Blockbuster trade deadline deal with Senators could be what Rangers need
The New York Rangers are first in the Metropolitan Division but have been playing slightly above .500 hockey for weeks now. There’s no doubt that their depth issues were tested and left wanting with Kaapo Kakko out 21 games and Filip Chytil still not back from a suspected concussion suffered in November.
Even with Kakko back, the Blueshirts quality on the right wing could use a boost with a legit top-liner. And if the Rangers want to make a long playoff run, they may also want an upgrade to their defense corps.
Those pieces could both be acquired in a single trade with the Ottawa Senators for Vladimir Tarasenko and Jakob Chychrun.
Rangers and Senators blockbuster before NHL trade deadline?
According to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia, the Senators will ask Tarasenko to waive his no-trade clause and are listening to offers on Chychrun.
Tarasenko, 32, has 12 goals and 31 points in 40 games this season. He signed a one-year deal with Ottawa in the offseason for $5 million and wanted all along to return to the Rangers, for whom he had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 31 games last season. The expectation was always that the veteran forward would be traded if the Senators were not in a playoff spot ahead of the trade deadline on March 8. Ottawa (17-24-1) sits dead last in the East.
Chychrun, 25, has registered 7 goals and 27 points in 42games, with 70 blocked shots. Unlike Tarasenko, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, the defenseman has one-year remaining at an affordable $4.6M AAV. That makes acquiring him more of a hockey deal.
The Rangers interest in Chychrun is not new. Last season, Sportnet’s Jeff Marek noted the Blueshirts were one of the teams trying to acquire him from the Arizona Coyotes, for a package that would have sent forward Vitali Kravtsov to the desert.
New York could also use a center, but the prospect of Chytil returning to New York from Czechia lessens that if he can stay healthy. A forward with a combination of bite and skill would be nice for the postseason run. Corey Perry fits that exact mold. But Perry signed Monday with the Edmonton Oilers.
So what would it take to acquire these two players from the Senators considering the Rangers have limited salary cap space? First off, the Senators will have to retain the full 50% allowed by the CBA on Tarasenko’s contract. That usually means the selling team will want a first-round pick as compensation, but the Rangers should only give that asset up if they can also acquire Chychrun in the trade.
Though the NHL salary cap is going up next season by $4 million, that really doesn’t help the Rangers in March. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren is a pending RFA with salary arbitration rights, and will get a modest increase from his current $3M AAV. Adding a left defenseman like Chychrun would be considered a huge upgrade for Adam Fox, and allow Lindgren to move down in a shutdown tandem with captain Jacob Trouba.
That leaves K’Andre Miller as the most likely tradable defenseman to make this move. There’s no doubt that his offensive upside still hasn’t come close to being realized, but his defensive struggles are obvious this season. If the Rangers believe they are close enough to winning the Cup, they may have to make a tough decision.
Miller is a year younger than Chychrun, and also has one-year remaining on a deal worth 3.8M AAV. On the surface, Chychrun’s defensive stats may not wow anyone, but he’s played his seven NHL seasons with two lesser teams, the Coyotes and Senators. One has to wonder what his numbers would be on a legit contender.
At the end of the day, it’s going to take more than Miller and a first-round pick to pry both those players from the Senators. However, if GM Chris Drury isn’t willing to part with a roster player of substance, there’s no way this type of blockbuster could ever happen.