New York Rangers possible trade targets to upgrade right wing position
If there was one positional need heading into 2023-24 for the New York Rangers, it was at right wing.
The Blueshirts lost both their top six right wingers in Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane in free agency, and a lack of cap space led General Manager Chris Drury to shop the bargain aisle on July 1.
The low-risk, high-reward signing of Blake Wheeler has been so-so at best, as the 37-year-old has been elevated to the top line more out of necessity than production.
Alexis Lafreniere, a natural left wing, shifted to the right side to fill a need and to allow him more ice time. He’s been a revelation and is playing the best hockey of his career with 14 points in 22 games playing opposite Artemi Panarin.
Kaapo Kakko, meanwhile, started the season on the top line before being demoted for Wheeler. And while the production wasn’t there, the underlying numbers were positive before a leg injury last month sent the winger to long-term injured reserve.
While New York is off to its best start in franchise history, there’s certainly a need for Drury to upgrade on the right wing, namely on the top line. So who is out there to target?
New York Rangers RW Targets
Reports over the summer indicated both sides — especially from the player — were open to continuing the relationship after Tarasenko arrived from St. Louis in March. The numbers didn’t match up and the 31-year-old landed a one-year, $5M contract with Ottawa.
Things in Canada’s capitol haven’t gone according to plan with the Senators currently in last place in the Eastern Conference (though they’ve played the fewest games in the NHL).
Tarasenko hasn’t lit the world on fire with just three goals, but he does have 14 points in 19 games. A reunion in New York seems plausible, especially after the success he had last year alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
He had 21 points in 31 regular season games before adding three goals against the Devils in the postseason.
Another former Ranger, Duclair is on a one-year deal on a team that has its eyes set on its future than anything happening this season. He screams deadline acquisition and the Rangers should be all over it.
“The Duke” as former Head Coach Alain Vigneault lovingly dubbed the 2013 third-rounder, is having an OK season, though any numbers from a club that got off to a historically poor start, should be taken with a grain of salt.
If Sunday was an audition for Duclair for a possible reunion he passed with flying colors, scoring the game’s first goal and hitting a post in the second.
The 28-year-old has six goals and eight points in 22 games, but is just two years removed from a 31-goal campaign in Florida.
He’s in the final year of a very manageable $3M contract. Keep in mind Sharks GM Mike Grier was Drury’s AGM before he left for California.
After a surprise trip to the playoffs — and possibly bigger surprise in knocking off the defending champion Avalanche in the opening round — things have gone backwards for Seattle in Year 3, leaving opening the option of a sale of UFAs come trade season.
One player is Jordan Eberle, who has been a dependable 20-goal winger throughout his career but who’s gotten off to a slow start with just three in 22 games for the Kraken.
At 33, Eberle is unlikely to be in Seattles long-term plans, and could be a veteran add by Drury to add to the top line and bolster the second power play unit.
The first non-UFA on our list is another player who knows New York and performed well as a Blueshirt. Vatrano would also likely be the most expensive player on the list.
Like Tarasenko, Vatrano found chemistry alongside Kreider and Zibanejad during the team’s run to the 2022 Eastern Conference Final, where he registered 13 points in 20 postseason games that spring.
Vatrano is off the best start of his NHL career in his second season in Anaheim. His 14 goals are three of the NHL lead, while his 23 points are just 16 fewer than his career-best 39 from 2018-19 when he was a Florida Panther.
Vatrano has a year left after this at $3.65M, meaning he wouldn’t be a rental and thus the asking price would be high. Anaheim has also been a surprising team during the first quarter of the season, but a playoff berth seems unlikely.
Another veteran having a poor year, Silfverberg has been on the decline over the last handful of years after being a perennial 20-goal player during his mid and late 20s.
Adding Silfverberg wouldn’t cost much and would add another depth piece and one that’s performed well in the postseason with 45 points in 69 playoff games.
Is it unlikely? Absolutely. Is it impossible? Absolutely not.
Kane signed with Detroit earlier last week for just one year and $2.75M. The Red Wings are having a surprisingly good season, but if things go south it’s the perfect contract to move for future assets.
He has a no-trade clause, but reports indicated his No. 1 choice was to go back to New York after he felt he wasn’t the player he could be for the Blueshirts.
It’s unknown what type of player he’ll be after his offseason hip surgery, and it seemed to be enough to scare Drury away.
Anything is possible, but unlikely.