Gerard Gallant’s task after Rangers’ Vladimir Tarasenko trade


Share post:

This was the right move at the right cost and at the right time.

Now the Rangers have their legitimate first-line threat on right wing of the first line after Thursday’s acquisition of Vladimir Tarasenko from the Blues in a five-asset deal in which third-pair lefty defenseman Niko Mikkola will also come to Broadway in exchange for the later of the Blueshirts’ two 2023 first-rounders, Sammy Blais and Hartford defenseman Hunter Skinner.

Now it is on head coach Gerard Gallant, who has driven his team to the seventh-best overall record in the NHL off an 18-4-3 surge that began just over two months ago despite constant instability, to establish a top-nine and allow it to gestate.

Note to the coach: That means constructing a first line consisting of Tarasenko on the right, Mika Zibanejad in the middle and Artemi Panarin on the left and sticking with it. That also means inserting the left-hand-shooting Tarasenko onto the first power-play unit in place of Vincent Trocheck and reimagining the four-righty approach that has gone stale.

Tarasenko is 31 and has a history as an elite goal-scorer who was a significant factor in the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup championship. He scored between 33 and 40 goals in all six seasons between 2014-15 and 2021-22 in which he played more than 24 games. Tarasenko is also a big-bodied winger who can protect the puck and get to the net.

The Rangers acquired Vladimir Tarasenko from the Blues on Thursday.
NHLI via Getty Images

Yes, of course, it may take some time for him to mesh with Zibanejad and Panarin but that’s the beauty of the timing of the deal. Three weeks ahead of the deadline, Drury bought that time for mutual acclimation.

The Islanders and Lou Lamoriello jumped the deadline first by acquiring Bo Horvat. Now the Rangers and Tarasenko. Et tu, Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald, whose team suffered a massive blow with Thursday’s announcement that the nonpareil Jack Hughes is “week-to-week” with an upper-body issue?

Tarasenko also has a history on and off the ice with his fellow countryman and friend, Panarin, who has been out of sorts for much of the season that has been his most ordinary since coming to Broadway four years ago. Tarasenko and Panarin were teammates on several Team Russias in international events, first in the 2011 World Juniors and last in the 2016 World Cup. They see the game the same way. Almost two years ago when Tarasenko asked out of St. Louis, he wanted to come to the Rangers.

The Rangers must put Vladimir Tarasenko on a line with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.
The Rangers must put Vladimir Tarasenko on a line with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.
Getty Images

Panarin doesn’t particularly love change. But that’s been the hallmark of his season following sympatico centerman Ryan Strome’s free-agent exit to Anaheim. No. 10 has played on 13 different line combinations — five centered by Zibanejad, five centered by Trocheck and three centered by Filip Chytil.

This is not unique to Panarin, of course. But it seems to have taken a toll on him, the Russian Rockette having gone seven straight without a goal (and with one in the last dozen) entering Friday’s Garden match against Seattle. Panarin’s confidence seems down, witness his miss by a mile on a breakaway against Vancouver on Wednesday.

The musical chairs portion of the season should now have come to an end. Gallant will have to decide whether it’s Jimmy Vesey or Barclay Goodrow who drops out of the top-nine to join the fourth unit, but once that call is made, line combinations should become stable.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

The Kid Line — on for seven goals for and one against since reassembled five games ago — should be the no-doubt second unit, with Trocheck and either Vesey or Goodrow with Chris Kreider as the third line. It is time for some stability here.

This is a pure rental deal with both Tarasenko and Mikkola — who will usurp Ben Harpur’s spot across from Braden Schneider on the third tandem — pending unrestricted free agents. The first-rounder that went to St. Louis had been intended as deadline currency from the moment Drury acquired it in September from Dallas in the exchange for Nils Lundkvist. Blais and Hunter were easily expendable.

The Blues’ retention of 50 percent of Tarasenko’s $7.5 million cap hit does provide some leeway for the club to bolster the fourth line and depth on defense before the March 3 deadline. According to CapFriendly, the Blueshirts will have $1,635,707 of AAV space at the deadline once Libor Hajek, placed on waivers, either clears and is assigned to the Wolf Pack or is claimed on Friday.

Drury got a big fish without sacrificing, a) the better of the first-rounders; and, b) Brennan Othmann, Zac Jones, Matt Robertson, Vitali Kravtsov, Will Cuylle or Adam Sykora. They are all still in the pool of prospects.

The Rangers are 29-14-8 without having actually hit their stride. They are a resourceful team that has been more than the sum of its parts. Now there is another resource or two. Now there is another top-six part. Now there is a forecast of stability.

Right deal. Right cost. Right time.

Source link

Related articles

Tom Brady speaks about kids’ path in football, parenting

When Tom Brady’s children grow older, he won’t try and steer them in any specific direction career-wise. And...

Breanna Stewart’s bank shot in closing ticks lead Liberty past Sky

CHICAGO — Breanna Stewart banked in a go-ahead shot with 7.1 seconds left and the New York...

Eagles tried to acquire Russell Wilson before Broncos disaster

Maybe the Eagles really did consider trying to acquire Russell Wilson last offseason. During a radio interview earlier...

Local history shows how perilous an aging star like Aaron Rodgers is

The last thing I want to be is a killjoy during this Aaron Rodgers Flight 23 celebration.  Only...