Rumor: Rangers kicking tires around the league for a center
I’ve been sitting on this for a while, but the Rangers have been exploring the trade market for a center to fill their depth issue down the middle. Although Kevin Hayes has been serviceable, his 30.6 face-off percentage isn’t cutting it.
The loss of both Brad Richards and Brian Boyle has left an obvious hole down the middle. The result is impacting the entire team. Last season, Dominic Moore had more support in the defensive zone with Brian Boyle, that is no longer the case this season. (Zone start charts shown below).
Their inability to win draws is hurting their possession numbers as well. Last year at even strength they were close to 53% in control of the puck, this season 49%. Ownership of the puck starts in the face-off dot.
So naturally the Rangers have been ringing phones looking for help – but it won’t come cheap and it won’t come easy.
Here’s what I’ve heard, the Rangers have talked about moving either Mats Zuccarello or Marc Staal with a Wolf Pack player to obtain a solid center. Names like JT Miller and Danny Kristo have bubbled up in the talks as the prospect. Both Zuccarello and Staal are set to become UFA’s this summer, and it’s believed the Rangers are open to discussing both, but will only part with one.
After the injuries on defense, Marc Staal will not be easy to pry. However, the emergence of Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes has made Mats Zuccarello expendable. His 3.5 million salary and almost 1 million in cap space means a center in the range of 4 million is possible to obtain.
So who are the targets? Well, that’s where my info runs out and leads me to look for possible fits. Here are the two candidates that make sense.
1. TYLER BOZAK
The situation in Toronto has hit critical mass and the natives are looking for heads to roll. Tyler Bozak is 28 years old and makes an AAV of 4.2M with 3 years left on his contract. His 56.4% face-off winning percentage is exactly what the Rangers need. Plus he can contribute offensively. He has 15 points in 19 games, with 5 power play goals.
2. Antoinne Vermette
This is a name I’ve heard before and the Coyotes have been at the Garden a few times this season. Vermette wins 53.3% of his draws and makes 3.75 million on the cap. He has 13 points in 19 games so he’s not void of offensive talent, but he’s 32 years old and set to be a UFA.
There you have it, but let me pass this along as well, a friend told me – just because GM’s talk, it doesn’t mean anything will happen.