Why Frank Vatrano reunion could be part of Rangers trade deadline plan
With several holes to fill, especially now that Filip Chytil is out for the season, expect the New York Rangers to be busy working the phones ahead of the NHL trade deadline March 8.
One of the calls Chris Drury should make, if the Rangers general manager hasn’t already, is to the Anaheim Ducks. The Blueshirts need to find out the cost of a Vatrano reunion.
There’s an argument to be made that reunions with Vladimir Tarasenko or Anthony Duclair could make more sense, primarily for financial reasons. And no question Drury should be checking in with the Ottawa Senators on Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks about Duclair, too.
Of course, none of those three wings will fill the obvious hole down the middle of the Rangers lineup with Chytil out. New York absolutely must address the center position behind Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck. So, yes, you’ll hear a lot about New York’s interest in Montreal Canadiens pivot Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm of the Calgary Flames and likely Columbus Blue Jackets center Jack Roslovic, too.
As important as it is to jolt the third line with a better center option, it’s equally if not more important to find a right wing to provide a 5v5 spark for the top line that features Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
Pros, cons of Frank Vatrano reunion with Rangers
There’s much that’s intriguing with Vatrano. He’s an NHL All-Star this season and leads the Ducks with 21 goals, including eight on the power play. His 35 points in 49 games are tied with Troy Terry for tops with Anaheim.
But it’s the reunion aspect that’s most appealing here. Vatrano played a big role in helping the Rangers reach the 2022 Eastern Conference Final, where they lost in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most important to this argument, Vatrano was an excellent fit on the right side of Zibanejad and Kreider.
Vatrano’s speed and north-south style was an excellent complement to that line. He had eight goals and 13 points in 22 regular-season games after the trade and 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 20 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He’s not a superstar. But what Vatrano was during that stretch was a really nice fit with Zibanejad and Kreider. A better fit than anyone this side of Pavel Buchnevich with that pair, a list that includes Mats Zuccarello, Alexis Lafreniere, Patrick Kane, Kaapo Kakko, Blake Wheeler and Tarasenko.
It should be noted Tarasenko could be a good fit on the top line again. Plus, he’s a Stanley Cup champion and unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Vatrano has another year left on his contract with a $3.65 million salary cap hit.
So, there’s that. Duclair, also can be a UFA at season’s end. And his cap hit is $3 million. And the list for options on right wing includes more than simply the three former Blueshirts.
But the call should be made to the Ducks. Are they willing to trade Vatrano? What would it take to pry him away? Would the Ducks retain some salary next season?
And do the Rangers believe a dip in production is a cause for concern or merely something that would be fixed by reuniting Vatrano with his former running mates?
Vatrano has not scored a goal in seven games. The 29-year-old had nine goals in nine games to start the season, so that leaves 12 goals in the ensuing 40 games. Still, not a bad pace.
Other teams will be checking in on Vatrano, too, considering Anaheim’s sorry lot this season. The New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings are rumored in that mix. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks reportedly showed interest in the past.
There are pros and cons to every possible trade. But it’s imperative that while exploring all avenues to find another center – and perhaps a third-pair defenseman it should be noted – the Rangers must address top-line right wing.
And that can start with a call to the Anaheim Ducks about Frank Vatrano.