So much can happen between now and the Feb. 24 trade deadline, but one thing is for certain — Jeff Gorton’s phone will be ringing off the hook.
As the Rangers’ general manager and his team continued their bye-week, which followed All-Star weekend in St. Louis, they remained focused on the future rather than the present. That, of course, does not change the mindset of the current players and coach, who are striving to make a postseason run. But the club has a handful of obvious trade pieces that will be talked about constantly from now until the deadline, so let’s look at each and concoct some possible landing spots if they do get dealt:
LW Chris Kreider, 28 | Unrestricted free agent
He is the third-longest tenured Ranger, behind Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal, and has become one of the most respected voices in the locker room. But with a big payday coming up this summer — say, six years at $7 million per — fitting Kreider under the salary cap going forward would require some fancy accounting from Gorton & Co.
He is also arguably the best available forward on the rental market, which makes the possible return of a first-round pick (plus) hard to resist. This past weekend, Kreider was already asked about going home to Boston, where maybe Danton Heinen and a pick would get it done. Colorado should be interested, as well, to add some size. Arizona could also be in the mix, reuniting Kreider with Derek Stepan, and Vegas could use a boost up-front, too.
G Alexandar Georgiev, 23 | RFA with arbitration rights
Hard to think about more ink being spilled over a netminder with 66 games of NHL experience and with what many would consider to be middling career numbers — at least the 3.02 goals-against average, not the .913 save percentage. But watching Georgiev the past two seasons has shown a goalie who has managed to mostly play well while be bombarded by chances, and who has dealt with the shadow of Lundqvist — and now the encroachment of Igor Shesterkin — with professional aplomb.
But Gorton is not giving him away, nor have the doors been blown off by an offer. Of course the Maple Leafs make sense, but what makes sense in return for the Rangers? Again, Colorado could use some help in nets, as could the Sharks (which would be more of a long-term solution than just for this year). And Florida could use someone to help limit the Sergei Bobrovsky implosion.
D Tony DeAngelo, 24 | RFA with arbitration rights
The mercurial defenseman has heard the cash register ringing all season, compiling the seventh-most points among defenseman (12 goals and 25 assists through 48 games). His type of offensive talents are rare, and shiny new toys are always attractive to contending clubs this time of year (rather than focusing on any defensive deficiencies).
He would certainly fit in Toronto, where they are desperate for help on their back end. If the Rangers wanted a haul in return, maybe Georgiev and DeAngelo could pull it off. Winnipeg could also use some help back there if they want to make a run. Would Carolina consider it now that Dougie Hamilton is out with his horrid leg injury?
RW Jesper Fast, 28 | UFA
Just the type of player who would be a great addition to a bottom-six and penalty kill for a top-end contender. He is not the flashiest guy, but he is beloved by his teammates, and his game is made for the postseason.
Might be a great fit for Pittsburgh as GM Jim Rutherford readies for another deep run. Fast could supplement all the high-end talent in Tampa Bay, as he would in St. Louis or Dallas, as well. Really, any playoff team can find a spot for a player like Fast.
F Ryan Strome, 26 | RFA with arbitration rights
The numbers have been great (12 goals and 31 assists through 48 games), but how many executives will think that is a direct result of skating next to Artemi Panarin? Yet given a bigger role back at his natural center position, Strome has shown he can hang with the big guys — but how many teams in playoff contention need a top-six center?
His market might come down to any big injuries, but his versatility to move back to wing could bolster the talent up top for Vancouver, and same for Calgary. If Arizona misses on Kreider, they might look to Strome, who might consider re-signing there, too.