As the focus now shifts away from the Rangers loss to the Florida Panthers and to their roster construction heading into next season, the prevailing thought process is the Rangers simply can’t just run it back with the same core. They need to address the ceiling with this core, which appears to be the Conference Final. The general consensus is they need a big trade, but will need to part with someone from the roster. Rangers trade bait is going to be a hot topic, as many seem to disagree on who has actual trade value.

Obvious Rangers trade bait off the roster

If they are to land a significant piece, then some Rangers trade bait will need to come from the NHL roster. This won’t come in the form of big contracts like Jacob Trouba or Mika Zibanejad, but in the form of young, cost controlled players. Teams trading the best player in the deal will want something to bank on for the future.

Despite a salary cap ceiling of $88 million, the Rangers are still in a bit of a cap pickle with their current contracts. If they want to land a significant piece, they will need to move someone who is due a raise. Ryan Lindgren and Kaapo Kakko, both RFAs.

Per Evolving-Hockey’s free agency projections, Lindgren’s potential contract is the most problematic at a shade under $5 million across 6 years. To be fair, Lindgren’s projections are all over the place, with a 1 year deal at $3.1 million having close to the same probability as that six year deal. Lindgren’s team is probably looking at Erik Cernak’s 8 year, $5.2 million deal as their target.

Rangers trade bait is going to come from kids like Kakko who have value but aren’t what the Rangers need right now, or Lindgren who are solid players but may price themselves out of a next contract. Both Kakko and Lindgren fit that mold.

Both Kakko and Lindgren are arbitration eligible, for what it’s worth.

Unlikely trade bait, but we will hear their names a lot

The next level of Rangers trade bait is the group of players that we will hear in rumor mills, but it’s unlikely the Rangers trade them. Lindgren might also fit in this category too, but it all depends on his contract asks.

This is where players like Jacob Trouba and Chris Kreider fall. Both have value, but their contracts may be a bit rough. Trouba in particular with two years and $8 million left will be tough to move. Kreider has significant value as the best net front presence in the league, but given his penchant for big playoff goals, it seems unlikely he would be moved too.

K’Andre Miller is the most likely name in this category to be moved. He’s in the final year of his bridge deal and is going to be due a hefty raise next summer. It’s likely Miller gets more than Lindgren, given his offensive ability and better skating. I still believe it’s unlikely, but of the names mentioned so far, he probably has the most value.

At the risk of being too careless with the names here, Artemi Panarin has some pretty significant value to the Rangers and across the league. Perhaps he’s the Rangers version of Jonathan Huberdeau, a 100-point player who is an elite playmaker who can be used to adjust the roster makeup. But Panarin only becomes available for the right player. Panarin is also due a $9 million bonus on July 1, after which his contract has only another $9 million in real dollars for two years of $11.6 million in cap hits. Budget teams may like that.

Roster players not going anywhere

Vincent Trocheck, Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafreniere, Adam Fox, and Filip Chytil aren’t going anywhere. They are either unmoveable (Zibanejad), a bargain on their current deal (Trocheck), or simply too important to the future of the team.

I was tempted to put Trouba in this category because of his contract and that he’s captain–spare me the “they can trade their captain” argument, as both Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh were victims of contract demands and a rebuild. But it does sound like he’s some unexpected Rangers trade bait and some teams may still find value despite the contract.

But what about the prospects?

With a bunch of near-NHL ready prospects, it seems that the majority of the Rangers trade bait will come from their prospect pool. The Blueshirts have two players with similar skill sets in Matt Rempe and Adam Edstrom, though it seems if the Rangers trade Rempe, fans will burn the place to the ground. Edstrom is quietly solid as well, without the penalties. Given both are fourth liners with similar skill sets, one will likely be on the move.

Both Brennan Othmann and Brett Berard are going to be given long looks to crack the Rangers roster next season. Othmann has the 1st round pedigree and finished with one more point than Berard, but Berard was the better 5v5 player and scorer. Both have value to the Rangers and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them both stay, but this is an area of strength for the farm system.

The Rangers may be more willing to deal from Othmann and/or Berard because they have Gabe Perreault (not getting traded) and Adam Sykora waiting in the wings. Sykora had a disappointing first pro season, but the kid was just 18 years old playing in the AHL and still managed 20 points. Teams looking to get more “extended” futures may look at Sykora as a solid option for 2-3 years down the road.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Matt Robertson, Karl Henriksson, Ryder Korczak, or others have taken enough of a next step to have any real value aside from sweeteners.

So who is available for the Rangers to make a trade?

We can identify Rangers trade bait all we want, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the right players will become available to make the trade. Brady Tkachuk is a pipe dream made up because of Matt Tkachuk and a popular wish list item. This isn’t going to happen unless Tkachuk starts kidnapping puppies in Ottawa or something.

Utah is an interesting target, but it depends what the new ownership wants to do with the team. If they want to tear it down and start from scratch, Clayton Keller could be an interesting name, but the problem is he’s never been a play driver offensively, and the Rangers desperately need someone who drives play at 5v5, especially if they are penciled into the RW spot with Kreider and Zibanejad, who desperately need an offensive play driver.

Perhaps their best bet would have been putting Trouba on LTIR and trading for Tomas Hertl, but I digress.

Other names that are still likely to come up where the current Rangers trade bait may sync up: Yanni Gourde, Arthur Kaliyev, Blake Coleman, Artturi Lehkonen, and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Chris Drury will look to make a trade for a top six RW that drives play and also gets to the front of the net. Of the names mentioned Gourde and Lehkonen stand out, but there is no proof Seattle or Colorado is willing to part with either.

It’s going to be a long offseason, at least for the next month or so, of names being thrown into the rumor mill, both as Rangers trade bait and trade targets.


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