New York Rangers may be forced to go free agent route for a center

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May 22, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck (16) and New York Rangers center Andrew Copp (18) battle after a face-off during the third period in game three of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Rangers have reportedly been trying to trade for a center since they were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Teams they’ve spoken to about a deal are the Vancouver Canucks for J.T. Miller and the Winnipeg Jets regarding both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele. Of the three, Miller appears to be the best possibility but with free agency opening on Wednesday time to make a good trade is running out.

The Rangers can use the possibility of signing a free agent on July 13 as leverage in a trade. Once the UFA window opens and players fly off the board, the advantage will shift completely to the other side. That means GM Chris Drury may need to pivot from the trade market and sign a UFA.

Ultimately, there’s no real easy answer on the UFA market. Big name centers like Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux, and Evgeni Malkin are simply too expensive and will ask for more years than the Rangers want to give.

Here’s a look at some realistic options that could fill in the second-line center position.

New York Rangers free agent center targets

andrew copp
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Copp, 28 y/o: (72 GP, 21 G, 32 A, 53 PTS – $3.64M AAV)

The most recent reporting has the Rangers still in communication with the versatile forward for a return. Previously, it was believed that Copp wanted at least a 5 year-deal with an AAV of $5.5M. If the money is the same, that wouldn’t be the hangup. New York has cap concerns that become harder to navigate starting next summer. As will be the case with many of the UFAs on this list, the number of years on a new deal will be the biggest issue. With that said, the Rangers really liked what Copp brought to the team and would love to have him back.

Vincent Trocheck, 29 y/o: (81 GP, 21 G, 30 A, 51 PTS – $4.75M AAV)

There’s been interest in Trocheck dating back to his time with the Panthers. However, as a UFA he will command a nice increase that could see him break the $6M AAV mark. If that’s the case, this a non-starter for Drury. Regardless, as I mentioned before, term will be the biggest hurdle and Trocheck will absolutely be looking for at least 5-years. However, there’s more room to work with Trocheck than there is Kadri, Malkin, or Giroux as mentioned earlier.

Dylan Strome, 25 y/o: (69 GP, 22 G, 26 A, 48 PTS – $3M AAV)

new york rangers dylan strome
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple reports, the¬†Chicago Blackhawks¬†will not extend a qualifying offer to RFA Dylan Strome making him a UFA. Aside from the awkwardness of signing Ryan Strome’s younger brother, this could make some sense but it’s not without risk. While I believe the Rangers can get him on their terms, you’re taking a huge chance that he may not be able to cut it as a 2C. Plus, if all things are equal, Dylan may want to play in Edmonton with his good buddy Connor McDavid. Basically, if he’s available this isn’t a slam dunk signing.

Colin White, 25 y/o: (24 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 PTS – $4.75M AAV)

The former first-round pick from the 2015 NHL Draft (21st overall) had a very tough season. After a dislocated shoulder that required surgery ended his year, the Senators bought out his contract thus making him a UFA at just 25. There are a lot of teams interested in him, but he’s likely better suited for a third-line role at first. If the Rangers are willing to give Filip Chytil a chance at 2C, White could be had a very reasonable price.

Calle Jarnkrok, 30 y/o: (66 GP, 12, 18 A, 30 pts – $2M AAV)

New York was reportedly interested in Jarnkrok at the trade deadline before the Calgary Flames swooped in a gave up three draft picks for a rental. While Jarnkrok isn’t an answer for 2C, he would be a great third line center which would allow Chytil to move up in the lineup.

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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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