Coming into the offseason, the NY Rangers had two holes: center depth and left defense. Left defense is apparently getting addressed by moving Tony DeAngelo to the left side and leaving options open for the prospects. However there have been few, if any, moves made at center. With Ryan Strome likely heading towards a trade, the options grow even thinner.
In House Options
Assuming the Rangers trade Strome, then Filip Chytil likely slides in as the 2C. The numbers suggest he should be fine in that role, and it will help playing with Artemi Panarin. If the Rangers don’t make any roster moves to add a center, that moves Brett Howden to the 3C role. Hopefully he has made some improvements, because what he has shown thus far isn’t overly promising. That leaves Kevin Rooney as the 4C.
There are some kids, specifically Morgan Barron, Patrick Khodorenko, and Justin Richards that will likely challenge for roles. I believe a safer bet would be all three starting in Hartford. Barron has already been penciled in by some to be the 4C, and while possible, I think that’s a bit aggressive. And as hyped as Khodorenko is, it’s rare undrafted free agents make the direct jump to the NHL.
If the Rangers do re-sign Strome, then everyone shifts down a spot.
It’s difficult to pinpoint specific players to target since this is a relatively unique offseason. There were always assumptions that the NY Rangers would address center depth in some capacity, but right now this appears to be the only way to do so.
The Rangers would be looking for a middle-six center who is young and cost controlled. Those guys don’t come cheap in trades, and it won’t be a Strome swap. Hamstringing the Rangers is their cap situation which, while not dire, is tight. They can’t take a big contract, and the flat cap is impacting other teams’ abilities to take on salary. This is always an option, but it’s tough to really gauge the market.
It’s unlikely the Rangers find anyone worth while on the free agent market. The offseason is still young, but it is a fast moving offseason. I’d expect something to get done to address center relatively soon, even if it is a short term deal with Strome.