Free Agent target Phillip Danault would be a perfect third line center for New York Rangers

rangers free agent targets
May 29, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the warm-up session before the game six against Toronto Maple Leafs of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

As the Jack Eichel trade talks intensify and the Rangers seemingly no longer a likely destination, focus needs to shift to the third line. Filip Chytil is currently penciled in that spot, but after several years still looks better suited to the wing.

Chytil is also looking to score more, which is great. The issue is the 3C position calls for key defensive responsibilities, like winning face-offs. which Chytil can’t do. For his career, he’s only won 39.6% of the draws he’s taken.

Looking at the list of summer free agent pivots, a name is starting to stand out. A player who can shutdown the opposition, win draws regularly, and chip in offensively.

Free Agent target Phillip Danault

The Montreal Canadiens are still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Phillip Danault’s defensive work is a big reason for that. Through 13 postseason games, Danault has only two assists while playing an average of 19:09 per game. What stands out is his defensive work shutting down team’s top lines and his face-off winning percentage of 53%.

During the regular season, he put up a respectable 24 points in 53 games. His face-off percentage of 52.5 shows his consistency and effectiveness in the dots. For his career, he wins 53.8% of the draws he takes. This is an area of weakness for the Blueshirts and one they need to address this offseason.

If the Rangers opt to target Danault, it will be to change the dynamic of their third line which is one dimensional at the moment. Vitali Kravtsov‘s development would be helped greatly by having a better puck distributor who is defensively responsible.

Another benefit is adding another Francophone player to the lineup to help Alexis Lafrenière along. Of course, it looks like the rookie adjusted just fine without one, but it’s always nice to have someone who speaks your native language around.

Danault may be too expensive

Phillip Danault free agent
Phillip Danault is set to be a UFA (Getty Images)

The 28 year-old pivot is coming off a deal that paid $3 million per season. Earlier this season, the two sides ceased contract negotiations. According to published reports it claims he rejected a 6 year deal with an AAV of $5 million in September.

“At the beginning (of this season) everything changed as soon as I came here … contract-wise, everything,” Danault said. “So all the stuff that was going around it was definitely an adaptation on my game and mentally. Those things, too, I don’t want the team to get affected, so that’s why I don’t talk about it.”

Montreal Gazette

It is believed that Danault would like to stay with Montreal, but if he does hit free agency he will be sought after. However, the Rangers should not pay more than $5 million for a third line center who has only good offensive ability. If they do, that must limit the term to no more than three years which would probably have Danault looking elsewhere.

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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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