Jack Eichel, Aleksander Barkov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, those names get thrown around in trade rumors and it’s like ringing the dinner bell. Everyone gets caught up in the fervor of trying to acquire them that you have to ask yourself – is it necessary?
Don’t get me wrong, any of the three I just mentioned would make the Rangers better. And it was the Rangers themselves that started all this focus on a trading for a center. When reports surfaced they offered the Sabres a trade for Jack Eichel last offseason, it set fans and the media in motion.
However, that was a long time ago. Even though they remained interested in bringing in Eichel up until about the time his neck injury. That’s when their desire cooled. Since then, Mika Zibanejad busted out of a terrible slump and Ryan Strome continues to prove he’s as good a number two center you will find – and he’s affordable.
The Rangers don’t need to trade for a top center
Let’s be honest for a moment, the Rangers do not need to trade for a top center. That’s not me saying they won’t, but the urgency everyone assumed was there is no longer the same. Listen, there’s 31 teams in the NHL so assume there’s an almost equal amount of #1 centers. This season, Zibanejad finished 19th among pivots with .89 points per game. Ryan Strome recorded .88 points per game, good for 22nd.
Why bring that up? Because Strome who makes only $4.5 million finished ahead of these following centers:
- Jack Eichel (.86) – $10M AAV
- Brayden Point (.86) – $6.75M
- Evgeni Malkin (.85) – $9.5M
- Mathew Barzal (.82) – $7M
- Claude Giroux (.80) – $8.275M
Is the picture becoming clearer? Plus, Strome is a locker room leader and has chemistry with Artemi Panarin.
Revamping the bottom six is now the top priority
Chris Drury understands that the team is not currently constituted to play playoff hockey. This summer, he will reconstruct the bottom six via trades and free agency. There’s no guarantee he will be able to sign Casey Cizikas away from the Islanders come July 28th.
He could make a run at UFA Luke Glendening to center the 4th line and win face-offs. There’s a possibility center Sean Monahan in Calgary could be had in the right deal as well. He and Strome could battle it out for second line center with either one of them playing third line pivot and making the Rangers extremely deep down the middle.
There will be other moves likely – maybe adding a Jordan Martinook in free agency for example. The point being, this has to be about getting a tougher and harder team to play against on the ice. Gerard Gallant isn’t a big analytics guy, he’s definitely old school and has had an enforcer almost everywhere he’s coached. Ryan Reaves in Vegas being the last guy.
It’s Drury’s responsibility now to give Gallant the tools he needs to succeed. With that said, Jack Eichel at the right price may still happen.
Jack Eichel trade talk is picking up – read more.