The New York Rangers penned a letter to fans last trade deadline explaining that they had decided to rebuild.
Oddly enough, the New York Rangers having a decent season even though they are in a rebuild. With the New York Rangers currently 4 points out of a playoff spot as of Wednesday, the playoffs still are in reach. But, that can all change come time January and February.
With tough competition in the Eastern Conference, they might have no choice but to become sellers. The New York Rangers need some upgrades on defense and none of the young players are playing at an Elias Pettersson level. So, I don’t see them being a definitive playoff team.
With that in mind, there will be more veteran candidates to be traded this year, with some more likely to be dealt than others. Below, I list the top candidates to be traded prior to the deadline. (I’ve also included a number to rank the likelihood of them being dealt. 1 – low, 10 – high)
Kevin Hayes – 7/10
Kevin Hayes has started to come into his own. With many veterans that are no longer on the team, Hayes has been getting more consistent minutes. He had 25 goals and 19 assists last season and already has 9 goals and 18 assists this season. While his assist totals went down last season, goal totals went up, showing that he is more confident in shooting the puck. However, something like that can also mean he is starting to get more selfish with the puck, and that is one of the biggest things I worry about with this young team that’s moving the puck well together.
Now, I’m not saying Hayes isn’t a part of that, as his 18 assists are second on the team. However, he has been mistake-prone as well, whether it’s bad turnovers in his own zone, going offside constantly, or mistakes defensively.
Hayes is also a streaky player. There are times where Hayes will go on a hot streak for a week or so and then fall of course. Perhaps, the Rangers look to cash out on Hayes and look to add someone to their farm system who is bit more consistent.
On the flip side, Hayes could be a solid fit for a playoff team looking to add a solid second line forward. He’s proven that he can be an effective playmaker and could potentially be an asset for another team down the stretch.
Mats Zuccarello– 9/10
Mats Zuccarello has been my favorite player in recent years. Zuccarello is a Norwegian national and as I’m part Norwegian, I’ve enjoyed watching my fellow country-men succeed in the NHL.
However, I do believe he is the most likely to be dealt. With just 3 goals and 9 assists at this point in the season, he has taken a tumble in terms of his performance. He did miss 13 games, but even when he has played, he hasn’t looked the same. That’s concerning. He’s 31 years old and perhaps he is past his prime.
At this time last season, the Rangers front office was talking about trading Zuccarello. Obviously that didn’t happen, but with his age, a slight decline in his production and his contract running out at the end of the season, it seems like it’s inevitable that he’ll be dealt.
Teams always like to have veteran presences when it comes to winning games later on in the season and in the playoffs. With Zuccarello’s playoff experience, he could be a great fit on a playoff bound team. He could have a similar impact to how Nick Bonino performed a few seasons back with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kevin Shattenkirk: 6/10
Kevin Shattenkirk hasn’t been the same player since he has come to the Rangers. He’s made a lot of mistakes defensively and has had issues with puck-handling in his own zone. In addition, he is not showing the same physicality that he once had in his days with the St. Louis Blues.
Instead, he’s solely found success in the offensive zone, but even his offensive production has declined.
In 46 games last season, he had 5 goals and 18 assists. Those aren’t bad numbers, but this season has been much worse. In 29 games played this season, he has just 1 goal and 7 assists.
I think the Rangers will attempt to trade him knowing, like Hayes, that he’s been mistake prone and that kind of thing might derail the team. However, I don’t think the market will be as strong unless he has a major turnaround in his performance.
Unfortunately, if he doesn’t turn it around, he likely won’t fetch much. I don’t think that the Rangers would get more than a B-C level prospect and a middle round draft pick.
With the Rangers not likely to get a sizable return, they might have challenges trading Shattenkirk.
Henrik Lundqvist: 2/10
Henrik Lundqvist has been the face of the New York Rangers for the last 15 years, but his tenure with the Rangers could potentially come to an end soon. He’s been floating around in trade rumors since the team is looking to continue rebuilding.
Lundqvist has stood on his head in recent years especially against tough teams and with the defense declining. While his numbers aren’t Vezina numbers anymore, they are still good considering the defense is putrid. With the goaltending market being very thin, you would think teams are calling the Rangers constantly.
A lot of fans want him gone to get something back for him and/or to watch him win a cup somewhere else. However, I don’t think he goes anywhere. Henrik Lundqvist has a no-trade clause in his contract, and the contract is pretty risky to take on anyway with his recent injury history. Lundqvist has also made it clear that he prefers to stay with the Rangers.
There’s still a chance he changes his mind and would be open to being dealt. There are many teams around the NHL like the Buffalo Sabres or the Colorado Avalanche that could use a potential upgrade in net. However, the question remains if Lundqvist would waive his no trade clause. He had the option to waive his contract last year, but chose not to. So, if Lundqvist doesn’t want to leave, I expect that the organization will respect that and keep him a Ranger.
Henrik Lundqvist is an icon in hockey and in Rangers history. He’ll definitely be a Hall of Famer when he retires. However, some Rangers fans want him traded with a good reason. They want him to win a Stanley Cup before he hangs up his skates. But, considering his loyalty to the organization and that he is arguably the greatest goaltender in Rangers history, I doubt that a trade will happen and that he’ll remain a Ranger for life.
stats provided by hockey-reference.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals