Rangers trade deadline targets: J.T. Miller, rentals, and more

Rangers trade deadline targets: J.T. Miller, rentals, and more
Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. With that time approaching, PHT will break down how contending teams and hopeful contenders should approach this challenging and exciting time. Sometimes, it won’t be totally clear if a team should even buy or sell at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. We continue today with the New York Rangers.

Want to get the lowdown on individual players and other teams? PHT’s Trade Deadline Primer series has you covered.

How good are the Rangers, really? Why that is only part of the trade deadline puzzle

If you look only at the standings (and a +27 goal differential), you might believe that all is going to plan for the New York Rangers. Certainly, being in comfortable playoff position with key players peaking isn’t a bad thing.

Yet, if you’ve followed even a bit of discourse around the Rangers, you likely heard that there are red flags waving left and right. That still seems to be the case.

The Rangers rank among the bottom-10 in “quality” stats like expected goals and high-danger chances, and are among the absolute worst in sheer volume like scoring chance and shot differentials. Overall, there’s reason to be concerned, if not perturbed.

This Money Puck chart of expected goals differential tells the story most dramatically:

Overall, the Rangers are succeeding based off a mix of Igor Shesterkin playing at a Hart Trophy level, players like Chris Kreider reaching new heights, and blazing-hot special teams. Wait, did Igor Shesterkin get mentioned? Better do that another time.

While that may not be sustainable, worries about being a “paper tiger” may only matter so much when considering the Rangers’ trade deadline targets.

Beyond everything else, it just makes sense for the Rangers to be buyers at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Cap Friendly places the Rangers’ trade deadline cap space at more than $31 million. After this season, the Rangers go from flush to snug, cap-space-wise, though. Extensions raise the cost of Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox about $12M combined, while future earnings are unclear for young Rangers such as Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko.

So, the time kinda sorta has to be now. Logically, the Rangers seem best suited to focus on rentals at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. But that doesn’t mean that Broadway’s NHL team won’t shoot for a matinee star or two instead.

Who/what might the Rangers be willing to trade away?

While the Rangers figure to mainly be buyers at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, they could ship out more than mere draft picks.

Granted, they have a decent reserve of those, too. Along with their first-rounder, they have two second-rounders to work with.

They also have some other pieces to consider. It seems like the Rangers want to move on from backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev early. Vitali Kravtsov and Nils Lundkvist receive a lot of mentions. While reports indicate that the Rangers would rather trade Lundkvist than move Braden Schneider (or maybe Zac Jones), their blueline pipeline is a little crowded.

One would assume that the Rangers will opt for the patient approach with Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko, but this franchise loves splashy, front-page-worthy moves. So they’re at least worth mentioning.

Rangers trade deadline targets: Miller, rentals, and more

In some ways, that makes sense. Miller’s a former Ranger who’s versatile enough to plug into multiple spots in any lineup.

For the most part, getting “two playoff runs” out of Miller is a perk, as his $5.25M cap hit is quite manageable. Would even that relative bargain squeeze the Rangers a bit, though? Would they want the Canucks to retain some salary, or take on money?

It’s possible that a Rangers – J.T. Miller trade could be trickier than other ideas, and he won’t be cheap to acquire. He could very well be worth the fuss, though.

[More on a potentially high price for a J.T. Miller trade]

To me, rentals still make the most sense for the Rangers. Luckily, there are some some quality choices.

  • Would the Flyers trade Claude Giroux, and would he accept a move to the Rangers? The idea really hasn’t been paraded around all that much. He’s so good (and almost as versatile as J.T. Miller) that it would be silly not to have the conversation. Joe Pavelski seems less likely to be available with the Stars improving their playoff odds, but it’s at least another call/email Chris Drury should consider. It may not even be worth dreaming about Filip Forsberg, however.
  • Staple cites sources who say the Rangers have shown “increased interest” in Rickard Rakell lately. Rakell’s an interesting consideration.

On one hand, there’s skill there (33 goals in 2016-17, 34 in 2017-18), and Rakell boasts at least some of the versatility of bigger trade deadline rental targets. He could provide a boost, though likely a subtler one.

Yet if the asking price includes a first-rounder, is that really worth it? Maybe if the market ends up quite shallow.

[Rakell is still a worthwhile trade deadline target overall]

  • Like Giroux, Mark Giordano isn’t connected to the Rangers in many trade deadline rumblings. Maybe he should be, though. As often as Igor Shesterkin bails this team out, Giordano may help them clean things up a bit in their own end. Playoff teams don’t want their Hockey Viz charts to look like a sea of red in front of their own goalies:

  • The Kraken may instead present the mid-budget trade deadline rentals that could appeal to the Rangers. Forwards like Calle Jarnkrok and Marcus Johansson won’t set the world on fire, but they also may only cost a second-rounder or less. Something to consider, especially if the Rangers aren’t just burying their hands in the sand about troubling team-wide underlying metrics.

Rentals make most sense for Rangers, but there’s room for creativity

Again, with a salary cap squeeze looming, the Rangers may be wise to focus on cleaner rental-style moves at the trade deadline.

That said, their massive, short-term cap space could open up possibilities. Could the Rangers absorb cap space for other teams’ trades and land some picks in the process? That’s an odd thought for a would-be buyer. But sometimes it’s wise to take what the defense (and trade market) gives you.

Granted, if there was a trade deadline for the Rangers to try to shoot for a big, bold play, this could also be it. If the Rangers end up quiet at the trade deadline, it won’t be for a lack of possibilities.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For: