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Evaluating the Rangers’ potential trade pieces

Bobby Bevilacqua

oscar lindberg skating with puck 10-18

Oscar Lindberg could be a trade chip at the deadline. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

It’s no secret that the Rangers are preparing to add a player or two before Monday’s deadline approaches. Unlike the last few seasons, it’s unclear whether or not they’ll make another big splash (unlikely) or instead try and add a depth player or two to improve the bottom six.

Players like Eric Staal, Andrew Ladd, Radim Vrbata and Kris Versteeg have been thrown around. The latter two are the more likely for the Rangers to add because of their smaller cap hits and the lower price. With this year’s draft pick almost certainly going to the Coyotes, the Rangers can’t afford to keep on sending first rounders to other teams. So here’s what they can do with what they already have.

Chris Kreider – Now lots of people, including myself, have talked about the possibility of trading Chris Kreider by this season’s deadline. A supposed swap of Kreider and Loui Eriksson from Boston has been thrown out as a rumor. The thought process is that the Rangers won’t be able to afford to keep JT Miller, Kevin Hayes and Kreider, and that Miller and Hayes are both better, further developed players.

chris kreider skating 11-21

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Kreider has some fantastic raw tools at his disposable, like his speed and his strength/power, but he has had trouble finishing this season and frustrates you when he doesn’t take the shot, waits too long or makes too many dekes on breakaways, or when he doesn’t vary up his attack.

But some players are just late bloomers. Benoit Pouliot was 27 when he had his breakout season with the Rangers, and now he’s looking like a soon-to-be 20 goal scorer with the Edmonton Oilers. Kreider may be someone who takes longer to reach his full potential, and he tends to show up in the playoffs. If the Rangers won’t move cap space anywhere else, like on defense, then trading Kreider may be a risk they need to take in order to get a more cost controlled and effective winger like Cam Atkinson.

Oscar Lindberg – One name that people have thrown out there lately is Oscar Lindberg, the Swedish rookie that’s played all three forward positions for the Rangers. His offensive explosion to start the year was unsustainable, but he’s still been a solid bottom six forward, he’s versatile, good defensively, and he has 23 points in 57 games. Not too shabby.

Dominic Moore’s contract is up after this year, and with him turning 36 this summer, they may not want to re-sign him for a $1.5 million cap hit again. So it made sense that Lindberg would be his successor next year and take over the fourth line center role. For a team that wants a younger prospect, or someone with a cheap cap hit ($650k), Lindberg could be traded as part of a larger deal.

Rick Nash – Now I’ve defended Rick Nash vehemently in the past because he’s a fantastic player and the Rangers’ best forward. So trading Nash isn’t something I think will happen at the deadline, and it probably won’t happen at all. But there is a reason why the Rangers might be interested in trading him. First off, $7.8 million in free cap space is a lot to work with. Also, trading Nash means that you’re able to retain all of the young core (Miller, Hayes, Kreider, Stepan, Brassard, Zuccarello, etc.), which could be more important long-term. If they were able to get a very nice return back, whether it be draft picks, prospects or an NHL ready player, it is worth thinking about.

Keith Yandle – A few months ago, it seemed like a guarantee that Keith Yandle would be wearing a different uniform by February 29th. It doesn’t look like the Rangers could afford him after this year, and he would bring back some good pieces (like Dallas’ Valeri Nichushkin). But with all of the injuries on the blue line, and his fantastic level of play as of late (six assists in last seven games), Yandle isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be a massive part of a potential playoff run and Vigneault needs him going forward.

Yandle has said over and over again that he is extremely happy playing in New York, and he would love to stay here. Whether that means taking a discount like Zuccarello did or waiting for cap space to free up, it’s looking a bit more likely that he could stay past this season.

Marc Staal/Dan Girardi – It seems like most fans, including myself, want at least one of these guys gone. They combine for an $11.2 million cap hit and come nowhere close to giving the Rangers that kind of value. I’d rather keep Girardi around, because I think he’s been a better player, the Rangers need to keep their right side defensemen, and his contract ends a year earlier. I’m almost positive that both of these players will be here on Monday, but a draft day move is certainly possible. Jeff Gorton is a different type of GM than Glen Sather, and I think he’s smart enough to realize how much these contracts hurt the team. If the Maple Leafs can move Dion Phaneuf and his $7 million cap hit without retaining salary, I think Gorton can get something done.

Prospects – The Rangers are pretty damn thin on high-end prospects after moving Anthony Duclair last season, so Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich should be untouchable at this point, and you can maybe even extend that to Ryan Gropp, the 19 year-old winger the Rangers moved up in the draft to obtain. A mid-tier prospect could be used as a part of a bigger trade. Also, Blueseat blogs put out an excellent article about the Rangers re-building their prospect pool next year through undrafted free agents, which you can read HERE.

Draft Picks – I said it earlier, but the Rangers really can’t afford to give away any more first-round picks. They haven’t drafted in the first round since 2012, and assuming they make the playoffs this year, they won’t have their 2016 draft pick either. But later round draft picks still hold value, and Gorton could probably snag a guy like Radim Vrbata or Kris Versteeg with a second or third round pick and a mid-tier prospect.

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Posted on February 24, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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