Rangers 1RW rumors: A reunion incoming?

With the Alex Wennberg trade finalized, Chris Drury is shifting his attention to the last big need, a 1RW to play with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. The Rangers 1RW rumors are down to three big names: Jake Guentzel, Frank Vatrano, and Pavel Buchnevich. All three come with risks, rewards, and varying fits for the Rangers. Which one is the best fit though?

When it comes to the Rangers, the best player may not always be the best fit. It’s about playing within the system in the neural and defensive zones while also being able to generate offense and keep the top line afloat. Past success matters, but that was also within a system-less team.

The too expensive for his production: Frank Vatrano

If we are to believe that Pat Verbeek is holding steady on a first round pick for Frank Vatrano, Chris Drury is right to balk. Vatrano is having himself a career year with 29 goals and 49 points. But, and this is a big but, 11 of those goals are on the powerplay, where he won’t get the same PP share with the Rangers. That’s still 16 5v5 goals (he has 2 shorties) though. Can’t ignore that.

Vatrano has prior success with Kreider and Zibanejad, and there’s a strong case for bringing him back. At the very least, he’d be a volume shooter that opponents need to respect, thus opening ice for Zibanejad to get his groove back. The question is less about that impact and more about how Vatrano fits in other aspects of his game relative to cost.

Remember, the Artemi Panarin line is most likely going to get the sheltered offensive zone starts, and for good reason. That means the Zibanejad line will get tougher assignments with more defensive zone starts sprinkled in. While Vatrano is an effective forechecker, he’s not known for his three zone play. Is he the right fit? Possibly, since Zibanejad and Kreider are very effective in all three zones.

The concern with Vatrano is the cost for his production, especially since he’s shooting at 15% this year, well above his career average of 10%. The reason why he was a revelation with the Rangers two seasons ago was because he only cost the Rangers a 4th round pick. To spend a 1st round pick on a guy that may not work isn’t the best use of assets.

If the cost comes down from a 1st round pick, then by all means, explore this more. To me, he’s not worth the high draft capital.

The don’t help your rivals option: Jake Guentzel

I know, you’re sick of hearing about Jake Guentzel. He may be a product of playing with one of the best to ever play the game in Sidney Crosby (yes, that pained me to type, but it’s true). He’s also a bonafide 30-goal scorer who is also shooting below his career average (12% compared to 15%).

Guentzel isn’t a volume shooter like Vatrano, but he’s still averaged 250 shots a year over the last 2+ seasons. Another shooter that needs to be respected again opens up space for Zibanejad. Unlike Vatrano, the majority of his points come at 5v5, a big bonus for the Rangers.

The concern is cost, as covered this morning. If Zac Jones is enough of a roster player for the Penguins, then great. Otherwise, Kaapo Kakko and Will Cuylle are non-starters for Drury. Ditto Gabe Perreault and Brennan Othmann.

Don’t help your division rival rebuild. Especially one that has the 3rd best goal differential in the division this year.

The way too expensive pipe dream: Pavel Buchnevich

Rumors out of St. Louis have the Blues willing to be creative and eat 50% of Buchnevich’s salary for this year and next to facilitate a deal. Buchnevich is, by far, the best of the three available. But at 50% ($2.9 million) for this year and next, he’d also be the most expensive.

There is no word on what a cost for Buchnevich would be, but assume it’ll cost something you don’t want to give up, like Brennan Othmann. We can logically guess that, again, Drury doesn’t want to subtract from the main roster aside from maybe Zac Jones.

Can we assume Buchnevich at 50% will cost Othmann, Jones, and a 1st? Possibly. Is it worth it? That’s subjective. To me, Buchnevich is worth it as a guy with documented chemistry with Kreider and Zibanejad across multiple head coaches. He’s solid in all three zones and is a good forechecker. He checks all the boxes.

In dealing Othmann, the Rangers would again be dealing from a position of strength (left handed wingers) without subtracting from the main roster. Losing Othmann would hurt dearly, but for two legitimate kicks at the can with one of the top wingers in the game, to me it’s worth it.

But as I’ve seen in the comments, most of you are happy I don’t run the team. As am I, to be honest. I belong on the sidelines as the jester. Also I can’t imagine Drury swallowing his pride on this one.

The wild cards: Anthony Duclair and Warren Foegele

Nick covered Anthony Duclair, who would be an all-offense, speedy winger with high upside at a relatively low cost. At the right price, he’d again be an improvement if just for roster balance. Think of him as a discount Guentzel: All offense and minimal defense that can be covered by Zibanejad and Kreider.

The new name is Warren Foegele, who may or may not become available based on this morning’s rumor that Edmonton is looking at Jordan Eberle. Given their cap situation and Eberle’s cap hit, they’d need to shed money and a roster spot. Foegele’s name has come up before as well.

If you’re looking for a cheap add like Vatrano two years ago, Foegele is it. This does assume many things, like Eberle not re-signing in Seattle and Foegele being the contract Edmonton moves. These aren’t exactly little things, and it would be a big gamble by Drury to wait this out.

However if Edmonton does need to shed a contract quickly, Foegele could be had for pennies on the dollar. He’s got good size, uses it well, plays with pace, gets in on the forecheck, and is certainly a three zone player. Most of the time, you don’t need the big name. It’s just the right name.

Is Foegele the right name? Maybe. But only if he’s available and the cost is cheap. If we are comparing cost to production, then he’d be the best option to me, again assuming he’s available.

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