It’s Frank Vatrano or bust for Rangers on NHL trade deadline day

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Mar 17, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Frank Vatrano (77) takes the ice for the first time as a Ranger following his trade from the Florida Panthers before a game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

NHL trade deadline day has arrived and the New York Rangers are expected to make at least one deal, if not multiple moves.

On Friday, at 3 pm E.T., the buzzer will sound and any chance to improve your roster via trade will pass. Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury missed out on rental winger Jake Guentzel to address their hole on the top six, but there are still plenty of options.

A reunion with Frank Vatrano has always been the Rangers main objective. Now that the Guentzel gambit didn’t pan out, it’s very likely that Drury will need to part with a first-round pick and a B-level prospect to reacquire the speedy winger.

It’s a price worth paying for the 29-year-old All-Star, who has one-more year on his contract with a reasonable $3.65 million cap hit. Plus, Drury doesn’t have to worry about chemistry as he was beloved in the locker-room during his brief stay in 2022.

“Frankie was always an awesome teammate, always an awesome player,” Vincent Trocheck told Forever Blueshirts at All-Star Weekend. “Him being an All-Star is not a surprise based on how he played in the past. It’s more opportunity. He’s a spectacular goal scorer and if you continue to give him the opportunity, he’s going to continue to do great things.”

Can Drury pull this deal off?

Related: Rangers trade board

Rangers need to go all in on Frank Vatrano

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that the Rangers already rejected a bigger trade with the Anaheim Ducks for Vatrano and Adam Henrique due to the high asking price.

“I’ve heard the Ducks offered the Rangers a package deal a few weeks ago that included [Adam] Henrique and Vatrano for [Kaapo] Kakko and a first-round pick,” Kaplan wrote. “The Rangers clearly thought that was too rich for their liking.”

Henrique was moved to the Edmonton Oilers and the Rangers landed on Alexander Wennberg, whom they felt was a better fit. As for Vatrano, Ducks GM Pat Verbeek holds the advantage because he has term and there’s no pressure to move him at this deadline.

That being said, Vatrano’s value is at an all-time high with 29 goals to this point of the season. So Verbeek runs the risk of getting a far less significant return moving him next year.

Currently, the Rangers have $2.9 million in cap space and the Ducks have used up all of their salary retention slots. If Adam Edstrom is included in the trade or sent down, his cap hit of $846,667 makes it $3.7 million which would fit Vatrano in under the cap.

New York and Anaheim could also get creative to involve a third team in order to have them retain a little of Vatrano’s salary to give them some more space, which they could use for recalls or to acquire a depth defenseman.

What are the plan B options?

What if Drury and Verbeek can’t agree to a trade? Where else can the Rangers turn?

Jason Zucker of the Arizona Coyotes is a pending UFA, who could very well be where the Rangers land if they fail to acquire Vatrano.

The 32-year-old has registered 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists) in 51 games to date on a bad Coyotes team. However, when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, Zucker potted 27 goals and 48 points in 78 games.

Another name that the Rangers have had interest in the past is another Penguins winger Reilly Smith.

The 32 year-old has 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 55 games this season. He also won the Stanley Cup last year with the Golden Knights, so he knows what it takes in the postseason. However, he also has one-year left on his deal at $5 million, which likely makes the cost to acquire him prohibitive for the Rangers.

Other names to consider are Tomas Tatar with the Seattle Kraken, who always plays well against the Blueshirts. If you are wondering why not Jordan Eberle, the latest out of Seattle is they are working on a contract extension. Tyler Toffoli of the New Jersey Devils would be an intriguing fit, but it’s extremely unlikely these two teams could get together on that deal.

We are just a few hours away from the deadline closing. What will the Rangers do? We’re going to find out shortly.

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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