Rangers: 3 deadline trade targets with Blake Wheeler out for the season

Ottawa Senators right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (New York Rangers)
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have had a rough time with injuries this season. One after another, players have been placed on the IR at a consistent rate like never before. Most recently, Blake Wheeler suffered a lower-body injury that was deemed season-ending shortly after.

With Wheeler out for the year, the Bueshirts’ plans for the upcoming trade deadline will likely have to shift. A third-line center was the original top priority due to Filip Chytil’s absence, but now, a first-line right winger should be the number one asset the Rangers look to trade for.

Back-to-back Tarasenko deals at the deadline?

Last season, the Rangers acquired Vladimir Tarasenko a few weeks before the trade deadline. He performed well for the Blurshirts, meshing in nicely with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad on the first line. They didn’t have enough cap space to keep him around for this season, but now, the Ottawa Senators appear to be taking offers on the Russian forward once more. It could be in Chris Drury’s interest to acquire Tarasenko once again, as that same first line is in need of assistance on the right wing for the second year in a row.

This season, Tarasenko has tallied 36 points in 49 games. It’s not his stats this season that make him a top target, however, but his past chemistry with the Rangers’ struggling first line. Kreider and Zibanejad need help, and Tarasenko has proved in the past that he could improve their play.

Vatrano could make a return to the Rangers after 2 seasons away

Two years ago, the Rangers acquired Frank Vatrano at that year’s trade deadline. He too played well with Kreider and Zibanejad, helping the Blueshirts reach the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2015. Similarly to Tarasenko, the Anaheim Ducks may be shopping Vatrano this season- and he could be another perfect fit for the Rangers.

Vatrano has tallied 42 points in 54 games on a struggling Ducks team. The highlight of his personal stats is his 24 goals, and the Blueshirts’ first line is in need of a solid goal scorer. Despite all of the positives to this potential deal, there is still a catch.

A large number of Vatrano’s points have come on the Ducks’ power play, and if he is traded to the Rangers, he likely would not receive an abundance of time on special teams. A deal for Vatrano would be a solid move, but it may not solve all of the problems on Drury’s agenda.

Drury could make amends for his worst move as GM by bringing Buchnevich back home to New York

There haven’t been many bonehead moves by Drury since he became the GM of the Rangers, but there is one that certainly stands out as his worst decision. Pavel Buchnevich, who was a top-two forward on the team at the time, was traded to St Louis for Sammy Blais and a second-round pick for the 2022 draft. After being traded, Buchnevich exploded for a 76-point season with the Blues, and he hasn’t slowed down since.

This year, Drury could look to make things right with Rangers fans by bringing Buchnevich home. He’s already at 42 points on the year, and he also has past experience playing with Kreider and Zibanejad. It would be an ideal trade to see Buchnevich return to New York, but Drury would have to admit to his past mistakes by bringing him back to the Rangers.

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