The New York Rangers have come out of the All-Star Break winning three in a row and are currently on a four game winning streak. While they have played better over these last four games, there is still some room for improvement and some holes in the lineup that need to be filled as we get closer to the March 8 trade deadline. The two areas of need that fans have pointed out that are the most concerning are third-line center and top-line right wing. While it is good to have three good centers going into the playoffs, the Rangers shouldn’t focus all their attention and assets on center. They should be more focused on getting a top-line right wing to help get Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider going on a more consistent basis. It is more important to get the top players going than to go out and spend assets on a player who is going to get bottom-six minutes.
Getting Mika Zibanejad & Chris Kreider Going
Zibanejad and Kreider have had good seasons for the Rangers, but they haven’t been as consistent as they have in seasons past. Zibanejad has especially struggled to score goals at five-on-five. Out of the 16 goals he has scored this season, he only has six five-on-five goals. This is not the kind of production you expect to see out of a team’s first-line center. Something has been off in his game this season and he has gone multiple games at a time without scoring goals. While Kreider hasn’t been as bad at scoring goals as Zibanejad, he has still gone multiple games without scoring or even looking like a threat.
One of the reasons why they have struggled is because they haven’t had a consistent right winger to play with ever since the Rangers traded Pavel Buchnevich back in 2021. They have tried multiple players in that role over the years, but none of them have been able to stick either because it didn’t work or they were free agents after the season and signed with other teams. This season, they have tried Kaapo Kakko and Blake Wheeler at that spot, and while Kakko was a better fit than Wheeler, neither of them has been to able to truly help get that line going. The Rangers need Kreider and Zibanejad to start playing more consistently down the stretch and if that means going out and trading for a top-line right wing to help spark their offense, then that’s the move they should make.
Johnny Brodzinski Has Played Well Enough At 3C
If the Rangers feel that they need to upgrade at center, they should look at cheaper, more under-the-radar options as they will cost less to acquire than names like Adam Henrique from the Anaheim Ducks and Nic Dowd from the Washington Capitals. They should look at cheaper options because they already have a guy that has been playing well in the third-line center role and that player is Johnny Brodzinski. He was called up after the injury to Filip Chytil in early November and he has been with the team ever since. He has played well with four goals and 13 points in 33 games played. Three of those goals have come over the last four games, so he is heating up offensively and his line with Kakko and Will Cuylle has played very well over these past few games.
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While the Rangers are still likely going to go out and trade for a center, they shouldn’t have to give up a lot of assets to bring one in because they have a guy playing well enough in that role already. It is good to have other options as injuries can occur at any time, but with Brodzinski playing as well as he has been, the Rangers can focus their attention on the other major area of need and that is bringing in a top-line right winger.
More Winger Options Available on the Trade Market
After Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan were traded, the center trade market became very depleted and now teams are going to have to pay even more to get the remaining centers that are available. However, the winger market is still full of potential trade options that could help the Rangers make a run to a Stanley Cup. Some names they have been linked to are Frank Vatrano from the Ducks, Vladimir Tarasenko from the Ottawa Senators, Anthony Duclair from the San Jose Sharks, and if the Seattle Kraken fall out of the playoff race, Jordan Eberle could be an interesting name that might be available (from ‘5 possible trade partners for the Rangers and everything we’re hearing about the deadline’, lohud., 2/8/24). There are plenty of other names as well, which shows that the Rangers have more options to choose from when deciding what direction they want to go in when getting a top-line right winger.
If the Rangers are going to spend some big assets to help the team go for it this year, they need to use those assets to get a player who is going to help their top-line players play at the level we have seen them play at in the past. The focus should be on getting them going, rather than spending the assets on the bottom six when you can find other players for cheap on the trade market, or you can see what you have within your organization and give them a chance to play at the NHL level. The Rangers need to focus on getting a top-line right winger rather than a bottom-six center.