Copp, Braun make Rangers more balanced after trade deadline

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.

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.

Andrew Copp

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.

Yes, you can argue Copp lingers as an overly expensive rental for the Rangers. It could have been worse, though.

Justin Braun

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.

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.

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.

Already with a goal in three games with the Rangers, Frank Vatrano’s a reasonably interesting acquisition, too.

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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.