaining in the forward bunch, Jesper Fast would be the most likely to get a spot on the wing opposite Grabner, citing his excellent defensive skill and ability to skate being the reasoning to put him on the wing. Newest signing Brandon Pirri is the most likely to take the center spot, with the best faceoff percentage last season of anyone left in the bunch and the best ability to put the puck in the net of the four. With Gerbe, Jooris, and Jensen still remaining and only two spots left on the roster, someone will need to be sent down.

While Jensen has easily the most potential to break out of any of the three, chances are he’d get sent down to the minors so he can continue to develop his game, leaving Gerbe and Jooris to be nightly scratches. Jensen could potentially hold value in a trade because of his spectacular performance at the 2016 IIHF World Championships in Russia, so don’t be too surprised to see his name thrown around if the Rangers are indeed linked to a trade in the next few months.

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All in all, the Rangers have a very deep team poised to make another run in the playoffs without any more moves being made in the offseason. While a trade for a defenseman could happen any day, nothing has been legitimately rumored recently. This offseason has been one of the most interesting Rangers offseasons in recent history, and with the Pirri signing, there is potential for another trade to pop up. Whatever happens, this Rangers offseason is one for the books, going down as one of the most exciting offseasons in the history of the team.