Chris Drury was apparently given a proposition he couldn’t refuse: adding Patrick Kane to an already very skilled line-up. The move came after the former Blackhawk used his NMC leverage to force Chicago GM Kyle Davidson into negotiating with one team – the New York Rangers.
It’s been a bit of a circus in the last week, what with Vitali Kravtsov being shipped off for little return, the reassignment of Jake Leschyshyn to Hartford, as well as the Cap gynnastics and questionable decisions around dressing but not playing Ryan Carpenter and Braden Schneider on Sunday, followed by last night’s game where they played two men short again.
Throw in a three game suspension to K’Andre Miller for spitting on LA King defensemen Drew Doughty, and an apparent shoulder injury to Ryan Lindgren, as well as Mika Zibanejad leaving Sunday’s game temporarily after blocking a shot, and you could be forgiven if you just wanted it all to be over.
Meanwhile the NHL, and the East in particular, have carried out an arms race that is difficult to keep track of. The Metro Division leading Hurricanes have tweaked their line-up by adding winger Jesse Puljujarvi, and defenseman Shane Gostisbierre, while New Jersey got the biggest name with the addition of Timo Meier – and a bunch of other stuff – from San Jose.
Washington has pivoted to a “rebuild-on-the-fly” model, shipping out veterans on expiring contracts in the form of Dmitri Orlov, Garnet Hathaway and Lars Eller, while adding Rasmus Sundin from Toronto. What Pittsburgh GM Ron Hextall is doing is anyone’s guess, but the questionable add of Mikael Granlund, while parting ways with Teddy Blueger and Kasperi Kapanen seems to be tweaking around the edges of an aging line-up.
The Isles continue to try and stay in the race too, adding forward Pierre Engvall, as Toronto looked to create space.
Meanwhile in the Atlantic, Boston got even harder to play against by adding Orlov, Hathaway and just this morning, Tyler Bertuzzi. To say the best team in the league got better, would be an understatement.
Toronto GM Kyle Dubas meanwhile looks to be pulling out all the stops to try and extend his stay in his final contract year following a series of first round losses in the playoffs – six for those of you counting at home. Dubas added Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Erik Gustafsson, Luke Schenn, Sam Lafferty and Jake McCabe. As much as one third of the skaters could be new additions come the playoffs, quite the makeover indeed.
Tampa paid a heavy price in picks to secure the services of Tanner Jeannot, and sent Vladislav Namestnikov off to the Sharks in a Cap clearing move. It’s the second time that Namestnikov has been traded off the Lightning to a non-playoff team, following a similar move to the Rangers in 2018.
All this is to say, there’s been a lot of movement, and there’s still over 24 hours to go.
The Metro teams all seem to be focused more on the skating and offensive side of the equation. Carolina still has time and space to add more, as does New Jersey, but the Rangers are pretty much done unless they get a substantial injury tonight, or decide to move a roster player.
New York and New Jersey both added focused on offense to date, without really adding much of the “hardness” to play against. Carolina has also yet to make a move in that direction, again focusing on pieces that fit in with the current team, rather than adding another dimension.
Meanwhile the big three in the Atlantic have all gotten deeper and harder to play against.
Drury is of course banking on the Rangers being out to out-score and out-goalie the opposition. Tarasenko and Kane are not going to help the defensive side out much, and are here to provide more offense. Mikkola has been a decent fit as third pair defenseman, but the bottom four of the defense still appear to be vulnerable.
Assuming a healthy team, the Rangers will have Ben Harpur, Libor Hajek and Zac Jones as their depth options on defense. In terms of forward, it looks like it’ll be the likes of Jonny Brodzinski, Ryan Carpenter, Jake Leschyshyn and Will Cuylle. Perhaps someone like Gustav Rydahl could also get a look in there, but clearly there’s a drop-off from the current roster once you go to the next tier.
As we saw last year with the late season injuries to Tyler Motte, Andrew Copp, Ryan Lindgren and then Barclay Goodrow in the playoffs, depth is a concern. This year’s configuration has a little more top end talent, along with perhaps the experience of what it took last year, but it’s really going to rely on the team’s ability to score goals.
Whether Kane and Tarasenko will be able to both turn around modest seasons remains to be seen, though certainly last night’s contribution from the latter was encouraging. Lacking in physicality, the team will be even more dependent on the likes of Goodrow and Trouba to lead the way in that regard. Lafreniere has shown a willingness to mix it up, and Lindgren of course is often in the mix too. Can they get a bit more out of Chris Kreider and Braden Schneider though?
Drury may have made the deal that was too good to be true, but whether it ultimately proves to be the right deal remains to be seen.
We’ll get our first look tonight, as the Rangers go into their last quarter of the season.