New York Rangers second line center options from realistic to ridiculous

nhl free agents
Jan 7, 2020; New York, New York, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (91) skates with the puck during the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports

We have officially entered the silly season for the New York Rangers and their search for a second line center.

What started as a report that the Rangers and Winnipeg Jets had a discussion about pending RFA center Pierre-Luc Dubois has devolved into sheer madness. There’s been no less than a half dozen names associated with the Blueshirts over the last few days, some are very much true and others sheer speculation or musings.

This article will attempt to analyze some of those names and put them into categories. We will start with the ridiculous to simply get them out of the way. Then we will venture into the possible and realistic options.

New York Rangers center options: The Ridiculous

Nazem Kadri

Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff recently discussed pending UFA center Nazem Kadri on a recent podcast. He’s one of the hottest pending UFAs after scoring 87 points in 71 games last season.

“I think– I should say I know that one team that has Nazem Kadri high up on their list is the New York Rangers,” Seravalli said on the DFO Rundown. “Ryan Strome, take that money out and pay Nazem Kadri.”

Here’s the problem, Strome’s money is already out of the equation. The Rangers have just about $10 million in cap space remaining with holes to fill, including re-signing Kaapo Kakko to a bridge deal in the neighborhood of $2M per season.

The speculated contract on Kadri’s next deal, who is 31, is 7 years at $8M plus. How does that math work? Sure, you could make it feasible for this season if you dump players like Patrik Nemeth and Ryan Reaves, but it doesn’t work beyond that.

New York has to extend both Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, and Filip Chytil (unless he’s traded) next summer.

While the Rangers were certainly rumored to be interested last season, it just doesn’t fit now. That’s why this lands firmly in the ridiculous category.

Evgeni Malkin

Another name attached to the New York Rangers thanks to pure speculation on the part of Elliotte Friedman is Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I would wonder if the Rangers would try something (with Malkin on a short-term contract),” Friedman said on the That’s Hockey Talk Podcast.

Malkin, 35, finished the year with 42 points in 41 games. He’s wrapping up a deal worth $9.5M AAV against the cap and seems like an attractive option.

However, there was a report during the playoffs that Pittsburgh offered both Malkin and Kris Letang a 3 year-deal worth $5M AAV which they considered too low.

Do the Rangers really want an injury prone Malkin until he’s 38 years-old at over $5M AAV? That’s why this seems ridiculous to even entertain.

New York Rangers center options: The Possible

j.t. miller rangers
Feb 24, 2022; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (9) celebrates his first goal of the game against the Calgary Flames in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

J.T. Miller

When the offseason started, the Canucks were listening to offers on Miller and Brock Boeser. Well, Boeser has just signed an extension for three years making Miller very likely to be traded.

Miller, 29, was the Canucks leading scorer with 99 points in 80 games this past season. He has one year left on his current deal which comes at a very affordable $5.25M cap hit. Speculation has his next deal expected to be in the $8.5M AAV range for at least 5 years.

Initially I believed the cost to acquire Miller would be too high, but after the Kings acquired Kevin Fiala for a first round pick and a prospect, Elliotte Friedman feels that Vancouver can get a little bit more.

If that’s the case, maybe Nils Lundkvist, and next year’s first-round pick plus a prospect gets it done. That’s much better than the believed ask of Filip Chytil, Braden Schneider, and a first they asked for at the deadline.

Andrew Copp

Although recent reporting has Copp heading to the market, there’s always a chance the Rangers can find a way to sign him. I will admit it seems slim right now.

The 27 year-old was the team’s top trade deadline acquisition. He posted 53 points in 72 games with 18 of those coming with the Blueshirts. In the playoffs, Copp added 6 goals and 14 points in 20 contests. He’s wrapping up a 1-year deal signed with the Winnipeg Jets for $3.6M. According to Jeff Marek on HNIC, Copp is in line for a new contract in the neighborhood of $5.5M AAV. That now appears to be on the low side.

If the two sides can circle back close to those numbers something could happen quickly.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

When it comes to a longterm player fit, the 24 year-old Dubois is perfect. Of course, in a salary cap world his next contract and more importantly the timing of it doesn’t.

Forget the high cost in trading for him, it’s locking him up for 7 years at around $8M AAV being the problem. The Rangers don’t have that money to give right now. Especially when you consider that Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and Filip Chytil all need new deals next summer as we will continue to mention.

Even if Chytil is part of the package, it’s still precarious to sign Dubois for more than two-years. There’s a gamble Drury can take and that’s to bridge him at around $6M AAV until 2024, that’s when Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba’s full no-move clauses become modified. They take up $14.5M in cap space combined.

So would you risk trading Kakko, Nils Lundkvist, and your 2023 1st rd pick for a player that may bolt for his hometown Montreal as a UFA in in 2024?

At the end of the day, you don’t win Cups by not taking some risks. I still think this is possible if the Rangers believe they can bridge him for two seasons and sign him longterm in 2024.

New York Rangers center options: The Realistic

Ryan Strome
Jun 5, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Rangers center Ryan Strome (16) prior to game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Strome

I simply can’t rule out re-signing Ryan Strome even if he says he’s testing free agency. Especially not after the way he spoke on breakup day.

“Obviously my heart’s here. The last four years I’ve tried to pour everything into this thing on and off the ice,” an emotional Strome said. “I can’t predict the future but all I know is I love these guys and this team is destined for great things. It’s a little emotional. Honestly, it’s a great group of guys and I hope there’s more.”

The 28 year-old center had a solid season with the Rangers picking up 21 goals and 54 points in 74 regular-season games. In the postseason, he added another 9 points in 19 contests playing badly hurt. Strome completed a 2-year deal he signed with the Blueshirts back in 2020 for $4.5M AAV and maybe his heart will bring him with a favorable team deal.

Mark Scheifele

Scheifele, 29, has two years at $6.125M AAV which many teams would jump at including the Rangers. He had a strong season with 70 points in 67 games and is a perfect for this team and its salary cap needs.

While his AAV may be just a tad higher than what Drury is looking for, it’s that two year contract that’s perfect. It coincides with both Chris Kreider’s and Trouba full no-move clauses becoming modified. They represent $14.5M in cap space that could potentially be freed up to give to younger players.

He would also come at a cheaper trade cost than the aforementioned Miller and Dubois. A package of Filip Chytil and a 2023 first-round pick likely gets it done. By trading Chytil’s one-year remaining at $2.3M, it also frees up cap space to re-sign Frank Vatrano. That’s one less RFA to worry about next summer as well.

Despite Elliotte Friedman noting in his recent 32 Thoughts blog that the Jets want to keep Scheifele around, I believe if push came to shove they’d make the trade.