The Rangers square off against the New Jersey Devils in the Battle of the Hudson, days before the trade deadline (1:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
Last time out, the Blueshirts fell victim to the Minnesota Wild 4-1. The lone Ranger goal came from Pavel Buchnevich on the power play. Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves in a losing effort.
“When we play our best, we end plays quicker in our end,” Lundqvist said. “We’ve just got to learn from that. It happens sometimes, but the important thing is to try to address it and correct it.”
Lias Andersson played almost eleven minutes in his return to the senior squad, and he got the attention from head coach David Quinn.
“There weren’t many bright spots last night, but he certainly was one of them,” Quinn said. “His consistency was there, I thought his quickness, I thought he was more relaxed. Development is a process; sometimes you have to take a step backwards before you can go forwards. There’s a learning curve for all these players. I thought last night he was as energetic and as confident as he’s looked for the most part all year.”
“I’ve just got to be consistent with the game I played last night — play hard, play fast, win faceoffs, get pucks to the net and make plays,” Andersson said. “Just be hard to play against.”
The Blueshirts will look to put behind Thursday’s game as they square up against the Devils. Like the Rangers, the Devils are also selling players and are looking for assets. Marcus Johansson will be a healthy scratch Saturday afternoon. The Devils are looking to trade Johansson and don’t want to risk an injury. Prior to the game, New Jersey traded away Ben Lovejoy for a third-round pick and Connor Carrick. The Devils will also be without Taylor Hall (lower body, out since late December) and Sami Vatanen (concussion, out since late January).
Unlike the Devils, Quinn was playing the best lineup he could. “Guys that are on the roster will be in the lineup, until I’m told differently,” Quinn said. This includes Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes who have each been drawing interest from around the league. Adam McQuaid, who left Thursday’s game with an injury and did not return due to precautionary reasons, is another player the Rangers may move.
However, it has been made clear that Quinn has been told differently as Hayes, Zuccarello and McQuaid will all be healthy scratches. That indicates that the Rangers will go with seven defenders as Boo Nieves, Freddy Claesson and Brendan Smith will draw back into the lineup.
Brett Howden skated in practice for the second straight day and Quinn said the rookie’s return is “about a week to ten days” away.
“I’ve been working really hard to strengthen and get back into game shape,” said Howden, “Every day I’m feeling lots of progress. Even where I was a couple days ago I feel like I’m moving along really well.”
Alex Georgiev will start Saturday’s game against the Devils and Lundqvist will start Sunday’s game in Washington.
The NHL trade deadline is starting to shape up for the Rangers. The first big domino, centerman Matt Duchene, was trade by the Ottawa Senators to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In return, the Senators acquired two prospects and a first-round pick. In addition, if Duchene resigns in Columbus, Ottawa will receive another first-round pick.
The Capitals acquired Nick Jensen from the Red Wings for Madison Bowey and a second-round pick. As mentioned earlier, the Devils acquired Connor Carrick and a third-round pick for Ben Lovejoy.
These trades are significant as it shapes the market for players the Rangers may trade. Adam McQuaid is expected to be dealt as a rental like Lovejoy and Jensen (Jensen signed a four-year contract with Washington after being dealt). Most would agree McQuaid is on the same skill level (if not better) of Jensen and Lovejoy. The Blueshirts can expect to get similar return of a second or third round pick plus another asset such as a replacement player or a late draft pick.
The Blueshirts biggest assets are Hayes and Zuccarello. Hayes is the last top six centerman on the trade block and many teams have inquired about Hayes. Hayes won’t get the same return Duchene got, but the Rangers can expect something along the lines of a first-round pick, a prospect, and a later round pick. Winnipeg is likely attempting to acquire Hayes.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported yesterday “Lots of action on veteran NYR forward Mats Zuccarello. High picks or a high pick and a prospect expected to be the return.” According to Larry Brooks, Nashville, Calgary, Pittsburgh, etc. all have interest on Zuccarello.
One last name that has drawn interest from teams is Chris Kreider. Kreider has drawn interest from Toronto, Nashville and Boston. Should Kreider get traded, he would get the biggest return as he is under contract for one more season with a 4.5 million cap hit. The Rangers aren’t expected to move on from Kreider unless they get a deal they cannot refuse.
With all of these assets the Rangers have available, what may they target? Nashville, who are linked to Zuccarello and potentially Kreider, have assets the Rangers would likely be interested in. Eeli Tolvanen is Nashville’s top prospect who the Blueshirts would love to acquire. However, Brooks reported that Tolvanen was not available for a rental, indicating that the only way for the Rangers to acquire the Finnish 19-year-old, would be to trade Kreider. Besides the first-round pick, the Predators have another prospect in Dante Fabbro who the Rangers may be interested in. Fabbro was a first-round pick in 2016 and he is currently a captain for Boston University. Quinn coached Fabbro before leaving BU and he could be a player he wants to build the defense. Trading away Zuccarello to Nashville could return in a first-round pick or Fabbro.
While it is impossible to tell where any Ranger may end up, or what they may bring back, one thing for sure is with they will likely be very active in the upcoming days, as indicated by the healthy scratches.