The San Jose Sharks have acquired defenseman Anthony Bitetto from the New York Rangers, who will be sending Nicholas Merkley in return.
Bitetto, 31, has been nothing more than a minor league depth option for the Rangers this season, seeing all game action in the AHL. His 39 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack are actually the most AHL games he’s played since 2014-15, when he had still yet to even break into the NHL with the Nashville Predators. He perhaps will get a chance to see some time with the Sharks after their trade of Jacob Middleton, though things are still rather crowded there. If he does go to the San Jose Barracuda, it could be in an attempt to steal the last AHL playoff spot in the Pacific Division, which is currently the San Diego Gulls just five points ahead.
Interestingly, Merkley’s addition could be the much more impactful one. The 24-year-old forward has just 41 games of NHL experience under his belt, but has been great for the Barracuda this season with 36 points in 43 games. A first-round pick in 2015, Merkley has yet to really establish himself as anything more than a minor league top-six forward.
In fact, given how few NHL games he has played to this point, Merkley is actually set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent in the offseason when his one-year, two-way contract expires. Perhaps a good showing with the Hartford Wolf Pack–with how much depth the Rangers added up front today, it seems unlikely he’ll spend much time with them down the stretch–would earn him another deal with the organization.