The New York Rangers have had about two months of play to determine which areas of their lineup are the strongest, and which need to be improved. The defense has been playing poorly as of late, but their issues are ones to be solved through practice. The main positions that need work come in the offensive zone, particularly down the middle and on the right side.
With two key forwards out with injury, the Blueshirts do not have enough depth to combat these holes in the lineup. And even when both Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko do return from the IR, there are still some improvements that can be made to those positions. The best option is to begin scouring the market for potential trade candidates as the deadline slowly approaches, but given the Rangers’ current cap space, they’ll all need to be cheap options.
A reunion with Duclair could be one potential option
About a decade ago, the Rangers chose to trade away Anthony Duclair at the very beginning of his career. That proved to be a mistake, as the winger has gone on to prove his abilities across a handful of different franchises since then.
Duclair is having a poor season with San Jose this year, but who isn’t on that Sharks team? He showed last season that he could be an impactful player in the playoffs with a solid postseason performance in Florida.
Duclair’s cap hit comes at just $3 million, on a contract that will expire after this season. He’s one of few players that the Rangers should have no trouble clearing cap space for, and the Blueshirts would not have to worry about paying him for long if he does not meet expectations.
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The Rangers could give Monahan a chance in the bottom six
When looking at the center position, Montreal forward Sean Monahan seems to be the most affordable option that could be on the market in a few months. His cap hit is just under $2 million, and his contract will also expire after this season.
Monahan’s career has taken a bit of a turn due to injuries, but he appears to be back on track with Montreal this year. If the Rangers opt to keep Vincent Trocheck as the second-line center, Monahan could easily fit right in on the third line if Chytil takes longer than expected to recover from his concussion.
Another potential reunion with Frank the Tank?
Two years ago, the Rangers acquired Frank Vatrano at the trade deadline. He was slotted on the first line alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, as that trio immediately developed solid chemistry and performed well in both the regular season and the playoffs. But the Rangers couldn’t hold on to Vatrano for long, as cap implications forced him to sign elsewhere.
Since departing from New York, Vatrano has not slowed down one bit. He’s scored 23 points in 26 games with an underwhelming Anaheim team, showing that he can still produce points like he did a few years ago.
What makes Vatrano so intriguing is his contract. It comes at $3.65 million, which is the highest on this list, but it includes next season as well. The Rangers would probably have to give up a little more to acquire Vatrano from Anaheim, but the package would include an extra season of play. Fans may consider it risky to gamble on a two-year deal, but there’s already evidence that Vatrano knows how to play well on the Rangers’ first line- which is exactly where the Blueshirts need to find someone to play.