Targeting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Larry Brooks says no, we say YES

When it comes to the Rangers beat, love him or hate him, Larry Brooks is the top reporter. He recently did a mailbag post where someone mentioned my speculation that the Rangers should target Oilers center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Our article on the targeting of Nugent-Hopkins appeared on March 7th.

Should the Rangers go for Nugent-Hopkins?

When a reader asked Larry Brooks the question about RNH, here was his response.

The Blueshirts surely will seek to bulk up down the middle and could be in the market for a second-line pivot depending upon Ryan Strome’s contract status and the staff’s opinion of Filip Chytil’s readiness to assume that responsibility. Tony DeAngelo could be the bait. But though the talented Nugent-Hopkins would fit nicely, he has only one year remaining on his contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, so the answer is no on RNH.

Larry Brooks

Why We Say Yes

The 26 year old center was on pace for a career year. With 61 points in 65 games he was just 9 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.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

The Trade

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.