The Rangers are in an interesting position. They have a pretty big logjam at forward, one that even exists while two forwards are out with injuries. If and when both Pavel Buchnevich and Oscar Lindberg return, two forwards will need to be out of the lineup. This is a magnificent problem to have.
On the other side of the coin, the Rangers have a blue line that is likely one of the bottom-ten in the league. The biggest hole is at 1RD, where the Rangers have no real options. Dan Girardi isn’t an option there anymore. Kevin Klein struggled in the role last season. Adam Clendening isn’t a top pairing defenseman. Nick Holden is a lefty. Dylan McIlrath….yea not opening that can of worms.
So the Rangers have a very clear position of strength in their forward depth. They also have a very clear position of need on defense. But in professional sports, to land a player that can fill that 1RD hole, you need to give to get. And that’s where things become interesting.
Assuming the Rangers won’t entertain any trade with Buchnevich, the best value trade chips they have are Mats Zuccarello (nope), Kevin Hayes, and J.T. Miller. Considering the role Hayes had in landing Jimmy Vesey, it makes you wonder if Miller could be trade bait to land that stud defenseman. After all, Miller is just 23 years old, is a former first round pick, is on a team-friendly deal, and already has a 20-goal season under his belt.
Looking at this a little deeper, Miller’s exact role with the club is also uncertain. He’s a great young forward, but as of yesterday he’s playing third line minutes with no powerplay or penalty kill time. That could change over time, but you’d have to assume Buchnevich would get the PP time over Miller, and Lindberg the PK time. That again leaves Miller with a limited role.
Which brings us to the title of the post. This is a league where you need to give to get, as mentioned above. If the Rangers dangled Miller, 29 teams would be calling. But with all signs pointing to something brewing with the Anaheim Ducks, who are in need of a salary dump and a forward, perhaps there’s already a match.
The Ducks have a need to get their top RD Hampus Lindholm under contract. They currently have a 1RD in Sami Vatanen, but he’d be the 2RD on that team. Since they have some decent defensive depth and are in need of a forward, it makes you wonder if they’d look at a package centered around Miller for Vatanen, who makes $4.875 million for four more years.
There are certainly other flaws that both teams would need to address outside of this hypothetical, but it certainly fills multiple needs for both teams. You know what they say. Where there’s smoke…