Jake Guentzel heading to Carolina; where do the Rangers go from here?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
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Multiple reports indicate that the prized target of the NHL Trade Deadline, Jake Guentzel, will be traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. So what’s next for the New York Rangers?

On Thursday, the rumor mill was churning that the Rangers were really in on Guentzel. However, up until late Wednesday the Blueshirts were rarely mentioned as a destination. Previous reporting also indicated that highly-touted prospects Brennan Othmann and Gabe Perreault were not available. Additionally, Kaapo Kakko was supposedly not an option to move either.

Yet, all of sudden, there were talks that a first-round pick, and possibly Othmann or Kakko were heading the other way. It just seemed like an abrupt role-reversal for Rangers general manager Chris Drury. Especially when you consider Guentzel is a rental.

Normally, inter-divisional trades are rare, but he’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion and top-notch scoring forward that could put a team over the top. The 29-year-old has scored 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) in 50 games this season. He’s a pending UFA with an AAV of $6 million, and the Penguins will likely retain some of that cap hit to improve the trade package.

At this time, it appears one of Pittsburgh GM Kyle Dubas’ former players from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Michael Bunting is part of the package from Carolina that will surely include a combination of pick(s) and protect(s).

Ultimately, the Penguins got what they wanted. And if it was Drury’s plan to get in there to raise the price on a potential playoff opponent, mission accomplished.

Where do the Rangers go from here?

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Toronto Maple Leafs
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Forever Blueshirts reported in February that Frank Vatrano has been the Rangers top trade target. According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, the Rangers rejected a bigger trade with the Anaheim Ducks already.

“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.”

Is it possible that Drury was also trying to enter the Guentzel sweepstakes to lower the price on Vatrano? If so, the news that the Hurricanes have landed Guentzel may mean he overplayed his hand and will need to give the Ducks a first-round pick and a decent prospect to reel Vatrano in.

Vatrano, 29, has registered 49 points (29 goals, 20 assists) in 62 games this season. He knows the Rangers locker room and fit in nicely when they made a run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2022. Plus, he has one-year left on his contract with a $3.65 million AAV which means Drury won’t have to try and address this position at the next deadline.

Another option that the Rangers can turn to for depth on the right wing is Jason Zucker of the Arizona Coyotes. Anthony Duclair was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning by the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, removing another option.

As for talks of a reunion with Pavel Buchnevich, the price is expected to be a lot higher than Vatrano’s. That goes up even higher if the St. Louis Blues retain salary.

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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