What is the answer for the NY Rangers center depth this season?

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.

Trade Options

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.

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    • I tend to agree Reenavipul. I wonder if the Gorton’s loose lips on a Strome trade was more of a negotiating ploy with Strome than being meant for anyone else? There doesn’t seem to be a hot market for him, so they may be trying to sign him to a 2 year deal for a price they can live with. They also probably see Chytil as still being a year or two away from possibly being a 2C on the team.

      As for Strome, his numbers with Panarin must make him hope to continue playing with the Breadman. Another year or two of such production would make his next contract a nice one.

      • I imagine floating Strome as trade bait was a bit of negotiating in the press. If Ryan wants to strike gold as a UFA soon, he should take a short term deal to pile up points with Panarin, then hit the market asking for $5M/yr.

  • I would have given Wennberg a shot at 2 million.

    Absent that, don’t be shocked if Lafreniere is our 2C . He has played it before and is willing to do so again. Plus the way he plays when you watch him, he is most often in the middle of the ice plus his back checking prowess is that of a 2C . Also very good on draws. Took lots of them at the last WJC

  • I could see them try to sign Galchenyuk or Granlund to a 1 year show me deal on the cheap. They’re both still available. Not a long term solution but they can rotate between line 2 and 3 and give us some security if Chytil struggles on the second line.

    I can’t help but think that Nils Lundqvist will be used to fill a hole somewhere. Even with ADA moving over to the left, they didn’t move up to pick 19 to get Schneider because he is 2 to 3 years away. With Trouba and Fox ahead of him on the right side depth chart already, you do have to wonder what the plan for Lundqvist is in the medium and longer term?

    Regarding Strome, if the team walks from his arbitration award, what can he realistically expect in a long term deal as a UFA? They couldn’t get the return they wanted for him when they tried trading him around the draft. It’s hard to see a lucrative long term deal in his future under the circumstances.

    • Andy

      You mention both Galchenyuk or Granlund, as cheap insurance policies for Chytil, but if they do anything, it would be Grandlund.

      Why do I disagree, well because Montreal tried him there, and he fell flat on his face. He was then moved two more times, and again he was a flop. I don’t want to bad mouth the guy, but there are problems there, maybe in the locker room, and or personal? I suspect it’s personal, could be drinking, and or worse. I won’t start rumors, but that’s a gut feeling.

      What no one is considering is Barron, coming out of Cornell, is highly skilled, solid two way player, with size, and skill. At first they said he would play the wing, but with the need for a center, and his experience playing there, I believe that’s the man for the 3C position, with Kevin Rooney as the 4C. Howden goes to the wing with Pepe on the 4th line.

  • Regarding Brett Howden:

    “Hopefully he has made some improvements, because what he has shown thus far isn’t overly promising.”

    Good for you…. right back on the horse! 🙂

  • Many teams around the league have a Cap problem right now. Maybe a team like Toronto would need a center, as I hear they are sniffing around Joe Thorton. Strome could go, but we would have to take back a bigger contract. Not sure who they could offer, but Strome and Buch for Nylander might sound nice.

    Yes I know it doesn’t solve the center position issue.

  • We drafted Chytil high in first round. I think two years later and after he finished up strong last year we should expect him to take leap to 2nd line center. That is how you do a rebuild. Let’s see if Howden has improved and maybe he can become 3rd line center. I would like to see Baron grab the 4th line center spot and if he shies enough maybe he flip flops with Howden. Other alternative is trade Strome and a D prospect for a young 2nd line center.

  • “Filip Chytil likely slides in as the 2C. The numbers suggest he should be fine in that role”
    Dave, please share the numbers that suggest Chytil will be fine as a 2C. The numbers I saw from last season indicate he was lousy as a 3C. I love Fil’s potential but I think constantly trying to push prospects past what they are ready for has continually got us in trouble (eg. Lias, Howden, Hajek, etc, etc.). Better to have them succeed and then move up rather than throw them in the deep end and let them sink or swim.

    • I have got to agree Orland. I think they did rush Filip. I think he has a great deal of potential but should have spent even more time in the AHL before coming back. The short time he was there did him good. I am not sure that he is ready to make the leap. Therefore, I would not be surprised at a Strome resigning.

    • You can see that Chytil has the talent but I haven’t seen numbers either. Also agree with Peter that he would’ve benefitted greatly from some prolonged AHL time.

      That being said, how much of an adjustment is needed to center Panarin? Either you have the talent or you don’t. And even if you have the talent it might not be good enough – see Strome

      Whatever they do with Chytil – can they figure it out and just leave him there?

      Or here’s an idea – Chytil for Cirelli

  • Blackwell could be a short term solution for 3rd line center with Rooney, Barron and Howden fighting for 4c. It is a stop gap.

    Between Chytil, Henriksson, Barron and some of the college and pro free agents–they have potential 2-3 NHL centers for 2021-2022. This season might be a little rough with the D and down the middle as they wait for some of these center and D prospects to shift to the pros.

