New York Rangers trade board: 16 forwards to monitor as Chris Drury navigates NHL deadline

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As the March 8 trade deadline nears, Rangers general manager Chris Drury has two apparent needs: a depth center and a wing who can be an option for the top line.

Teams frequently look for centers at the trade deadline, so they rarely come cheap. Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan have already netted first-round picks in trades this season. Impact wings aren’t easy to find, either.

Fortunately for the Rangers, there are plenty of players who could be on the move in the coming weeks, and Drury has some cap space with which he can work. CapFriendly projects New York as having around $4.3 million of room, and the team could create more by sending players like Alex Belzile, Matt Rempe and Adam Edstrom back to the AHL.

Using Chris Johnston’s most recent trade board as a guide, here is a look at 16 forwards New York could pursue, from pure rentals to long-shots.

Center rentals

Alex Wennberg, Seattle
No. 16 on the trade board
23 points in 58 games
$4.5 million cap hit through 2023-24

We’ve covered Wennberg plenty recently and analyzed why he could be a good fit for the Rangers. The big question is if Seattle sells at the deadline. Does Kraken general manager Ron Francis try to sneak into a Wild Card spot? Or is he ready to look to the future?

Tyler Johnson, Chicago
No. 42 on the trade board
18 points in 44 games
$5 million cap hit through 2023-24

The Athletic’s Arthur Staple mentioned the possibility of Johnson in a recent piece. He would bring depth up the middle, which the Rangers need, and has two Stanley Cup rings with Tampa Bay. His underlying numbers aren’t great, but some of that is likely a byproduct of playing for lowly Chicago.

Johnson’s salary is an obstacle. Chicago would certainly have to retain half of Johnson’s $5 million cap hit for a deal to make sense from the Rangers’ perspective. Even if that happens, it would eat into the space New York has to make other moves.

Adam Henrique, Anaheim
No. 4 on the trade board
38 points in 57 games
$5.83 million cap hit through 2023-24

If the Rangers were to acquire Henrique, he’d fit nicely as the third-line center, allowing Jonny Brodzinski to move to the fourth line. A combination of Mika Zibanejad, Vincent Trocheck and Henrique as the team’s top-nine centers would be an improvement over the team’s current iteration up the middle. Drury would have to pay a handsome price to make it happen, though. If Lindholm and Monahan fetched first-round picks, Henrique could, too, especially if the Ducks retain half his salary.

Sam Carrick, Anaheim
No. 24 on the trade board
11 points in 58 games
$850,000 cap hit through 2023-24

Similar to Johnson, Carrick is a bottom-six center who could be a depth add for a club. If the Rangers use most of their cap flexibility on a wing, adding someone like Carrick could make sense just to have extra center depth. He won’t cost nearly as much as some of the other center options on the market, and he doesn’t come with the same salary cap hurdles as Johnson.

If the Rangers target Frank Vatrano, whom we’ll get to in a bit, it could make sense for Drury to ask Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek about broadening the deal to include Henrique or Carrick. Henrique would, of course, up the cost more than Carrick.

Thomas Novak, Nashville
Not on trade board
32 points in 49 games
$800,000 cap hit through 2023-24

Novak has 75 points in his past 100 games for Nashville and comes with an affordable cap hit. That could make him an enticing option if the Predators decide to sell. They’re currently in playoff position, so that might not happen.

Top-six wing options

Frank Vatrano, Anaheim
No. 9 on the trade board
45 points in 58 games
$3.65 million cap hit through 2024-25

There are a few reunion candidates on this list, but perhaps none makes more sense than Vatrano. He came to New York at the 2022 trade deadline and fit well with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the top line before heading to Anaheim in free agency. The right wing, who played in the All-Star Game this year, has another year of term at a reasonable cap hit, so he wouldn’t be a pure rental. But the Ducks also don’t have to move him until they get an offer they like, and they could wait until this offseason or the next trade deadline to make a deal. Given the extra year of term and the established fit with Kreider and Zibanejad, Vatrano might be the type of player for whom Drury is willing to part with a first-round pick.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Ottawa

No. 8 on the trade board
38 points in 55 games
$5 million cap hit through 2023-24

Tarasenko’s prime years with St. Louis are behind him, but he was sufficient when the Rangers acquired him last season and still has the ability to score. He has 15 goals on the year.

