Irresponsible Rumormongering

A quick glimpse at early season trade possibilities

With the offseason completed, all eyes are on when the NHL season begins. Once the season does begin, the roster questions will begin to answer themselves. Much like last season with Vlad Namestnikov, the NY Rangers may be looking at early season trades. There’s some roster logjams, plus more cap space never hurt anyone.

Brendan Smith

The clear front runner for one of these trades is Brendan Smith. Smith is still a useful defenseman in the right role, but comes with a $4.35 million cap hit. That cap hit isn’t much of a concern nowadays, as real dollars means more in the COVID era. Luckily for the Rangers, Smith’s $2.35 million in actual salary due is a nice bargaining chip. It also helps that he can play both sides of the blue line.

I had been predicting Smith to Ottawa for some time, and turns out the Rangers were able to move Marc Staal instead, an unexpected development. That doesn’t mean Smith to Ottawa is dead though. Ottawa has a bunch of question marks on defense, and depending on how their preseason and early season games go, they may look to add a body. Remember, Smith at 50% retained still has value to both Ottawa and the Rangers.

Libor Hajek

He’s not a lost cause, as his first game in Extraliga will show you. But he’s further down the depth now than last year. He has to compete with Tarmo Reunanen and K’Andre Miller this season. Then Yegor Rykov next season. The year after that it’s Matt Robertson and Zac Jones. There’s just a lot of depth at LD prospects.

Hajek, especially if he shows he can be an NHL player, is an interesting trade chip. He’s not a salary dump, but he’s a chip that could be used to acquire a young center. It’s less likely, for sure, especially because young defensemen are at a premium. This is only a scenario to consider if two things happen: 1) Hajek improves dramatically, and 2) One or both of Reunanen and Miller are still better in camp.

Brett Howden

Before the two-year deals for both Brendan Lemieux and Ryan Strome, I figured Howden would have been expansion draft bait. However now the Rangers have options, and Howden may be best served as a trade chip. This situation only comes to fruition if Morgan Barron and/or Patrick Khodorenko (or Justin Richards) impress so much at camp that they force their way onto the roster. In that scenario, they’ve outplayed Howden and earned the 4C role.

Roster depth is something to consider, so trading Howden is very unlikely, but still a possibility. Injuries happen. Howden is at least an NHL body capable of filling in in a pinch. Lke Hajek, trading Howden is unlikely to start the season, but his future with the Rangers is certainly in doubt.

Phil Di Giuseppe

The Rangers are loaded at wing. The addition of Alexis Lafreniere all but ensure Di Giuseppe doesn’t see top-nine minutes all year. Assuming the Rangers keep Lemieux on the left side, that means PDG is the 5LW. With younger rookies available in the AHL, PDG may not even be the first call up, depending on how camp goes.

The thing with PDG is that he doesn’t have much trade value. If anything, he’d be claimed off waivers. I can’t imagine someone trading an asset for him, but I’m usually wrong with these kinds of things. I’ve only really nailed the Derick Brassard trade prediction. So what do I know? NY Rangers early season trades are hard to really predict.

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  • Just stop with Reunanen competing with Hajek. Hajek in his 1st two games back are better than Reunanen’s best this year. Hajek needs to get more comfortable with the puck on his stick under pressure, but that’s the biggest hole in his game. I wouldn’t even pencil him into the Rangers lineup right now.

    Reunanen is a marginal skater for the AHL, which infects the rest of his game. Can’t control gaps, can’t defend in his own end, can’t quickly recover from East-west action, can’t really box out. Only playing 1st pair because it screws up the other pairings. Emergency callup. 3rd pair in Hartford with 2nd unit PP. 3 SOG in 2 games on 1st pair w/HPK. Whoop de damn do.

    • In general, we have too much talk of competition between players for a perceived limited number of slots. The truth is that players like Hajek, Reuanen and Miller should be competing with themselves – trying to be the best player possible with their natural talents. If Hajek and Miller can win that competition, then the Rangers will find something to do with them (maybe Reuanen should be included but clearly Reen thinks otherwise).

      If Hajek can become a good player, he has a future in the NHL whether he is better than Johnson or Miller or Reuanen or not. And if he can’t become a good player, beating out those guys won’t matter either.

      • You coach them up to be NHL players, even if it isn’t in NYC. The more players with controllable years you develop the more draft picks or NHL players you can get to fill holes in the lineup.

  • I agree that we will not likely see any trades until the season begins. The front will need time to gauge where their strengths and weaknesses is. I don’t think the Rangers are in a position to move any dmen as they don’t have a lot of depth there.

      • That’s like saying the stock market went up 500 points after losing 20,000 points. 🙂

        You’re starting with an extremely low bar my friend.

        • All it takes is one “mothers basement” blogger to get an entire legion of people who never played hockey and don’t know what they are watching, to have some sort hatred towards a player. Howden has the makings of a very good 3C. That’s a very valuable part of a winning team. He’s Big, physical, and has hands and decent vision. Has to get better at finishing around the net and if he can improve his skating, he’ll be all the better for it. But knocking a 21 year old whose not a finished product is asinine

  • I would not be surprised if Smith is around a lot longer than some might think. He can play both sides on defense and can even fill in at forward if need be. He doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he is competent as a defenseman.

    I am hoping that Howden might put things together. The kid seems to have a lot of tools. I guess the question is his hands. I can at least be hopeful that he is better than he is shown. On the other hand, he has been given a lot of playing time to show it.

  • on brett howden, all have to remember how young he is, they don’t want to lose him if he still has potential.

  • Maybe someone can help me here. Smith’s actual salary for this season is $2.35 million. His cap hit is $4.35 million, if he’s traded with 50% retention how would that work? Would it be half the cap hit or half of the actual salary?

    If it’s cap hit then we’re talking only a minimal action but I’m wondering if it affects the actual salary? Anyone?

    • Every player has 2 numbers to consider:
      Salary Cap and Actual Salary.
      Why the difference? Salary Cap figure is the total paid $$ over the life of the contract by the number of years.
      Actual Salary can be different ( less ) than Salary Cap figure if player receives a signing bonus.
      Smith got $1 mill signing bonus payout on July 1st. So for the remainder of this upcoming season, the Rangers owe him $2.35 mill more in salary.
      If the Rangers trade Smith to Ottawa like the writer suggests, the Senators are on the hook for $2.35 mill in payments to Smith but will be charged $4.35 mill against the Salary Cap.
      Why so complex? Teams use signing bonus $$ as a loophole in the salary cap to pay players more money early in their deals.

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