Grading the Rangers trade deadline acquisitions

The Rangers made waves by kicking off trade deadline season by trading for Vladimir Tarasenko a few weeks before deadline day. There were questions about Tarasenko’s shoulder and his two-way play, but he’s proven those doubters wrong. Even as the Rangers gear up for the playoffs, it’s hard to avoid ignore a clear need at RW for next season too. Since he’s fit in so well in New York, can the Rangers re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko? Or better yet, should they? Will the cap get in the way? Can they make the necessary room?

Tarasenko’s first 10 games with the Rangers were obviously a struggle. Tarasenko had “just” a line of 3-4-7 in 10 games, including a goal and two assists in that 10th game, which came off some criticism that he wasn’t performing as expected. Overall, he has a line of 8-11-19 in 28 games. For those keeping score, that’s a line of 6-9-15 in his last 19 games following his adjustment to arriving in New York. Remember, it’s tough for guys to adjust following the trade deadline. It takes time.

The points may be there for Tarasenko, but the underlying numbers aren’t good. In fact, his RAPM may be underselling it a bit. Tarasenko has never been a good play driver, which again is fine in the right role, but he’s been pretty rough when it comes to simply sustaining offensive zone pressure with the Rangers, per Natural Stat Trick. His CF/60 has dropped to 46.01 with the Rangers, down from 52.75 with St. Louis. His xGF/60 is also down from 2.61 to 2.05.

Interestingly enough, his defensive numbers saw a slight improvement. But Tarasenko’s role is to provide offense.

Looking at Natural Stat Trick’s line tool, we are able to infer the cause, and it’s mostly linemates. It looks like he will stick with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. The trio doesn’t really play defense, and have a CF/50 of 55.32 and an xGF/60 of 2.66, both significantly higher than Tarasenko’s full numbers with the Rangers. That line, mind you, has only played 85 minutes together.

Compare that to Tarasenko’s other 141 minutes, and we see this trio is really his best spot in the lineup. His CF/60 away from that line –mostly with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider– is an abysmal 37.02. His xGF/60 also cratered to 1.69. Naturally, it took time for Tarasenko to adjust, but also to find the right linemates.

Should the Rangers re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko?

When it comes to whether or not the Rangers should re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko, it’s a question about need. As it stands today, the Rangers have just Kaapo Kakko signed for next season at RW. Jimmy Vesey can play both wings, but he’s a bottom-six player and there’s no guarantee he reproduces this fantastic season he’s having. The Rangers have a clear need for another scoring top-six RW.

For what it’s worth, Brennan Othmann is a LW.

The Rangers need a RW. Tarasenko has clicked in New York, the Rangers are a contender, and he has seemingly fit in just fine. All the pieces are there. The only wild card is cap hit and contract, which is the big wild card.

If the Rangers re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko, it’ll have to be on a team friendly deal and on their terms. They simply don’t have the space with both Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller still pending contracts. If we assume they both command $10 million (combined) in cap space, then the Rangers are left with just $2.37 million in cap space to fill out the roster with 3-4 forwards, a #6 defenseman, and a backup goalie.

Some of that will come from minimum salary players like Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson on defense and potentially Othmann up front. Even then, the Rangers simply can’t afford Tarasenko. If the Rangers re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko, who will be 32 at the end of December, then they need to move at least one roster player. Given his projected cap hit close to $6 million on a 3 year deal, that may not even be enough.

Should the Rangers re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko? The answer is a pretty clear yes. But can they? That is the $64,000 question.

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