Let’ preface this post by saying that any player on the roster is trade-able if the right deal comes along. But, for the Rangers, this is a matter of looking at which prospects are trade-able for a rental player to help make a push to the playoffs. This might seem contradictory to the post below, but there is a difference between sacrificing core youth for a playoff run and sacrificing expendable youth for a playoff run. The East is wide open, and with a veteran presence on the blue line, coupled with the Rangers forwards getting their act together, the Rangers could feasibly make a run with a hot streak from Henrik Lundqvist.
Looking at the roster players, there are few young players that could be deemed as trade-able, and none of those players come close to being called a trade-able asset. Of the roster players, I think the Rangers (and the fans) would be comfortable with parting with Erik Christensen, Steve Eminger, and/or Matt Gilroy. The emergence of Brian Boyle has made Christensen a spare part, even with the injuries. Eminger has been a healthy scratch for a few games now, and Matt Gilroy seems to be a victim of the Rangers superior young talent at the blue line. Only Christensen is signed beyond this year, and all three are relatively cheap, with Gilroy probably taking a paycut next year.
As for the prospects, it’s a little tougher to tell who is really trade-able, so let’s start with who the Rangers won’t move for a rental. I can’t see Slats moving Chris Kreider, Evgeny Grachev, Ethan Werek, Christian Thomas or Dylan McIlrath for a rental just for this year. I’m hesitant to throw Carl Hagelin into this category, but the Rangers have tremendous young depth down the middle. Compound that with the likely addition of Brad Richards next summer, and Hagelin may find himself on the outside looking in. Whether he gets moved for a rental or in a bigger deal, it’s tough to say. I would prefer he not get moved for a rental though. These prospects, in addition to the current roster players, round out HockeysFuture’s top-10 Rangers prospects, except for Chad Johnson.
Dos-Nueve is probably the highest ranking Ranger prospect that I can see being dealt for a rental. Cameron Talbot has been outplaying Johnson this year in the AHL, and the Rangers seem to be set at goalie for a long, long time. The first “big” names I can see the Rangers parting with are Ryan Bourque and Pavel Valentenko. This may sting some fans, but the depth at center and defense in young, talented assets really makes them both expendable. Both have been very solid this year for their respective clubs, but hockey sometimes comes down to numbers.
Dale Weise, Brodie Dupont, and Tomas Kundratek may also fall victim to the numbers game. Weise has shown he can play at the NHL level as a bottom-six guy, but the Rangers have way too many forwards who fit that bill right now. The same goes for Dupont. In a perfect world, the Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust combination plays the fourth line, and gives the Rangers tremendous depth. Unless Weise or Dupont can play LW, it looks like both will get squeezed out with the emergence of Boyle and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. As for Kundratek, he is just another victim of the Rangers incredible young talent on the blue line. If it’s not Kundratek (or Valentenko), then it’s someone on the roster, and probably Michael Sauer.
When approaching the trade deadline, it’s tough to take a step back and think about where prospects fit in the long term plans of the organization. The Rangers prospects have been squeezed out not by veterans, but by young talent who have simply outplayed the other prospects. Players like MZA, Prust, and Boyle make many of the projected bottom-six forwards expendable. The incredible depth on the blue line, with the emergence of Sauer and McDonagh, make the current Whale prospects more expendable, in the right deal. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, there are going to be tough decisions made, and not all of them are going to please the fans. We have seen Slats is a master at making trades, so we will need to put some level of trust in him.