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Rangers have “significant” interest in Drouin; Gorton reportedly interested in Atkinson

Bobby Bevilacqua

drouin and atkinson

Photos courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Four days ago, I wrote a speculative article about how the Rangers should go out and acquire the recently ousted Jonathan Drouin, who made his trade request public this week.

The day after that article went up on the site, the NY Post published an article that stated that the Rangers “are in big time” on Drouin, according to sources close to the paper and Larry Brooks.

Blueshirts’ GM Jeff Gorton first contacted Lightning GM Steve Yzerman when the Rangers were in Tampa Bay for last Wednesday’s 5-2 Rangers win. That conversation came before the trade request went public.

Brooks went on to speculate that the Rangers might be able to get the former third overall pick for Keith Yandle, the offensive-defenseman who will be a UFA after this season. He went on to say that there is almost no possibility of the Rangers keeping Yandle after the season, mainly because he could easily command $5.5 to $6 million on the open market.

Personally, I disagree with the fact that the Rangers can’t keep Yandle. There are ways they could maneuver around the cap to keep one of the best puck-moving defenseman into the entire league. The team should first be looking to get rid of one of the possession anchors in Marc Staal or Dan Girardi.

But, Vigneault doesn’t use Yandle properly. He doesn’t use him on the top power play unit. He doesn’t utilize him in key offensive zone shifts during the game. Yandle only plays about 17 minutes a night when everyone is healthy. And despite the pairing of McIlrath and Yandle being arguably the Rangers best paring when they played together, that’s been broken up.

So if Vigneault doesn’t plan on using Yandle, and he won’t give him the same ice-time and minutes as he had in Arizona, and if the Rangers don’t plan on re-signing him, then Drouin is a pretty darn good consolation prize.

Keith Yandle is a win-now piece with a very low cap hit, because Arizona is paying half of his salary. Gorton has to play hard-ball here, because Yandle would obviously be a huge asset to the Rangers in a playoff run (look at the series against Tampa Bay and tell me otherwise). If the Lightning want him, they’ll have to pay.

The trade wouldn’t solve many of the team’s problems, because the defense would still have their issues and Drouin would have to beat out others for a roster spot. But his talent level and upside is so high, than getting a player of his caliber, or potential caliber, is very enticing.

A new trade possibility for the Rangers was reported by Aaron Portzline, the Blue Jackets beat writer for The Columbus Dispatch. The Rangers have reportedly contacted the Jackets about winger Cam Atkinson, a player they’ve had their eyes on since at least last season.

Atkinson has quickly become a favorite of head coach John Tortorella, getting big minutes and producing for Columbus. In 40 games, he has scored 12 goals and 13 assists, on pace to break his career highs in all offensive categories.

Atkinson has posted career highs of 40 points in each of the last two seasons, scoring over 20 goals in both years. He has a Corsi For rating of 50.5 percent at five-on-five, and a relatively friendly cap hit of $3.5 million through the 2017-18 season.

I kind of like this trade possibility. Since Atkinson is a right winger, he could potentially slot in on the second line next to Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, a line that has desperately needed a consistent producer in that right wing slot. His cap hit is pretty affordable for someone that is potentially a top-six player.

Yesterday, the Blue Jackets surprised everyone when they managed to snag defenseman Seth Jones from the Nashville Predators for star center Ryan Johansen. The Blue Jackets have had some serious issues on defense, and that is where they need to build to become a contender moving forward.

If lights and sirens aren’t flashing in your head right now about what the Rangers could potentially do here, they should be. Think about the team’s need, the head coach, and the system employed. Have you figured it out?

The team needs defense, and John Tortorella is their head coach. He loves shot blocking defensemen like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, and those two have played for him. Columbus has enough cap space to take on either of those guys too. And if Jeff Gorton could get either one of them to waive their NMCs, then this is a no brainer.

The Rangers desperately need the cap space that Girardi and/or Marc Staal take up. They also need a way to work Dylan McIlrath into the lineup every night. Trading one of them for Atkinson would do a few really beneficial things – acquire a top six winger, allow Dylan McIlrath to play every night, and free up cap space to retain Keith Yandle.

Now again, this is all speculation on my part, but if Gorton could someway make this happen, the Rangers would instantaneously be a better team and a more legitimate contender.

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Posted on January 7, 2016, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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