Musings

Thoughts as the Rangers head to the 2021 trade deadline

Can you believe that the trade deadline is Monday? This season has flown by. There isn’t as much focus on the trade deadline this year because of the COVID complications, but it still might have a few surprises. After all, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Islanders was a surprising trade. The Rangers aren’t expected to make much noise during the 2021 trade deadline, but they may make a move or two. As per usual, I have some thoughts.

1. There are only a few viable trade options at the deadline, and while the focus may be on the UFAs, don’t be surprised if Julien Gauthier gets moved. There’s honestly just no spot for him, and that’s disappointing. I like Gauthier and think he will put it together to be a solid third line winger in the NHL. If he’s a late bloomer, he could be a great power forward. But the Rangers are stacked at wing and he may have more value in a trade. I still think he has more value as a sweetener in a bigger deal, but perhaps someone gets desperate enough for depth with potential.

2. This year is a little funny. The reality is that the Rangers already made “two acquisitions” in the last month or so. They got the real Mika Zibanejad back, which was crucial to evaluating the center depth. They also got Vitali Kravtsov into the lineup, shoring up their right wing depth. While they aren’t really trades, they are roster additions that help.

3. I wouldn’t expect the Rangers to be buyers at the 2021 trade deadline. They are too far out of the playoff race, even with yesterday’s win. They are five points behind the Bruins, but the B’s have three games in hand. Plus they have six games against Buffalo after the trade deadline. I know the talk is about competing and making every game count, but the Rangers have to see this and know they are likely on the outside looking in. It will stop them from making any big splashes, at least until after the expansion draft.

4. I mentioned this yesterday, but with Zac Jones emerging as a top NCAA defenseman, it makes you wonder if left defense becomes a viable trade surplus. The Rangers will have three defensemen with expiring ELCs in three years (Robertson, Schneider, Skinner). That’s not ideal for long term cap planning. This doesn’t account for Nils Lundkvist either. We know RD is a depth position of strength, but with Jones emerging and K’Andre Miller/Ryan Lindgren with significant NHL roles, perhaps Matthew Robertson could be a good addition in a bigger trade. Just food for thought.

5. I’m intrigued to see how this trade deadline plays out. No one is expecting anything big, especially since an entire division can’t really trade outside of Canada. Plus there are financial issues with COVID, limiting trade situations even more. One last aspect: The divisions are going back to normal next season, and some playoff teams this year may not even be in the running next year. Looking at you, Arizona. Teams know this, so they may be less likely to spend real assets on rentals.

6. Ryan Strome is the only intriguing asset that appears to be in play. It is not going to be an easy decision, no matter what the Rangers do with him. He’s got clear value to the Rangers, especially on that contract. But that contract makes him a great option for true competing teams looking for a middle-six center. What is the value of Strome, who is having his second straight career year, to a playoff team? That’s two playoff runs for $4.5 million, a clear bargain. Would some team fork up a first and a good prospect? Would the Rangers turn that down? I don’t envy Jeff Gorton right now.

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  • 1: Goat is caught in a numbers game; but to optimize value, they need to play him over PDG or deal PDG as the break glass in case of emergency player. Teams can take the PDG contract as a rental and get a 3rd out of it.

    2-3: the team probably isn’t looking to add, but the question is whether they can upgrade on D short term by using the luxury of an expansion slot, then flip that player after the exDraft. Or do they like Hajek enough to protect?

    4:If you have 2 players of similar talent, take the bigger one. That would be Robertson. He’s also younger.

    5: Arizona in a conference setup would be in 7th place in the West. And they’re doing it with kids. They could be dealing players (even on retained salary) to save money and accumulate picks & prospects.

    6: Almost half the league is in LTIR credits, only 4 teams not on a likely dollar in, dollar out scenario. The only 2 dance partners for Strome would maybe be Nashville & San Jose with a lot of heavy lifting involved.

    • “4:If you have 2 players of similar talent, take the bigger one. That would be Robertson. He’s also younger.”

      Who is the other “similar” talent? Clearly not Miller … and I can’t imagine Jones, are you suggesting Lindgren?

      • 4 leads with Zac Jones, our latest undersized sensation lighting up teh interwebz.

        I’ll take Robertson over Jones 8 days a week.

        Please note, for as productive as Jones was this season, Cale Makar was well over a point per game for the same team, both in their D+2 seasons.

    • 6. Why are you ignoring Toronto? They openly looking for top 6 and not looking for the rental. I would take any of these 4 forwards Abramov, Amirov, Robertson, Abruzzese plus 2-3d round. They said nothing is off the table. I know there are Covid restrictions but I think they know it too

      Some other possibilities are Tampa. They always look for a deadline trade and not for rentals

      I think there are some good possibilities to trade Strome and improve the team. I do not think we could pay him 7 million in a year.

