This week marks the start of trade deadline season, with less than six weeks until the March 8 deadline. Coupled with the Rangers' decline into mediocrity the past couple of months, where they have gone 12-12-2 in their last 26 games after their hot 18-4-1 start, there has already been a lot of urgency for GM Chris Drury to try to upgrade his roster, especially in Forward.
Then came Friday. In his second time on the ice nearly two months after suffering a concussion, Filip Chytil had to be helped to the Garden's locker room after suffering a leak during a three-man morning skate. The expected announcement came on Sunday that Chytil will be suspended for the remainder of the 2023-24 season, including the postseason, a shocking development for the 24-year-old.
So, Drury must now move forward with the goal of finding a position, and that is perhaps a bigger priority than finding a striker on the right side of the top nine for a third straight deadline day. Frank Vatrano and Andrew Cobb had huge successes in the 2021-2022 season; Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane were a mixed bag last year.
The Rangers will take Chytil's $4.44 million cap hit off long-term injured reserve, which is the only silver lining in this whole situation. This certainly increases the options available to Drury, perhaps even to the point of being able to have two strikers if both are broken.
We had some of these same names on our very early list last month, but there are more names to keep an eye on now.
Adam Henrique, Ducks: It makes sense as a very capable No. 3 center who can still produce, as he showed with two goals against the Rangers in Anaheim last weekend. He won't make the Rangers obviously faster but he plays an all-round game and wouldn't look out of place between Will Coyle and Kaapo Kakko, giving the Rangers a dangerous third line. The Ducks appear willing to eat up some of their $5.825 million cap hit, meaning the buyer pool could be deep. He doesn't deserve to be picked in the first round, but it might be worth surrendering a shot in the second round to make it happen.
Elias Lindholm, Flames: If Drury is for it — and as one Eastern Conference executive pointed out earlier this week — “why aren't they going all in when the East is wide open?” – Lindholm may be worth paying a high price for. A pending UFA is far out of the Rangers' range in terms of contract, so this would be a strict and expensive lease at the time, given that other teams might want to sign Lindholm after trading for him. A first-rounder is certainly part of any request from Calgary, but Lindholm would give the Rangers serious depth at center.
Jack Roslovic, Blue Jackets: He has huge appeal for the Rangers given that the 27-year-old plays as a midfielder and right winger and offers some scoring to fit into a decent profile on the third line. He's also a pending UFA who might not break the bank after this season and certainly wouldn't cost more than the second round now.
Sean Monahan, Canadiens: He fits the Henrique mold perfectly, but people familiar with the situation have been saying for weeks what Elliott Friedman reported Saturday night: There is no love lost between former Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton, now Montreal's top executive, and Drury. There's also the matter of Gorton hiring two longtime Rangers staffers who were fired by Drury long ago, scouting director Nick Bobroff and medical coach Jim Ramsey. A person who speaks to the Canadiens regularly said Montreal's front office has believed for a while that there is no chance Drury will even reach out to Canadiens GM Kent Hughes. That may change, but indications are that both sides are looking elsewhere.
Alexander Weinberg, Kraken: Another UFA commentator who doesn't offer the same type of all-around game as Henrique but will help the Rangers. The cost may not be too high, although it appears Seattle still isn't convinced to sell them.
Yanni Jordi, Kraken: This will take some creativity, given that Gourde has another $5.16 million season after that. So the Rangers will have to send the contract the other way — those clamoring for Barclay Goodreau's departure, take note — as well as some assets to make this work. A longshot, but Gord has the right combination to be a solid third-rounder for the Rangers.
Kevin Hayes, Blues: Welcome back, old friend? Hayes was a popular guard and will have five deadlines again after being dealt to the Jets for a first-round pick. The main issues here are that the Blues are making a playoff push and that Hayes has two years left to reach the $3.57 million cap hit. If the Blues can retain some salary, this could work and give the Rangers a highly capable third or fourth center for a while.
Morgan Frost, Flyers: There's a slightly different option here as Frost, the 27th pick in the 2017 draft, has plenty of talent but isn't a big fan of Flyers coach John Tortorella. The Rangers need to get younger in midfield at some point, even if Chytil can return in the future. Frost will certainly cost them the first time, but he will control the cost for the next two years after this year.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Senators: Ottawa will have to keep salary on Tarasenko's $5 million cap hit to make this work, especially in conjunction with another position move, but a reunion makes sense. Tarasenko was a solid addition to winger Mika Zibanejad last season, and he will be motivated to earn himself a longer contract with a good spring and playoff run. As long as there isn't another swap for a right winger behind him this time, Tarasenko could be the answer to his right-side problems once again.
Jordan Eberle, Kraken: Perhaps Drury can fill both major forward positions in one deal by adding Eberle, who remains a top-six forward, to one of the positions above. Among the crowd of UFA forwards-in-waiting, the Rangers could do a lot worse than Eberle, who had two big playoff runs with the Islanders not long ago.
anthony Duclair, Sharks: Ignore the ugly metrics, since everything San Jose does in terms of data this season is colored dark red on every chart. Duclair still has breakneck speed and a more rounded game from when he was a teenager fighting for ice time as a point guard. It also won't cost much.
Alexander Barabanov, Sharks: That's the kind of high-motor third line that the Rangers don't seem to have. He has a bit of a scoring touch too. He'll be one of those guys dealt at the deadline who ends up making a difference somewhere.
Jason Zucker, Coyotes: Arizona is still in the Western Conference playoffs, so this could finally be the year the Coyotes don't sell out. On the other hand… Zucker is still productive and likes to get his nose dirty, two qualities the Rangers could use.
Frank Vatrano, Ducks: He's headed to the All-Star Game, and the Ducks don't have a lot of talent, so moving him seems like a longshot. He's worked well with Chris Kreider and Zibanejad a couple of years ago, so it's worth a call from Drury at the very least.
Brooke McGinn, Ducks: A guy who scored some big goals in Carolina and Pittsburgh and did nothing in Anaheim. He has another year at $2.75 million, so this would be one of the cheap additions the Rangers could offer asset-wise, but probably not a guy you want to commit to for another season.
Patrick Kane, Red Wings: I'm just kidding.
(Photo of Frank Vatrano (77) and Adam Henrique (14): Andrew Mordzinski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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