The New York Rangers have plenty of cap space and a need to improve their top six. They’ve long been rumored to want an upgrade at center and have been attached to some big names.
Jack Eichel, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgeny Kuznetsov are names you hear often. Their preference would be to trade for Eichel but if he is indeed having surgery, they will need to wait until December or January to make that deal. Barkov is close to signing a long-term extension with the Panthers, and Kuznetsov may be off the table.
A new name is starting to be raised and it is pending UFA center, Tomas Hertl.
Tomas Hertl may soon be available
Tomas Hertl will be a UFA at the end of this season. At this point and time, the Sharks have not seriously engaged with Hertl’s camp about an extension.
In a recent Czech interview with iDNES.cz, Hertl gave an update. “I wonder if San Jose will want to re-sign me and if I’ll want to stay there,” he said as translated by Kevin Kurz. “I don’t want to think about it so it doesn’t negatively affect me. I’ll start the season and see how it turns out.”
Hertl will be 28 years-old when his current deal with a $5.625M cap hit expires. Last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games. For his NHL career he’s registered 323 points in 503 contests.
Rangers must proceed with caution
While he is talented, Hertl comes with a long history of knee injuries dating back to his rookie season in 2013. In 2016, he injured the same right knee which also reared its ugly head the following season. And in 2020, he damaged his left knee.
There is a buyer beware sign on his knees, but if the price is right, a trade deadline rental will make sense for a contender.
That’s why the Rangers need to only consider this move if they are in a playoff position come the trade deadline on March 21. Hertl as a rental will still be expensive to acquire. The starting point will probably be a first round pick, and most likely a young roster player or highly touted prospect.
Any move for Hertl now would be more costly. San Jose would not be interested in an even swap of Ryan Strome. Considering where they are as a franchise, you are probably looking at a bigger package that includes Filip Chytil, Zac Jones, and a lottery protected first round pick.
The Rangers could keep Strome for this season, but would likely trade him by the deadline or risk him walking for nothing. The acquisition of Hertl would spell the end of Strome’s tenure on Broadway.
Come the end of the 2021-22 season, Chris Drury would have to lock up not only UFA Mika Zibanejad to a big contract but an injury prone Hertl as well. Same goes for Strome if he is still with the team.
Finally, while some are looking at Hertl as an upgrade I will leave you with this:
Over the last two seasons, Ryan Strome has amassed 108 points in 126 games for a .86 points per game average. Hertl, due to injury only played in 98 games and registered 79 points for a .81 points per game average.
Maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side.
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