NEW YORK, NY – With the start of NHL free agency on Wednesday, the Rangers have made grit and depth a priority. The team lacked an identity last season and the lines played as just a collection of players. particularly the third and fourth lines which were made up of the leftovers of after the top two lines. This week Management set about the task of rectifying these issues.
It started with the curious move of sending Pavel Buchnevich to St. Louis for Sammy Blais and a second round draft pick next year. Buchnevich had developed into a top-line winger on the Rangers who notched 48 points in 54 games last season. He was set to become a free agent after next season and would surely have commanded big money. So new Rangers GM Chris Drury decided to trade Buchnevich now and not risk losing him for nothing next summer.
What the Rangers got in return was Blais, a 25-year old bottom six winger. Blais won’t be lighting the lamp anywhere near as often as Buchnevich did. He’s not that kind of player. Blais brings physicality and a defensive mindset to shore up the third or fourth line for the Rangers. He’s got Stanley Cup pedigree also after winning with the Blues in 2019. And he will be a lot cheaper to keep around for the Rangers who will have some salary cap issues to deal with after next season.
I understand why the Blueshirts made the deal. They had to clear some cap space, shore up the bottom six, and add toughness and this trade does all three. But it still looks like NY got raked over the coals in this deal. Rangers fans and even some players were apoplectic when hearing about the trade. I don’t blame them. It could work out in the end, but we’ll have to wait until the season starts and we see how this Rangers team plays going forward. The trade is reminiscent of one the Rangers made 27 years ago when they sent lamp-lighter and fan favorite Mike Gartner to T’ronna for Glenn Anderson. The Rangers won the Cup after that trade. Time will tell if the Buchnevich for Blais deal will have a similar result.
The Rangers also acquired Barclay Goodrow from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a seventh round pick. Goodrow is another gritty forward with Stanley Cup experience. Drury is hoping that these pieces will change the shape and character of a Rangers team that got their lunch money stolen every game last season. The Blueshirts also signed free agent Swedish defenseman Patrik Nemeth to a three-year deal. The hope is that this deal will shore up the third defensive pairing and help young Swede Nils Lundkvist make a quick transition to North American hockey.
The Rangers are still short through the middle of the ice and they lost out on Phillip Danault who signed for the Kings. The rumors of a potential trade for Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel are heating up. The Rangers would need to give up a lot to get the 24-year old former #2 overall pick. Eichel would be a welcome addition to any team and the Rangers need a top center. If the Broadway Blues can pull off this trade without losing their shirts in the process, the team could contend for the Cup next season.
That’s it for me, leave your slapshots below and come back for our goon, Short Matt, tomorrow.