Buchnevich trade: What are the Rangers up to?

Leen Amin

Leen Amin

Analyzing the peculiar Pavel Buchnevich trade as well as the Rangers’ moves so far this offseason.

Friday was a wild day in the NHL as teams were frantically making trades prior to the commencement of the 2021 draft. The New York Rangers were one of those teams.

After it was revealed that the Rangers had been shopping RW Pavel Buchnevich for weeks, it was announced on Friday afternoon that the 26-year-old is headed to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for RW Sammy Blais as well as a second-round pick in the 2022 draft.

Let’s cut to the chase: this is a bad, bad trade for the Rangers.

Buchnevich infamously struggled after making his NHL debut with the Rangers. He wasn’t working in Alain Vigneault’s system, and the coach seemed unable to figure out how to use the young winger.

David Quinn was then in charge for three seasons and although he wasn’t great, one of the best things he did was develop Buchnevich and turn him into a wonderful player who blossomed this past season.

Buchnevich scored 20 goals and 48 points (a career-high) in 54 games. He was arguably the team’s best penalty killer and two-way forward, making a huge impact and being their x-factor at both ends of the ice.

He played an important role as the team’s number one RW and picked up the slack when his linemates were caught in slumps while serving an immensely significant role on special teams.

Many have believed Buchnevich to be on the trading block since last year’s trade deadline because he will become an UFA after the 2021-22 season.

It became even more likely that he would be dealt after the Rangers signed Chris Kreider to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal in 2020.

The Rangers had a successful season in 2021 and would have made the playoffs had they not played in the most difficult division in the league. During that season, many wingers emerged as potential key pieces for the future.

The Rangers lucked into the number one pick of the 2020 draft, with which they took winger Alexis Lafrenière, who ended his rookie season on a great note.

In his sophomore season, RW Kaapo Kakko looked like a completely different player and was one of the best defensive forwards in the game.

Artemiy Panarin is still one of the best players in the NHL. It took a while, but Vitaly Kravtsov finally arrived and was quite impactful upon making his debut.

To the Rangers and new GM Chris Drury, Buchnevich became expendable.

He would command quite the long-term deal, but the front office recognized the fact that they have so many promising, young wingers and that they’re seriously looking into acquiring some big-name players like Buffalo Sabres center and captain Jack Eichel.

If the Rangers don’t get at least one star-caliber player, this trade is a disaster. (Even if they do get Eichel, they still should’ve done better here.)

Blais is a decent defensive-minded forward who does generate some offense.

He will play in the Rangers’ bottom-six and will likely be an upgrade over most of the team’s recent bottom-four wingers, but he is no Buchnevich.

The Rangers also did receive a second-round pick in next year’s draft, which is expected to be a strong one, but this is still a disappointing return for a player of Buchnevich’s caliber.

The trade comes shortly after the Rangers signed center Barclay Goodrow to a six-year, $21.85 million deal. Goodrow is a solid, gritty bottom-six forward and brings to the Rangers something they really need.

However, such a contract for such a player isn’t ideal and was the first truly questionable move Drury has made. The new GM’s track record now isn’t too great, at least so far.

The The 25-year-old Blais will earn $1.5 million this season before becoming a RFA. Although Drury’s moves have been questionable, it’s hard to believe he’s clearing cap space for nothing.

The Rangers are likely just beginning to make their offseason moves, and chances are decent that they improve their roster quite a bit heading into 2021-22.

However, even so, a player like Buchnevich, should have gotten the Rangers a much better return, especially with the kinds of returns other players are getting.

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