Managing the Blake Wheeler injury is going to be tough.

The Rangers got more bad news with the Blake Wheeler injury last night. While there are no updates, that did not look good at all. Wheeler looks like he’s going to be out a while, exacerbating the Rangers’ need for a 1RW. We knew this was one of their top priorities, and now given the injury and Jonny Brodzinski’s emergence, it may have vaulted to #1 on the list.

Jimmy Vesey looked great with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, but that’s not a long term fix. Vesey should have been tried there long, long ago, but it looks like Peter Laviolette wants to keep him as a critical part of the Rangers shutdown line. That means a true play driving scoring winger is a necessity for the Rangers.

Addressing the Blake Wheeler injury internally?

The Blake Wheeler injury leaves an opportunity for the Blueshirts to call up one of their more skilled prospects to see if there is a fit, even in the short term. Brett Berard, who leads the Wolf Pack in 5v5 scoring by a wide margin, might be an option. He is also the kind of pest and grinding nuisance that made Vesey look good there last night.

Brennan Othmann, who was shifted to RW not long ago, is going to get some attention as well. Given he just made the switch to RW at the AHL level, the Rangers may want him to continue to adjust in the AHL before/if, they recall him.

Outside of Berard and Othmann, and both are longshots here, there aren’t any other players in Hartford that can fill the 1RW role at the NHL level. It would make more sense to let them cook in Hartford and not try to manage the Blake Wheeler injury through them.

The recent recall of Matt Rempe suggests neither Berard nor Othmann will get a look. It looks like Vesey will be the plug until a move is made.

Trade deadline plans altered?

The Blake Wheeler injury may have forced Chris Drury’s hand at 1RW, perhaps making it more of a priority than 3C. The Rangers are building for the playoffs, and it does appear they’ve found some consistency in the bottom six after months without any. Thus, a trade may be the only option.

What we do know is the Rangers were scouting the Seattle Kraken last night. While the initial thought process could have been someone like Alex Wennberg or Yanni Gourde, perhaps now the attention shifts to Jordan Eberle, someone I’ve been wanting on the Rangers once it was made clear Kakko wasn’t the answer.

Eberle is just awesome. He drives play in all three zones, can still skate with the best of them, and would be a solid complement to both Kreider and Zibanejad. He would do the dirty work and draw attention away from them, creating space and time to move and generate offense. That duo in particular needs a play driver who gets in on the forecheck and attacks loose pucks.

Eberle, for some reason, isn’t as widely talked about right now. He’d be a pure rental, and an affordable one at that. Using the Vlad Tarasenko trade as a comparison, noting that a Sammy Blais/Niko Mikkola swap was fair value, the Rangers would be looking at a 1st round pick and a mid level prospect, someone like Matthew Robertson. It’s not an exact science, but it’s close enough.

It might make you cringe to lose a 1st round pick to address the Blake Wheeler injury, but the Rangers still have their picks in the next three drafts. It’s not ideal, but the Rangers are poised to make a deep run into June this season. Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet.

The Blake Wheeler injury hurts in the short term. Even if he wasn’t the answer at 1RW, he was solid injury insurance in the top-nine. Hopefully there is some good news coming, but it didn’t look good. The Rangers needed a high end talent before the Blake Wheeler injury, now it’s an urgent matter.


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