Depth has been an issue for a couple of seasons, but this recent New York Rangers trade deadline addressed that. It was the first deadline for General Manager Chris Drury, who clearly decided to buy this deadline.
The Rangers are very top-heavy with Chris Kreider. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. However, the Blueshirts’ bottom-six forwards were an issue. New York has made the next step into being a contender, but underlying advanced stats have been worrying.
Igor Shesterkin and the top six can only mask so much. The margins are tighter in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Shesterkin and the offence can’t outscore everyone. Drury saw the issues and addressed them, but let’s evaluate these moves,
We’ll go in chronological order with these trades,
2022 New York Rangers Trade Deadline
The Rangers got Frank Vatrano for a fourth-round choice in this year’s NHL Draft. He paid immediate dividends when he scored in his second game with the team. Vatrano played a solid part on the bottom six in wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes with over 15:30 in ice time in both games.
The left-winger is a team-first guy and does whatever is asked of him on the ice. He’s the type of player Gerard Gallant likes to have on his teams. Vatrano has also been part of some Boston Bruins teams that have made some deep post-season runs. The cost of a fourth-rounder also isn’t too much a loss.
The Winnipeg Jets wanted to make sure that they didn’t let Andrew Copp walk away for nothing. Drury gave up Morgan Barron and two second-rounders to land the big forward. One of those picks would turn into a first-rounder if the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Final. Giving up a first is always hard, but getting to the last four would dull the pain a bit. However, not re-signing Copp, losing Barron and not making the last four would be a lot to give up for a rental.
Copp does add some spine down the middle of the Blueshirts’ lineup. He can play centre or wing and gives the Rangers another option down the middle. Centre depth has been an issue after Zibanejad and Strome, but Copp can help that problem. His 13 goals would bolster the third line or he can move up to the second if injuries strike.
The lone defensive addition, Justin Braun, comes over from the rival Philadelphia Flyers for a third-round choice in 2023. Braun has been slotted into the lineup next to Patrik Nemeth to make a rugged pair. The Braun acquisition may be for a veteran presence in the lineup, but he’ll knock Braden Schneider out of the lineup for now. Schneider has shown some good play in spurts, but he’s still young.
Braun is also a veteran and made the Stanley Cup Final with the San Jose Sharks in 2016. He’ll add a bit of snarl and toughness to a defence that has flashy playmakers like Adam Fox. The veteran blueliner has 100 games of playoff experience and will do whatever is needed to win.
Tyler Motte comes over from the Vancouver Canucks for a fourth-round pick. Motte was a teammate with Copp at the University of Michigan and played with Jacob Trouba at the U.S. National Team Development Program. Motte got put on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves in his first practice.
He’s not flashy, but he’s an effective winger that can be a pain on defence and the penalty kill. He could be a sneaky good addition for the Blueshirts and helps solidify the bottom six.
What it Means
There was always the temptation to go after a big-time player like J.T. Miller. However, that would have been quite costly and first-round picks are still treasured. Drury instead made a series of smaller moves that filled multiple needs in the bottom part of the forward group. Braun helps add playoff experience on a young and talented blueline group.
The real test to see if these moves make a difference is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A deep run will justify some of these moves, but the pressure is on. The new acquisitions have nearly 20 regular-season games left to gel before the post-season.