The New York Rangers currently sit at 7th place in the Eastern Conference at the midway point in the season. After some early season struggles, the Rangers found their groove. They had good performances against Pittsburg, New Jersey, and Boston, who all sit in the top five of the Eastern Conference. In addition to that, the Rangers remained perfect in Winter Classic outing, beating Buffalo down in Queens.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the Rangers are going to have to finish their season without star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The Rangers announced earlier today that the recently acquired Shattenkirk will miss the remainder of the season with a torn meniscus. In 46 games this year, Shattenkirk totaled 23 total points, and was a key player in both the penalty kill, and powerplay.
Despite Rick Nash’s hot play as of late, the Rangers are still showing some signs of slowing down. After a big win on New Years Day, the Rangers dropped 3 of their next four games. Two of these losses came from teams who the Rangers are ahead of in points (Islanders and Golden Knights). The Islanders loss was a 7-2 beatdown the Rangers were dealt in front of their home fans.
Going forward, my prediction will be that the Rangers will look to trade Rick Nash at the deadline. The 33-year-old Canadian has scored five points in has last two games, but has struggled for a good part of the season. His trade value, however, is still very high if the Rangers can strike a deal with a team looking for some veteran leadership down the stretch. Trading away Nash would rid his $7.8 million cap hit this year, and would free up space for new, younger prospects.
The injury to Shattenkirk brings a Rick Nash, and perhaps even a Michael Grabner trade scenario to the table. The Rangers have showed signs recently that they are moving in a direction that will allow them to play rookies more. Thus, trading away a 33-year-old underperformer, and a 30-year-old Michael Grabner, both which only have one more year left on their respective contracts, makes sense.
If the Rangers can successfully pull off such trades, it may mean sacrificing a postseason appearance this year, but it would definitely put the team in a promising direction with cap space and prospects.