Yesterday was slow in Rangers town for the majority of the deadline. With most of their moves made already, it was just a matter of whether or not Ryan McDonagh would be moved. And the final NHL trade of the deadline was the biggest of the deadline. The Rangers sent captain Ryan McDonagh and winger JT Miller to Tampa for Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hajek, a 2018 1st rounder, and a 2019 conditional 2nd rounder. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
1. First addressing the big piece: Not getting one of Brayden Point or Mikhail Sergachev. Once Miller’s name was confirmed in the McDonagh trade, we all thought the return would include one of them, and it is natural to feel disappointed at first when it was confirmed neither were in the trade. It does make sense, though. The Bolts were looking to add to their Cup-potential roster while subtracting minimal pieces. Including one of Point or Sergachev would have been counter productive. It’s safe to assume Jeff Gorton asked for one of them, but it didn’t work out. Regardless, there is still a lot more to unpack in this deal.
2. “But Dave,” you ask, “if Tampa didn’t want to subtract from the roster, then why give up Namestnikov?” The answer is something only Steve Yzerman knows, but my guess is they were ok with it because Miller was coming back the other way. Miller needed a change of scenery, with Alain Vigneault messing with him so much. Miller and Namestnikov are essentially a wash. Miller drives a little more offense, but Namestnikov is better defensively. Both are RFAs this summer. Both play multiple forward positions. Namestnikov is a little cheaper. I say they are “a wash” because of those reasons, but I happen to like the addition of Namestnikov. I’m intrigued to see how he does in New York.
3. Howden, the Bolts’ first rounder last season, has a line of 22-36-58 in just 38 games this season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, and is the team captain. It’s easy to get sucked in by the stat line, but remember the WHL is a high scoring league. Howden won gold in this year’s WJC, finishing second on Team Canada with a line of 3-4-7 in the tournament. The center is strong, a two-way player, and a good skater with good vision. He isn’t going to be a pure goal scorer, but he’s good at getting to dirty areas. He likely slots in as a middle-six center if everything pans out.
4. Hajek, the Bolt’s second rounder last season (Gorton got both of their top picks from the 2016 draft), was apparently the sticking point for Gorton. The defenseman is another WHL product (Saskatoon Blades), but was also the 37th pick in the draft. So he’s a borderline first rounder as well. He was part of the surprising Czech team at this year’s WJC, and was easily the top defenseman on the team, getting 30+ minutes in ice time in a few games. He’s another solid puck mover, adept at making the first pass and transitioning to offense. He has solid speed, acceleration, and gap control, which make him a solid defender as well. There’s a reason why he was the sticking point for the Blueshirts in this deal.
5. Not lost here is the Rangers got a 2018 1st rounder, which will probably be in the final four in the first round. They also got at least a 2nd rounder next year, but it becomes a 1st if the Bolts win the Cup this season or next. That’s a 31 pick jump if they do, so being a Bolts fan would be a good idea. If that winds up being the case, the Blueshirts will have gotten what amounts to three first round picks and a high second rounder in this trade, plus a middle-six roster forward. Even if they don’t win the Cup, it’s still a solid haul.
6. My initial reaction was a little bit of disappointment when I saw the return. I wanted to give myself the time to write this post before judging it in full. After doing the research, I think this is a solid trade. We talked ourselves into thinking Point or Sergachev would be in the deal, but when you take a step back, it wasn’t realistic. With that in mind, the Rangers got a solid haul in this deal.
7. Miller was a solid player, not the kind that grows on trees. However he’s also not the kind you build a team around. He’s a solid complimentary player. I’m bummed he was traded, but I don’t see him as someone who the team was ready to commit to moving forward. It showed in his ice time.
8. I am really going to miss McDonagh and Rick Nash. The rebuild was –is…more is coming by the draft– needed, and I’m happy the Blueshirts saw the need to rebuild. However I’m really going to miss them both. Two of my favorites for the past six or so years.