The Rangers are off to an amazing start this season, but with the playoffs looming, what moves could they make to get better?
The Rangers have had an incredible start to the season, currently third in the hotly contested Metropolitan Division, but they find themselves the sixth-best team in all of hockey. Led by Vezina Trophy candidate Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers find themselves a couple of pieces away from a Stanley Cup run. It is no surprise the Rangers will be active at the March 21st deadline, as GM Chris Drury attempts to build around an extremely talented core. Here we’ll outline 5 trade candidates that could slot in and provide an invaluable amount of talent and leadership come playoff time.
Jakob Chychrun – D, Arizona Coyotes
If the Rangers want to make a huge splash, this is their man. Chychrun, the 23 year-old defenseman, is an elite-level talent on both sides of the puck. Chychrun exploded offensively last season with 18 goals and 41 points in 56 games for the Coyotes. Throughout his career, he has had rock-solid possession statistics and solidified his spot as one of the top young blueliners in the NHL.
It was reported earlier that the Rangers submitted an offer to Arizona, with former first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov headed the other way. A deal for Chychrun would likely include a young defensemen such as K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Zac Jones, or Braden Schneider, along with some draft picks. Looking at the cap situation, Chychrun is signed through the 2024-25 season and carries a cap hit of $4.6 million. The asking price would be a lot, but acquiring Chychrun would mean the Rangers have an elite top 4 for years to come.
Ben Chiarot – D, Montreal Canadiens
If the Rangers due elect to shore up the defense at the deadline, Montreal’s Ben Chiarot could be a great rental option. The Rangers have been looking for a left-handed piece to slot in next to Trouba, and Chiarot fits the bill. Montreal has been one of the worst teams in the league this year and has already traded off star forward Tyler Toffoli to the Flames. Chiarot has 9 points in 45 games and was a key defenseman for the Canadiens in their improbable playoff run last season.
Reports have suggested that the Canadiens are looking for a first-round pick along with a third-rounder, but are open to retaining 50% of his salary ($3.5 Million). The Rangers have more than enough cap space to make the trade, but it will be interesting to see if the Rangers take the bait on Chiarot who has regressed and instead shift their attention to another rental piece such as Mark Giordano of the Seattle Kraken. Nonetheless, Chiarot provides the Rangers with stability and experience on the left-hand side, while lessening the burden on rookie Zac Jones.
J.T. Miller – F, Vancouver Canucks
The 28 year-old forward, is one of the premier players on the trade market this season. The Rangers 2011 first round pick, Miller has one more year left on his deal worth $5.25M before becoming a UFA.
Miller is having an extremely productive season for the Canucks, tallying 51 points in 49 games. It is no shocker that a number of contending teams are in on Miller, and the Rangers will have to provide a hefty package for his services. With Kakko out indefinitely, Drury needs to find a solution to an ever-growing problem in the top six.
The rumored price for Miller is a first round pick, player, and top prospect. It’s steep, but signing Miller could really elevate the Rangers offense to the next level. Vancouver is in the market for a right handed defenseman, which leaves Nils Lundkvist and Braden Schneider as trade options. However, Schneider has cemented himself as a valuable asset with his strong play, leaving him unlikely to be dealt. Of course, disgruntled first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov would also be involved, but this still won’t be enough. This means the Rangers may need to add 22 year-old center Filip Chytil to the mix, meaning they would be parting ways with 3 former first-round picks in exchange for Miller. With center Ryan Strome also due for an extension, parting ways with Chytil could help in retaining both Miller and Strome for next season.
Artturi Lehkonen – LW/RW, Montreal Canadiens
The second Montreal Canadien on this list, Lehkonen is a solid two-way forward who adds depth and a defensive prowess. The 26 year-old is an expert penalty killer, while racking up 20 points in 47 games this season. While he has one year left on his current $2.3M deal, he is a RFA with arbitration rights this offseason. The Flames and Wild are also reportedly interested in Lehkonen, meaning the Rangers may have to outbid several contenders for his services. While he plays on the top line in Montreal, Lehkonen would slot in nicely on the third line. If the Rangers can avoid giving up a high draft-pick or top prospect, Lehkonen remains an intriguing depth option moving forward. The FA of Sammy Blais does play an issue though, as he has a very similar play style to Lehkonen. I believe the Rangers would only pull the trigger on a move for Lehkonen if they are content with letting Blais walk in FA this year.
Tomas Hertl – F, San Jose Sharks
Last but most certainly not least is elite Czech forward, Tomas Hertl. Hertl is in the last year of his $5.625M deal, meaning he could be the perfect rental for the Rangers this season. The Sharks are of course trying to retain the 28 year old, but with talks stagnating, it will be interesting to see if the Sharks cash in on their superstar.
Hertl ranks as number one on numerous trade lists, and is the most in-demand player along with J.T. Miller as we approach the deadline. Like Miller, he can slot in anywhere on offense, providing the Rangers with a consistent scoring option down the stretch and into the playoffs. Hertl has 40 points in 48 games this season, which includes his 22 goals.
As a pure rental, the cost for Hertl goes down slightly meaning the Rangers could acquire him for a first round pick and potentially a roster player such as Julien Gauthier. However with the way Hertl is playing, the Sharks are likely to demand a top prospect as well. The key is not overpaying for Hertl, as the last thing you want is to kill your ability to acquire other pieces. While Hertl does have a three team trade clause, he likely would waive his three team list to have a chance at a Stanley Cup. Trading for Hertl would mean the Rangers are going “all-in” for a championship this year, but it’s important to remember that other moves must be made to create a Championship contending team come May.