Wing depth makes loss of Anthony Duclair easier to swallow
Perhaps the biggest concern with the deal for Keith Yandle is that the Rangers gave up Anthony Duclair to land Yandle. There was plenty of outrage over dealing Duclair, and it’s tough to really blame people for the outrage. Duclair isn’t even 20 yet, cracked the roster out of camp, and was showing significant promise as a potential impact player.
Despite what he showed in camp, Duclair was still a prospect, and thus a relative unknown. He may turn into a 30-goal scorer, he may not. We may look at this as the Anthony Duclair trade in five years, we may not. The Rangers needed to give something of value to get Yandle at half his cap hit, and Duclair was the guy they selected to give up.
Looking into the roster construction, it’s fairly easy to see why they sent Duclair to Arizona.
First things first: The Rangers have three of their top-four wingers set for a while. Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, and Mats Zuccarello aren’t going anywhere. Expand that to the third line, and you have J.T. Miller finally holding down a spot*. That’s four of the six available top-six wing spots taken already.
*-Since Miller was not sent to the AHL by yesterday’s 3pm deadline, he cannot be sent to the AHL for the remainder of the season. He is with the Rangers, so he’s unlikely to be scratched for extended periods of time.
The other two spots: Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin. MSL is a wild card, but I think at this point it’s safe to assume he will get an incentive-laden contract deal as a stop-gap. Hagelin may or may not be a Ranger next season, depending on his contract demands.
Pavel Buchnevich, the other highly touted wing prospect, could be ready to contend for a spot next year after proving that he can produce among men in the KHL. He’s out-produced a few guys at the KHL level as a 19-year-old, and his numbers at that age are comparable to Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s not a sure thing, but in terms of development, he was ahead of Duclair.
Assuming Buch is ready to take a wing spot from MSL or Hagelin next year or in 2016-2017, that leaves one spot open, likely on the third line. It could be Hagelin, it could be someone else. Regardless, the Rangers are looking at one open wing spot in the top-nine in the long-term.
Kevin Hayes has been a welcome addition, and while he has excelled at the center position (even his faceoffs are getting better), he is always spoken about in terms of moving to the wing. It gives the Rangers flexibility to fill that open spot with either a winger or a center. Glen Sather has stated that the addition of Hayes made losing Duclair easier to manage.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a Rangers team that is loaded with veterans on the wrong side of 30. Yandle is still 28, in his prime, and under team control for this season and next. Hayes, Miller, and Jesper Fast are all on ELCs. Kreider, Hagelin, and Derek Stepan are all in varying phases of their bridge deals. Right there you have half the forwards who haven’t even turned 27 yet. This team isn’t old.
Losing Duclair hurts, but with the current makeup of the roster, the Rangers were able to deal from a position of strength to add an impact body for Cup runs this year and next. You have to give to get in this league.