Its been an interesting 2021-22 National Hockey League season for one of the most hyped original six franchises in the league, the New York Rangers. During the summer of 2021, the Rangers fired their general manager Jeff Gorton and President John Davidson to make way for Gorton’s assistant general manager, Chris Drury. Drury was a captain in Broadway in 2011 and now has a chance to show the Blueshirts fans that he can deliver the goods as general manager.
The Rangers hired Gerard Gallant as their new head coach before the season. He guided the Las Vegas Golden Knights to the Finals during the 2018 playoffs, in what was the first NHL season for that expansion club and so far has turned the Rangers from a mediocre team to a team that is within striking distance of leading the Metropolitan division.
The needs of this original six franchise are clear; their goaltender Igor Shesterkin has posted the league’s best save-percentage and the Ranger blueline has been solid in front of their young goaltender, even though it is far from complete. However, the biggest surprise involving the blueline this season is that the Rangers’ 19th overall draft pick from 2020, Braden Schneider has become one of the team’s most reliable defensemen. While the Saskatchewan native has been paired with veteran Patrik Nemeth, the two have done well but it’s reasonable to question if Schneider and 22-year-old defenseman K’Andre Miller, who is in his second NHL season, will be able to handle themselves against some of the heavyweight contenders that the Rangers might face in this spring’s 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, the Ranger defense is not a big weakness and in fact, their biggest weakness may be their group of bottom-six forwards which includes the struggling third line, that should be the team’s biggest concern. A lot of this falls on the shoulders of 22-year-old first round pick, Filip Chytil who has scored just 16 points in 48 games this season along with his winger, Julien Gauthier who has been even less productive. if the Rangers are really all-in’ this year, it is clear that they need to be looking at adding forward depth, because if and when the New York Rangers make it into the playoffs, they will need all the help they can get.
While former Ranger J.T. Miller has put up 73 points and been a point-per-game player for the first time in his career, it would not make sense for the Blueshirts to send what would be an enormous chest of players and draft picks to the Vancouver Canucks for Miller, whose best year with the Rangers was far below the point-total that he will end up with this season. Hot questions surrounding the original six franchise that plays at Madison Square Garden will be answered soon enough, but with just one week before the deadline expires at 3:00 PM on Mar. 21, let’s take a walk over to the rumor mill.
Montreal Calling, General Manager Drury
On “the NHL Now” a show hosted by former professional scout and longtime hockey broadcaster E.J. Hradek on The NHL Network, former New Jersey Devils defenseman, Ken Daneyko explained why he thinks that defenseman, Ben Chiarot, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens is one of the hottest trade targets available.
Some of the top teams, who we consider contenders will look at him, the Penguins, even the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking for depth on defense. That’s the type of defenseman you want at the deadline and depending on what you have to give up and now the price, when you have a bidding war… you’re probably going to give up more than he’s worth if you’re all in and going for it.Ken Daneyko, Three-Time Stanley Cup Champion and NHL Network Analyst
The Rangers may be a young team, who are still a year or two away from being considered a true Stanley Cup contender, but I still think adding Chiarot without giving up key building blocks like Schneider would be a solid addition to their inexperienced blueline. Here are the details that a trade involving the Rangers and Canadiens for Chiarot might look like.
MTL Get: 1st rd. Pick (2022), D Nils Lundkvist, LW Morgan Barron
NYR Get: D Ben Chiarot & RW Artturi Lehkonen
First of all, the Rangers and Canadiens have not made a trade since 2013 and that involved these Original Six franchises swapping AHL players. This makes it crystal clear that these two Eastern Conference rivals have not helped each other much during the last decade but, the Habs must put Chris Kreider’s collision with Carey Price during the 2014 playoffs behind them because they need young talent.
One prospect who would interest the Canadiens is a 23-year-old winger named Morgan Barron. The Cornell graduate who comes from Nova Scotia played in 13 games for the Blueshirts this season but has made just four appearances since the All-Star Break. Barron is not a regular NHL player yet but what would attract a team like the Canadiens is his big 6’4″, 220-pound frame and Habs fans who question whether Barron’s physical effectiveness at the NHL level need look no further than the 28 hits that Barron has delivered in just 13 NHL games which have resulted in only four penalty minutes, during the 2021-22 season.
With the aim of landing one of the most coveted defensemen at this trade deadline, Ben Chiarot, the Rangers could add in Nils Lundkvist. At 5’11” and 187 pounds, the 21-year-old Swede is small for an NHL defenseman and in terms of offense Lundkvist produced just four points in 25 games with the big club this season. However, this trade would appeal to Montreal because they would get two solid, not great prospects and a first-round pick at the 2022 NHL Draft.
Looking at this potential trade from Ranger general manager Chris Drury’s perspective, Chiarot and Lehkonen could help Gerard Gallant’s team significantly. This is Chiarot’s ninth season and the 30-year-old has been very dependable, averaging over 23 minutes of ice time. In his career, the boy from Hamilton Ontario has been on five playoff runs– including 2021– and on a Ranger blueline that includes four players under the age of 24, Chiarot adds important playoff experience. Lehkonen will not capture anyone’s attention because he is not a really physical forward and he has never scored more than 35 points in a single season, but the Fin is a solid depth forward. Notably, Lehkonen has had a solid 52.8 Corsi percentage (Lehkonen’s line controlled possession 52% of the time) which is the same as Boston Bruins winger, Jake DeBrusk. Throw in 15 goals and 13 assists while playing most of the year on the Canadiens fourth line and Lehkonen seems like he would be a replacement for players like Julien Gauthier and Gregg McKegg, who have produced less points this season combined than Lehkonen.
Should Drury Say Hey to San Jose?
While signing Chiarot would be a great boost to the Ranger blueline, they need forwards much more and one San Jose Shark who teams across the NHL are trying to catch is Tomas Hertl. The reasons for bringing in a two-way, 28-year-old center who can help a team that is hurtling towards playoff contention are clear.
Hertl stands six feet, two inches tall and weighs 212 pounds which makes the Czech larger than the Rangers second line right-winger, Dryden Hunt, who he could replace but Hertl is not just impressive from a physical standpoint, he has been an effective offensive player this season to the tune of 25 goals and 21 assists on a Sharks team that has been 27th out of 32 NHL teams in team goals this season.
Recently, Hertl became an overtime hero when he scored a winning goal in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings on Mar. 10. Two days later against the same team, who are the second place team in the Pacific Division no less, Hertl was able to achieve his fourth multi-goal game in front of a home crowd.
Hertl’s point totals dipped considerably after the career-high 74 that he scored during the 2018-19 season. However, this season the 28-year-old center has rediscovered his offensive ability and is on pace to reach 60 points for the second time in his career. Most of all, however, one aspect of Hertl’s resume that may interest New York the most is that the center has played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, during six different years.
In 2016, the San Jose Sharks were able to reach the Stanley Cup Finals with the leadership of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, however at just 22-years-old, Tomas Hertl was a key contributor who averaged 17 minutes of ice time to go with 11 points and a plus-eight rating during that deep playoff run. The case for why the Rangers should try hard to get Hertl who would be a forward who can play top-six or bottom-six minutes as the team moves closer to a playoff berth is a strong one.
NYR Get: C Tomas Hertl
SJS Get: 2022 2nd Rd. Pick, C Filip Chytil & D Matthew Robertson
In a trade for Hertl, the Rangers would send their third line center, Chytil to San Jose along with one of two second-round picks in their draft stockpile. In return, Drury gives Gerard Gallant and the Rangers a big center who has scored 25 goals and 46 points this year. Immediately, Hertl would be an offensive improvement over second line center, Ryan Strome, but that is not the point.
The point is that Hertl can handle driving to the front of the net or winning battles in the playoffs that Dryden Hunt and Strome cannot. Furthermore, this top-six center who is still in his prime would be a great replacement for right wing Dryden Hunt who has 14 points to go with a -4 plus-minus rating this season. Hertl is versatile because he can play on the right wing or at his primary spot, center, he is bigger than the Ranger forwards he might replace and has put up more points than any Ranger during the 2020-22 season except for their best forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Hertl seems like he would fit perfectly on the Rangers and Drury should keep a close eye on the center in San Jose from now until next Wednesday.
Rangers-Coyotes Trade History
The Rangers and Coyotes have made many trades together in recent decades and none stands out more than the trade these two teams worked out on June 23, 2017. Almost five years ago, the Rangers sent Derek Stepan and Anti Raanta to Arizona for the seventh-overall pick in the 2017 Draft and Anthony DeAngelo. New York ended up selecting Lias Andersson, who fell well short of expectations and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 2021.
However, the Rangers had no idea Andersson would turn out to be that insignificant and this deal was a good one for both teams. The Rangers traded Stepan, who had averaged 40-60 points for six seasons but was declining and Raanta, a solid backup goaltender. In return general manager Gorton acquired Anthony DeAngelo. ‘Tony D’ led Ranger defenseman in scoring during the 2019-20 season. Currently, the rumor winds swirling around in Arizona have cried ‘Phil Kessel is leaving,’ but it’s worth pointing out that the aging goal scorer, Kessel is not the only option that teams might consider trading for at the deadline. Arizona has several young forwards who would be solid additions to specifically the bottom-six forward group on the New York Rangers.
If Ranger general manager Chris Drury is looking for size, he can look no further than the six-foot-four, 215-pound Lawson Crouse. The 24-year-old Crouse has been one of the only bright spots on this last-place Coyotes team because he’s scored 19 goals and 13 assists while mostly playing on Arizona’s fourth line this season. On the other hand if Drury is looking to add veteran depth, then the Coyotes can give him Nick Ritchie. The 6’2″, 230-pound left winger is nothing special offensively but he would be yet another big body that can be added to a Rangers bottom-six that already includes the grit of Barclay Goodrow and renowned enforcer, Ryan Reaves.
ARI get Vitali Kravstov & 2nd rd. pick (2022)
NYR get RW Crouse & LW Nick Ritchie and a
The Rangers would need to give Arizona a second-round pick for one of the ‘Yotes biggest and baddest young forwards. Then from a financial perspective, the Rangers would do the rebuilding Coyotes a favor by taking Ritchie and his $2.5 million salary off their hands. Overall, if this trade were to happen it would give New York not one, but two tough bottom-six forwards who would step right in on their fourth line or third line, improving both drastically. From Arizona’s perspective, they would do this because it will give them even more draft capital. This would add to the 12 draft picks that the ‘Yotes already have in stock but since they have so many draft picks, the Rangers include Vitali Kravtsov. Kravstov is a forward who has potential in the NHL because of his great size (6’3″) and skill set and the former first-round pick might appeal to a Coyotes team that lacks skill up front.
It’s going to be an exciting week of NHL Trade Deadline rumors. Will Claude Giroux, who has been captain of the Philadelphia Flyers for 14 years depart the City of Brotherly Love? Will general managers, like Chris Drury who is handling his first trade deadline squeeze in the pressure-cooker of New York City choose to make smaller moves rather than trade for Giroux and sell the Ranger future to a division rival? The ball is in your court, Drury and the ‘Garden Faithful’ are counting on you to help the Rangers get one step closer to becoming a contender for the Stanley Cup.
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