New York Rangers trade deadline was never an all in approach

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers were never going to sit idle at the NHL Trade Deadline, which passed last Friday. However, despite a multitude of speculation, they were also never going to mortgage the future for a rental.

That’s why when rumors surfaced they were serious contenders for rental winger Jake Guentzel, it contradicted everything that was reported previously. Pittsburgh’s disappointed general manager, Kyle Dubas, was desperately looking to jumpstart a rebuild, so his ask for a prospect-laden package and a first-round pick was a price that didn’t seem like something the Rangers would do.

By the way the deadline unfolded for the Blueshirts, that proved correct.

Related: 5 Questions for the Rangers after the trade deadline

Rangers trade deadline was never all in approach

Chris Drury Gabriel Perreault
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

During the Rangers 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 24, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported on air that the Rangers were shutting down any trade talks that included either Brennan Othmann or Gabe Perreault. The forwards are considered the organization’s top prospects.

Leading up to the deadline, Kaplan also reported that general manager Chris Drury turned down the Ducks offer of Frank Vatrano and Adam Henrique for a first-round pick and Kaapo Kakko. Forever Blueshirts was told that a reunion with Vatrano greatly interested the Rangers in late February, although with a year left on his contract, Anaheim felt no pressure to lower their demands.

So why all of sudden, were the Rangers possibly willing to trade a first-round pick, plus either Othmann or Kakko for Guentzel? A player who is better suited at left wing, when Drury needed to fill a hole on the right.

It simply didn’t add up, and a day prior to him being dealt to the Hurricanes for Michael Bunting, three prospects, and two conditional picks (the first becomes a second if Carolina doesn’t reach the Stanley Cup Final), we noted that it’s possible Drury was using Guentzel as means to drive the price down on Vatrano.

According to Pierre LeBrun in his most recent article in The Athletic, the Rangers were never really in on Guentzel.

“Then there were reports of the New York Rangers charging hard Thursday while the Panthers were lurking,” LeBrun wrote. “Though I don’t think they were ever that deep into it, other than making sure they stayed in touch with Pittsburgh in case the market cratered and they could pounce at a reduced rate.”

Ultimately, Drury balked at all the ridiculous asks for many of the best trade bait pieces on the board. To his credit, he wisely settled for players that would plug the holes left by the season-ending injuries of center Filip Chytil and winger Blake Wheeler. Leaving him with enough cap room to add a veteran depth defenseman as well.

Here’s a look at the Rangers key deadline moves:

Acquired: Alexander Wennberg from the Seattle Kraken at 50 percent salary retention for a 2024 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2025 fourth-round pick.
Analysis: A solid two-way center that can boost production on the third-line and play special teams.

Acquired: Jack Roslovic from the Columbus Blue Jackets at 50 percent salary retention for a 2026 conditional fourth-round pick.
Analysis: A low-risk and high-reward winger with speed that can play center if needed.

Acquired: Chad Ruhwedel from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2027 fourth-round pick.
Analysis: A nice veteran depth defenseman that can play both sides.

“There’s no doubt that these three additions do slot in and fill specific spots,” Drury said via NHL.com. “I didn’t really go into it saying it has to be this type of player, that type of player. It’s just trying to find the best fit we can throughout the whole Deadline, what was available or not available on the marketplace and what we were willing to pay for it.”

The Rangers didn’t make the big splash like the Florida Panthers getting Vladimir Tarasenko or the Vegas Golden Knights using LTIR and cap magic to net Tomas Hertl and Noah Hanafin. However, they also didn’t give away their future chasing one Stanley Cup championship.

It’s clear Drury has his eyes on the prize this season, but the vision also appears to keep the Rangers a contender for years to come. In a salary cap world, cost-controlled young players like Kakko, Othmann, and Perreault is how they can stay on top of their competition beyond these upcoming playoffs.

At the 2022 deadline, it was small moves like Vatrano, Andrew Copp, and Justin Braun that helped the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final. A year later, superstars Tarasenko and Patrick Kane couldn’t prevent a first-round ouster.

So just maybe these small moves, mundane as they appear to what other contenders did, could be enough to get them over the top today. And maybe the big moves they didn’t make will make sure they stay there for a while.

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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