As the trade deadline quickly approaches, contending teams are looking to bolster their lineup with some talent as they hope to go on a long playoff run. While the rebuilders look to gain assets, especially draft picks for this star-studded 2023 class with a transcendent talent at the top in Connor Bedard.
The Early Birds
The New York Rangers, General Manager Chris Drury, made his two big splashes well before the deadline by acquiring 2019 Stanley Cup Champion and perennial 30-goal scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, as well as depth defenseman, Niko Mikkola in a trade with St. Louis. The Rangers also did a deal with the Ottowa Senators, which swapped fourth-liners Julien Gauthier for Tyler Motte. Motte, a fan favorite on the Rangers' run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, adds his gritty play style to the lineup and his penalty killing abilities.
However, with roughly a million in cap space, fans and the media alike seem to believe that the blueshirts may make another move. In what would be his final edition before gearing up for what they believe will be a long playoff run. Drury can take a few different routes to add his final piece. The rumor, which has swirled for years now of adding Patrick Kane seems more and more like a pipe dream as each day goes by, but is still possible. This trade would require them to waive forward Jake Leschyshyn, trade Russian winger Vitali Kravstov for Kane, and need a third party team to help retain salary to get it to 75%, according to PuckPedia. As I said before, this is just too many moving parts, and to add to things, Kane is still unsure if he wants to move due to a built in NMC which is still having him on the fence.
New York's Rental Options
Photo Credit: Jess Starr of San Jose Sharks forward Nick Bonino
With that being said, although they have just a sliver of cap space, there are some solid options out there that New York may pursue. One name on the market is San Jose Sharks 34-year-old center and two-time Stanley Cup champion, Nick Bonino, is a name popping up on a lot of trade watching boards due to making just $2 million this year and will be a UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) this summer. At a 50% retention rate, the Rangers' front office can make this happen. Adding to the bottom six is paramount, and adding Bonino could be the last piece to this Rangers team.
Staying within the Western Conference, (And the name Nick) another player the Rangers may inquire about is Nick Bjugstad. The 6’6 Florida Panther center would also be a nice get for New York. However, he may cost them more. In 57 games this season, he has 23 points, including 13 goals. With a trade deadline approaching, the price for a bottom six forward may increase rapidly with several teams attempting to buy.
When boiling down all of these potential moves, adding a star player like Kane would require New York to likely give draft picks, as well as top prospects in Brennan Othmann, Zac Jones, Will Cuylle, etc… But adding a depth player who can play with that physicality that playoff hockey requires may be just what the doctor ordered for the Rangers. This deadline and the last, Drury has made it clear he is not ready to mortgage the future yet.
Drury has made solid moves that have most certainly improved the team over the past two seasons while also keeping all of his top prospects. He might not be done yet though, as Drury may have one more trick up his sleeve, and when he does, buckle up Ranger fans because you’re in for a wild ride that is playoff hockey.