The Rangers and the second line center situation
The Rangers are 2-0-0, and off to a hot start. Their top line is firing on all cylinders, and where after adjustments, the defense played a lot better in the second game. Lundqvist, aside from one softy, was brilliant in the opening game against the Jets, and Georgiev was also fantastic against the Senators in game number 2.
The biggest concern, is the second line center spot. The Rangers top line of Panarin-Zibanejad-Buchnevich have a combined fifteen(!) points through the first two games. They are a fantastic trio at the top, but the depth after them has struggled through two games. The other three lines combined have a total of six points. Ryan Strome has not done the job, and appears to be impacting Kreider and Kakko on his wings. So what can the Rangers do to get some help down the middle?
Starting From Within:
I, as well as many others feel as if a current Ranger deserves a crack at the 2C spot. Whether it’s calling up Chytil from Hartford and giving him a shot there, or letting Lias Andersson or Brett Howden get an opportunity, something needs to be done. I personally think that Andersson has earned the right at the spot, but it remains to be seen what will happen. At this point, with the lack of production through two games, I would like to see someone other than Strome get a chance there.
Exploring The Trade Market:
Over the summer, I was personally a big advocate of trading for Nazeem Kadri because of how thin the Rangers were at center.
After his trade to Colorado, I immediately shifted focus to another potential target…Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Edmonton has a lot of money tied up in players, and Nugent-Hopkins will see a big raise when his current deal is up, and I do not think Edmonton can afford him.
Nugent-Hopkins has this year, and next year left on his current deal carrying an AAV of $6 million. He finished last season with a career high 69 points, and has eclipsed the 50 point mark four times in his eight seasons in the league. Nugent-Hopkins is currently 26 years old, and will be 28 when he signs his next deal. I do not know what the price would be for Nugent-Hopkins, but being that he has term on his deal, and he is a center at a reasonable cap hit for this year and next, I expect the price to be high.
The Oilers no longer have Chiarelli running the show, and Ken Holland knows a thing or two about how to run a hockey team. I am not going to come up with a trade proposal because I do not know what the price of things in the NHL costs anymore! I can tell you that the Rangers have the assets to acquire Nugent-Hopkins.
The only issue with Nugent-Hopkins is that he will be due in two summers, where Zibanejad is due in three. Also, many believe that 2019 second round pick, Karl Henriksson, has a chance to be the 2C of the future. It will be interesting to see the path the Rangers, including Gorton, go to address the second line center position this year.