Chris Drury was looking to improve the New York Rangers bottom six and defense at the trade deadline while retaining their top prospects and not upsetting a fantastic team chemistry that has the team sitting with the fourth best record in the NHL. He made five deals in the last four days and the consensus has to be that the team is better.
- Andrew Copp, C
- Justin Braun, D
- Tyler Motte, C
- Frank Vatrano, RW
- Nick Merkley, RW
- 2023 6th round pick
- Morgan Barron
- 2022 2nd round pick (becomes 1st round pick if Rangers win two playoff rounds and Copp plays at least 50% of the games)
- 2022 or 2023 2nd round pick (Winnipeg’s choice)
- 2023 3rd round pick
- 2022 4th round pick
- 2023 4th round pick
- 2023 5th round pick
- Anthony Bitetto, D
Andrew Copp – Center, wing
Age: 27 years old (turns 28 on July 8)
Born: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Vitals: 6’1″, 206 pounds
Drafted: 4th Round (104th overall), 2014 NHL Entry Draft by Winnipeg
In their biggest deal, the Rangers traded Morgan Barron, a conditional 2022 2nd round pick, another 2nd round pick (Winnipeg’s choice 2022 or 2023) and a 2023 5th round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for center Andrew Copp and a 2023 6th round pick. Copp was one of the most highly sought players at the deadline and is an excellent acquisition. He’s not a sniper, but is having his best offensive season with 13 goals and 35 points. Those numbers would put him fifth among Ranger forwards.
He’s outstanding on faceoffs and made his reputation as defensive forward. His arrival makes an excellent penalty kill even better.
The question is where he will play. He naturally slots into the third line center position and what that means for Filip Chytil remains to be seen. Chytil could move to Copp’s wing, though Copp can also play the wing and that would leave Chytil at center with Copp taking faceoffs.
The Rangers will looking hard at Copp’s play the rest of the season as they could make a play to extend the pending UFA if they think he can slot into the second line center position if Ryan Strome leaves. Copp is coming off a one-year contract that pays $3.64 million and if they want to extend him, he would be cheaper than Strome.
He’s another Michigan native and played with Jacob Trouba in Winnipeg. He was also a teammate at the University of Michigan with Trouba, newly acquired Tyler Motte and former Rangers Phil Di Giuseppe and Boo Nieves.
Tyler Motte – Center, wing
Age: 27 years old (turned 27 on March 10)
Born: St. Clair, Michigan
Vitals: 5’10”, 192 pounds
Drafted: 4th Round (121th overall), 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago
Motte is a versatile forward in the mold of Dryden Hunt, a smaller forward who throws checks and is hard to play against. He has seven goals and 15 points this season in 49 games, the best offensive output of his career. He was one of the top penalty killers on the Canucks.
A product of the University of Michigan where he was a teammate of Andrew Copp, Motte made his debut with Chicago and was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with Artemi Panarin in 2017. The Jackets traded him to Vancouver at the deadline in 2018 in a deal for Tomas Vanek.
He is listed as a center, but has played mostly on the wing and is not great on faceoffs. He has 90 hits this season, has exceeded 100 hits the last three seasons and led the Canucks with 200 hits in 2018-19.
Motte has been prone to injury, missing 32 games last season including a concussion. Her missed 37 game due to injury in 2019-20.
Motte is making $1.225 million this season and with his injury history, he looks to be a short term rental, though the Rangers could choose to bring him back if he plays well, but he may be too expensive for the cap-strapped Blueshirts next season.
Justin Braun – Defense
Age: 35 years old (turned 35 on February 10)
Born: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Vitals: 6’2″, 203 pounds
Drafted: 7th Round (201st overall), 2007 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose
Justin Braun fits the profile of the solid defensive defensman. He’s been a solid, reliable blueliner for the Flyers since they traded for him in June, 2019 in exchange for 2nd and 3rd round draft picks.
He was a regular on the blue line for the San Jose Sharks for nine seasons, mostly paired with Marc Edouard Vlasic. His defense partner in Philadelphia for the last three years was Ivan Provorov.
A right handed shot, he has played almost exclusively on the right side his entire career meaning that if he gets into the lineup regularly, it will be in place of Braden Schneider. While a veteran defenseman should be able to play both sides, he has really spent nearly all of his time on the right side.
He has 100 playoff games on his resume, one big reason he is a solid acquisition for the Rangers. No other Ranger has played as many playoff games as Braun. He made it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Sharks in 2016.
Braun signed a two year deal in 2020 with an AAV of $1.8 million. He’s not coming back next season if he is looking for that kind of money.
Frank Vatrano – Right winger
Age: 28 years old (turned 28 on March 14)
Born: East Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Vitals: 5’11”, 197 pounds
Drafted: Undrafted, signed by Boston in 2015
Vatrano is a sniper who has slotted in nicely with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin, netting his first goal into an empty net against the Carolina Hurricanes. When Kappo Kakko comes back from his injury, Vatrano could move down to the third line, improving the offensive prospects for the bottom six.
He came cheap as the Panthers were looking to clear cap space so they could trade for other assets including Ben Chiarot and Claude Giroux.
This season he has 11 goals and 20 points and is four seasons removed from scoring 24 goals for the Panthers in 2018-19.
He is a pending free agent making $2.53 million and could get a new contract from the Rangers if he plays well and likes it in New York. A former teammate as a teenager with Jacob Trouba, he has fit in well.
Nick Merkley – Right winger
Age: 24 years old (turns 25 on May 23)
Born: Calgary, Alberta
Vitals: 5’11”, 197 pounds
Drafted: 1st Round (30th overall), 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Arizona
In a minor deal, the Rangers sent defenseman Anthony Bitetto to the San Jose Sharks for forward Nick Merkley. The last time we saw Merkley he was playing for the New Jersey Devils.
Merkley has been playing mostly for the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL and this season has 11 goals and 36 points in 43 games. He will be a Group 6 UFA after this season so he will be an addition for the Wolf Pack the rest of this season.
Merkley was a big scorer for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL in junior hockey, resulting in his first round selection. He’s never lived up to his promise and is now with his third NHL organization. He was part of the deal that sent Taylor Hall from New Jersey to the Coyotes.