With many teams in the league looking for center help this offseason and seeing few options on the free agent market, the trade market seems to be the best way to fill that heavily in-demand. Just earlier this week, the Montreal Canadiens traded Alex Galchenyuk, who failed to succeed at the center position for the team in previous years, to Arizona. The Coyotes have already stated they intend to move him back to center in hopes that he can make the conversion and fill their No. 2 center hole.
The New York Rangers seem to be in a unique situation. Despite the franchise suddenly finding themselves in rebuilding mode, the one thing the Rangers have plenty of is reliable centers. In fact, the team has eight potential centers currently on the roster, including Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Spooner, Boo Nieves and Brett Howden. While some of those eight will be forced to move to the wing position, there is also a strong possibility that the team will move at least one of those centers during the offseason, and very possibly, before next week’s draft.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post writes that while the team has a solid combination of Zibanejad, Chytil, Hayes and Andersson currently penciled in as their top four centers next season, that’s a logjam at that position that likely would not aid the development of Chytil and Andersson, two teenagers who need as much playing time as possible at the NHL level. Andersson especially, last year’s No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft, needs time on the ice and a fourth-line role isn’t going to cut it.
The scribe writes that Hayes may be available after quietly putting up a career-high 25 goals while playing center for New York last year. The restricted free agent is in line for a potential five-year deal worth about $4.5MM per year based on his success last season and there is no guarantee that Hayes would earn the No. 2 center spot with all this depth. Regardless, Hayes would be a highly coveted commodity for many teams who are in desperate need for help at that position.
The key for the Rangers is to trade him straight out for help on their blueline, according to Brooks, who adds that New York is unlikely to use Hayes as part of a package to move up in the draft. The team’s biggest need is at defense and there are many teams that could use a center and have defense to trade, including the Calgary Flames who might be ready to move Dougie Hamilton.