The Alex Wennberg trade is paying dividends already for the Rangers.

It was a shrewd and tidy piece of business by Rangers GM Chris Drury, as the Alex Wennberg trade brought a desperately needed center upgrade to a team competing for a Stanley Cup. It’s only been two weeks, and yet the trade has brought immediate results for the Rangers.

The Alex Wennberg trade wasn’t flashy or the shiny new toy, but it was an extremely necessary move for the Rangers. They’d been missing center depth in their lineup with the Filip Chytil injury, as it forced Vincent Trocheck up to the Rangers second line center spot, leaving a rotating cast of characters for the 3C spot.

Nick Bonino and Barclay Goodrow were both asked to slide up in the in the lineup, but both men are both better suited for a 4th line role. Unfortunately for Bonino, he was miscast and his lack of production landed him not only out of the Rangers lineup but out of the organization completely. Jonny Brodzinski was given a shot, and while he looked okay it became clear that he wouldn’t be the third line center if the Rangers want to win a Stanley Cup.

Drury’s options thinned pretty quickly when Elias Lindholm was sent to Vancouver, never a real fit for the Rangers, and Sean Monahan was sent to Winnipeg. The prices for both were dramatically high and likely richer than any price Chris Drury would’ve liked to pay for a pure rental.

With options drying up and pricing continuing to sky rocket it was curious where Drury would go to try and fill one of his most pressing needs. Thus the Alex Wennberg trade was a necessity.

Wennberg seemingly fell into Drury’s lap and cost the Rangers 2nd and 4th round picks. Considering the prices other centers fetched, the Alex Wennberg trade seemed like a steal. Wennberg’s play so far is making Drury’s decision and work look even better as he’s slid right into the lineup and helped make the club even more dynamic.

Peter Laviolette has put Wennberg with Kaapo Kakko and Will Cuylle –with a bit of Jimmy Vesey mixed in– to give the Rangers a defensively responsible third line that is tenacious on the forecheck that drives the oppositions nuts. Wennberg is the catalyst for that forecheck, consistently hounding the opposition to force turnovers and create chances. Naturally, this has brought a confidence boost to both Kakko and Cuylle.

Wennberg has also been tabbed with some tough defensive assignments, notably shadowing Sidney Crosby, a draw that would usually go to Mika Zibanejad. With Wennberg drawing top defensive assignments, we’ve seen Zibanejad’s offense begin to come alive of late.

Prior to the Alex Wennberg trade, Zibanejad hadn’t registered an even strength goal since Christmas. In 8 games with Wennberg in the lineup, Zibanejad has potted 3 even strength goals. This could be purely coincidental, but it’s more likely that the Alex Wennberg trade and subsequent role freed up Zibanejad for more favorable offensive assignments.

Drury decided to focus on fit and need at this years trade deadline instead of flash and sizzle like last year, and so far his more targeted approach has benefitted the Blueshirts. Wennberg might not be a player most Rangers fans wanted, but he’s quickly endearing himself to the hearts of Rangers fans everywhere with a style this club sorely needed.

To quote Elliotte Friedman “there are players who get you there and there are players who get you through” when talking about the playoffs, Wennberg is showing with his style of play that he’s certainly a guy who will help get you through. You can never have too many “sixteen game players” on your roster.


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