Rangers check in with Ducks about possible Frank Vatrano trade: report

NHL: NHL All-Star Game
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In need of a top-line right wing, the New York Rangers have reportedly reached out to the Anaheim Ducks to discuss a trade for Frank Vatrano. The Athletic reported Monday that the Rangers “had inquired” about a reunion with Vatrano.

Considering how well Vatrano played for them when he helped the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2022, it makes complete sense for general manager Chris Drury to call his Anaheim counterpart Pat Verbeek about the forward’s availability. And that’s before factoring in Vatrano has 22 goals this season, two shy from his NHL career high set in 2018-19 with the Florida Panthers.

Vatrano said he’s unaware of any trade rumors, but did tell Forever Blueshirts at NHL All-Star Weekend in Toronto that he “loved” playing for the Rangers. He added that being on the same line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider was “unbelievable.”

“Playing in New York was the biggest thing in my career to this point,” said Vatrano, who scored two goals for Team Hughes in the All-Star game Saturday.

Vatrano scored eight goals and 13 points in 22 games after being acquired by the Rangers ahead of the 2022 NHL trade deadline from the Panthers. He had another 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games that spring before exiting as a free agent for the Ducks.

There’s another Ducks player who likely holds interest for the Rangers, too. Adam Henrique is expected to be traded since the veteran center can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is not part of Anaheim’s future.

Related: Rangers eyeing Adam Henrique in trade with Ducks

What would it take for Rangers to acquire Frank Vatrano, Adam Henrique from Ducks?

Perhaps as much as they need a right wing to play alongside Zibanejad and Kreider, the Rangers need a third-line center with Filip Chytil out for the season.

So, the Ducks could provide a one-stop shop for the Rangers. Perhaps even more so now that centers Elias Lindholm (to Vancouver Canucks from Calgary Flames) and Sean Monahan (to Winnipeg Jets from Montreal Canadiens) were traded during the All-Star break to Cup contenders.

Though unclear how much the Rangers were in on Lindholm and/or Monahan, there’s no debating that the market is moving quickly ahead of the March 8 trade deadline.

Forever Blueshirts was unable to confirm at All-Star weekend that the Rangers are speaking with the Ducks about Henrique. However, it’s universally believed that the Rangers are in on the 33-year-old, who has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 49 games this season and would be an excellent two-way fit on New York’s third line.

Assuming the teams are or will discuss a trade involving both players, what would it cost the Rangers to land Vatrano and Henrique? 

You’d have to assume the Rangers must part with their first-round pick in 2024 to even start the conversation. The Ducks could ask for another first-rounder in 2025 or 2026, but it’d be hard to imagine the Rangers doing that.

If you’re thinking a second- or third-round pick, well, the Rangers don’t have many of either left in the coming drafts. The Rangers do have a second-round pick this year, but would they deal a one and a two in the same draft when they already are without a third-round pick? From there it remains complicated. New York doesn’t have a second nor a third in 2025 nor a second in 2026.

So, what about prospects or younger NHL talent instead of picks? One would imagine Will Cuylle, Brennan Othmann and Gabe Perreault are off the table, no matter how much money Anaheim absorbs on Henrique’s $5.825 million contract or on Vatrano’s $3.625 million salary cap hit through next season.

Perhaps this is where the Kaapo Kakko comes into play. The Rangers reportedly are fielding calls on Kakko. And the Ducks are building a formidable stable of young talent up front, so Kakko could be an intriguing option. Would Adam Sykora and/or Brett Berard, each forward playing in Hartford of the American Hockey League, move the needle?

Or perhaps the Rangers can make this work and gamble by trading a young defenseman, such as Zac Jones or Drew Fortescue, to complement Anaheim’s growing stable of talented blueliners in the organization. That’d be a hit to New York’s limited pipeline on defense but it can’t be the reason a trade for Vatrano and Henrique doesn’t get done.

Right now, this is all speculation. But with how quickly things are changing around them a month before the trade deadline, the Rangers need to act sooner rather than later. And one big deal with the Ducks could fill two major needs for the stretch run.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny