The NY Rangers 2023 trade deadline has started with a big splash, acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola without subtracting anything from the main roster. The roster is much more balanced with both Tarasenko and Mikkola on the roster, but it isn’t yet complete. There’s still a few items on Chris Drury’s to do list that should be resolved before the March 3 NHL trade deadline.
1. Figure out what you want from Vitali Kravtsov this season and next
First and foremost on the Rangers 2023 trade deadline to do list is figuring out what they have in Vitali Kravtsov, where he fits into the roster this year and next, and whether he should be traded. There’s a lot in that statement, but luckily for the Rangers they do have time on their side.
His trade request notwithstanding, Kravtsov would be a cheap contract for next season at a time when the Rangers will need cheap production in the top nine. The biggest issue is strength, which is easily fixed with a proper offseason regiment. Just because he’s not looked at for a major role now doesn’t mean he won’t be next season.
If the fence has truly been mended between Drury and Kravtsov, then perhaps there’s still hope. If not, or if there is no turning back for Kravtsov, then the writing is on the wall.
2. A 4C is the only remaining need for the Rangers 2023 trade deadline moves
As of today, the only true need for the Rangers is a 4C. All due respect to Jake Leschyshyn, he’s not the answer. He’s a stopgap. Barclay Goodrow can play center, but he’s better at the wing. If this line is to be a true shutdown line, then they need a 4C, and preferably one that can win faceoffs.
Interestingly enough, the Rangers don’t necessarily need to make a trade to improve at 4C. Jonny Brodzinski is still in the AHL despite some pretty good defensive metrics. He also won 50 of 94 faceoffs (53%) this year and is a career 50.7% faceoff guy. Seems like a great fit for this role.
At the very least, Brodzinski is a better option than Leschyshyn. But it appears Gerard Gallant doesn’t see it that way. Thus, we should expect a trade to improve the position. Luckily, trades for 4C’s don’t necessarily cost much.
3. Identify the best roles and lines and, most importantly, keep them consistent
Perhaps the most important item on the Rangers 2023 trade deadline to do list is simply being more consistent. The lines have been thrown in a blender regularly since November, and it’s certainly had its impact on the players and the team results.
Tarasenko shores up the top nine, but we’ve already seen a rotation or two in the pair of games since he got to New York. This was despite a pair of 6-goal outbursts with dominant performances. They aren’t perfect, and there have been some pretty significant defensive lapses. But that’s where roles and deployment matter.
Sometimes you sacrifice some defensive lapses for more offensive chances, especially when it’s Igor Shesterkin in net. Perhaps that is an unpopular opinion, but as long as the good (consistent chances and scoring) outweighs the bad (some defensive lapses), the overall product on the ice is improved. Plus, are we really expecting Artemi Panarin and Vlad Tarasenko to be playing elite defensive hockey?
4. But perhaps tinker to see what other options work?
Consistent lines are a catch-22 for the Rangers, funny enough. Injuries happen. They will likely lose one forward to an injury at some point during the postseason. Even if it’s just for one game, there should be a plan in place to shift things around if needed.
This likely means breaking up the kid line for a game here and there to see what else works. We know Kaapo Kakko works with the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad duo. But what else works? Does Filip Chytil work with Panarin and Tarasenko? Does Vincent Trocheck work with Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere?
There are a ton of different options within the top-nine that can be tried. Naturally, not all options need to be evaluated, but a backup plan should be in place for injuries in the playoffs.
The Rangers 2023 trade deadline has started with a bang. But it needs to end with a bang too for a true run at the Stanley Cup.