  • Do Not sleep on Justin Richards!!!!
    He was one of , if not the best defensive Forward in college. He comes from a hockey family and has been around the game his whole life. He is very good on draws and has a non stop motor. Would not be surprised one bit if he is 4C opening night

  • Chytil didn’t exactly benefit from who Quinn gave him as linemates, and still he showed signs of improvement last season. In very, very limited time with Panarin, their numbers were good together. He deserves a fair look with Panarin this season. Strome is not the long term answer at 2c, but Chytil might be — time to find out.

    • In all honesty half the people on this message board could probably score 30 pts a season with Panarin on their wing.

  • Strome certainly produced well when paired with Panarin but also did well the year before Panarin arrived. He may have some faults but what center is available on the open market that can replace his 59 points? The Rangers don’t seem to have a lot of alternatives

    • dahlf….totally agree with you on Strome. All the talk about 2C is followed with “if”. The guy deserves the shot as much if not more than anyone else. He will be (or could have been) somewhat cost controlled. It isn’t so easy to play with Panarin. He is a superstar and if you make him look bad….bye-bye. Panarin, as well as Strome, had a great year, which is often overlooked or taken for granted. Maybe Strome had something to do with that. Give him an ADA deal, I know money is tight, but at least you have a history with this guy in getting it done, and no non-movement clause. This way if that great deal comes up you can move him, just like you can ADA. Its good to have options, no?

    • That’s an excellent point. Strome was productive when he first came to the Rangers and played on the 3rd line. His play earned his promotion to the second line and playing with Panarin.

      It is a myth that anyone playing with Panarin can score a point a game. Similarly its a myth that deployment is the reason some fail (ie Lias). Almost every NHLer starts on a low line and earns their promotion. Even if their numbers are hurt by their deployment any decent coach can evaluate their play and move them up if it is warranted.

  • Centers are over-rated anyway. Strome needs to move on . We stack our wingers on the top 3 lines and even Howden could center Panarin and Kakko. This leaves Lafren/Chytil/Gauthier as the 3rd line. Gorton has a plan so everyone needs to relax.

    • Center is the most important and demanding position in hockey. How many Cup winners have not had a dominant center? Can’t imagine how you came up with this one.

  • I’m afraid if Strome is traded that he if Fil starts off slow as the second line center then Quinn will move Howden up to the second line, and that won’t be good for anyone.

    • Howden has yet to prove he can score. He is a checking forward. Doesn’t appear to have the hands to play top 6 ever, much less this coming season.

        • Every coach Howden has played for loves him due to his positive attitude and willingness to do whatever he is asked. I haven’t seen any indication that Quinn is trying to push him into a scoring role. For now he seems firmly entrenched in a bottom six role. Howden will actually have to score more to move up. It is not impossible that he improves but it remains to be seen.

  • Sign Strome short term for a reasonable rate cause no one is going to bust the door down trading for him. Him and Chytil can flip flop as 2c-3c and just get some old timer that can win a face off here and there if needed. To me you roll THREE lines and have the fourth with situational guys who barely see the ice. Team is full of young studs, time to ride em.

    Rangers are now a super young team with two elite proven talents and a bunch of POTENTIAL talents, the young ones just need time to play and learn the craft and what it takes to win in the league. This coming season (whenever it is actually played!) is another learning year with any major playoff push complete gravy.

    Let the kids play!

    • I mean, I like the idea, but in practice, “let the kids play” is much more difficult than that. You could destroy confidence among other obstacles.

  • First off, Howden will not be our 4C and certainly not our 3C. 50/50 on whether Strome is going to be traded but I suspect not and both he and Chytil will again compete for 2/3C. With the Expansion Draft coming I don’t see the Rangers acquiring anyone significant for LD or C. It is what it is. We will try to compete by the removal of Staal and the additions of Lundqvist, Lafren, and Kratsov. With Shesty for a full season I think getting through 2 rounds of playoffs is realistic.

  • Strome and Lemieux’s arbitration dates are the 5th and 6th of November respectively, we may not here anything on either until the end of this month or even the beginning of November. Plenty of time to continue negotiations and look at possible trades (not Lemieux, don’t think he’s going anywhere).

    We’re not getting a significant LD (expansion protection issues) so the problem with trading Strome is why would anyone provide us with a relatively young better 2C (what we need) for Strome? Unless we find someone stupid who is willing to do a Brassard for Mika trade again or unless we add a significant asset, it’s not happening — so I just think we’re going with what we got and banking on improvement with Shesty (a full year), Lafreniere, ADA on LD, Lundkvist on RD and a young player surprising us on the RW. Plus hoping that with all the UFAs we sign we get an overall boost to our 4th line. That’s actually a lot of change from last year, I wouldn’t diminish what we’ve done.

  • You’re forgetting that they also signed that Colin Blackfoot kid from Nashville….. 54.something face off win percentage says he’s the slated 4th line C.

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