The New York Rangers are in the position to be buyers as the NHL season nears the halfway point. The Blueshirts have excelled in 39 games with a 25-10-4 record, and are in first place in the Metropolitan Division. Gerard Gallant has made quite a difference in his first year as the head coach of a team that has been dedicated to rebuilding since the middle of the 2017-18 season.
The Vancouver Canucks struggled during the first two months of 2021-22, which resulted in a head coaching change. Travis Green was let go in favor of Bruce Boudreau, who has made a difference in getting the team to play winning hockey in a competitive Pacific Division. The recent struggles of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have allowed the Canucks to remain in contention for the second wild-card spot.
Should the Canucks struggle between now and the trading deadline, they will be sellers. J.T. Miller is the top player on the team with 12 goals and 26 assists in 38 games this season. The former Ranger will be a popular candidate that playoff-bound teams will be inquiring about. If the Canucks decide to part ways with some of their players by the March deadline, targets will be those whose contracts are due to expire after this season or the following year.
After 2021-22, Miller has one year remaining on his current deal in which he has an average annual value (AAV) of $5.25 million. However, he and Luke Schenn have been covered in a previous piece as to their fit with the Rangers. I will be focusing on other Canucks players who could be of interest to the Blueshirts to acquire. Here are three more Canucks players the Rangers should pursue by the 2021-22 trading deadline.
The Rangers have a need for depth at forward as Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko have been inconsistent. Filip Chytil has had a difficult season, particularly at the center position. Lafreniere has the best chance of the three to remain with the team in 2022-23.
Kakko’s future with the franchise is in question. The latter has not excelled offensively given his high draft selection of the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Chytil is the most likely of the trio to not be with the franchise next season. If he is to be successful with the Blueshirts, it will be playing the wing position. He has played center for several years and appears to be more suited to play right wing in Gallant’s system.
Brock Boeser has numbers that are worthy of adding him to the top six for the Rangers. He played in all 56 games in the shortened 2020-21 season and had 23 goals and 26 assists. Before last year, he had 55 points in 62 games played (GP) in 2017-18, 56 points in 69 GP during 2018-19, and 45 points in 57 GP throughout 2019-20. He is consistent enough that he would be worth adding to complement the first or second line of the Blueshirts.
Playing on the top line with Miller and Tanner Pearson gives Boeser a good number of chances to contribute scoring opportunities. The native of Burnsville, Minnesota, has an individual point percentage (IPP) of 75.00, and a total number of expected goals (ixG) of 5.77 according to Natural Stat Trick. Based on his number of shots (60), his ixG ranks him fifth among all Canucks skaters. He would continue to get his chances on the Rangers playing with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad or on a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
Given the significance of a captain to a franchise, it is considered a bit of a long shot that the Canucks would consider trading Bo Horvat. Depending upon what interim general manager Jim Rutherford decides is best for the franchise, other general managers of contending teams could ask about the center’s availability. After 2021-22, the center has one year remaining on his contract with a $5.5 million AAV.
Strome will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season for the Rangers and the acquisition of Horvat would provide them with another center. If president/general manager Chris Drury and the Rangers forward are unable to come to an agreement on a new contract in the offseason, the Blueshirts would not be lacking at the center position. If the Canucks’ captain were to be acquired, Gallant could move Strome to the right wing and put them both on the second line with Panarin. The need for another top-six forward would be taken care of if the Rangers’ second-line center moves to that spot.
If the Rangers are looking to win a Stanley Cup within two to three seasons, Horvat has enough of a track record in the league to contribute. Given where the Blueshirts drafted Lafreniere and Kakko, it would not be an easy decision to risk giving up on their potential as they are both young players. The Canucks would be interested in acquiring such players from the Rangers if Drury wanted to acquire a top player on the team such as Miller, Boeser, or the captain of the Canucks.
The Rangers have a need for depth, particularly on their third defensive pairing. For the majority of the year, Gallant has attempted to find the most effective combination to use at that lineup spot. Nils Lundkvist was recently assigned to the Wolf Pack after playing in 25 games for the Blueshirts. The rookie will look to gain more experience there and perhaps will get another chance with the Rangers in 2021-22.
Burroughs said back in Aug 2021 that he brings a “gritty game and does “things that some people don’t like to do… just be hard to play against. I like to compete. I’m a competitor. Whatever happens happens, but I’m trying to set myself up and I’m trying to make decisions hard for the coaches and management staff” (from ‘Joining Canucks ‘too exciting to pass up’ for Langley’s Kyle Burroughs, The Province, 8/12/21).
The 26-year-old defenseman is in his second season in the NHL and is making $750,000 this year. Burroughs is scheduled to make the same amount in 2022-23 before becoming a UFA. He would be paired with Patrik Nemeth on the right side of the Rangers’ defense.
Acquiring Boeser or Horvat would likely result in the Rangers parting with future draft picks and young players such as Lafreniere, Kakko, Chytil, or Julien Gauthier. The Canucks’ interim general manager may be intrigued by some of the players with the Hartford Wolf Pack who have received an opportunity to play with the Blueshirts this season such as Morgan Barron, Zac Jones, Braden Schneider or Lundkvist. Drury would probably nix a potential trade if Rutherford expresses interest in a player such as Ryan Lindgren. He is a part of the Rangers’ best defensive pairing with Adam Fox.
Drury would need to decide if giving up on young players in the franchise’s system would be worth it to acquire a player such as Miller, Horvat, or Boeser. The president/general manager could decide to not make a big acquisition at the deadline since the Rangers are a young team. The Blueshirts do have a bright future based upon how they are playing in 2021-22.