An Early look at the Rangers, the NHL Trade Deadline, and Expansion Draft
The NHL trade deadline is February 28. With an expansion draft looming, this promises to be to be an explosive trading season.
There are a lot more teams, than in recent years, that have put themselves in the position of sellers already. With teams only allowed to protect 8-10 skaters from their organization (of the players with more than 2 years pro experience), General Managers will be very proactive in trading assets they could potentially lose for nothing to Las Vegas.
Rangers Quest: Top 4 D-Man
Since the start of the season, when Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba publicly demanded a trade, all of hockey’s clued-in insiders have enthusiastically declared that the Rangers were all in on a top 4 defenseman.
Of course, many teams are seeking such a player. And the price on these players goes up, it seems, like gold prices. The public price on Trouba was supposedly a left-handed defenseman equal to Jacob Trouba. Insiders say the asking price on Colorados’ Matt Duchene starts with young defensemen. They are both a huge commodity.
There are important things to consider in any trades. The Rangers will be protecting 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. Rick Nash at forward, Dan Giardi and Marc Staal on defense, and Henrik Lundqvist have no movement clauses and need to be protected.
Ryan McDonagh is the third lock on defense. Brady Skjei is exempt because he has less than 2 years combined of AHL and NHL experience. If the Jets called and offered Trouba to the Rangers for Brady Skjei, for example, it would throw the expansion draft protected list into chaos. They would have to protect Trouba or likely any signed NHL defenseman they acquired.
Which would mean protecting 4 defensemen and 4 forwards, with one being Rick Nash. So now pick 3 of Miller, Hayes, Krieder, Zuccarello, Zibanejad and Stepan. Good Luck.
Now, hypothetically Trouba has cost you Skjei and one of the 6 forwards I just mentioned.
There’s always a Loophole
General Managers are a clever group. Since the rules governing expansion were announced, all of the have been trying to figure out a way to protect an extra player or 2.
One way is to ask any of the guys with no movement clauses (Nash, Staal, Girardi or Lundqvist) to give written permission to allow themselves to be unprotected. Nash, with one year left on his deal, would probably say no. He would have a good chance at being selected, and have a great chance at being traded in season.
That would necessitate 2 moves in less than a year which I am sure he and his young family would be adverse to doing. There is really no chance Lundqvist would be asked since he is the face of the franchise. Which leaves Staal and Girardi.
In my opinion, Staal stands a good chance at being selected since top 4 defensemen are at a premium. I can’t see any way he allows himself to be unprotected. Dan Girardi is different though. Even though his contract is front loaded, the likelihood that would be selected almost zero.
I believe there is a better than average chance he would allow himself to be unprotected, in which case the Rangers would protect Nick Holden or Ryan Graves. Unless they traded for a defenseman that would need to be protected.
Keep in mind, when the Vegas Golden Knights pick a player, they may be picking that player to trade him to another team right away. For example, there is a very good chance the Islanders will leave Ryan Strome unprotected. Vegas could select him and swap him to Arizona for an agreed upon beforehand price, to team him with brother Dylan Strome.
Deals like this will happen multiple times during the expansion draft, as history tells us, from previous expansion drafts.
Some Possible Targets
In March of 2015, Keith Yandle was traded by Arizona to the Rangers. Very few if any saw that deal coming. When you look at the landscape, the value of guys like Yandle is extremely high and difficult to see that type of player being dealt.
Out of it teams like the Islanders would probably move Calvin Dehaan rather than potentially lose him for nothing. A guy that may fit the Rangers needs as a right shot defenseman, that is a UFA and had a very good season last year, is Michael Stone(75 gp 6 g 30 a -10 62 pim) from the Coyotes.
Some forwards that the Rangers may have interest in, depending on the slumping Brandon Pirri and Oscar Lindberg, are Patrick Sharp from Dallas, or if they want a guy with snarl, Ryan White from Arizona.
With injured forwards Rick Nash, Pavel Buchnevich, and Mika Zibanajad expected back in the next week to 10 days, the Rangers will have 6 weeks to evaluate their needs and the market. More teams will probably drop to the rank of seller in that time.
A top 4 defenseman is clearly a target, but there are circumstances to take into account. What will the Rangers do? What would you do? Comment below.