Frank Vatrano ‘loved’ playing for Rangers, ‘happy in Anaheim’ amid trade rumors

NHL: NHL All-Star Thursday
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO – Frank Vatrano said that he “loved” his brief tenure with the New York Rangers two seasons ago. But that doesn’t mean the Anaheim Ducks forward is seeking a trade to his former team.

Of course, the reason why Vatrano was even discussing the Rangers here at NHL All-Star media day Thursday is because his name keeps cropping up in rumors with the trade deadline on the horizon March 8.

“Playing in New York was the biggest thing that’s happened in my career to this point,” Vatrano said. “When I was there, I loved it, and playing with those guys (Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider) was unbelievable.”

However, Vatrano later said he’s happy where he is. The 29-year-old forward leads the Ducks with 22 goals, the same total he scored for them last season and two shy of his NHL career high.

“I’m happy in Anaheim, I love it there,” Vatrano said. “Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere but that’s way out of my control. I’m excited to be in Anaheim right now.”

Related: Why Frank Vatrano reunion could be part of Rangers trade deadline plans

Frank Vatrano ‘not aware’ of trade rumors involving Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Anaheim Ducks
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The operative words there are “right now.” The Ducks aren’t going anywhere this season and are deep into a rebuild. Trading Vatrano could net them a decent return, though they could hold on to him and swing a deal next season since he has another year at $3.65 million remaining on his contract.

As for the rumors, Vatrano claimed not to know of any involving him.

“I’m not aware of that stuff,” he said.

What he is aware of and spoke at length about was his chemistry with Zibanejad and Kreider after the Rangers acquired him from the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2022 trade deadline.

Vatrano scored eight goals and 13 points in 22 regular-season games after the trade. He helped the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final, where they lost in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, when he had five goals and 13 points in 20 games.

“Playing with two guys like Mika and ‘Kreids,’ it was great for me,” Vatrano said. “I proved to myself and to a lot of people that I could play in a top-six role, especially at the highest level in the playoffs.”

It’s clear Vatrano feels fortunate for that fresh start following a disappointing run at the end with the Panthers.

“[Panthers general manager] Bill Zito put me in a great spot to succeed. I filled the needs New York needed,” Vatrano explained. “I got the opportunity and ran with it.”

Vincent Trocheck, here representing the Rangers at All-Star Weekend, forged a close friendship with Vatrano when the two were teammates in Florida. The Blueshirts center sounded like he’d welcome a reunion if the Ducks put Vatrano on the block.

“Frankie was always an awesome teammate, always an awesome player,” Trocheck told Forever Blueshirts. “Him being an All-Star is not a surprise based on how he played in the past. It’s more opportunity. He’s a spectacular goal scorer and if you continue to give him the opportunity, he’s going to continue to do great things.”

Vatrano did some real good things playing with Zibanejad and Kreider. In fact, it can be argued no other right wing has been as good a fit with that pair before or since Vatrano’s Broadway run. And the Rangers could use a jolt to their top line in the final 33 games this season.

So, expect to hear his name tied to the Rangers quite a bit in the coming weeks, whether he gets traded or not.

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