Chris Drury made a move today. In what could be a signal the Rangers are going to be busy until next Monday’s March 21 trade deadline, the team made a sensible deal by acquiring Frank Vatrano from the Panthers for a fourth round pick.
Vatrano has spent the last few years in Florida. Formerly a Bruin who the Cats stole for a third round pick, he’s a solid depth forward who can contribute offensively.
In fact, his final game for the Panthers saw him score twice including in overtime to beat the Sharks last night. The pair of goals gave him 10 for the season. It is the fourth consecutive year he’s hit double digits. Vatrano notched 24 goals in ’18-19, 16 in ’19-20 and 18 last season.
The left wing has a shoot first mentality. Something that the Rangers need. He was successful with Florida due to being able to find the back of the net with his good shot.
A productive secondary scorer, the 28-year old forward had 73 goals and 53 assists for a total of 126 points in 271 games with the Panthers. Sixty-four of his 73 goals came at even strength including nine of 10 this season.
That is exactly the kind of player the Rangers can use. With Vatrano in the final year of a contract that pays him $2.6 million including a $2.53 million AAV, the Blueshirts agreed to pick up the remainder of the tab to help Florida clear space. They’re going to be serious players over the next few days.
In helping out a team they could even see if things go right this postseason, the cost was less. Frank Seravalli reported that the Panthers originally wanted a second round pick. So, Drury did pretty good to upgrade the bottom six. He sure didn’t overpay.
Vatrano can slot in on the third line with Filip Chytil and possibly Barclay Goodrow depending on how Gerard Gallant wants to use him. Goodrow can also center the checking line. His versatility has been an asset.
The addition of Vatrano means someone comes out of the lineup when the Rangers host the Islanders tomorrow. Given what Jonny Brodzinski has provided, he should stay in on either the new third line or checking unit. I actually prefer Greg McKegg over Julien Gauthier for the fourth line. I’d scratch Gauthier.
Morgan Barron will likely be reassigned to Hartford to clear room on the roster. Barron has only gotten in the lineup occasionally. He’s been used sparingly. It makes more sense to send him down where he can get top line minutes with the Wolf Pack.
It’s also worth noting that by picking up Vatrano, who will hit the market this summer, they’re admitting the obvious. Both Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney won’t be back soon. However, when they eventually return, the lineup should be improved.
Depending on if Drury makes an addition to the second line that would drop Dryden Hunt to the bottom six, there could be more to come. That would strengthen a team weakness. They’ve depended so much on Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin to provide most of the offense. By addressing the obvious, the lack of scoring depth should improve.
This was an easy transaction for Drury to make. The Rangers got better today.