Ottawa is out of the playoff race, so Tarasenko will likely be on the move again this year, and the Rangers could once again make a play for him. He brings plenty of playoff experience, too, having won a Cup with St. Louis.

Jordan Eberle, Seattle
No. 17 on the trade board
35 points in 54 games
$5.5 million cap hit through 2023-24

Eberle has had big playoff moments in the past, but he comes with a few roadblocks. For one, his cap hit is large, so Seattle would have to retain half, driving up the price further. Secondly, the team might not sell while chasing a playoff berth. And thirdly, the Kraken could try to extend Eberle and make all of this moot.

Anthony Duclair, San Jose
No. 26 on the trade board
19 points in 52 games
$3 million cap hit through 2023-24

Duclair’s numbers aren’t impressive, which isn’t a shock given the team for which he plays. He showed last postseason he can contribute on a contender, scoring 11 points in 20 games during Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. Perhaps playing on a stronger team could bring out a better side of him.

Reilly Smith, Pittsburgh
No. 23 on the trade board
25 points in 50 games
$5 million cap hit through 2024-25

Smith would make much more sense if he had a lower cap hit or if he didn’t have another year of term left on his deal. For a deal to get done now, the Rangers would need to find a way to get him under the salary cap for the rest of this season and next. Pittsburgh probably wouldn’t want to retain, so Drury would likely be on the hook for all $5 million. That would limit flexibility to do much else at the deadline unless the team is willing to part with a roster player’s contract.

Centers with team control

Scott Laughton, Philadelphia
No. 30 on the trade board
30 points in 60 games
$3 million cap hit through 2025-26

Philadelphia doesn’t have to trade Laughton. The Flyers are in the hunt for a playoff spot, and Laughton isn’t going to be a free agent until 2026. But with the packages centers Lindholm and Monahan drew, it makes sense for the Philadelphia brass to listen. The Rangers would probably have to give up a first-round pick to get a deal done.

Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo
Not on trade board
44 points in 59 games
$2.5 million cap hit through 2023-24 (RFA)

Mittelstadt has produced at a respectable clip the past two seasons and would be a longer-term option at center. That, of course, makes him pricier.

Nico Sturm, San Jose
Not on trade board
9 points in 38 games
$2 million cap hit through 2024-25

Sturm won a Stanley Cup with Colorado playing in a bottom-six role. He’s strong defensively with a good work ethic, and he has another year on his deal.

Mikael Granlund, San Jose
No. 12 on the trade board
32 points in 44 games
$5 million cap hit through 2024-25

If San Jose were willing to retain, Granlund could be worth the Rangers’ consideration. If not, his cap hit would limit Drury’s flexibility to make further moves.

It’s also worth noting that Granlund was dealt last deadline. Nashville sent him to Pittsburgh, and he struggled, putting up only five points in 21 games. The Penguins then sent him to San Jose in the Erik Karlsson deal.

Long-shots

Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh
No. 3 on the trade board
52 points in 50 games
$6 million cap hit through 2023-24

Guentzel would be a huge swing for Drury. He’s going to cost more than just about anyone moved at the deadline, and the Rangers would need Pittsburgh to retain salary. That would drive up the price even further. There likely won’t be a better right wing moved at the deadline, but it’s hard to see New York paying as much as it would need to acquire Guentzel, especially since he’d be a rental.

Pavel Buchnevich, St. Louis
No. 7 on the trade board
47 points in 56 games
$5.8 million cap hit through 2024-25

Buchnevich established himself as a solid NHL player with the Rangers, and New York now covets a wing. But the Blues asking price would likely be too high, and Buchnevich’s cap hit would be hard to fit. Staple laid out why a deal would be unlikely, hence Buchnevich’s inclusion in the long-shot category.

(Photo of Anthony Duclair: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)





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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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