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

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

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    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”