Frank Vatrano rangers

Per Arthur Staple, the Rangers are looking at Anaheim’s Adam Henrique and Frank Vatrano at the trade deadline. This comes less than a week after the Rangers “missed out” on Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan. Henrique has been on our radar for quite some time, especially if you’ve been reading the Patreon posts.

The case for Henrique is clear, as the Rangers need a 3C that fits a very specific role. The Rangers need a center that doesn’t need to be sheltered, produces at 5v5, and can be an effective net-positive in 15-18 minutes at even strength. This is why they didn’t need Lindholm (too expensive for the role) or Monahan (needs to be sheltered). It’s all about cost for the role.

Over the last three seasons, Henrique has been a solid play driver for the Ducks as a center and wing. This year he’s spent most of his time on the wing, but he still takes draws at a 53% clip this year. He’s a little less effective this year, especially on the defensive side of things, but that could be chalked up to Anaheim being bad. He does enough defensively to not require severe sheltering.

The case for Henrique is clear. He fits a position of need for the proper expected cost, plus he’s a pure rental that doesn’t impact the cap next season. He also has a decent 9-12-21 line at 5v5, with 4-4-8 on the powerplay and 2-2-4 shorthanded. Henrique can play all 3 strengths, but doesn’t need to be on PP1.

As for Vatrano, the case is less clear. With another year at $3.65 million the Rangers create a surplus of RWs, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Vatrano, as mentioned in Staple’s article, is a huge shooter who is on pace for 30 goals this year. He doesn’t have a significant shooting bump this year, meaning he isn’t likely to regress. He also has chemistry with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, his most likely linemates.

The concern with Vatrano is play driving and defensive play. You’re not getting Vatrano for defense, and Chris Kreider does enough play driving to cover for Vatrano and Zibanejad. It’s not perfect or pretty, but as a pure shooter, Vatrano is the right fit. Remember, not every player needs to be a significant play driver if he finds other ways to produce. Sometimes, empty calories are ok as long as it’s not the entire roster.

Since Vatrano would be acquired to fill the 1RW role, there are only two scenarios that play out here. Either Kaapo Kakko is included in the deal and Blake Wheeler goes to 3RW, or Kakko is not included in the deal and Wheeler goes to the bench with Kakko as the 3RW.

The big risk with dealing with Anaheim is GM Pat Verbeek, who is an excellent negotiator. Chris Drury, minus the Pavel Buchnevich trade, has been fine in trade negotiations as well, not overpaying for players but also not getting that significant deal many hope to see.

The trade cost is always going to be the concern. The Rangers 2024 1st rounder is a no brainer, of course. The question is what else? It’s safe to assume Brennan Othmann, Gabe Perreault, and Will Cuylle are off limits in this kind of a trade. Kaapo Kakko’s name was not shot down, but it’s tough to see the Rangers dealing Kakko in this kind of trade.

Kakko and a 1st for Henrique and Vatrano is a significant overpay. No matter how biased about Kakko you may be, he’s a known entity as a top defensive forward with offensive potential as a former #2 overall pick. He’s just 22 years old and he’s pretty cheap right now. Even if you don’t like him, focus on maximizing market value for the best possible return.

Brett Berard’s name has been mentioned, but that may be a mistake given his production this season. He’s Hartford’s top 5v5 producer and is looking like he deserves a quick look at the NHL level. It’s not guaranteed, and it poses a difficult question for Drury. How much of the future does he sacrifice for this year?

As of today, the Rangers have just $3.695m in cap space to work with. That’s not enough for both Henrique and Vatrano, so cap space does need to open up. Returning the recently recalled Connor Mackey and Jake Leschyshyn will open up $1.6 million in cap space, but that’s still not enough for Henrique ($5.825 million) and Vatrano ($3.65 million). Even including Kakko ($2.1 million) may not get them there without retention.

It’s a tough position for Drury if he wants Frank Vatrano to be included in a deal for Adam Henrique. Sometimes, you just need to say no to the cost if it just doesn’t sync up. Remember, salary retention adds to the trade cost.