The 2022-2023 NHL regular season is just days away from completion and the Stanley Cup Playoffs await the top contenders around the league. The New York Rangers are among those getting ready for playoff hockey with several key off-season and mid-season acquisitions a big reason why.
The exploits of Vincent Trocheck, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane, and even Jaroslav Halak have been key reasons for the Blueshirts’ late-season success but how do they grade out amongst each other?
Today we grade each of the off-season and mid-season moves made by general manager Chris Drury in the hopes of building out a championship roster.
Vincent Trocheck – FA acquisition for seven years, $39.375 million
Trocheck was brought in as a hopeful upgrade to Ryan Strome’s free-agent departure. Simply put, Trocheck filled those shoes in droves throughout the 2022-23 season. The 63 points recorded by him this season are more than any season Strome has put up through his entire career. His 56% successful face-off rank is also significantly better than anything Strome has done throughout his career.
In short, the Rangers are paying Trocheck to be a better Strome and it’s been extremely clear they’ve hit the jackpot with this signing.
Jaroslav Halak – FA acquisition for one-year, $1.55 million
When you have one of the best goaltenders in the country, the need for a competent backup goaltender is important. The team needs to be able to win on the rare night that Igor Shesterkin wasn’t going to play. As the reigning Vezina winner’s backup this season, Halak has done an admirable job when his number has been called. In 23 starts the 37-year-old has posted a 10-8-5 record with a .904 save percentage – his best number since being with Boston in 2020. For the value the Rangers got him, this was a very smart signing.
Ryan Carpenter – FA acquisition for one-year, $750,000
It was a very tough year for Ryan Carpenter and the Blueshirts. Tasked with being the fourth-line center, Carpenter struggled to make a positive impact. In 22 games the 32-year-old accumulated just three total points while being sent down before the new year began. Carpenter’s struggles ultimately forced the Rangers to trade resources for other players – a thing that wouldn’t have happened if the Florida native performed better.
Jimmy Vesey – Camp Invitee for one-year, $750,000
Jimmy Vesey’s 2022-23 season has been a revelation of sorts since being invited to camp and earning a spot on the opening-day roster. Vesey has totaled 25 points, 97 hits, and 55 takeaways while being shuffled around the early season. The former third-round pick has found a home on the Rangers’ fourth line and has grown with his linemates into being one of the more ferocious fourth lines in hockey. He has been so good this year that the franchise even gave him a contract extension midway through the season.
Ben Harpur – Camp Invitee for one-year, $750,000
Nailing one PTO pick is one thing, getting two to produce at a high level for the major league club is incredible. After rotating several different plays to work on the final defensive pairing, the Rangers struck gold with Harpur for most of the season. Harpur has totaled a career-high six points and helped solidify a defense that struggled in the early parts of the season. He may play sparingly now, but he’s as good a seventh defender as there is in this league.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola trade from St. Louis
Getting a generational talent on your roster at the trade deadline is one thing. Adding an experienced starter on defense along with that talent is another thing entirely apart. Chris Drury’s deal that brought in Tarasenko was a massive win for the Rangers. Since the trade, the former Blue has totaled 21 points in 31 games for New York. He’s helped solidify the forward lines in a way that many fans were dreaming of to start the year. For the price of a first-round pick and two average players, this was the type of player that the Rangers needed.
Outside of Tarasenko though, the addition of Mikkola has shown to be an excellent move from Drury. The former fifth-round pick took over for Ben Harpur and has worked well with Braden Schneider. In 30 games he’s accumulated two more minutes of ice time than in St. Louis and recorded 53 hits and 37 blocks. If the Rangers win the Stanley Cup or go on another major playoff run, this trade will be seen as a big reason why.
Tyler Motte trade from Ottawa
Tyler Motte is a fan favorite amongst the Blueshirts faithful. Many were upset that the team couldn’t find a way to bring him back during free agency this offseason and instead chose to sign a player like Carpenter. After Carpenter’s struggles though, it allowed the Rangers to try and trade for Motte again. Julien Gauthier and a late-round selection were all that took to bring Motte back, but it’s added resources the team shouldn’t have needed to give up. Motte’s been great in his return to New York, posting 10 points in 23 games played. His exploits won’t be seen at a high level until the playoffs though.
Patrick Kane trade from Chicago
There’s a lot to unpack surrounding the trade that brought Patrick Kane to New York. First, any type of deal seemed to be crushed when Tarasenko was traded weeks before. The Rangers didn’t have a lot of cap space, or resources to facilitate a trade of that magnitude. But Drury and Kane kept pushing, and in the end, it cost three draft picks and a prospect to get a deal done. Kane has been fine since coming to the Rangers, posting 12 points in 18 games played. The overall fit of where he ends up playing has been a bigger question mark though. This trade could work out as well as Tarasenko’s had, but we won’t know more until the playoffs actually start. As of now, it’s a trade Drury has been wanting to make, but we’ll see if it works out in the team’s favor.
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