Frank Vatrano near top of Rangers’ wish list for the trade deadline

NHL: New York Rangers at Anaheim Ducks
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will be buyers at the NHL Trade Deadline come Mar. 8th at 3 p.m. ET. Although there are many names linked to the Blueshirts, one keeps staying near the top of their wish list and it’s Frank Vatrano.

“I keep hearing his name, but they are going to have to do something to entice Pat Verbeek (Ducks GM) to move him,” a source told Forever Blueshirts. “He’s not in the position where he’s walking out the door for nothing, so he won’t be looking to sell at any cost.”

To date, the 29-year-old has 26 goals and 45 points in 57 games. Vatrano is also an All-Star with one more year left on his deal at an affordable $3.65 million. According to another source, Verbeek knows Vatrano is his biggest trade chip. So any team looking to get him will certainly need to give up something decent for his services.

Related: Grim Rempe putting fear into Rangers’ opponents

Frank Vatrano near top of Rangers wish list

NHL: NHL All-Star Thursday
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

At the All-Star game in Toronto, our Jim Cerny caught up with Vatrano who made it clear he was unaware of any trade rumors.

“I’m happy in Anaheim, I love it there,” Vatrano said. “Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere but that’s way out of my control. I’m excited to be in Anaheim right now.”

That being said, the speedy winger with a blazing shot spoke glowingly of his time in New York alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

“Playing with two guys like Mika and ‘Kreids,’ it was great for me,” Vatrano noted. “I proved to myself and to a lot of people that I could play in a top-six role, especially at the highest level in the playoffs.”

New York acquired Vatrano from the Florida Panthers for a fourth-round pick back in 2022. He scored eight goals and 13 points in 22 regular-season games, then added five goals and 13 points in 20 playoff contests, eventually losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

However this time around, it’s going to take a whole lot more to pry him out of Anaheim. The question is just how much more? As always, it depends on the market, and there are several cheaper options out there for the Rangers, including Anthony Duclair with the San Jose Sharks.

According to one source, it may not require the Rangers to give up their first-round pick. A package that starts with their 2024 second-round pick along with either prospect Brett Berard or Matthew Robertson may be enough.

Berard, 21, is having a fine season with the Hartford Wolf Pack scoring 17 goals and 34 points in 49 games. The forward has excellent speed, an above average shot, and makes solid reads in his own zone. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Robertson has the potential to be a top-four defenseman. This season, he’s registered four goals and 20 points in 46 games.

Of course, if there is a bidding war, that second-round pick may need to be a conditional first rounder. And while acquiring Vatrano would help the Rangers concerns for a top-six right wing, a depth center is still a need.

Tyler Johnson with the Chicago Blackhawks is the name gaining steam to fill that role. Elliotte Friedman first mentioned him while he was injured, but now the 33-year-old pivot is back and playing well. In his last six games, he has three goals and five points. However, it was stressed to me that his playoff experience is what’s really attractive.

For his career, Johnson has played in 116 postseason games picking up 65 points (32 goals, 33 assists) and winning two Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning (2019-20 and 2020-21).

At the end of day, the NHL Trade Deadline is a fun time for fans, but stressful for many of the players. Things can also change with one phone call, making it the most intriguing time of a long season.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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