Pretty much everyone has said the Rangers need more grind and grit, and that of course came to a head late in the season following a sweep by the Islanders and of course that game against the Capitals. How that would be addressed appears to be becoming a littler clearer.
The move Saturday were the first indication that Drury is looking to remake his line-up now, by moving out Brett Howden and protecting Kevin Rooney over Colin Blackwell and Julien Gauthier, he's looking at ways to remake his bottom six and is not as concerned about the offensive side of the equation.
In Howden's case, it was more that he doesnt provide enough of the things the Rangers need. His offense has dropped off, his defense is not good enough to warrant a spot, and he doesn't provide a physical game, and in a team that was heavily loaded with offensive type players, but little in the way of grind...it just wasn't a good fit. Hopefully he'll find a way in Vegas to reboot his career.
With respect to Blackwell, it's perhaps a little more complicated. He certainly provided some energy, and reportedly got the thumbs up from Artemi Panarin too at one point, with the dynamic scorer apparently lobbying for him to be the third forward on his line. But while Blackwell's utility, and ability to score some good goals was a bright spot for the Rangers last season, he isn't particularly physical, and is not as effective defensively as Rooney. I don't think the Rangers will mind if he's still in the organization next season, but his size, style of play and what he brings overall should mostly be brought by your top six for the most part anyway, and you'd hope that he's more of a fill-in there if he's still around.
From Seattle's perspective, he might be appealing because he brings a strong work ethic and some leadership qualities, and again that utility. At 28, he could be the type of player that helps start a franchise - after all, the Kraken are more likely to be like the Wild, Predators or Blue Jackets than they are the Golden Knights in their first few seasons.
As for Gauthier, well the size and skating ability remain alluring to many in the Blueshirt universe, but having struggled to find his game with both Rod Brind'amour and David Quinn, you have to wonder whether he'll he ever find it. Through much of his career, his goals have outpaced his assists, which indicates a guy who focuses more on getting it to the net than looking for his team mates, and you can see that in how he has played for the Rangers. The majority of Gauthier's offensive chances have been him breaking in on the wing and driving towards the net, though unlike Chris Kreider, he has not been able to finish as often. Gauthier's defensive play, his speed to the puck and his willingness to use the body, are also all questionable, meaning that unless he's playing on the top two lines, he's not going to be as much help on the bottom six.
If the Rangers are to remake themselves, then they need guys in the bottom six, who can be hard on the puck, grind out some goals and leave the pretty ones to the top two lines. On my protection list, Gauthier was behind Blackwell and Rooney, but ahead of Howden.
Adding Barclay Goodrow was another interesting angle. The two time Cup champion who played just over 15 minutes a night last season on the third line, is definitely more of a defensive specialist than an offensive one. If last season wasn't shortened, then he probably would have broken his career high of 8 goals, but not by a wide margin...perhaps 9 or 10, but that isn't what the Rangers are looking for him to do in New York.
Goodrow was an even 50% in the faceoff circle last season, 49.9% the year before and 53.7% in 2018-19 for the Sharks before he was traded to the Lightning. For the Rangers, Morgan Barron won 9 of his 18 faceoffs in the final stretch, while Blackwell went 30 of 62 to effectively lead the Rangers, but when you looked at the five players who took most of the faceoffs it was Brett Howden's 46.6% that lead the way, not good enough when you need some help getting those defensive zone wins.
The 28 year old is also an effective penalty killer, having been the most used forward by Tampa, and his all round defensive game, his reasonable size - 6-2 and 203lbs, as well as his willingness to mix it up from time to time, also help make the case.
How much will all that cost then? Well don't be surprised if you see the Rangers fork over a five/six year deal worth $3.5-$4M AAV, a gross overpayment for sure, and that contract will probably look bad pretty quickly with all the Rangers who will need to be resigned over the first few years of the term.
Suggestions are, that a deal will get done before the 28th UFA period begins, and it's unlikely that the Kraken would take a punt on a UFA given the word that the Rangers are already working on a deal, but you can't absolutely rule out anything at this point. For a seventh round pick, there wasn't going to be much of a price to pay if the Rangers do indeed lose him in the expansion draft, and even if they did, Goodrow could still come back and sign with the Rangers on July 28th.
As for other moves, well the rumors have begun to surface.
Of course there's the persistent talk around Jack Eichel, and the Rangers staying in the loop there. Whether they will actually make a move, and what that would cost would probably be solved Friday, or perhaps Thursday after the trade freeze expires. Alternatively there is increased speculation around what other centers might be available, though what their price might be and whether there really is an opportunity to get someone like Bo Horvat from Vancouver or Steven Stamkos from Tampa remains hypothetical at this point with little indication that either is truy available.
Center is clearly an area of focus, which likely means one or both of Strome and Chytil are traded. Strome's name has begun to surface in rumors and could possibly fetch a good return on his own after proving he can provide offense even without Panarin. Chytil, even at 21, doesn't seem to be the type of player the Rangers need right now, and perhaps is better suited to be a scoring winger, than a center who is below par in the faceoff circle and better at scoring than setting up. The Rangers may opt to keep him if there's uncertainty about what to do with Zibanejad next season when he approaches UFA status, but it might also depend on who they add.
Commitment to 26 year old Pavel Buchnevich remains a qeustion at the moment too, with Drury reportedly sizing up the market for the arbitration eligible RFA. Buchnevich had his best year yet last season, and was their offensive leader for large parts, but commiting to him for 5-6 years at $6.5M or so could create some challenges, as well as make it more complicated with finding time for the likes of Kakko and Kravtsov. Trading Buchnevich would leave a gap though. Playing in all situations, the Russian winger blossomed and is far ahead of his potential, though much less costly replacements.
If they do decide to keep Buchnevich, then perhaps they elect to move one of either Kravtsov or Kakko. Both have shown signs of being solid to even strong NHLers, though both also carry some question marks around their ability to progress. Kakko for his part made some strides defensively this past season, tightening up his game away from the puck, but is yet to demonstrate the full set of offensive abilities that the Rangers drafted him for. At 19, he's still finding his way, but in this win-now mentality it's not out of the question that Drury would include him in a deal.
Kravtsov seems to be more likely the one to be included if a trade is done, though he looked good when he first was inserted into the line-up, before tailing off a little as the Rangers' season fell away.
The chances of something being done by the end of the draft seem pretty high at this point, so I'll leave you with my predictions:
Rangers sign Goodrow to a 6 year $3.5M AAV
Rangers trade Buchnevich, Strome and Chytil
Rangers trade Jones
Rangers trade 15th overall pick and a second first round pick that they acquire
Rangers add a third pair defenseman, and a center and a couple of depth guys
All before free agency
I was tempted to say they'll trade Lundkvist rather than Jones, but we'll see.