It didn’t take long for the big trade of the regular season to occur. Less than a week into the new campaign, and after just two games, the New York Rangers have traded away forward Vladislav Namestnikov. Agent Dan Milstein revealed that his client had been traded to the Ottawa Senators and the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the return is a 2021 fourth-round pick and defenseman Nick Ebert. The Rangers will also retain $750K, or 18.75%, of Namestnikov’s $4MM salary this season, the final year of his current deal. New York has confirmed the terms of the trade
The meager return for Namestnikov is a fitting end to an overall disappointing tenure for the forward in New York. Acquired by the Rangers as the lone veteran piece that came back from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the deal that sent Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller the other way in 2018, Namestnikov, 26, was expected to flourish in more of a headlining role in the Big Apple. After just a 19-game stretch run to close out the 2017-18 season, the Rangers more than doubled Namestnikov’s salary with a two-year, $8MM contract extension. He rewarded them last season with 31 points – a 17-point drop-off from the year prior – in a campaign filled with frequent disappearing acts. Namestnikov ended up relegated to a bottom-six winger role by the end of the year and unsurprisingly became a fixture on the rumor mill this summer. The Rangers are surely disappointed in how his acquisition worked out, but happy to be rid of $3.25MM off the books this season, especially as they had been positioned precariously close to the salary cap ceiling. They receive a mid-round pick in return, as well as an intriguing depth option in Ebert. The 25-year-old blue liner is an AHL veteran who played phenomenally well in Sweden last season and hoped to return to North America in hopes of finally seeing NHL action. Given the depth of defensive prospects in Ottawa, he may actually have a better shot of achieving that goal with New York.
This trade is essentially risk-free for GM Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators. They surrender only minor trade chips and land a capable player in his prime. Namestnikov’s future in Ottawa can play out in three ways. The first is, like in New York, Namestnikov fails to take advantage of a core role and has another disappointing season by his standards. This is the worst-case scenario, but it still allows the Senators to walk away at the end of the year having cost them next to nothing. Alternatively, Namestnikov could embrace this change of scenery and return to form for Ottawa. The team could try to re-sign him as a new centerpiece of their rebuilding team. However, they could also simply flip him at the trade deadline and almost certainly recoup more than they gave away. Either of those scenarios would be considered a major win for Dorion and company. It remains to be seen just how well Namestnikov – a player who has always excelled when surrounded by other elite talent – will respond to joining the rebuilding Senators, but the club has the means to give him considerable ice time and return him to his natural center position if they so choose. That could create a great opportunity for both player and team the rest of this season.