The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers have decided to swap prospects, trading Julien Gauthier for Joey Keane. The Rangers will acquire the young forward in Gauthier, while Carolina adds another defensive option to their pipeline in Keane.
As we wrote yesterday, the Rangers’ biggest need as they move to the next phase in their rebuild was young forwards that are close to being NHL ready. That’s exactly what they’ve received in Gauthier, who is currently fourth in AHL scoring with 26 goals through 44 games after putting up 27 a year ago for the Charlotte Checkers. The 22-year old forward has size—6’4″ 227-lbs—and a nose for the net that made him the 21st overall pick in 2016. He has only seen five games in the NHL to this point, but the Rangers obviously believe he can make an impact at that level for their organization.
Their belief in Gauthier’s NHL upside must be real, because Keane has already shown in his first season of professional hockey that he is on the path to becoming an impact player. Selected 88th overall in 2018, Keane has eight goals and 30 points in 49 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack. He spent a day on the NHL roster last week, but so far hasn’t seen any action for the Rangers. Whether he’ll get into any for the Hurricanes right away isn’t clear, but the team had been looking for some more depth on defense after losing Dougie Hamilton for the season. The fact that he is still only 20 and has two more years on his entry-level contract only makes Keane more appealing to a team like Carolina who will need to spend every dollar wisely to compete in the tough Metropolitan Division.
Gauthier too has another year on his entry-level contract, something the Rangers can use as they try to really contend for the playoffs next season. The team already has a lot of cash allocated to names like Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba and Henrik Lundqvist, making the margins of the roster even more important. They have a number of young defensemen that hold similar value and upside to Keane, meaning they could deal from a position of strength to acquire a player like Gauthier.