The New York Rangers realize they have a young and talented group of players, the youngest in the NHL in fact. They also realize having an entire blue-line of kids may not be the fastest way to playoff success. Larry Brooks touched on this yesterday in his latest column, but Forever Blueshirts has learned that the plan is to indeed add a veteran defenseman to the top six.
The Rangers top priority is still adding a star center
First off let’s set the record straight that the main goal this offseason for the Rangers is to package some of their young assets for a star center. While nothing I’ve been told in the last month or so changes the fact that Jack Eichel is still the desired target, there could be other options. Aleksander Barkov is a possibility, but he like Eichel still have term on their deals. The cost of acquisition will be high.
Another option that remains a possibility is Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. The 34 year-old has one more season left on his deal before becoming a UFA. The cost to acquire him would be considerably less, but his injury history makes him a big risk. Another option is pending UFA Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who will certainly get top dollar and 7 years in free agency. Another risky proposition for a 28 year-old player. Plus he’s spent a lot of time on the wing over the last few seasons.
Rangers are also looking to add a defenseman
With that being said, before the Rangers decide what kind of veteran blue-liner they want to bring in they need to see where they stand after getting a center. Assuming the Blueshirts trade for Eichel or Barkov it will cost them one of their young defenseman. In particular Zac Jones, a player I pointed out as being showcased for a potential Eichel trade on the Locked On NY Rangers podcast on April 14.
If that’s who they move, I assume they will be looking for a third pair left defenseman. However, if they are forced to trade Ryan Lindgren, that means they are looking for a top four blue-liner. Another thing to note, Nils Lundkvist is not a given to make the starting lineup next season out of camp. A well placed source reiterated there’s nothing wrong with developing for a season in Hartford. He could very well spend some time with the Wolf Pack in the AHL which means they would look for a third pair right defenseman.
How the Rangers go about adding this player isn’t yet decided, but I believe it will be the free agent route. And no, they aren’t going to bring in another Jack Johnson type. Matter of fact, if Zdeno Chara wants to play past this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t make another run for him.
The Blueshirts may want to take a bigger swing in the UFA market for a blue-liner. This crop of free agents has some potential names that would drastically improve the defense and make them harder to play against.
Who will the Rangers target?
David Savard is a 30 year-old right handed defenseman who plays it tough in his own end. The Lightning who traded for him may not be able to re-sign him and that means he will hit the open market. If the Blueshirts have to move Lindgren, they will want to look at this caliber of free agent.
The other potential Lindgren replacement is Jamie Oleksiak with the Dallas Stars. He is only 28 years of age and a left handed shot and likely a better fit. Dallas is rumored to do whatever it takes to sign him before free agency begins. So it is very possible he won’t be there when the bell rings to open up the buying.
Jeff Gorton also has plenty of other names to chose from on the open market. Edmonton’s Adam Larsson is just 28 years-old and a pending UFA. Another name (a painful one) is Alec Martinez out in Vegas. Rangers fans remember him for hammering the final nail in the Blueshirts Stanley Cup coffin in 2014, but he could be the right veteran to groom the young blue-line along with Jacob Trouba.
The Rangers plan is to still stay the course. Fans just need to understand this was always part of the plan. Groom players like Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Alexis Lafrenière, and Kaapo Kakko; then use their overflowing depth pool on the wings and defense to get them over the next hill – Stanley Cup contention.
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