Why Rangers reportedly ‘identified’ Alex Wennberg as target ahead of trade deadline

NHL: New York Islanders at Seattle Kraken
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the New York Rangers are rolling along with eight straight wins and sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, they’re expected to be major players ahead of the NHL trade deadline March 8.

The latest from the NHL rumor mill attaches the Blueshirts to center Alex Wennberg. The New York Post reported that the Rangers have “identified” Wennberg as a possible target.

It’s not a surprise the Rangers would check in with the Seattle Kraken on the 29-year-old center. Wennberg is best suited to a 3C role, could play up in an emergency and is a rental, since he can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

The Rangers are seeking a center, with Filip Chytil out for the season due to an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion. Jonny Brodzinski has drawn high praise from coach Peter Laviolette for his play on the third line, but with eyes on winning the Stanley Cup, the Rangers will be looking to upgrade at the position.

Related: Rangers sign Jonny Brodzinski to two-year contract extension

Prod and cons of Rangers trading for Alexander Wennberg

NHL: Seattle Kraken at New Jersey Devils
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Wennberg is not a slam-dunk option, though, for the Rangers. First, his salary cap hit is $4.5 million, so the Rangers need the Kraken to likely take on half that salary. But not at the expense of New York’s first-round pick in the 2024 draft.

The Rangers have other holes to fill, notably a top-line right wing to play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. That appeared to be a priority even before Blake Wheeler went down last week with a season-ending lower-body injury,

If the Rangers deal their first-round pick, it’d more likely be to secure a right wing, like a reunion with Anaheim Ducks forward Frank Vatrano, who isn’t a rental with another season remaining on his contract.

So, the Kraken would likely have to make do with a prospect or two, perhaps a secondary draft pick, though the Rangers don’t have a second-rounder in 2025 nor 2026 and they already traded away their third-round picks in 2024 and 2025.

Assuming logistics could be worked out, Wennberg would provide New York a veteran presence between Kaapo Kakko and Will Cuylle on the third line. He’s never really met expectations offensively since producing 59 points (13 goals, 46 assists) with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17. He has 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 55 games this season, skating almost exclusively with Jaden Schwartz (a five-time 20-goal scorer).

Wennberg plays in all situations for the Kraken. He averages 18:40 in ice time, including 1:51 per game on the power play. He also plays on the penalty kill. His 60 blocked shots are a plus, but his miserable 46.2 face-off winning percentage is not.

He has been on for five goals more than those against (35-30) but his expected goals for 5×5 is 49 percent. Not great, playing in a top-six role.

One would think that Adam Henrique might be a better fit here. The Anaheim Ducks center is far more productive, even if six years older. But the pending UFA could cost the Rangers that coveted first-round pick.

Rangers general manager Chris Drury has a bit more than two weeks to sort this all out and fill a couple holes to set the Rangers up for a run this spring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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