5 questions for Rangers after NHL trade deadline

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL trade deadline now squarely in the rearview mirror, the New York Rangers have 20 games to assimilate their new players and prepare for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Though they didn’t land the biggest names on the trade market, the Rangers are confident Jack Roslovic, Alex Wennberg and Chad Ruhwedel will help address their biggest needs. And the Rangers 23-man roster is now deeper and better prepared for a playoff run, especially after the season-ending injuries sustained by Filip Chytil and Blake Wheeler.

But there remain questions that need to be answered by the Blueshirts.

Let’s take a look at the biggest ones.

Related: Jacob Trouba out 2-3 weeks for Rangers

5 questions for Rangers after NHL trade deadline

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

5. How close did Rangers come to acquiring Jake Guentzel, Frank Vatrano or Adam Henrique?

This question really doesn’t matter now because neither Jake Guentzel, Frank Vatrano nor Adam Henrique ended up in New York before the deadline. Each was traded to another team and the Rangers made other, less-splashy, moves.

But it doesn’t mean this isn’t an intriguing question. 

A reunion with Vatrano appeared to be a priority for the Rangers, even after a bigger deal with the Anaheim Ducks which would have included Henrique, was reportedly scuttled by Rangers general manager Chris Drury because of the high cost of doing that level of business.

It’s believed that the Rangers were in on Vatrano until the end. And when it was clear an agreement couldn’t be made, the Rangers were able to land Roslovic shortly before the deadline.

Then there were the wild rumors about Guentzel and how supposedly New York was close to landing, arguably, the biggest prize from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So, yeah, it’d be cool to know how close the Rangers came to making a deal for either forward. Or for Henrique, a center. Drury said he would’ve had no issue trading the Rangers’ first-round draft pick this year in the right deal. But he didn’t say how close he came to doing so. Or for that matter, if he seriously weighed any deal that would’ve cost the Blueshirts Kaapo Kakko, Brennan Othmann, Gabe Perreault or Will Cuylle.

We’ll likely never know the answers. Drury, rightfully so, isn’t giving up that kind of information.

But it remains a question worth asking now that the trade deadline has passed.

4. How much better are Rangers after trade deadline?

Time will tell with this question. But there’s no doubting the Rangers are a deeper team now. There were glaring holes without Chytil and Wheeler in the lineup. Now that’s not the case. Though it’s up to Wennberg and Roslovic to prove just how much better they make the Blueshirts.

Wennberg is the easiest of the three additions to assess. He’s a solid two-way veteran center, who’s experienced at playing a shutdown checking role against the opposition’s best players. Wennberg’s role will be huge in the playoffs.

Roslovic is a wild card, a talented former first-round pick who’s been wildly inconsistent in the NHL. He scored 22 goals two seasons ago, but has never topped 12 in any other season. He’s got only six now but is on a heater with 13 points in his past 12 games. Drury’s got to be hoping the timing is right picking up the 27-year-old at this point.

Ruhwedel is a really nice depth piece, a veteran defenseman who can step in to play either side when/if needed. He’s played for a Stanley Cup champion (the Penguins in 2017) and is a nice option should Braden Schneider or Erik Gustafsson struggle on the third pair in the postseason.

3. Will Jack Roslovic or Kaapo Kakko be primary right wing on top line?

It should be expected that Roslovic will get an opportunity right away with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the top line, meaning that Kakko will move back to the third line.

“I do think there’s potential for that to work, yeah,” coach Peter Laviolette said Saturday about Roslovic being up on the top line.

Laviolette also said Roslovic will primarily play right wing, but will get some shifts at center, as well.

With his speed, Roslovic is an intriguing complement on the top line. It could help get Zibanejad untracked 5-on-5 with the speed Roslovic and Kreider can each bring.

But he’s never held down a top-line role for an extended stretch before. So, it’s likely Kakko, who received praise from Drury and Laviolette the past couple days, will get some time up in the lineup again, too. In those instances, expect Roslovic to skate alongside Wennberg and Cuylle.

2. What happens to Matt Rempe, Jonny Brodzinski and Adam Edstrom?

These three players have been surprise sparkplugs for the Rangers this season, especially Rempe since his recall right before the outdoor Stadium Series.

But with Roslovic and Wennberg locks in the lineup, that means each of these three will have their playing time affected. And two will be knocked from the lineup.

Edstrom has already been assigned to Hartford of the American Hockey League. It appears Rempe will remain on the fourth line against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and Brodzinski will be a healthy scratch. But the 30-year-old center could just as easily slot in and knock Rempe from the lineup on any given day.

So, there’ll be competition between those two players with vastly different skill sets. In the long run, Brodzinski could see more playing time as he is trusted to play more minutes than Rempe, who, obviously, provides much more of a physical presence.

None of this should be viewed as a bad thing. It simply means the Rangers now have more quality depth on the roster. That could be a big factor if the Blueshirts make a long playoff run this spring.

1. Will the Rangers hold off the Hurricanes in Metropolitan Division?

The Rangers have been first in the Metropolitan Division every day since late October. And now they’ve fortified their roster for the stretch run and postseason.

But can they hold off the Hurricanes, who are two points back after defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Saturday? Especially after the Hurricanes went all in to add Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov before the deadline and who have Frederik Andersen back in goal after he’s missed most of the season.

The answer to this is, obviously, unknown. We won’t know until we know. 

The Rangers visit the Hurricanes on Tuesday and then do not see them the rest of the regular season. That is until a possible matchup in the second round of the playoffs, when whoever finishes first in the division will have home-ice advantage.

Probably not until then will it be known if the Rangers deadline approach was better than the Hurricanes.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

Mentioned in this article:

More About: