Jason Zucker becoming plan B trade deadline option for Rangers

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have a little less than 48 hours to make a deal for a top-six winger as the Friday, 3 p.m. ET deadline draws near. As they continue to pursue Frank Vatrano, Jake Guentzel and possibly Pavel Buchnevich, another name is expected to enter the chat.

Jason Zucker of the Arizona Coyotes is a pending UFA, who could very well be where the Rangers land if they fail to acquire any of the current big names on the board.

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.

It is believed the Rangers have extensively scouted Zucker, who was also recently held out of the Coyotes lineup for trade-related reasons.

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Rangers fallback option Jason Zucker

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

While a reunion with Vatrano remains the top target for the Blueshirts, a new report by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan indicates that 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.”

Ultimately, this is going to come down to the Rangers willingness to part with their first-round pick and a decent prospect or two. There’s no way with them looking to win the Stanley Cup this year, that they’ll create a hole on the third-line right wing to close the one they have on their first. So, don’t expect Kakko to be going anywhere.

As fans continue to clamor for Jake Guentzel, one League source asked which Rangers’ left wing will he bump down the lineup? Understanding that Guentzel is better on the left side and the huge package the Penguins are asking for a rental, it’s not surprising that the Carolina Hurricanes are favored to land him. And let’s not discount the Vancouver Canucks getting creative in order to make that deal.

Late yesterday, a report surfaced that the St. Louis Blues would be willing to get “creative” in trading Pavel Buchnevich. The Blues would have to retain half of Buchnevich’s $5.8 million salary which carries through the 2024-25 season. 

Can you imagine what that would cost the Rangers? You have to start with their 2024 first-round pick and a top prospect. That could be Brennan Othmann, as Kakko likely would not move that needle enough. However, we know Drury balked at a first and Kakko for two players in Vatrano and Henrique. Plus, it’s been reported that the Rangers will shut down any trade talk if Othmann or Gabe Perreault are brought up.

Forever Blueshirts also learned that Sharks’ pending UFA Anthony Duclair is not high on the Rangers list. Ultimately, when you eliminate all of these names, Zucker becomes the most likely trade acquisition.

Bottom line, the Coyotes will need to retain 50 percent of his $5.3 million cap hit ($2.65) in order for this deal to work. The ask should not be too much in order to make this happen. Something along the lines of two mid-round picks or a B level prospect might get it done.

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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