In a bit of a surprising trade, the Rangers have traded 2009 second round pick Ethan Werek to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for center Oscar Lindberg. Lindberg was Phoenix’s 2010 second round pick, and has been playing in the Swedish Elite League. This year in the SEL, Lindberg picked up 14 points (5-9-14) in 41 games. Lindberg was the #10 prospect in the Coyotes system (per HockeysFuture), and is more of a defensive minded center who excels in the face off circle (a point of weakness for the Rangers).
Werek has more offensive upside, as he put together a fine season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, with a line of 24-28-52 in 51 games. Werek has had several injuries throughout his career in Juniors, and that may have been a reason for concern on the Rangers part. It’s a bit early to give up on Werek, despite his injuries. He has a ton of offensive skill, and while the trade for is of second round picks, it looks like Werek has more skill, but will be more of a project.
Lindberg is much more polished than Werek, and appears ready to make the jump to the AHL next season. From a business perspective, there could be two reasons the Rangers made this trade. First, Werek could have asked for too much, which I doubt. Second, and more likely, is that the Rangers are coming up on the 50 contract maximum for next season, and Werek was due an entry level deal. Lindberg, since he is not playing in Juniors, does not require a contract right away, and the Rangers will still retain his rights.
This is another trade with Phoenix, but the first where we can really say we don’t know if there was a winner or a loser. Considering the track record of trades with the ‘Yotes (Rozisval/Wolski, Korpikoski/Lisin, etc…), that may be a good thing. This is one of those trades that we won’t be able to evaluate for another few years. There are clearly reasons why the Rangers lost faith in Werek, be it injuries or business. Lindberg is supposed to be more of a sure thing to make the NHL, and has been SEL’s best face-off man for a while now. That is an area where the Rangers desperately need help.