5 centers Rangers could target ahead of NHL trade deadline
With Filip Chytil’s return to the lineup undetermined, the New York Rangers face major questions about the center position. Do the Rangers deal for a center ahead of the 2024 NHL trade deadline March 8? Or do they wait on Chytil and continue to fill in-house until he’s able to play again?
That’s what Rangers general manager Chris Drury is wrestling with. And knowing Drury’s track record of swinging trades before the deadline, you’d expect he’s actively finding out which centers are available now, even as Chytil recuperates from an upper-body injury back home in Czechia.
New York entered 2023-24 with quality depth at center. But the loss of Chytil 10 games into the season created a domino effect that has taxed their depth.
Vincent Trocheck replaced Chytil on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere, and that threesome has been one of the most productive lines in the NHL. Mika Zibanejad, of course, centers for Chris Kreider to form a potent 1-2 punch on the top line. Kaapo Kakko, who missed 21 games with a lower-body injury, is now back on that line playing right wing. So, all good in the top six.
From there, though, things are not as good. Nick Bonino, known for his defensive game, has been asked to anchor the third line after Trocheck moved up. Barclay Goodrow and Jonny Brodzinski have spent time as fourth-line pivot. Those three have combined for four goals in 107 games, leaving the Rangers with virtually no production from their bottom-six centers.
And though Chytil has resumed skating, a timetable for his return remains unknown, leaving Rangers general manager Chris Drury in a position to look to add down the middle ahead of the trade deadline.
So, let’s examine what the Rangers’ options are at center.
5 centers Rangers could target ahead of 2024 NHL trade deadline
Sean Monahan – Montreal Canadiens
The sixth overall pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2013 NHL Draft, Monahan is healthy and producing at his best rate in years with the Canadiens. He’s scored 11 goals and 27 points through 44 games, and if those rates continue, he’ll have his best offensive season since 2019-20, when he had 22 goals and 48 points with the Flames.
The 29-year-old could be a perfect fit on New York’s third line, as he has respectable underlying numbers on what’s been a bad Montreal squad. On top of that, he’s been a solid performer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 30 games, all with Calgary.
A bonus for the Rangers is that Monahan has an affordable $1.985 million salary cap hit and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season
Will former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton be willing to help his replacement? We’ll see in a few weeks.
Alexander Wennberg – Seattle Kraken
The Rangers had a front row seat to watch Wennberg up close Tuesday when the Kraken visited The Garden. Will he call New York home come March?
It feels like a very long time ago when Wennberg nearly posted 60 points as a 22-year-old with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17. But since then, he’s become a solid middle-six center.
The on pace for another 35-point season, which is essentially what he’s been for the last half decade. His advanced stats aren’t impressive and he’s not the sexiest name on this list, but he’d likely be available since he’s a UFA at season’s end.
Elias Lindholm – Calgary Flames
The biggest name on this list is likely the one most out of reach for Drury and the Rangers.
The 29-year-old is now two years removed from his only point-per game season, and the numbers this season aren’t great (eight goals, 29 points in 44 games). But he’s a four-time 20-goal scorer who’s been a top-six mainstay for years with the Flames.
Lindholm’s role in New York wouldn’t be to drive the offense, but rather anchor the bottom-six, and he’s done that very well during his career in becoming one of the better two-way forwards in the game as evidenced by three top-10 Selke finishes.
The bidding war for the impending UFA will be high and likely more than the Rangers want to spend on a third-line center. Plus the Flames are fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and may want to add, not subtract a player with Lindholm’s track record.
Adam Henrique – Anaheim Ducks
The name likely still sends shivers down the backs of Rangers fans, but Henrique is having a strong season in SoCal as he approaches his 34th birthday.
The former New Jersey Devil center, who KO’d the Rangers with an overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Final, has 11 goals and 24 points in 43 games. The Ducks are bad, in a rebuild and likely to sell off assets come March.
Henrique has the largest cap hit in this group ($5.825 million) but is a free agent at the end of the season. He’s also a consistent 40-point player and contributes on the penalty kill, making him an ideal possibility to fill a void in New York.
Jack Roslovic – Columbus Blue Jackets
Probably the name with the biggest long-term upside, the youngest member of this list is a strong two-way forward even if the offensive numbers haven’t been there this season on another bad Blue Jackets club. The 26-year-old hasn’t scored in eight games since returning from a fractured ankle (against the Rangers on Nov. 12) and has two goals and 10 points in 22 games.
However, the former first-round pick has posted back-to-back 40-point seasons, including a 22-goal campaign in 2021-22.
Roslovic is an unrestricted free agent this summer and making $4 million. Like with Montreal, Drury would have to work with his predecessor John Davidson in Columbus to get a deal done. But with how things have gone for the Blue Jackets this season, it appears everything not bolted down has a price.