The NY Rangers made their first trade of the 2020 trade deadline season, but it wasn’t one that anyone saw coming. The Blueshirts sent defenseman Joey Keane to the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Julien Gauthier. This was billed as a prospects trade, but Gauthier was immediately called up to the Rangers and was assigned #12, leading us to believe he will suit up for the Rangers tonight against Chicago. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
1. This is a hockey trade through and through, and it’s always nice to see one of these. The Rangers are spoiled with defense prospects in the system and young defensemen at the NHL level, but were lacking scoring prospects outside Vitali Kravtsov. The Canes were lacking defense prospects, but were flush with young talent at the NHL level and in the system. Both clubs dealt from a position of strength to address a position of weakness. A solid hockey trade through and through.
2. By all accounts, Gauthier is NHL ready, which addresses what the Rangers have been prioritizing this season. The cost was high, and you have to give to get in this league. Keane is likely to have an NHL future, but the chance that it was with the Rangers was getting smaller by the day. It hurts to trade a guy like Keane, but this isn’t one of those Ryan Graves trades where they got nothing. They got something tangible, even if Gauthier doesn’t work out.
3. As for Gauthier, he seems to be a Chris Kreider-lite, in the sense that he’s big, has breakaway speed, is a great net-front presence, and is a very smart hockey player in all three zones. I stirred things up a little bit by saying he might be a replacement for Kreider. That may be the case, but I don’t think his acquisition makes Kreider any more or less expendable. The two are on separate tracks here, and Gauthier doesn’t really impact Kreider at all. His presence may make a Kreider trade more palatable, if anything.
4. As for Keane, the Rangers already have Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Tony DeAngelo, and Ryan Lindgren at the NHL level. They will be giving Libor Hajek every opportunity to rebound next season. Yegor Rykov is knocking at the door. They have K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, and Tarmo Reunanen likely to join the AHL this offseason (just a guess – nothing confirmed). They have Matthew Robertson and Zac Jones from this past draft year. Keane was a luxury and easily expendable. He’s likely going to make the NHL at some point, but clearly the Rangers prioritized everyone else over him. That is ok.
5. This trade is a prime example of good asset management. Keane may have been the second call up (first being Lindgren) this season, but it was unlikely he would have kept his status as that option into next season. His value was at an all time high with his All Star season and the improvement he’s shown, so the Rangers capitalized at the best opportunity.
6. I said on the podcast (recorded last night, go listen!) that I am petrified that the Rangers are going to make a mistake with Kreider, Strome, and their other pending free agents. I don’t necessarily know what that mistake is, but this is a dangerous trade deadline and offseason for them and can derail all rebuild progress. But I’m going full prediction here for you guys. The trade for Gauthier makes Ryan Strome expendable in a package deal with Alex Georgiev to Colorado. That’s my prediction. Strome and Georgiev to Colorado at the deadline.