Not too long ago, there wasn’t a huge gap between Vlad Namestnikov and Ryan Spooner. Boy, how things changed in just two months.
Both Rangers players were add-ons to deals at last season’s trade deadline, and both were signed by the Blueshirts this summer as restricted free agents to matching two-year, $8 million deals. Yet on Nov. 16, Spooner was shipped to Edmonton in a straight-up trade for Ryan Strome, while Namestnikov is now playing his most assertive hockey in his short tenure on Broadway, raising his value — both internally and as a possible trade piece — with each passing game.
“He’s really been a good player for the last two months,” coach David Quinn said after Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the tired Ducks, his team getting Wednesday off before beginning to prepare for Saturday’s match in Toronto.
“He and I have talked. He’s been more physical, obviously, and played with more edge. But this is a guy that with some skill, too, and I don’t want that to get lost in how hard he’s been playing. He and I have talked about that — we’re not trying to turn him into a fourth-line checker.
“He’s a guy that can create offense with his speed, and he’s got good hands and he can shoot it. So if you add that physical element that he’s had, being hard on pucks, he’s going to be more productive offensively and be able to play in different roles. That’s what he’s done.”