rangers hurricanes mika zibanejad

Before the 2021 season started, center depth was a primary hole for the Rangers. Even before Mika Zibanejad’s struggles, the Rangers were heading into the season with Ryan Strome and Brett Howden getting decent minutes. Even if both Strome and Zibanejad repeated their career seasons last year, one injury was going to throw things off.

Well the Rangers got that one injury with Filip Chytil. But now they are dealing with Zibanejad’s slow start as well. Strome has been ok so far, but he’s nowhere near his point pace from last season. Howden has been better than expected too, but in a fourth line role. The Rangers never had the depth to deal with an injury or a slow start, let alone both.

This Season’s Fixes

Compounding issues is the lack of centers in the prospect pool. Aside from Morgan Barron, who is currently a LW in Hartford, there are no viable centers. If the Rangers are to address this area, they need to make a trade. There is no quick fix here.

There also aren’t many good options available via the trade market. Jack Eichel isn’t a realistic option. Sam Bennett really isn’t overly good, even if he may be the best the Rangers can get for Tony DeAngelo. Derek Stepan wants out of Ottawa, but he’s also not that good. He’d just be a body for this season.

Beyond This Season

The issue goes well beyond the 2021 season. Even if Chytil winds up as the 2C of the future, the Rangers are still one injury and/or one slump away from the same issues that are plaguing them this season.

Maybe the plan is to pursue Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (UFA – 28 years old) next season. But he’s going to get a bag of money, and would likely mean the end of the Zibanejad era in New York. It doesn’t seem like the Rangers want to go that route. The other option is a trade for a youngish, skilled center. Those cost a lot, and are few and far between.


I’ve been big on Christian Dvorak (25 years old) for a while now, and I think he might be a realistic trade target. Arizona wants to blow things up, and Dvorak is one of their few players with value. He’s also a bargain at his cap hit with comparable metrics to Eichel. Again, Eichel is better, but we are talking bang-for-buck here. Plus landing Dvorak means the Rangers don’t need to trade Zibanejad, which again they don’t seem to want to entertain.

The Rangers are strong in defense and wing prospects, so there’s room to make a trade like this. It doesn’t necessarily need to be Dvorak, just using him as an example. If (when?) the Rangers trade for a center, it should be someone like Dvorak. Young, good, cost controlled, drives play, and can put up points. This is the Rangers should address their center depth hole, and hopefully soon.

Charts per Evolving-Hockey.com.


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