The Rangers need a center. That part we know. It’s something that has been known for quite some time, actually. Jeff Gorton sent Derek Stepan to Arizona and failed to replace him. David Desharnais was a shot in the dark that, while a low risk move, has worked somewhat, hasn’t been a replacement for Stepan.
All in all, Gorton replaced Stepan with Desharnais. Filip Chytil was initially given the role, but was sent to the AHL after two games and nine minutes of playing time. With the flu bugging Boo Nieves –and Paul Carey being his replacement– the dire need for a center has intensified.
During the Monday night win against Columbus, the Rangers benched both Desharnais and Carey (and Jimmy Vesey, for the most part) in the third period. That left them with Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes as the only true centers that period, with JT Miller filling in here and there. Assuming Miller is best on the wing, it’s not ideal.
The good news is that the flu will eventually go away and Nieves will return. His presence has stabilized the fourth line, and he is a significantly better option than Carey. The bad news is that Desharnais is still being used as a top-six center.
Don’t get me wrong, Desharnais has been a pleasant surprise. He’s been fine. However he is miscast as a top-six forward. A good comparison here would be Jesper Fast. He’s a solid bottom-six guy, but is miscast when put into a top-six role.
There isn’t much available on the trade market. The Alex Galchenyuk/Montreal Canadiens fire has simmered lately. The club avoided paying through the nose for Matt Duchene, who is basically a less defensively-aware Stepan anyway. So crisis averted there.
Chytil is the obvious choice to be called up and given a chance at the 2C role. But given Alain Vigneault’s lack of trust in the kid –and rookies (note: not kids, just rookies)– in general, that’s a tough sell for me. But it’s probably the only realistic option right now. He’s the only offensively gifted center who might be NHL-ready in the system.
While we don’t know what Gorton has in his head, we do know that this is a severely flawed team without a true 2C. Even as the team climbs out of that October hole, there are major issues at even strength that the powerplay is masking. A 2C helps with those issues.