What a season Morgan Barron is having in Hartford. In 13 games this year Barron has eight goals and 12 points, and has been walking all over the competition. Now this has to be taken with a grain of salt, as the competition is just Providence and Bridgeport for this season. However he’s still looked solid and a step ahead of the AHL game. Producing at both wing and center, Morgan Barron is forcing the Rangers hand for a call up.
The Rangers don’t necessarily need to call Barron up, but last year they didn’t necessarily need to call up Igor Shesterkin either. Sometimes, a player just forces their way onto the roster. It’s also no secret that the Rangers really like Barron, having tried to get him out of Cornell earlier than this season. With the trade of Brendan Lemieux, there is no question about the cap space to call him up. The only question is where the Rangers would play him.
Brett Howden is likely to get back into the lineup when he returns from COVID protocol, likely at the expense of Julien Gauthier. Don’t hate me for that statement, it’s just what I predict David Quinn and company will do. If Barron is also getting into the lineup, who comes out? The easy answer is Kevin Rooney, as Colin Blackwell has been a bit of a surprise for the Rangers this season. But that means the Rangers need to replace a top penalty killer. Can Barron help out there? The smart money says yes.
But this assumes Barron will be on the fourth line. If the Rangers want to go the Vitali Kravtsov route with Barron and ensure he gets top-nine minutes, there isn’t a soul in the top-nine that should be coming out of the lineup. The only way to create that space is to make a trade. Given the makeup of the top-nine, I don’t see that kind of trade coming at the deadline. In the offseason, after the expansion draft, sure. But now? Likely not.
Morgan Barron’s play is certainly showing he deserves a call up. But the big question is what would be better for his development. Will fourth line minutes, and maybe some PK time, be better development than 20 minutes a night in Hartford in all situations? If he continues walking all over the AHL, then the answer there might be a resounding ‘yes.’