The NHL trade market finally saw some movement five days before its March 21 deadline as the New York Rangers acquired forward Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers for a 2022 fourth-round draft pick, the Rangers announced on Wednesday.
A winger that can play either left or right, the 28-year-old has 10 goals and nine assists in 49 games this season as his numbers and playing time continued to dwindle on a loaded Panthers team that is one of the very best in the Eastern Conference.
Once a 24-goal scorer during his first full season with the Panthers in 2018-19, Vatrano has slowly fallen down the depth chart where he most recently served as a fourth-line option on a team loaded with offensive talent ranging from Jonathan Huberdeau to Aleksander Barkov, to Anthony Duclair.
In total, Florida has five players with 20 or more goals and six with at least 40 points, making Vatrano all the more expendable even after he potted two goals on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.
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The same cannot be said for the Rangers, who are flush with offensive talent on the top two lines but then production drops off severely.
Artemi Panarin (71 points), Mika Zibanejad (61 points), Chris Kreider (54 points), and Ryan Strome (43 points) account for roughly 47% of the team’s entire offensive production this season despite a total of 26 skaters appearing for the team ties season.
Vatrano’s arrival immediately gives the Blueshirts a more legitimate third-line option on the wing compared to Johnny Brodzinski, who most recently served as the unit’s right-wing option. He has just one goal in 11 games this season as the team attempts to supplement the losses of both Sammy Blais and Kaapo Kakko due to injuries.
A deeper New York offense is imperative for a deep run into the playoffs. A lack of consistent offense has put added pressure on netminder Igor Shesterkin, who has been playing at a Hart Trophy-worthy level this season — though that isn’t always a sustainable strategy heading into the postseason.