The NY Rangers made their big splash yesterday, as the Vladimir Tarasenko trade made headlines and stole a lot of the NBA’s trade deadline thunder. The Rangers landed their top line right wing and their much needed third paring defenseman in one shot. The move solidified two giant holes on the roster long before bidding wars would become a thing. As per usual, I have thoughts.
1. First on the Vladimir Tarasenko trade itself, what a coup by Chris Drury. As Rob pointed out on Twitter, it completely makes up for the Pavel Buchnevich debacle in some odd ironic full circle trade. The only piece of value the Rangers sent was the 2023 1st round pick. Hunter Skinner is a C prospect at best. Sammy Blais was just creating an unnecessary logjam. The 2024 3rd is inconsequential.
2. Tarasenko may not be the league wide game changer like Timo Meier, but he is a game changer for the Rangers. He’s the perfect complement to Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin as a guy who can get to the net, still shoot the puck, and still have an elite level shot. In addition, his acquisition moves Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow back to the bottom six, where they belong. The Vladimir Tarasenko trade has multiple ripple effects here.
3. As of now, Zibanejad, Panarin, and Tarasenko are poised to be a set trio and the Rangers top line. The Video Game Line, because it’s a line that you’d see in an NHL video game, will command top defensive competition.
Tarasenko drives offensive possession, something that the Panarin/Zibanejad combination hasn’t historically done (48% shot-share and 47% expected-goals share over 409 minutes through 3 seasons). Zibanejad’s two-way ability certainly covers for both Panarin’s and Tarasenko’s defensive liabilities.
4. That leaves Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, and one of Jimmy Vesey or Barclay Goodrow as the 2L/3L. This line can be a shutdown line, but can also be a true north/south scoring line. It’s really a jack-of-all-trades line. It would be nice to see Vitali Kravtsov here in a scoring role, but that ship appears to have sailed, unfortunately. Hope to be wrong, but the Vladimir Tarasenko trade likely has no impact on Kravtsov’s immediate future.
Update: Vitali Kravtsov is on this line! Vesey and Goodrow are on the fourth line. Apparently he was just waiting for the Vladimir Tarasenko trade.
5. The Kid Line will remain untouched, and will likely continue to get the current deployment. That leaves the fourth line, as of now, with
some combination both of Goodrow/Vesey, Jake Leschyshyn (for now), and Kravtsov or Julien Gauthier. That’s still not ideal, and it’s fair to expect one more trade closer to the deadline to address the fourth line. Ideally, Goodrow is the 4C with Gauthier and the new acquisition, with Leschyshyn serving as the 13F.
6. The powerplay is going to certainly be interesting. We theorized on last night’s emergency Twitter Spaces that Tarasenko would go to the off-wing on PP1, with Panarin moving to the bumper role. Trocheck has been fine there, but you don’t make the Vladimir Tarasenko trade and then put him on PP2 for 30 seconds a game. Trocheck would slide to PP2 instead, possibly in a net-front role, with the Kid Line and likely Jacob Trouba filling out that unit.
Update: Swing and a miss here. Filip Chytil to the bumper on PP1, Trocheck to the bumper on PP2 with Tarasenko, Lafreniere, Kakko, and Trouba.
7. Let’s not forget about Niko Mikkola, a piece of the Vladimir Tarasenko trade that isn’t necessarily going overlooked, but isn’t being as talked about. Mikkola is a big body at 6’4″, but is a good skater for his size. He’s a low event, defense first guy with a decent first pass. He’d give Braden Schneider a little more freedom to join the rush as well. He’s certainly an upgrade on Harpur, but let’s remember he’s still a bottom pairing defenseman.
8. Their work isn’t done yet, though. The Vladimir Tarasenko trade has given us a Video Game Line, better high-end talent up front, stronger depth in the bottom six, and shored up the third defense pair. But the Rangers likely still need a fourth line winger, depending on the role that line will have. The Tyler Motte whispers haven’t gone away, and if that fourth line is to be a north/south forechecking line, then he’d be a great fit with Goodrow and Gauthier.
9. The Rangers also still need to bank points and solidify their playoff situation. It’s not a given they make the playoffs, even if we are all supremely confident they will. It would take an epic collapse, but they can’t take nights off and allow the wheels to come off. There’s an opportunity to surpass the Devils for home-ice in the first round as well. Still plenty to play for.