The New York Rangers have added to their forward group, acquiring Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick. The Panthers will receive the later of the two fourth-round picks the Rangers have. Florida did not retain any salary in the trade.
Vatrano, 28, turned into a huge success story after an early-career trade from the Boston Bruins. After scoring a total of 20 goals in 108 games with the Bruins, the team that signed him as an undrafted college free agent, he would go on to register 24 in his first season in Florida and 73 in his entire 273-game span. As the Panthers have gotten better though, filling out their lineup with other talented forwards, Vatrano’s minutes and role have diminished, to the point where he was a healthy scratch at times this season.
In 49 games, he has scored ten goals and 19 points, with two of those tallies coming last night in a win over the San Jose Sharks. That performance was apparently enough to interest the Rangers, who add a versatile scoring threat to a lineup that has at times been very inconsistent on offense. The price of a fourth-round pick is negligible for New York, who had two this season already and a pipeline filled with high-upside prospects, and there is very little risk in acquiring his cap given how much room they have this season.
Vatrano is in the final season of a three-year, $7.6MM contract he signed with Florida in 2019 and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. It appeared as though a return to the Panthers was unlikely because of how many other forwards they already had in place, meaning getting something at the deadline is a bonus.
Importantly though, the draft pick isn’t the thing to focus on here when it comes to what the Panthers received. Taking Vatrano’s $2.53MM cap hit entirely off the books at this point in the season will open up huge flexibility for Florida ahead of next week’s deadline, similar to how the Colorado Avalanche moved out Tyson Jost’s deal yesterday. The Panthers have been linked to several top names including Claude Giroux and Jakob Chychrun as they make a run toward the Stanley Cup.
In terms of the player’s future, Vatrano could be an interesting option for the Rangers to re-sign even, should he find a fit in New York. Though they already have several options on the wing, his ability to play both sides and proven track record scoring even in limited minutes could give them a nice option for lower in the lineup. There’s even a chance that he finds immediate chemistry with some of the other talented Ranger forwards and finds his way into the top-six on a regular basis. As a pending UFA, a chance to play on a competitive team was all that Vatrano could ask for if he was going to leave Florida, and he’s found that chance in New York.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic first reported the trade on Twitter.
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