As this season of ups and downs continues, the trade deadline is fast approaching. The deadline is a month away, which gives the Rangers –assuming no more COVID postponements– 21 games to figure out their 2021 trade deadline plans, if they haven’t already. They really only have three options.
Buyers at the deadline – likely not
We do know that the Rangers have been accruing cap space all season long with shrewd taxi squad maneuvering. This could be for a recall like Tarmo Reunanen or Morgan Barron, or it could be a precursor for something else to come.
That something to come could be Jack Eichel, if the situation becomes untenable in Buffalo. However I think a move like that is more likely to happen in the offseason when teams have more wiggle room.
Or that something to come could be the Rangers buying at the deadline and making a push for the playoffs. This seems highly unlikely, as the Rangers are already six points out and have shown no signs that they are going to go on a run. They can’t be buying if they can’t stay healthy, including whatever is going on with Mika Zibanejad post-COVID.
Sellers at the deadline – what is there to sell?
The Rangers don’t have many trade chips this deadline. The only pending UFAs are Brendan Smith, Jack Johnson, and Phil Di Giuseppe. I guess all three could fetch something, but it’s highly unlikely. Maybe Smith can get a mid-round pick if the Rangers retain 50%. Certainly possible.
The only three players I can see the Rangers moving at the deadline are Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich, and Alex Georgiev. Sure there’s an outside chance that Tony DeAngelo gets moved, but there were no takers twice before. Unless something drastically changes, he’s headed towards a buyout.
Buchnevich has the best value, and is probably underrated by most of the fan base. He’s putting up points and has really blossomed into a solid two-way player. He’d probably fetch a good amount, but he’s also cost controlled and appears to be loved by his teammates.
Meanwhile Strome, who also appears to be a good locker room guy, is the Rangers best center at the moment. There’s a strong case for “selling high,” but that only works if the Rangers have plans to replace him with someone better and/or cheaper. Remember the Rangers did try to move him this summer as well, with no takers.
Stand pat – call ups incoming
I think the Rangers are most likely to go with a hybrid of standing pat and selling where appropriate. Vitali Kravtsov is coming back from Russia at some point. Morgan Barron and Tarmo Reunanen are doing well in Hartford. Kravtsov may be the only game breaker here, but Reunanen and Barron could shore up the depth.
The Rangers 2021 trade deadline plans are likely to be influenced by how they do over the next 20 games. As of now, they don’t appear to be in a spot to buy, and even then the cap may be a limiting factor. With that in mind, we may be watching the final days of Brendan Smith’s tenure in New York. Who knows? Maybe we will get those call ups we’ve been waiting for all season.