NY Rangers depth a clear need for the trade deadline

The NY Rangers depth needs improvement, or else we are one injury away from a Harpur-Hajek pairing in the playoffs.

For the NY Rangers, most trade deadline conversations seem to focus on the big name players. It’s fun to talk about cost, fit, the shiny new toy, plus the Rangers always seem to find their names in the running for most big name players. But the true need is the NY Rangers depth, specifically on defense, if they are to fine tune the roster into a contender. Last season, they were in on Claude Giroux before he vetoed a trade. This year, it seems to be Patrick Kane and Timo Meier. Adds like these may not be needed.

Despite the constant line juggling and frustrating deployment from Gerard Gallant, the Rangers do have the makings of a Stanley Cup contender. They have solid depth down the middle with Mika Zibanejad, Filip Chytil, Vincent Trocheck, and Barclay Goodrow (plus Johnny Brodzinski). They have the high end skill and elite goaltending as well. What they lack, however, is consistency in the bottom third of the lineup.

Every playoff team deals with injuries. At worst, they’ve had to rely on depth players that would normally have been in the AHL. At best, it’s been their 7D and 13F that have filled in. Jack Johnson won a Cup with Colorado, after all, playing 13 games in the playoffs. Teams deal with injuries, and it’s required these players to play significant roles in playoff runs. It’s why we may not lose sleep over signing bad players to extensions, but they will matter in a 2 month, 16 win stretch.

So while players like Kane and Meier get the attention, it’s the cheaper adds that solidify the roster. Justin Braun, Tyler Motte, and Frank Vatrano are the three names that fit this mold last year. All three came at the cost of middle round picks. These are the types of trades that the NY Rangers depth needs to round out the lineup.

NY Rangers depth needs improvement

Even if the Rangers like Ben Harpur as the 3LD, they need at least one additional body on the blue line for the playoffs. One injury on the blue line, and we are looking at a Harpur-Libor Hajek pairing, which won’t end well. Ideally, the Rangers target another Justin Braun type player, a true defense-first 6D that can fake it in the top four if there’s an injury. As of now, the Rangers don’t have that bottom pair player that can fake it in the top-four should an injury occur.

Up front, it’s hard to predict what the fourth line will actually look like. That’s on Gerard Gallant. But giving him the benefit of the doubt, he did stick to a very strict set of lines last year following the deadline. The optimist in me believes he will do the same after this deadline.

Focus is on another scoring forward, but in reality that shouldn’t be needed with the proper lines and deployment. Note that means keeping Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey off the top line. Useful players for sure, but not top line players. If the kid line sticks again, and the Kreider-Zibanejad-Panarin line sticks, then the Rangers are looking at a depth add.

Goodrow-Trocheck-Vesey has been used as a line, and qualms about deployment aside, they can be a good shutdown line. This also clearly identifies who is likely to be in the top-nine come playoff time. Vitali Kravtsov notwithstanding, for the sake of this discussion.

The very clear need, given the recent waiving of Johnny Brodzinski, is a useful 4C. No offense to Jake Leschyshyn, but he’s not the answer. Pius Suter in Detroit, or a player like him, who plays a solid three zone game and wins close to 50% of his face offs is the likely target.

Tyler Motte has also been mentioned. Will Cuylle might have something to say about that, but if he doesn’t work out, Motte may be the LW the fourth line needs again. The goal is to ensure the fourth line isn’t spare parts, but has an actual role.

NY Rangers depth adds give far more bang for the buck than the big ticket adds. The best teams in the league are able to match up against top players, thus it’s the depth that wins championships. It’s also where the Rangers are lacking. Seems to be straight forward, but it never is, is it?