Whether the Rangers (and their oft-criticized owner) were actually flustered by the Tom Wilson – Artemi Panarin incident or not, they sent messages about adding “toughness.” You can’t get much tougher than Ryan Reaves, who the Rangers acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights late on Thursday.
Tom Wilson deterrent? Rangers trade for Ryan Reaves
Rangers receive: Ryan Reaves, 34, $1.75 million cap hit (expires after 2021-22).
Golden Knights receive: 2022 third-round pick.
No doubt, one of the first reactions to the Ryan Reaves trade is “boy, Tom Wilson really got to the Rangers, huh?”
Ryan Reaves reportedly once said to a team "I am the solution to your Tom Wilson problem." https://t.co/fcdcvVD0bx
— Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) July 30, 2021
It’s probably also worth noting that this will probably make more than just the (holdover) toughness-obsessed Rangers people happy. New Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant was enamored with Reaves during his Golden Knights days; now he gets to deploy the threatening forward in New York.
This continues a larger trend of the Rangers trying to be “tough to play against.”
The Rangers also added some grit on defense with Patrik Nemeth, and even more snarl (with limited hockey use) in Anthony Bitetto. Even pricey forward addition Barclay Goodrow has quite a bit of grit to his game.
Limiting the damage
Ideally, if a coach like Gallant demands Reaves-types, you’d be able to limit the damage. Consider it convincing a kid to eat their veggies with the lure of dessert. If Reaves doesn’t do too much damage in lesser minutes, then hopefully you can have better players on the ice more often?
That might not be how the Rangers see it, though. That’s dangerous, because he can take some bad penalties, and be a negative force in other ways. His Evolving Hockey player card summarizes the argument simply enough.
At least this is an indulgence that might not be too costly.
As mentioned earlier, Reaves is entering a contract year with a $1.75M cap hit. While that’s lofty for what he brings in more tangible ways, it’s easier to stomach if your coach simply must have that presence. (And it’s cheaper than his previous cap hit of $2.75M. Yikes.)
If Reaves doesn’t fit that well, than the Rangers can stomach the loss of that third-rounder. It’s that dessert that sets you back a few days, rather than a week.
That said, it’s an easy, small win for the Golden Knights. During the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Reaves found himself scratched at times. Every little bit of cap relief helps for Vegas, so this is a pretty obvious move.
For the Rangers, they just need to hope that Reaves’ drawbacks aren’t too obvious.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.