Trade: Rangers add depth in Vatrano as Panthers open up cap space

vatrano rangers
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Frank Vatrano has been dealt from the Florida Panthers to the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2022 fourth-round pick. Per the Rangers, the pick exchanging hands “will be the later of the two fourth-round selections the Rangers own (either their own fourth-round pick or Winnipeg’s fourth-round pick).”

It’s a move that helps both teams for two different reasons.

For the Rangers, they are a team that has been relying heavily this season on their top-six to provide offense. Between what Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome have delivered so far, improving depth scoring was certainly a priority for general manager Chris Drury ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

In 49 games this season Vatrano has 10 goals and 19 points. Since 2018-19, the 28-year-old winger has scored 68 times, including Tuesday night’s overtime winner against the San Jose Sharks. This is the fourth consecutive season he’s hit double digits in goals, a streak that began with a 24-goal campaign in his first full year with the Panthers.

Panthers clearing decks for someone

Vatrano is the final year of his contract and sending him north to New York will create extra space for move moves. According to Cap Friendly, losing Vatrano’s $2.533 million salary cap hit will allow GM Bill Zito to enter the final days before the trade deadline with $5.45 million in cap space.

More space could be created by Zito, of course, and with the Panthers rumored to be targeting Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux, Florida may not be done before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher and staff have been scouting the Panthers’ American Hockey League side recently. Giroux still needs to agree to waive his no-movement clause to facilitate a trade. For now he’s worrying about his 1,000th NHL game, which will be played on Thursday in Philadelphia. Once that’s over he’ll begin thinking about the big decision ahead.

“If I can be honest, I’m trying to focus on playing 1,000 games with the Flyers,” said Giroux on Wednesday. “It’s something I’m proud of. I’m very happy I got the chance to do this. After that, it’s going to be, change the mindset a little bit and see how things are going to go.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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