Trading Derek Stepan and losing Oscar Lindberg to Vegas sent a shockwave through the Rangers lineup this offseason, leaving two major holes at center and turning what was one of the Blueshirts’ biggest strengths into what could be their biggest weakness. Although the Rangers did acquire David Desharnais to help fill a bottom six role there remains one slot at center to be filled, and I thought it would be a good idea on this hot summer day to sketch out some of the options the team has for filling that gap.
The first is trading for a top-six center. The most obvious name on the market is Matt Duchene but unfortunately you’ve got to give to get. Still, considering the Rangers’ considerable depth on wing and new found glut of defensive prospects, theres pieces in place to make a deal happen. I still think this one is unlikely to happen, but it’s certainly a possibility.
If a trade does go down I wouldnt be shocked if it doesnt happen until the Rangers are in a serious position of need after the start of the season and Joe Sakic reckons he can get a higher price out of Jeff Gorton. In that case GMJG will have to hold fast and do his best not to get fleeced (which probably shouldnt be too hard considering it’s Sakic, but hey). Nabbing Duchene would allow Hayes to remain at 3C and add ludicrous speed to an already fast moving top six.
Next up is moving JT Miller to center. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of this, as I think he’s better suited to wing, but I’m willing to withhold final judgement on the idea until I’ve actually seen a good amount of it. The good news is we’ve got enough wingers to easily make the switch, so it’s not too big of a hit on the depth chart. This one is also the most likely I think, at least for the start of the season.
The more long shot possibilities are where things get more interesting. One name that’s been out there is Boo Nieves. This would hypothetically mean putting Desharnais at 3C and Nieves at 4C, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, although Id’d prefer Hayes at 3C (he’d be on the second line in this scenario). The big concern however with Nieves is injuries – he’s had multiple concussions already, and a fourth line checking role for him could be dangerous as a result. Health comes first folks. Fun fact though: I met his uncle on the LIRR once, nice guy.
This one has a real minimal chance of actually going down, but I wouldn’t be altogether shocked if it does – there’s justifiable reasons for it. Yes, I’m talking about Lias Andersson at 3C. The reasoning goes like this: he’s been tearing it up for Sweden lately, and his work ethic will likely impress the coaching staff at camp. That might give them the impression that he’s NHL ready, and while I can’t say I’m entirely sold on the idea, because it may hamper his development, if the coaches really do think he’s ready then it might just work. Like I said, pretty small chance of this happening, but if it did it wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world. It would also mean Desharnais at 4C, which is a role I think he’s better suited to.
Which scenario is best? Well ideally Gorton takes another GM to the cleaners and scores us a top-six center for peanuts and none of this matters. After that I’d probably say Miller at C, then a close tie between calling up Nieves for the fourth line role or Andersson as the third line center. Which scenario is most likely is probably Miller playing center (which he’s done before) but who knows, maybe there’s a surprise somewhere down the road and we’ll have our center depth all sorted come October."Options at Center",