Once a valuable staple to the Rangers defense core, the Rangers now need to decide if they are going to keep, cut, or trade Kevin Klein.
When the New York Rangers acquired Kevin Klein from Nashville in January of 2014, the team knew they got a solid stay-at-home defenseman. However, in his first two full seasons with the team, Klein scored nine goals each season, giving the Rangers an unexpected boost of offense from the blue line.
This season was a different story, as Klein managed just three goals all year, and was a bigger liability in his own end.
At 32 years old, this problem is unlikely to go away. Once a mainstay in coach Alain Vigneault’s lineup, Klein was stapled to the bench throughout the playoffs. He played only one game against Montreal.
The question is, what should the Rangers do with the declining defenseman?
The New York Rangers should look to trade him.
It could be argued keeping Klein would be the smartest move. Klein has one year left on his contract, and counts just $2.9 million against the cap.
Klein is cheap enough to keep for depth purposes, but doesn’t fit the teams identity. The Rangers need a defenseman who can skate well, and Klein struggled mightily against faster opponents.
Likewise, the Rangers already have enough depth options on the roster.
Steve Kampfer was just re-signed to a two year extension at $650,000 per, and Adam Clendening proved to be a valuable puck moving defenseman that can likely be resigned for cheap.
The Rangers also just signed college defenseman Neil Pionk from Minnesota Duluth, and have Ryan Graves waiting in Hartford. There is no room for Klein, and he is better off somewhere else.
Who would trade for him?
The New York Rangers struggles on defense are well documented, but the market for a right-handed defenseman is paper thin. Their are many teams in the market for a defenseman, just like the Rangers.
As mentioned before, Klein’s cap hit makes it easy to keep him, but it also makes it easy to trade him.
Many teams would gladly take on an experienced veteran like Klein as a cheap option to solidify the back end of their blue line. Klein would provide a new team with good veteran leadership, a physical edge, and a lot of intensity.
One team that comes to mind that would trade for Klein is the Dallas Stars. The Stars finished last season at a disappointing 34-27-11, and were 29th in the league in goals allowed.
While the Stars averaged a respectable 2.71 goals for, they allowed an average of 3.17 goals against.
After trading for goaltender Ben Bishop, the Stars will want to make sure he is well protected. For a mid-round pick, this seems like a fair price to pay.
Another team that may be a good trade partner for Klein are the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are one or two defensemen away from being cup contenders in the East.
Would Las Vegas take Klein in the expansion draft?
With the expansion draft looming, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will have many options to choose from. Unfortunately, it is unlikely Klein will be one of them.
The only way Klein would go to Vegas is if the New York Rangers traded them a pick, and ensured Klein would be selected in the expansion draft.
The Rangers are likely to lose a talented player in the expansion draft. Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast, Antti Raanta, and Oscar Lindberg are among the players who will be exposed.
Certainly, the Rangers would love to keep all those players mentioned over a player like Klein.
While that is a possibility, the Golden Knights likely want to select a better player. If the Rangers were to bribe Vegas to take someone, they would likely target Nick Holden instead. The Rangers are better off getting a draft pick in return elsewhere.
The Rangers have a first round pick for the first time since 2012, and are already a young team. Stockpiling extra draft picks in the middle rounds will be a nice exchange for a defenseman who the Rangers no longer have a need for.