Report: Rangers could blow it up at deadline

Getty
8 Comments

Well this could make for a pretty interesting NHL trade deadline.

According to a report from Larry Brooks of the New York Post on Friday afternoon, the New York Rangers could become major sellers at the trade deadline, regardless of where they stand in the playoff race, and use it as an opportunity to “refresh and replenish” the organization.

Writes Brooks…

The mandate, approved (if not established) in the owner’s suite by Jim Dolan, is to build a Stanley Cup winner rather than to simply extend a seven-year playoff streak that is in jeopardy.

The objective is to add young NHL or NHL-ready players every bit as much as garnering additional selections in upcoming entry drafts. Teams in the market for rentals generally own picks in the overall 24-to-31 range. You can get a good player toward the bottom of the first round, but generally not a franchise guy even if Boston’s David Pastrnak (25th in 2014) might prove a notable exception to the rule. The Rangers are neither plotting nor anticipating a deep dive to the league’s nether regions from which it can take years to escape.

Among the names mentioned as potential trade bait are forwards Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, and Michael Grabner, as well as defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

Nash and Grabner are both unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2017-18 season, while Zuccarello still has one more year remaining on his contract at a $4.5 million salary cap hit. McDonagh is also signed for one more year at $4.7 million season.

Even after their 6-5 win on Thursday, the Rangers head into the All-Star break a point out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and are one of the seven teams in the Metropolitan Division that are separated by just five points in the standings. Trading potential free agents like Nash and Grabner wouldn’t really be that bold of a move, but potentially sending out players like Zuccarello and McDonagh that are signed beyond this season certainly would be. Especially since they are still among the Rangers’ best players.

Zuccarello is the team’s leading scorer while McDonagh plays more minutes than any other skater on the team. Given their production and ability, as well as the fact they both have term left on their contract, both could land a pretty significant haul if they were traded.

Nash is having a down-year offensively but is still on pace to score around 25 goals and is still a strong two-way player. Grabner could also be intriguing for a contender given how productive he is at even-strength. The Rangers signed him to a two-year bargain contract a year ago and have been rewarded with a player that has scored 46 even-strength goals during that stretch. The only players with more in the NHL are Auston Matthews, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Nikita Kucherov.

He counts only $1.7 million against the salary cap this season.

No matter what they do — buy, sell, stand pat — the Rangers probably are not a Stanley Cup team this season and the fact it has come to this means they have almost certainly missed out on another opportunity to capitalize on Henrik Lundqvist‘s career and get a Stanley Cup during his watch. He turns 36 in March and for as great as he still is — and he is still a difference maker this season, who knows where the Rangers would be without him playing the way he has — there is going to come a point sooner rather than later where he is no longer at that level.

Whether the Rangers actually go through with this plan remains to be seen, but it is at least intriguing to think about it possibly being on the table.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

blackhawks
Harry How/Getty Images
13 Comments

CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

Getty Images
3 Comments

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

tampa bay lightning
Scott Audette/Getty Images
2 Comments

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
Julian Avram/Getty Images
2 Comments

TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.