Alain Vigneault talks trade deadline, we ask Seth Rothman his thoughts
Alain Vigneault admitted yesterday that it “would be logical to assume if we can help ourselves, in any area where we might be able to improve our team we’re gonna look at it.” The head coach also noted that the Rangers have been following that philosophy since day one of this season.
“If we can we will, if we can’t, I still like our team,” the head coach said. This morning the Rangers sit 2 points out of first in the Metro Division and hold 3 games in hand on the Islanders, so what’s not to like?
Can the Rangers improve on face-offs by acquiring Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes? What about cheaper options like Columbus’ Mark Latestu? We spoke with Seth Rothman who covers the Rangers for Inside Hockey about the upcoming trade deadline and the current state of the Blueshirts. When it came to the names out there, he was very forthcoming.
“Letestu does not feel like a fit to me, his numbers, both analytic and non-analytic, are awful. I don’t think he’s better than Hayes, and I don’t think he’s better than D. Moore. Glen has plenty of balls in the air right now. Winnik is interesting, as is Vermette when the asking price comes down. And it will come down, it always does.”
The Rangers still rank at the bottom of the league on draws. An apparent area of weakness that Alain Vigneualt alluded to earlier, but what areas are the Rangers looking to improve? Seth gave us this answer, “I think they’d like to improve their forward depth, first and foremost. If they can get a 3C, they can move Kevin Hayes to the wing and really lengthen their lineup up-front.”
Of course, Andrej Sekera has been rumored to be of interest to the Rangers for their blue-line. Seth feels, “Adding a defenseman should be a secondary mission, but when you look at the Rangers’ D-core 1-through-6, they have one of the deepest D-cores in the league. If they can find a way to improve, go right ahead. But frankly, they’ll be fine on the backline with John Moore and Matt Hunwick taking up that last spot.”
Another concern coming at the deadline will be the Rangers cap. Seth believe the Rangers will have enough cap space to accomplish their goals come March 2nd. “No, they can’t bring in a highly-paid star, but they can certainly bring in the depth they seek. The cap shouldn’t be a major issue for them. I don’t have their exact cap situation, but they should be in decent shape there.”
One of the more concerning issues surrounding the Rangers is the contract situation of Mats Zuccarello. I asked Seth his thoughts on how this will possibly play out.
“Zuccarello has been an essential piece for the Rangers. They will not be trading him before Monday’s deadline,” Seth said. “This is a team that believes it has what it takes to contend for the Cup, so they’re not making a move that would hurt their chances. That’s not happening. As for this offseason, who knows. The Rangers are going to be right up against the cap again this summer, so every dollar counts. I think Zuccarello will lower his demands and the Rangers will up their offer. Whether that’s enough in the end is anyone’s guess.”
Lastly, I stated the biggest move for the Rangers after the deadline would be the return of Henrik Lundqvist. When asked if Seth had any update he gave me this, “He’s still doing light cardio.” Yesterday we learned that Henrik actually took some low shots at practice. “It’s been three weeks since his injury, but the Rangers said Sunday morning he hasn’t had his doctor’s appointment yet. That should be coming within the next seven days, at which point he’ll be reevaluated and we’ll see where he stands.”
If the Rangers can add a coveted 3rd line center that can win over 50% of his draws and get back a healthy Lundqvist, they could easily be considered the top contender to come out of this East this spring.
Follow Seth Rothman on Twitter: @RothmanHockey
Alain Vigneault’s full interview from practice below: