Late yesterday, the Rangers traded winger Brendan Lemieux to the LA Kings for a 4th round pick. It’s a relatively minor deal in the grand scheme of things, as it’s a fourth liner for a mid round draft pick. Lemieux had been playing relatively poorly of late, which was funny given the timing of me calling him an elite fourth liner. Guess he took offense to that? Anyway, I have some thoughts on the Brendan Lemieux trade.
1. As for Lemieux the player, he fell off a cliff the last month and a half in terms of performance. The stats, as of February 11, showed he was playing very well in his role, and his penalty differential was going to help keep him as a valuable fourth liner. Unfortunately, he started taking stupid penalties, making bad plays with the puck, and was just overall bad. It happens. But at $1.55 million this year and next, you can’t do that.
2. That segues into the cap hit. This is a big win for the Rangers. They shed cap space immediately for Vitali Kravtsov to play either today or Tuesday. It also clears the cap space for a Morgan Barron call up. Barron was starting to force the Rangers’ hand in the AHL, as he’s been dominant as both a winger and a center, where he played the last two games. This also frees up cap space for a trade this year, if needed.
3. I am intrigued to see how the lineup shakes out today. Phil Di Giuseppe was just cleared off COVID protocol, so my guess is he slides in today while Kravtsov joins the team Tuesday. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see a “surprise” insertion of Kravtsov into the lineup today. Not the ideal scenario for a rookie, the second of a back to back, while away, against a top team in the division. But crazier things have happened.
4. This also has expansion draft implications. I believe this means the Rangers must expose both Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell to meet expansion draft requirements. I know we were joking about protecting them over Ryan Strome and Julien Gauthier, but that was always far fetched. Both Strome and Gauthier have shown they should be protected, and you always expose the fourth liners over the skill guys. That’s just common sense.
5. The Rangers aren’t going to miss Lemieux’s “toughness” on the ice. Fights are few and far between nowadays, so that’s not a factor. If you’re taking toughness in terms of grinding and hits, then Ryan Lindgren, Brendan Smith, and Chris Kreider are still here. To me, toughness is willing to get into the corners and take a hit to make a play. Most, if not all, the Rangers do that.
6. In terms of shedding salary, clearing roster space, and not losing anything of significant value, the Rangers hit a homerun here. I know my thoughts on the Brendan Lemieux trade have been that this is a minor trade, but it does have some pretty significant off-ice value.
7. One last thing – I know people were joking about some other off-ice factors involving Tony DeAngelo. I don’t think that had any role to play here. This was strictly about an expensive fourth line winger who was playing poorly and quickly losing on-ice value for the Rangers. That’s it.