One of the ancillary benefits of the Vladimir Tarasenko trade is it forces Jimmy Vesey or Barclay Goodrow out of the top 6, where both had been miscast at various points of the season. Depth matters in the playoffs and having a defensively sound player like Vesey, or Goodrow’s offense, on your 4th line is nothing but positive. That said, there are specific Rangers 4C trade targets that would help make us a matchup headache for opposing coaches. For me, that’s the final step in the trade deadline plan.
Specifically, the focus should be on replacing Jake Leschyshyn. The Rangers need an upgrade with a center who can potentially pop a few points and be much stronger defensively. Leschyshyn isn’t that guy, and as much as I love Barclay Goodrow, he’s better off on the wing.
#1 Noel Acciari, St. Louis Blues
Noel Acciari is a guy I’ve had my eye on for a while as one of the Rangers 4C trade targets. So far this season, he’s winning 54% of his face-offs, has racked up 10 goals / 18 points, and currently leads the Blues forwards in both hits and blocked shots. Most importantly, he can also play a shut down role. He’s been used on the penalty kill by the Blues, as well as his past teams (Boston and Florida).
The above image is his defensive zone heat map, which shows that when he’s on the ice, he’s not only better than league average at suppressing scoring chances, he’s also better than his teammates (xGA/60 2.55 vs. 2.88).
Finally, Acciari is on an expiring contract with an AAV of $1.2M. Trading for him shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.
#2 Nick Bjugstad, Arizona Coyotes
If Acciari ends up being unavailable, another good player that could fill a 4C role is Nick Bjugstad. At 6’6, he’s one of the biggest skaters in the league. Despite his size, he’s often injured and hasn’t played close to a full season in 5 years.
With that said, this year he’s finally been healthy and has put up 13 goals / 23 points. His face-off% is down this year at 47%, but he is a career 50/50 guy.
With Bjugstad’s size and reach, he’s also much better than his team at shutting down the opposition. He’d also be a rental, as his contract ($900K AAV) is expiring.
The only flag with him is you hope he can stay healthy throughout a run towards June hockey. That may put him lower on the list of potential Rangers 4C trade targets.
#3 Sam Lafferty, Chicago Blackhawks
The best way to describe Sam Lafferty is like a younger, cheaper, and more defensively responsible Barclay Goodrow. He’s used up and down the lineup, at wing, at center, in penalty kill situations, etc.
To date, he’s put up 8 goals / 19 points, has won 54% of his face-offs, and is 3rd on Chicago in hits.
Lafferty’s xGA/60 is higher than league average. However, he is still far better at limiting scoring chances than his teammates.
Lafferty has one year left on his contract with a $1.1 million cap hit. Given his production and cap certainty, he may cost more than the typical 3rd-4th round pick these types of players usually yield.
With that said, the cap situation next year is going to be tight and I’d be surprised if the Rangers didn’t try to move Goodrow over the summer. As much as I love him, $3.6 million is quite the dent for almost identical production.
#4 Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators
Last, but not least is the young Shane Pinto. He is a local boy from Franklin Square, Long Island, who was drafted in the second round by the Senators a few years back. He’s technically a rookie (though he got a cup of coffee in the show the past two seasons) and has put up 12 goals / 22 points, 52% on face-offs, and 53% Corsi For%.
Pinto is likely a player the rebuilding Senators want to keep. He’s also a 10.2(c) player (not eligible to be offer sheeted or for arbitration), so this is more of a swing for the fences type of trade.
Pinto is an excellent two-way player and his contract is up at the end of the year. He may be worth a bigger package in the offseason if Drury can’t find a way to keep Miller, Chytil, and Lafrenière.
Please keep in mind, these are all just ideas. I haven’t read any rumors circulating about any of these players. If you have other targets, sound off in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond to everyone.
Shot heatmaps courtesy of hockeyviz.com.