The Eastern Conference’s playoff picture is jam-packed with teams you can imagine making a deep playoff run. That said, if there’s a team that could be labeled a “pretender” — at least compared to being a contender — it might have been the New York Rangers. At the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, the Rangers took promising steps toward addressing some serious red flags.
Now, the Rangers’ underlying issues may still linger, but Justin Braun, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, and Frank Vatrano combine for a solid trade deadline haul.
Details about the trade deadline are still trickling in, for the Rangers and other teams. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Andrew Copp trade conditions as such:
Rangers receive: Andrew Copp, 2023 sixth-round pick.
Jets receive: A 2022 second-round pick (could become a first-rounder if Rangers win two rounds), a second-rounder in 2022 or 2023, a fifth-rounder in 2023, and Morgan Barron.
Rangers didn’t fix everything at trade deadline
To be clear: a positive Rangers trade deadline doesn’t necessarily mean that the team won’t depend on Igor Shesterkin to an arguably historic degree.
"Not listening to arguments for Hart when Matthews is doing things that haven't been done in 20+ years" is an interesting thing to say while we watch Shesterkin do things we haven't been done in 50+ years. https://t.co/F3yPLSqSCY pic.twitter.com/dYajF8iyyW
— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) March 9, 2022
Over the years, there are teams that defy analytics. Rarely (see: certain Capitals teams out-shooting expectations), they even avoid slipping over time.
[2022 NHL Trade Tracker]
But it’s been a while since the situation has been this extreme. They’re not just mediocre at 5-on-5; they’re downright lousy. The Rangers rank among the bottom-five in quantity stats (like Corsi %) and quality ones (such as expected goals). This Evolving Hockey RAPM team chart provides a quick snapshot of the Rangers: propped up by Shesterkin and a dangerous power play.
Realistically, the Rangers likely need to improve structurally as a team to turn around those underlying numbers. And it’s certainly possible. (This is Gerard Gallant’s first season as head coach, after all. Over time, Golden Knights went from goalie-and-luck-dependent to legit under Gallant.)
Rangers trade deadline tidbits: Copp, Braun are promising additions
Credit the Rangers for taking steps in the right direction. Especially after an offseason where they seemingly overreacted to Tom Wilson.
Despite going from a slightly lucky shooting percentage (13% for 15 goals), to a mildly unlucky mark (13 goals on an 8.6 shooting percentage), Andrew Copp’s basically matched his output from last season’s mini-breakthrough. He’s generated 35 points in 56 games this season after 39 points in 55 games in 2020-21.
Beyond extra production, Copp’s versatility is very appealing to the Rangers.
Andrew Copp is a strong fit for the #NYR middle-six. He can play center and wing + bring the puck into the offensive zone with control and generate scoring chances. Given their cap situation next season, a rental clicks. pic.twitter.com/uubcwJugZh
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 21, 2022
Yes, you can argue Copp lingers as an overly expensive rental for the Rangers. It could have been worse, though.
Kudos to PHT’s Sean Leahy for emphasizing Justin Braun as a potential hidden gem at the trade deadline.
For a team that’s mixing “outscoring their problems” with “hoping Igor Shesterkin puts out fires,” Braun could be essential in cleaning up messes.
Braun is excellent at preventing opportunities against his goaltenders. He should provide lots of utility in New York. https://t.co/3cPkiZOy1g pic.twitter.com/EDgb4H7Gqp
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) March 21, 2022
Copp is likely the “sexier” of the Rangers trade deadline moves, but Braun could be a steal. It’s a strong case of taking a substantial step at addressing a weakness, without paying big (a 2023 third-round pick).
Vatrano and Motte
Truly, it’s amusing that Tyler Motte profiles, in some ways, as a guy.
Tyler Motte (to the Rangers for a fourth next year) is an average forward with a good shot. pic.twitter.com/4Yg2a3xPOJ
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 21, 2022
Really, though, Motte is a decent addition for the Rangers. If this team can keep its head above water when top players are resting up for their next shifts, that’s significant. Motte cost the Rangers a fourth-rounder.
Tyler Motte is a speedy, disruptive winger. He's positive influence on his zone, can push play back up the ice, contribute some offense, and kill penalties. A fourth-rounder is a very low-risk, high reward return #NYR
Wrote about him a few weeks back: https://t.co/tATf2acOtR pic.twitter.com/sTey8LfGGn
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 21, 2022
Already with a goal in three games with the Rangers, Frank Vatrano’s a reasonably interesting acquisition, too.
Frank Vatrano, traded to NYR, is a versatile depth scoring winger who can hold his own at 5v5. #NYR pic.twitter.com/YaRavzuTpL
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 16, 2022
Back in 2018-19, Vatrano scored scored 24 goals and 39 points for the Panthers. He reached 34 goals the following season. While he hasn’t hit 20 goals since 2018-19, Vatrano’s 18 in 2020-21 feel close enough considering that he was limited to 56 games played.
After the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, the Rangers may still lag behind some of the most potent East teams. They made the race quite a bit tighter, though.
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.