TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Thursday that New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury is on the lookout for “a middle-six forward” to replace Sammy Blais, now done for the season with a torn ACL. The Athletic confirmed that the Rangers are potentially looking to add a forward, though a veteran defenseman is believed to be on their shopping list, as well.
Acquiring a defenseman may be a longer-term plan that is realized closer to the March 21 trade deadline. If Drury believes the Rangers need help up front, he certainly has the cap space — according to CapFriendly, the Rangers could add contracts totaling $9.1 million right now — and the assets to make a deal. Or deals.
And with the team sitting 10-4-3 after a well-played 2-1 loss to the streaking Leafs on Thursday, there is incentive to reward his group by shoring it up, to be sure.
That middle-six definition is a little vague: It usually means a harder-edged or well-rounded forward who also has enough skill to move up the lineup. The Rangers have plenty of top-six and bottom-six forwards but not many who can straddle the line. Gerard Gallant praised his current third line of Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier, but one has to wonder if Gauthier has enough consistency in his game to stay in the lineup and be a factor.
But the mere fact that we’re sitting here thinking about potential trade targets a week before Thanksgiving is a credit to Drury, Gallant and a team that may not have been believed to be a real playoff contender when this season began. Their past four games have been as good and consistent as any since the rebuild began.
So, let’s talk additions. All of the forwards listed below are on expiring deals. Sources around the league said the Rangers — who are already committed to $70.9 million against the 2022-23 cap with new deals needed for Kaapo Kakko and Blais plus a need for a No. 2 center and a No. 2 goalie — can’t really afford right now to bring on players with term.
Calle Jarnkrok, Kraken
Long a reliable two-way center in Nashville who scored 10 to 16 goals for six straight seasons, Jarnkrok has been snakebit in Seattle. No points in 11 games but his underlying numbers are among the best on the Kraken — 59 percent expected-goals share, 68.9 percent high-danger chance share. He’s on an expiring deal worth $2 million this season.
Jarnkrok is primarily a center, which might not be the way the Rangers want to go to fill Blais’ spot. But adding Jarnkrok would allow the Rangers to try Chytil on the wing with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, a spot that Chytil might ultimately be better suited for. And a third line with Lafrenière, Jarnkrok and Barclay Goodrow looks a lot more like the line Goodrow won two Stanley Cups in Tampa with than how Gallant’s lines are currently constituted, with Goodrow (career high: eight goals) still in the top six.
Would it take more than the Blues’ second-rounder (from the Pavel Buchnevich deal) to land the 30-year-old Jarnkrok? Hard to believe it would. And a move like this leaves space and assets for a bigger move if necessary down the line while also filling a current need.