New York Rangers trade deadline primer: Dissecting the top candidates

Alexandar Georgiev, Chris Kreider, Tony DeAngelo

The NHL trade deadline is approaching quickly and the New York Rangers have some decisions to make, especially at the goaltender position. 

The New York Rangers have been playing some inspired, fun hockey lately, meaning the objective (and rightly so) has fallen a little by the wayside.

This is still a rebuilding hockey club, and, mainly thanks to the recent winning, they’ll have some serious decisions to make when the trade deadline rolls around.

The deadline is Monday, Feb. 24. That’s when the Rangers have to decide if they want to buy or sell. It’s a tough question for them, considering how close they are to a playoff spot. They’re currently only eight points out with a game in hand.

That’s why it’s important to take an in-depth look at their roster and it’s value. The Rangers have a ton of tough decisions to make and not a lot of time left to decide.

LW Chris Kreider

Kreider’s name tops most Rangers trade deadline lists. Chris Kreider is a fan-favorite who has spent the entirety of his seven-plus year career with the Rangers. It may be time to move on from the power forward.

Kreider was selected by the Rangers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and made his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He’s been an important piece for the Rangers ever since.

He grew from the kid everyone was excited to see develop into an immensely valuable veteran in the locker room. He dazzles with his speed on the ice, and his presence in front of the net has become invaluable.

Kreider, who turns 29 at the end of April, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The majority of Rangers fans would love nothing more than to see Kreider stay in New York for the remainder of his career. There’s a good chance this does not happen.

After starting the season off poorly, Kreider has since caught fire. In his first 28 games, he had just 13 points. He has notched 29 points in 29 games since and is on pace to set career-high numbers. He’s already just six goals and six assists away from setting new career-highs.

Thanks to the rising price of free-agent contracts, it’s not absurd to think Kreider is due for a massive payday. The Rangers may not and should not be interested in being the ones who meet Kreider’s contract demands.

Kreider’s a very good hockey player, but he has a ceiling. He goes on hot streaks like the one he is currently on every single year. He’s incapable of consistently putting up great numbers over a full season. At 28 years old, it is hard to believe that’ll change.

The only way the Rangers should agree to keep him around is if he accepts a hometown discount. The contract they offer him really shouldn’t exceed $30 million over five years and must be free of a no-movement clause.

It’s unlikely that he’ll agree to those terms, and rightfully so. However, if he refuses, now’s the time to trade him. Kreider’s a good top-six forward with a great deal of playoff experience. A multitude of contenders will want him and the Rangers can get draft picks as well as NHL-ready forwards for him.

The question becomes, “Do the Rangers think they can make a serious push for the playoffs with Kreider?” If not, it’s time to move on from the power forward.

G Henrik Lundqvist

While Henrik Lundqvist should absolutely not be on this list and most likely will be sticking around, there is a chance the Rangers try to convince the face of their franchise to waive his no-movement clause (NMC).

Lundqvist is facing the brunt of the Rangers’ goaltending trio debacle more than anyone. He has not started a game since Feb. 3. The Rangers may have some interest in keeping the two young goalies, and moving Lundqvist, but cannot do so without his permission.

There is no reason for him to agree to it, anyway (unless he thinks a Stanley Cup is a legitimate option elsewhere). The 37-year-old is one of the greatest players in franchise history and has earned the right to finish out his contract here. Anyway, Lundqvist is still a good goaltender in the NHL. Not only is he a top-five goalie in the league in terms of expected shots saved, but he is also the best goalie on this team in that category.

Shesterkin, who grew up idolizing Lundqvist, should get to keep learning first-hand from his hero and one of the greatest to ever do it. It is in the best interest of the Rangers to keep their goaltending legend around.

G Alexandar Georgiev

Similar to Kreider’s dilemma, Alexandar Georgiev’s name has been swirling around in rumors. His situation is the most intriguing one.

The 24-year-old goaltender went undrafted in 2017, but impressed the Rangers. The team was impressed enough with his work in development camp that they signed him to an entry-level contract.

He made his NHL debut in Feb. 2018 and has been efficient ever since. For most of his short NHL career, Georgiev has served as the back-up of New York Rangers’ legend Henrik Lundqvist.

Things changed, however, when the Rangers called up Igor Shesterkin in January. The Rangers have been using a three-goalie rotation since then, but it’s not working. Lundqvist isn’t playing at all and it’s becoming hard to bench Shesterkin.

The only solution is to trade one of the goalies. The only goalie who it makes sense to move is Georgiev. For one, Lundqvist has done enough to earn the right to finish out his contract, which runs through the end of the 2020-2021 season. Plus, he has a no-move clause.

Whether people want to admit or not, Georgiev is the worst goalie on the team. It’s become the consensus opinion that Shesterkin is better.

According to advanced statistics such as goals saved above expected, Georgiev is below average/bad in almost all of them. He seems to be an average goalie/fringe starter whom Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire has made look great.

