As the NHL trade deadline approaches and Glen Sather adjusts his moving-target-deadline-strategy, the conversation is likely to shift from which roster players can be dealt to which kids can be dealt. As the push for a Stanley Cup in the Henrik Lundqvist era continues (and, frankly as the window closes), the Rangers are going to push and go for it all, meaning they aren’t likely to deal established roster players for immediate help.
This turns the conversation to the farm system, and identifying which prospects may be blocked from making the roster, or may not even be in the long term plans of the organization. This includes kids that have developed nicely, kids that are former first round picks, or kids that seem to have flamed out.
McIlrath is an interesting case. He’s been in the system for what seems like forever, and a lot of folks are tired of waiting for the 22-year-old defenseman. He’s a former first round pick who has made progress in his development, but skating is naturally an issue for him. McIlrath is currently blocked by Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle, and Kevin Klein until at least the 2016-2017 season, after Boyle’s contract expires. Klein is signed through the 2017-2018 season, and Girardi is signed until this decade ends.
McIlrath is viewed as a stay at home defenseman who will pack a mean punch and be a crease clearer. However, holes in his skating can be exploited by the better players in the league, something we saw when Vladimir Tarasenko schooled him earlier in the season. Assuming he can gap control and limit shots to the outside, he has the potential to be an effective defenseman when deployed properly.
This is where I might catch a little blow back, but hear me out. Lindberg is another guy that may be suffering from prospect fatigue, since the 23-year-old center is another 2010 draftee that hasn’t made it to the NHL yet. Acquired by the Rangers in a trade for Ethan Werek in 2011, Lindberg is a noted defensive specialist who wins a boatload of faceoffs (60% in the SHL). He’s another guy we’ve been heading about for four years, but he hasn’t even played an NHL game yet.
Lindberg is currently blocked by Lee Stempniak, Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass. Moore is only signed through next season, Stempniak isn’t someone who can really be considered a “block,” and Glass, well, yea. I think the Rangers would benefit from seeing what Lindberg has to offer by giving him 4LW duties with Moore and Stemp.
Reading between the lines, it appears management is content with him staying in Hartford, which –in my opinion– means the young Swede could be considered expendable for an immediate upgrade on the roster.
Bourque’s future with the Rangers has been in doubt since he was cut from the club this year. Bourque took forever to develop, and as an undersized, defensive winger, has his work cut out for him. He’s already 24 years old, and now he requires waivers to be sent to the AHL. I can see him being an intriguing option for teams that lack depth, but I don’t think he gets his shot with the Rangers. Too many kids (Anthony Duclair, Pavel Buchnevich, Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes) have passed him on the depth charts.
What kid of “kids that could be dealt” post would be complete without the obligatory mention of Miller? I mentioned him once, but I honestly think –perhaps I’m just blindly hopeful– his recent chemistry with Hayes and Carl Hagelin means he will stick around past the deadline. Miller has shown he has the skill to compete in the NHL, but he still makes a bunch of mistakes in the defensive zone that drive Alain Vigneault wild.
One of the major issues with Miller prior to this year was his work ethic, and it looks like he finally figured things out. If the Rangers trade him, they will regret it.
But what will the Rangers get?
Well, that’s the concern. Santorelli and Franson are off the market. Hanzel is injured. Chris Neil and Antoine Vermette make no sense. Sekera could be a good fit, but is a pure rental.
While these are four kids could be prime trade bait, the question heading into the deadline: Is it worth it to deal one of these kids for a rental? And if so, are there rentals even worth it?