Expect the New York Rangers trade rumor mill to pick up steam

Andersson (NY Post)

The Rangers are carrying 8 defensemen, and have their 2017 1st round pick in the minors waiting to get back up to the NHL. Jeff Gorton was backed into a corner by circumstance this training camp, and that’s a good thing. Truth be told, the lineup that takes the ice tomorrow night when the season opens will not be the same when the season ends. Start that New York Rangers trade rumor mill.

Depth on Defense

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Neal Pionk has been a find ever since joining the lineup last year. In the preseason all he did was continue to show why he not only belongs but deserves top 4 minutes. Anthony DeAngelo was part of the deal that sent away fan favorite Derek Stepan to Arizona. In the 2017-18 campaign he wallowed under Alain Vigneault’s failing defensive schema and lack of faith in younger players. DeAngelo was given a fresh slate in camp and looked extremely promising, especially in the offensive zone and on the power play.

In a rebuild year both young blue-liners should be in the starting lineup but a pair of acquisitions and the strong return of Brenden Smith have complicated the issue. The Rangers added physical defenseman Adam McQuaid and depth defenseman Fredrik Claesson this summer and feel they are needed to round out this defense. Of all the players mentioned, only Pionk can be sent down without having to clear waivers. That would make no sense since one could argue that he is the Rangers 3rd best defenseman behind Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei.

The risk of sending down DeAngelo or Smith isn’t worth it because DeAngelo would certainly be taken. Smith could pass through due to his $4M+ salary but if he’s taken the Rangers miss out on a valuable trade chip to continue adding picks and/or prospects.

Ultimately either Smith or DeAngelo will be moved this season. They will not carry 8 D all year, and next season Libor Hajek is just about penned into the lineup. The Rangers must also start thinking about how they will open space for Ryan Lindgren and Sean Day.

Prove Yourself Forwards

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Up front the Rangers have some big decisions to make. Sadly, Mats Zuccarello appears destined to be traded as a rental at the deadline, and maybe even Ryan Spooner. Jeff Gorton simply needs to make room at the very least for Lias Andersson and Vitali Kravtsov.

Kevin Hayes has been given a 1 year show me contract and needs to come out of the gate swinging and producing. Even if he does, the Rangers must reach an extension with him before the trade deadline or he is a goner too. Two other forwards we need to watch are Vlad Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey. Both of them had underwhelming camps but will need to show Gorton what they have in order to make the appropriate decision.

In the end, all three could play really well and still be moved for the right mix of prospects and draft picks. If the Rangers are out of the playoffs near the deadline then moving up in the draft for a chance to win the lottery and draft Jack Hughes needs to be the long term plan.

The season starts tomorrow but rumor mill is already churning. Hey! Did Artemi Panarin sign an extension in Columbus yet? No. Interesting, hmmmmm.


Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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