The New York Rangers have the cap space and the pieces to make a trade for help on defense; the Colorado Avalanche have the player they should target.
It is no secret that the New York Rangers are enjoying a measure of success this season. Ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Stars, the Rangers sit tied for second in the powerhouse Metropolitan Division (20-10-1, 41 points, +34 goal differential) and are one of the top scoring teams in the entire league.
Indeed, despite a constant stream of injuries to key players, the Rangers have stayed above water and succeeded in large part due to their tremendous depth at the forward position.
With bottom-six and AHL players like Michael Grabner, Brandon Pirri, Jesper Fast, Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen eating up key minutes while offensive stars Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich convalesce, the Rangers have gone 6-4 in their last ten games.
But the forwards aren’t the real question weighing on the team. Going into the 2016-17 season, most people recognized that depth and were more worried about the fate of the defense.
Elite puck-mover Keith Yandle headed south to Florida after the Rangers weren’t willing to pay out and retain his services. The well-documented struggles of top-four (at least as far as coach Alain Vigneault is concerned) mainstays Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were swept under the rug with talk of “bounce-back” seasons and injury excuses. One of the major unfulfilled storylines of the summer was the rumor that New York native Kevin Shattenkirk would be traded to Broadway.
The result was a defensive six at the start of the season that, to put it lightly, wasn’t exactly intimidating. Common wisdom was that the Rangers had Ryan McDonagh and then five question marks.
He’s young, fast and moves the puck well.
The season thus far has done little to dispel these concerns, as Girardi continues to get top-pairing minutes and drag down McDonagh, Kevin Klein has noticeably regressed, and even the improvement of Staal and emergence of rookie Brady Skjei hasn’t helped the Rangers poor puck work deep in their own zone.
Their shot metrics have suffered accordingly: New York sits 27th in the league in 5v5 Corsi For% at 47.2%.
Accordingly, when taken in conjunction with the large amount of cap space the Rangers are projected to have at the trade deadline, speculation that the Rangers will make a move for a top-four D has continued.
But with Kevin Shattenkirk a pending UFA this summer, the Rangers shouldn’t put their eggs in his basket. Instead, they should look to the Colorado Avalanche, a team wallowing in the chaos of an unexpected late summer coaching change and severely underperforming.
The Colorado Avalanche have plenty of trade incentive
Since the Avs let Paul Stastny walk in the summer of 2014 and traded Ryan O’Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres the following year, they have struggled to ice a complete forward lineup. Journeymen like Blake Comeau and Rene Bourque were brought in to help, but haven’t been the solution.
Colorado’s struggles have sparked rumors of all kinds. They could clearly use a shakeup, and it seems Nathan MacKinnon is the only player off-limits. Meanwhile, Colorado’s expected production from 25-year-old defenseman Tyson Barrie hasn’t been there.
Barrie’s stat line is a shadow of itself from past years. Where the last two seasons he posted 53 and 49 points in 80 and 78 games, respectively, his numbers this season reflect the Avs’ struggles: 2 goals, 11 assists in 28 games and 44.3% CF (-0.72% from last year). He’s on pace for 6 goals; the past three seasons have seen him average 13.
With the Avalanche in dire straits, in need of help up front, the Rangers should look into dealing from their position of strength to acquire Barrie.
He’s young, fast, and moves the puck well. Importantly, he’s a right-handed shot who can help carry the power play and reduce McDonagh’s heavy workload.
While a trade with Colorado would no doubt take a prime piece, like J.T. Miller or Derek Stepan in addition to a draft pick, Barrie is a rare player of the type the Rangers desperately need to solidify their back end.