All quiet on the trade front (so far) as playoff race heats up

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 02: Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 02: Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

There is no news to report about the New York Rangers as they prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on national television.  For what it’s worth, the Blueshirts have  7-4  record on when nationally televised so that is a reason to hope for a positive result tonight.  They will have Igor Shesterkin in net with Alexandar Georgiev taking on the Hurricanes tomorrow.

The only notable transaction on Friday in the NHL involved the Lightning as they sent two first round picks and two prospects to the Black Hawks for Brandon Hagel and two fourth round picks.  While many thought the Bolts gave up way too much, this is the kind of deal that they have been making for the last few years and no one can argue with the results.  Hagel is a left winger on track for a 30 goal season who is signed for the next two years at an AAV of $1.5 million.  That cap hit alone would have made him a perfect addition for the Rangers moving forward, but obviously, the price was too high for Chris Drury.

He should be in the lineup for Tampa tonight.

The rumor mill

No news to report, but there are rumors.

Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period followed up on the Blackhawks trade by hinting that Chicago would be willing to deal Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.  He also said that practically every player on the Chicago roster could be had.

Of course, the Rangers came up when it came to Kane though fitting his massive salary into their salary cap would be almost impossible, even if Chicago retained as much as half of his salary.  Reuniting Kane and Artemi Panarin would be a delicious scenario and would immediately increase the Rangers odds of going deep in the playoffs.  At any rate, it’s highly unlikely, though you have to be sure that Drury is checking in with Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson.

The Fourth Period is also reporting that Tanner Pearson has been added to the available list and that the Blue Jackets are definitely listening to offers for Max Domi.

Emily Kaplan of ESPN is reporting that the Rangers are doing their due dililgence regarding Phil Kessel. Kessel would be a cheap add for the stretch run, but remember, with only six goals and 31 assists, he is much more of a playmaker than a scorer these days. Still, he has 96 NHL playoff games on his resume and that’s more than anybody on the Rangers’ roster.

If you were curious about playoff experience, here is the Rangers’ list (not including the Stanley Cup Qualifier):

  1. Ryan Reaves- 83 games
  2. Chris Kreider  – 77 games
  3. Barclay Goodrow –  64 games
  4. Mika Zibanejad  – 28 games
  5. Patrik Nemeth – 28 games
  6. Artemi Panarin  27 games
  7. Jacob Trouba – 27 games
  8. Ryan Strome – 15 games
  9. Greg McKegg – 15 games
  10. Frank Vatrano – 12 games

Arthur Staple of The Athletic (subscription required) did a recap of all the likely Rangers trade targets with Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell on the top of the list.   Second was defenseman Mark Giordano of the Seattle Kraken.

All of the other names are the usual suspects and considering the cap implications next season, it is looking less and less likely that Drury will surrender long term assets for a short term rental that they have no chance of extending.

That’s where players like Rakell, Kessel or Giordano could make sense.  They won’t wearing a Rangers uniform next season, but if they cost a mid-level prospect or middling draft pick, it would be worth it.   The Frank Vatrano trade was a perfect example and Drury leveraged his available cap space at this time to get him cheap.

There is no news on two  important issues for the Rangers.  The first is a contract extension for Ryan Strome.  There is virtually no chance they will deal him by Monday if they cannot sign him, but that means he is likely to depart this summer, leaving the Rangers with a gaping hole at center and little cap space to fill it.

Second, no news on the Alexandar Georgiev trade front. He is likely to start against the Hurricanes in a game that some NHL General Managers will be watching.  Vegas remains a team with goaltending problems though there are conflicting reports about the severity of Robin Lehner’s injury.

Monday should be a  busy day on the trade front.

The playoff picture

Friday was a bad night for the Rangers’ playoff picture.  Don’t look now, but the Washington Capitals have closed to within one point of the Blueshirts by beating the Hurricanes in a shootout.  Not only that, but the Bruins beat Winnipeg and are tied with the Rangers with 81 points.

The Rangers have two games in had on the Caps and one on the B’s so the situation isn’t as dire as it looks, but with two tough games on the schedule, the Rangers need to step up.

If the Capitals move into third place in the Metropolitan Division, it drops the Rangers into a wild card spot and remember that the team with the best record in the Conference plays the wild card team with the worst record.  At this point,the Rangers could still play pretty much any team that makes the playoffs in the East, though smart money is still pointing to a first round match up with Pittsburgh.

Of the Rangers final 21 games, only one is with a team from the West with 13 games against Met Division rivals and seven from the Atlantic Division.  The Rangers’ playoff future is in their hands.

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