The Rangers have a chance to fleece a team that needs a goaltender. It’s possible they get a mid-round draft pick and a good NHL forward for Georgiev. They can’t let this opportunity slip away.

C Ryan Strome

Ryan Strome should be moved but probably won’t be. Strome was acquired by the Rangers in 2019 and has been surprisingly tremendous since. In 121 games with the Blueshirts, Strome has 83 points (32 goals, 51 assists).

He’s been especially fantastic this season: he has 50 points in 58 games. That’s all well and good, but most of Strome’s great play can be attributed to the fact that he plays on the same line as Artemi Panarin.

After all, Strome has never been more than a decent player. In 258 games with the New York Islanders Strome had 126 points. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers during the 2017-2018 season, and he was awful with them, notching just 36 points in 100 games.

It’s really hard to believe that Strome has finally found his footing at 26 years old. Keeping Strome is a mistake the Rangers must not make, especially since his trade value should be the highest in his career.

The return he could bring back would almost certainly be more than he’s actually worth. They’ll most likely listen to offers, but it will be a surprise if the Rangers decide to pull the trigger.

RW Jesper Fast

The New York Rangers should deal Jesper Fast. That’s a tough pill for Rangers’ fans to swallow, but it’s the best course of action. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2010 and made his NHL debut in 2013. He’s spent his entire six-plus year career in New York.

While Fast has never been a prolific scorer, he’s played an important role for the Rangers since joining the organization. Fast will be a free agent once this season is over, so this is the Rangers’ only opportunity to cash him in.

The 28-year-old is a versatile player who provides bottom-six forward depth, and excels on both the power play and penalty kill. He also has a great deal of playoff experience. Any contender would be lucky to have him.

The Rangers acquisition of RW Julien Gauthier from the Carolina Hurricanes also points to a winger being traded in the near future. Could that winger be Fast?

RHD Tony DeAngelo

Tony DeAngelo is another example of a player whom the Rangers should trade but will not. DeAngelo was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning but was traded to the Arizona Coyotes after exhibiting behavioral issues. He also faced problems in Arizona, but he’s gotten it together off the ice since coming to New York.

Not only has DeAngelo matured, but his play has improved greatly. At the moment, he’s one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL- he’s ranked sixth in points with 43.

The Rangers should move DeAngelo despite his elite offensive production. To begin with, DeAngelo is bad in his own end. Rarely can the team (or fans) rely on him to make good defensive plays in his own zone. He’s more of a liability on defense than anything.

Even though his defense is poor, DeAngelo is a solid top-four defenseman. This conversation wouldn’t even be happening if not for the Rangers’ incredible pool of prospects.

Realistically speaking, is there room for DeAngelo in the future? Is his offense valuable enough for the Rangers to extend him?

The 24-year-old’s value is sky-high. The Rangers should be able to turn him into some much-needed quality forward depth at the deadline.

As great of a player as he is, it’s not worth keeping him around when the team has so many elite prospects. The fact that he’s not good in his own zone doesn’t help, either. He’s a defenseman, not a forward after all.

Kaapo Kakko, RoboKaapo T-Shirt

LHD Marc Staal

Going into this season, it seemed as though the consensus was that the New York Rangers would move Marc Staal. That no longer seems to be the case. That doesn’t mean the Rangers shouldn’t try.

The 33-year-old has spent his entire 12-plus year career with the Rangers. He’s by no means an offensive defenseman, but he has put his body on the line for the Rangers every time he gets on the ice. That’s most evident in the 1149 shots he’s blocked. That said, the time to move on has long passed.

Staal hasn’t been good for a few years now. There’s no longer a point in him taking playing time away from younger stars. Staal’s definitely not part of the future of this team, so he has to go.

It seems as though the Rangers are going to buy him out during the offseason as his contract runs through next year, but they should act faster. Staal can give a team defensive depth, veteran leadership, and has playoff experience.

The main issue with him is that he is injury-prone. That doesn’t mean Rangers shouldn’t at least try to gain something from his departure.

LHD Brendan Smith

Even though Brendan Smith has been used by the Rangers as a fourth-line winger for most of the year, he is a defenseman and a not-terrible one by any stretch.

Smith is by no means great, and really shouldn’t be on anything other than a third pairing. However, his defensive play is usually never detrimental to his team.

He would be a solid addition to a team looking for defensive depth. It doesn’t seem like the 31-year-old is going anywhere this year, but if the Rangers do try to move him. He would definitely be sent as a part of a package deal.

C Greg McKegg

Other than having a pretty cool name, Greg McKegg really doesn’t bring much to the table. In fact, he most likely wouldn’t get any playing time on the vast majority of teams in this league.

Any team would be crazy to specifically ask for McKegg in a trade, but the New York Rangers really should try to package him in some sort of deal. The 27-year-old is a grinder who can bring depth to some teams, so why not try?

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