        • Reen,

          let me respond here to both of your posts above

          First, regarding Toronto, I was repeating what Elliotte Friedman has said at least twice in last few days which is that Toronto looking for top six forward and willing to offer any of their top prospects. And they did not want to go rental route (Taylor Hall). So I think there is a possibility there

          Regarding trading Jones. You have an interesting logic and rationale. So Jones is not as good point per game as Makar, the guy who was drafted third overall and versus 3d rounder. So he is 10-15% off Makar pace. Trade him? And you were looking at points and ELC. So why not trade Miller or Lindgren, they both had less points in the last college year played. I am not attacking you. I just fail to understand your logic. When Jones coach compares him to Makar and Fox, the last thing on my mind that we have to trade him

          • Because the way power laws work, 10-15% off the pace at the same age & the same role might as well be 90% at the NHL level. “He’s like Fox or Makar, just less so” is John Gilmour territory.

            In almost all lower levels you have to lap the field to make the jump into a 1st pair D when undersized, because bigger and stronger guys will take your lunch money.

          • Interesting approach. How did we manage to give $11.5 to an undersized guy who did not even get drafted?

            With Jones I do not think there is any pressing issue to decide. He has the same size as Nils. We should keep them both.

          • Because he had 4 years of a NHL track record? Meanwhile Jones has bupkis and the track record from similar players puts him as a 7th D /AAAA player.

            Are you always this obtuse, or do you work at it?

  • On point 4. , if Nils is the second coming of Adam Fox, and it appears he likely is, where does Jones fit? Fox will run PP1 and Lundkvist PP2. They will also both have NHL experience ahead of Jones. (Assuming Lundkvist signs this off season) It’s something that needs to be considered. Good problem to have.

    • What problem? lol There’s no rule that says you can’t have 2 d’men out at the points on the PP.

      • Jones on the left side on PP would be awesome. He may actually be our best bet (even as amazing as Fox has been).

      • It’s a valid point but the team needs balance. We have a fair amount of what Jones brings to the table now. We probably need a little bit more of what Roberson brings. Not advocating to trade either but we will run out of spots in the back end and cap space.

      • Leetch and Zubov, Murphy and Coffey, Neidermayer and Stevens… agreed; don’t see the problem with having 2 franchise D. Maybe in a cap world it’s harder, but at least while they’re young and affordable, why rush a trade?

    • If everything works out wonderfully, there’s no reason Jones couldn’t be on a power play with either Fox or Lundkvist, especially as he’s a lefty. The idea’s pretty appealing, actually.

  • They may cut lose some dead wood (Brendan Smith, PDG), but I don’t see anything significant being done until after the season is over — the only caveat being if some team decides to offer up real value for Colin Blackwell. I agree about Gauthier: “I still think he has more value as a sweetener in a bigger deal, but perhaps someone gets desperate enough for depth with potential.”

    Of course it’s still the silly season, so expect the unexpected.

    • There are scenarios, but I really don’t liike trading Smith. To properly develop young players, they need to play on a team with a solid fabric and and that requires having six actual defensemen on the team.

  • If the right trade is offered, you have to expect Gorton will listen to anything. Even a Canadian team looking to shed cap space for another trade or roster addition. As long as the player has at least 1 more year on his contract or there are draft/prospect assets coming back along with that (quarantine) player to the isle of Manhattan.

    To trade Strome now depends on 1 major question Gorton has to ask himself, at least in my opinion. “Was Strome and his reasonable 2 year contract meant to be left exposed in the expansion draft and bound for Seattle?? The Kraken couldn’t pass up on a young guy with top 6 skill for $4.5 mil per or whatever Strome makes against the Cap.

  • I actually think Gorton is in a pretty easy position for this year’s deadline: He can seek a clearly favorable deal, and in the absence of one, make no move at all.

  • #1, Gauthier has talent, but it is not clear that he is good enough to play at this time. Why in the world does a playoff team choose him as a depth acquisition? Losing him in the expansion draft (instead of losing someone else) is preferable to getting only a mid or low third rounder for him (and you won’t get more). And if he survives the draft, his trade value will be higher over the summer – or he may yet prove to be a valuable Ranger asset.

    #6, the Rangers don’t terribly need draft picks and prospects. Hard pass on your Strome deal.

    Unless absolutely bowled over, I would restrict myself to trading DeAngelo, trading diGuiseppe, or making a deal which improves the team short term with no noticeable long term cost.

    • That logic makes no sense. Lose someone with real upside like Gauthier for nothing so we can keep who exactly? Howden? Rooney? Blackwell? If the Rangers don’t see Gauthier as part of the future then you try and get an asset for him instead of losing him for nothing. GMing 101

      • In no world is letting Gauthier be drafted in lieu of Rooney or Hajek or Blackwell losing him for nothing. These players are not nothing. They may not be that much, but then again neither is the return for Gauthier in a trade. In the last 20 years, third round picks have basically netted the Rangers Buchnevich and Duclair, not much for 20 picks (discounting Jones and Cuylle who have contributed nothing yet – maybe, but we often get excited).

  • I have been on the fence for a while but right now I believe Strome has more value as a Ranger than what he would fetch in a trade. A 1st round pick in the 20-30 range and a prospect? Honestly the Rangers don’t NEED another 1st round pick (not that you can’t have too many) but they are entering the stage where there just isn’t enough room for the youngsters they already have. Let alone the kids in the 1-3 year pipeline already with the organization.

    • I think acquiring high picks would be assets to include in a summer trade with Buffalo for you-know-who, for example.

      • I agree to an extent but honestly they have the draft picks and assets already. They actually have too many players quite frankly. And there’s no way they can afford to pay them all once they come off ELCs. They essentially have 3 first line right wingers in Buch, Krav, Kakko. Obviously the 2 kids aren’t producing like that now but that’s what they are predicted to be. In 3 years there will not be enough 1) playing time, 2) money to pay all 3. Same thing on the left. They are already paying 17.5 in cap hits between Kreider and Panarin for the better part of a decade. What kind of payday is Laf going to be in for once he comes off his ELC which as it currently stands will be while the other 2 are still under contract? I’m not too far out of line here saying I hope Laffy plays well enough to warrant a $10 million cap hit. But you can’t tie 27 millions up on just left wingers. They aren’t going to have to make some tough decisions in a couple of years.

      • Trading for you know who makes us a worse team. Not a better one. Would rather have Mika and all the assets going that way than JE

  • Dave – nice article good points all around. I agree with you definitely don’t envy JG – BUT – it’s a nice predicament the Rangers are in. For once they are in a good spot with draft capital prospects and cap space to potentially big players over the summer. My concern going forward is “if” Rangers trade for the top line center what will that do for the future cap and all the future RFA’s. Can they afford to have an Eichel type contract w a Kreids Z (new contract) Panarin Trouba and also fit in Laffy Kakko Kratsov Miller etc as well. Would love to hear your thoughts on that at some time as well. Either way good time to be a Ranger fan and excited to see how things shake out.

  • The Rangers,imho,will not make any moves by Monday. Contenders are looking for assets that can play now. Gauthier may be moved, but later. DiG, Howden? No takers for them.Nobody in the Ranger organization will trade Strome because it’s our weakest position and the Rangers will be competing for the Cup within the next 2 years.

  • I would play Gauthier to increase his value for a summer trade.

    We may have gotten Mika back but he has regressed a bit again. His, Strome and Happy’s longer-term future will decide summer trades.

  • I read Florida might be willing to part with Lundell. Although, I would prefer to trade will LA who have a glut of good to great center prospects, Florida might make sense.

    Florida is a playoff team and they need depth. The Rangers have a lot to offer. Smith and Bieto are great depth options on D. Blackwell, Rooney and PDG are good bottom six depth.

    Then for future building pieces they have Jones, Skinner, Reunanen, Pajuniemi and the 4th from LA to offer.

    The Rangers could use one or two now/depth pieces and one or two future pieces–might be enough for Lundell.

    Depending on their prospect pool needs, a Jones, Smith and ADA trade might get it done. They get a sold 6/7 team guy and a high risk/reward offensive defenseman for the playoffs. For their future they get a defensive prospect who may be pretty special and deemed worthy a top 10 pick once he hits his stride in the NHL–if his current trajectory continues.

    No way they can have keep Jones, Fox, Schneider, Skinner, Reunanen on the right. Especially with Trouba’s NMC and unmoveable contract. Whey not use Jones as a piece get a young cost controlled center with 2nd line potential?

    Might be better for the team than a big name, established 1A/1B center. Especially if they believe in Mika and Phil.

    • Rangers West, if Panthers are willing to do it I hope Gorton can keep a straight face and take it and add even Howden to it

      • I think Jones has high value. Alone for Lundell is is not enough but he’s a valuable piece. Idea may be moot as Florida just picked up Montour from the Ducks.

  • I believe that Rangers will move Blackwell at the trade deadline. The hustling, feisty scoring winger with a very affordable cap hit would be a great addition to any team wanting to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

    His departure would open up a position on the wing for a newbie Ranger player. Colin should fetch a decent return, perhaps a young prospect centerman, which is what the Rangers should be seeking.

    • I cannot believe they will move Blackwell. They have found Fasth with a scoring touch. He will become a staple on this team, moving up and down the lineup as need be. Maybe next year they move him, if the Rangers are out of contention.

      • If Blackwell is here next year he will playing on the second line blocking a spot for one of the high end young players. No thanks. Trade him now when his value is high.

    • It makes no sense to move players like Blackwell that have contributed. True that his production seems to be just starting but why trade away a cost effective valuable player that fits in perfectly with Panarin and Strome? Julien Gauthier is most likely the odd man out. He has size, skates with speed , goes to the net and probably has a solid upside, but there is just no room for him on this team. They will keep PDG because his D game is better.

  • Rangers have a surplus of defensive prospects and will move a few of them not named Nils and Schneider

  • I wouldn’t trade any assets until the new coach gets to assess what he has and then you can pull the trigger on some deals.

  • Rangers’ trade deadline:

    zzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzz “maybe” ADA gets moved if some team offers anything.

    The offseason, different story.

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