Center depth continues to be big hole for Rangers

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

Show More
  • I was reading this morning that Vancouver was looking to shake things up. JT Miller was “allegedly” being quietly shopped. a bridge too far?

    • Big JT fan, think he would be a great fit. Make a few calls for us, Andy, and get it done.

      • Me too! JT (27 years old) has won 52% FO% over his career, adds much needed grit and a heavy-body to the top 9, has developed into a terrific scorer and can provide net front presence with his size. He’s also proven he can play in NY.

        • If JT is really available, I’d look into it. He can help at center, and can move to the wing when needed.

          He also plays the EXACT style of play that Quinn is looking for.

          They should never have traded him in the first place!

    • I would take JT in a second. One of the worst trades ever! At the time we traded our best defenseman and our forward playing the best.

  • David, I know you’re not supposed to draft for need, but didn’t management see this coming? Seems like very poor planning and asset allocation, no? what do you think their thought process was/is?

  • Heard Vancouver wants to shake it up and Virtanen and Miller are on the block. Thing is they do not need ADA but could use his offense. Virtanen and Miller for Strome, ADA, and a 3rd?

      • Maybe. I think having Zibanejad, Miller, Chytil for your top three with any combo of Rooney, Howden and Blackwell for bottom six center depth is not that bad.

        • Depending on contract–Maybe take Beagle back for more bottom six depth–would really depend on his contract. I still think they need a Wilson or a Martin. Whether it is a top or bottom six guy they need more grit. Miller and Virtanen will not give you that Martin or Reeves type of presence but they are physical and use their size and speed.

          Then again–I highly doubt the Rangers will be acquiring either of these players let alone both. I will be surprised if they make any trades this season let alone a multi player blockbuster but it is fun to play armchair GM.

      • when you do not have depth making a trade for a center should make you better! you only get what you pay for!

    • We have a stud center, who is going through a tough time right now.

      Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Zib had 41 goals and 75 pts in 57 games last year.

      That’s not stud stats, that’s elite stats.

      • Zibanejad shot like 20% last year. Even if he shoots closer to his career average, that’s a 40 goal pace

      • Thanks for the refresher. You are right. He’s too good to get down on. Elite even.

        The dude had Covid less than a month ago. I’m not a doctor, but it would seem Covid would have a pretty large effect on the necessary skills of a hockey player.

        He will turn it around, and he is pretty streaky. When he breaks through, hopefully, it is big and loud.

  • If Mika had 11-12-13 points at this juncture instead of 3, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now. We’re seeing how this team would operate without both Chytil and Mika, and it’s not a pretty sight.

    No panic trades, please — but for the right price I definitely would look at Miller or Dvorak, and in Miller’s case I would move a 1st rounder if need be. Of course moving Strome and/or ADA in such a trade would be best, especially ADA. However I fear that any trade discussions we enter into probably involves guys like Kravs, Lundkvist, Robertson, etc.

    • I agree. I would imagine that ADA, Strome and a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick would not bring back Miller and another player.

      The reality is, at some point, some combo of Kravtsov, Lundkvist, Jones, Robertson, Kappo, Miller etc. will have to be used.

      I believe Chytil will evolve into a viable 2C. There are some nice possibilities. But I agree a panic trade would be ill advised. Even with the Rangers in last–you can see the potential for them to evolve into a dominant team in the next few years. At this point it all comes down to JG and JD being smart about contracts, signing and trades. This team is on the verge. It would be really frustrating to see a bad trade or ill-advised contract to blow it all up.

      • It is not a “Panic trade” for a center as we needed another one for the past 2 years. We need to move some picks, a defensive player in the AHL and ADA for a viable 2C. I do not think we should include Strome in a deal yet – wait for the trade deadline.

  • Would love to have Eichel… there would fewer chances of outcomes like last night. Concentration on Eichel would mean Wingers would get more space. Imagine Laf and Kakko on his line. Fun times.

    • I think every Ranger fan out there would love to have Eichel. The problem is what it will take to bring him here.

  • Zib’s off year may (hopefully) bring his extension price down. I’m still high on the player and if he’s open to a reasonable contract, you still do it I say.

    They still need to trade for a middle six center, but any flexibility from a lower Zib contract would help.

  • Zibanejad, Strome, Chityl, Howden, Rooney, Blackwell — Barron in the pipeline. The Rangers have lots of depth at center.

    Injuries are always going to be a problem. You cannot have four great centers. The cap won’t allow it. If the Rangers accidentally found themselves with Eichel, McDavid, Crosby, and Point, they would either have to convert a couple to wings are lose some. You cannot afford to spend that much money on centers. Ideally, your fourth best center is indeed someone like Rooney – decent and not pricey.

    • Chytil will keep improving and Zib will come back to form. Strome hasn’t been that awful. This team needs time to gel, too many players in and out of the lineup to create chemistry. Patience.

  • This is squarely on the Rangers drafts these past 5 years. Drafting too many wingers and defensemen instead of a good center. With all the Dmen we have did we really need another one in the first round and then we take another winger in the 2nd round. I’ve been saying it the past 3 years: WE NEED TO DRAFT CENTERS! Centers are always at a premium and you always have to overpay to get one.

  • have a bunch of new centres in hartford, let’s see what happens there before we jump ship. if things work out there might be all the centres they need. don’t know til ya give them a chance.

  • Back to top button