Much of the early trade deadline fervor both around the league and in New York has been about what the Arizona Coyotes might do. GM Don Maloney has been screaming “WE ARE SELLERS” at the top of his lungs and Arizona has several attractive pieces, including pending free agent Antoine Vermette. Suit also suggested looking into Yotes defensemen Michael Stone. The Rangers are surely checking on Vermette, but Newsday’s Steve Zipay suggested that another member of the Coyotes, Martin Hanzal, might be a better fit for New York.
On the ice, he might be right. But as always, the financials come into play.
Vermette and Hanzal are very different players. Vermette brings scoring punch, having scored over 20 goals in four seasons. He’s that extra offensive weapon that many past versions of the Rangers would covet.
But this year the Rangers rank sixth in goals, and their bigger problem is in the bottom-six, where Alain Vigneault refuses to trust J.T. Miller, may be unsure of Kevin Hayes despite recent statements to the contrary and insists on rotating Tanner Glass in and out of the lineup.
Hanzal doesn’t bring the same offensive numbers as Vermette, but he’s a big bruising center, has been a good faceoff man in the past, plays on both special teams units, and has earned Selke votes for his two-way play (and yes, he does have favorable #fancystats). He would solidify the third line and make the Blueshirts very deep down the middle – assuming his current upper-body injury isn’t a long-term issue.
But while Vermette has an expiring contract, Hanzal still has another two years at $3.1 million remaining on his deal after this season. Arizona has declared its willingness to deal anyone on its roster other than Shane Doan, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the Coyotes to part with Hanzal on the cheap given that he’s still just 27 years old and has an affordable contract.
The asking price for Vermette is reportedly a first-round pick and a good young player. Hanzal isn’t viewed as quite the player Vermette is, but he might fetch a similar package.
The problem for the Rangers is Hanzal’s cap hit relative to New York’s own cap situation. Since he’s not a rental, bringing in Hanzal almost certainly means parting with someone due for a raise, likely Mats Zuccarello or Carl Hagelin.
Both players are pending free agents, but Arizona can afford to offer either a very enticing contract and may be intrigued by having young players with winning pedigrees on board to team up with Doan and set an example for their youngsters, a la the Panthers. (The Blueshirts would likely have to sweeten the pot unless Hagelin or Zuccarello expressed immediate interest in an extension with the Coyotes).
As Dave wrote, keeping Zuccarello should be a must. Top-six talent just doesn’t come around every day, and Zuccarello represents a perfect replacement for Martin St. Louis whenever #26 hangs them up.
Hagelin’s speed would be tough to lose, but the Rangers won’t be able to keep both players this summer, and Hagelin is simply more easily replaced both now and moving forward. Hayes could shift over or Miller could be given a full-time spot, and next year Anthony Duclair and possibly Pavel Buchnevich will arrive on Broadway.
The other way to acquire Vermette – packaging Miller with John Moore, and probably another prospect or draft pick – likely wouldn’t work for Hanzal because the Blueshirts can’t afford to add another $3.1 million to next year’s cap without sending money the other way.
So should the Rangers deal away a current key contributor that might be exiting this summer for Hanzal? Or is sacrificing some of the team’s speed, its greatest strength, not worth it?