Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would put Rangers over the top next season
While there will be some big names on the free agent market this summer, the one possible top UFA, Taylor Hall would cost way too much in cap space to land. Add to the fact he’s better suited at LW where the Rangers already have Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, it makes less sense. However, there is a player who will be of major interest as he is entering the final season of his contract. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be a UFA in the summer of 2021 and headed to become the biggest rental at next season’s trade deadline. He is a player the Rangers should try and acquire at the draft.
Note: Article first published 3/7/20
The 26 year old center is on pace for a career year. With 59 points in 62 games he is just 11 points shy of beating his previous career high of 69 points set last season. Nugent-Hopkins is entering his prime at the same time he’s going into the final year of a deal with a $6M AAV. If the Oilers don’t believe they can extend him, then they would be forced to trade him as rental come next trade deadline. That means the Oilers will at least listen to offers at the draft for him, just like the Rangers were talking about Kreider with the Avalanche in 2019.
So why should the Rangers go after him? As much as Strome has been a revelation, Nugent-Hopkin has been a more consistent offensive force down the middle. Are you still struggling with the idea? Let me lay it out differently. Imagine your top two lines next season being the following:
Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
Panarin – Nugent-Hopkins – Kakko
Is it starting to excite you? Let me expand the vision.
What about Strome?
Here’s the beauty of it, if you think Strome will cost too much, you can trade him and replace him with Nugent-Hopkins. However, Strome can also play wing which means you could have a scoring third line. That combo could feature either him or Filip Chytil at center and Vitali Kravtsov on the right wing. Does that sound like three great lines going forward? Of course, you need to give to get and the Rangers would have to dip into their deep talent pool to do it.
Remember great rentals cost 1st round picks and this summer the Rangers have 2, after trading Skjei to Carolina. Jeff Gorton needs to play this very deftly and move not only that pick but also the right players from the team. Here’s two possibilities that might get Edmonton to bite:
- EDM sends Nugent-Hopkins to NYR for 1st round pick (lottery protected), Lias Andersson, and Matthew Robertson
- EDM sends Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi to NYR for 1st round pick (lottery protected), Brett Howden, Lias Andersson, and Matthew Robertson
The inclusion of defenseman Matthew Robertson is tough to add but he plays for the Oil Kings and is someone they probably see often. While the Oilers are contenders, the can actually rebuild for the future on the fly with one of those two deals. Of course, there could be some other mixing and matching of players/and or prospects but continuing down that rabbit hole will be guessing at best.
I get it this is big early thinking and some others would say dreaming, but rumblings around the Rangers is that this summer is going to be a game changer. The signal was sent at the deadline when they extended Kreider and opted not to trade Jesper Fast that they are moving towards contention. While they could try and pick up a mid level UFA, making hockey deals is what John Davidson and Jeff Gorton plan on this summer. This would be some hockey deal.
Editor’s Note: At the start of this season, we discussed a Nugent-Hopkins trade as well here.