Rangers trade-deadline acquisitions paying off in Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Team chemistry is vital when looking to add players ahead of the NHL trade deadline, especially for a top team hoping for a big push in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Through seven games this postseason, it appears the Rangers nailed the moves they made this season before the deadline.

After chasing big names in 2023, trading for Vladamir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane, and then flaming out in the first round of the playoffs, losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers reverted to their 2022 trade-deadline strategy. Simply, that was to find the best fits, if not the biggest names.

The Rangers acquired third-line center Alex Wennberg from the Seattle Kraken and forward Jack Roslovic from the Columbus Blue Jackets ahead of this year’s deadline.

Chris Drury’s approach this go-round was similar to 2022, when the Rangers went out and acquired Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte, and Justin Braun. Not the sexiest names available, but each played a role in New York’s run to the 2022 Eastern Conference Final. 

Now, the Rangers are one win from reaching the conference final again, off to a 7-0 start in the postseason. And Roslovic and Wennberg have settled nicely into their roles, with each playing a key part in New York’s postseason success to date.

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Jack Roslovic fitting in on Rangers’ top line

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It took time for Roslovic to find his footing on the first line with Mika Zibenajad and Chris Kreider. He had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 19 regular-season games and was scratched for one contest. But Roslovic has been mostly solid in the playoffs.

Roslovic has three even-strength assists in seven playoff games, and has scored two goals on the second power-play unit. His power-play snipe in Game 2 of the first-round sweep against the Washington Capitals was a thing of beauty, not to mention his first playoff goal in 22 career postseason games.

Roslovic has helped Zibenajad play his best hockey of the season during the postseason. And Roslovic’s speed has much to do with that, generating chances for his linemates and himself, as he did during each of the two overtimes in Game 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Alex Wennberg is glue to third line for Rangers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The top six must produce for any team to go deep into the playoffs. The Rangers stars have risen to the occasion, and their third line has been an excellent shutdown unit. Up until Game 3 against the Hurricanes, Wennberg, Will Cuylle and Kaapo Kakko consistently controlled possession in the offensive zone and worked an effective cycle game in the playoffs.

Filip Chytil returned from a six-month injury absence and replaced Cuylle as the left wing on the unit in Game 3. The third line held its own with Chytil on board Thursday, outchanced 4-3 at 5v5.

The third line has scored one goal in the playoffs, by Kakko in Game 4 of the first round. Chytil could provide more offense to make this line more of a two-way threat.

Wennberg has been a perfect fit since the trade. The two-way center is crucial at even strength, even though he has only one assist in the playoffs. His line has yet to be on for a goal against in the postseason and Wennberg has been a staple on the penalty-killing unit that is perfect in the first three games of the second round (15-for-15).

“He’s been a really good pickup,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Really good addition. Came in and filled a void in that spot. Skates, is on his edges well, really good with the puck, great vision. Smart, two-way centerman. He’s kind of been as advertised, to me. What we thought we were getting, as advertised. He’s done just a really good job for us.”  

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