New York Rangers' Chris Kreider, right, celebrates a goal scored...

New York Rangers' Chris Kreider, right, celebrates a goal scored by Matt Rempe during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Credit: AP/Derik Hamilton

It’s less than two weeks until the March 8 NHL trade deadline and the Rangers are playing like a team that doesn’t need reinforcements.

They won their 10th straight game on Saturday to tie a franchise record, and their 39 wins and 81 points were the most in the league entering Saturday night’s games. Boston and Vancouver both had 80 points and played each other Saturday night.

But all of that doesn’t mean the Rangers are positioned to go all the way in the playoffs. Nothing has changed for them in terms of their needs at the deadline. Peter Laviolette’s team absolutely still is in need of help.

The Rangers are a red-hot team, one that is benefiting from a resurgence by goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who won his sixth straight start on Saturday and has regained the form that won him the Vezina Trophy in 2022.

Even before Blake Wheeler went down with a season-ending lower right leg injury on Feb. 15, the Rangers were in need of a right wing to play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, plus a third-line center who can check and/or provide offense in the postseason, when teams’ top two lines often cancel each other out.

The recent surge of former No. 2 overall pick Kaapo Kakko and the signing last week of forward Jonny Brodzinski don’t change what the Rangers need to do at the deadline. Despite the positive play coming from those two, the Rangers still need a proven option on the right of Zibanejad and Kreider (where Jimmy Vesey is currently filling in) and a legitimate veteran centerman.

Rebuilding Anaheim has two guys who fit those needs perfectly in All-Star right wing Frank Vatrano, who already has played with Kreider and Zibanejad after being acquired by the Rangers at the 2022 trade deadline, and unrestricted free agent-to-be Adam Henrique.

Vatrano, who will turn 30 on March 14, had 26 goals entering Saturday’s late game against Los Angeles, which would be third-most on the Rangers.

Henrique, who turned 34 this month, had 16 goals, was winning 54.8% of his faceoffs and plays on both the power play (four power-play goals this season) and the penalty kill (two shorthanded goals). The Rangers could use another penalty-killing forward after cutting Nick Bonino and demoting Tyler Pitlick to Hartford in the past month.

The asking price for Vatrano and/or Henrique is high, of course, given the shortage of available rental centers and the fact that Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek (and every other GM in the league) knows exactly how much the Rangers could use both players.

Surely Verbeek would want a first-round pick and probably a young player with upside such as Kakko or a high-level prospect such as maybe Hartford winger Brennan Othmann — and maybe more, especially if the Ducks have to retain some salary to make a deal work.

There certainly will be other, cheaper options if Drury doesn’t want to get into some kind of bidding war with other teams for Vatrano and/or Henrique. But Vatrano seems like money in the bank for that Kreider-Zibanejad line and Henrique seems a perfect rental for the No. 3 center position.

With the way Shesterkin is playing right now and the way Artemi Panarin has played all season, this might the time to go all-in to try to win the Stanley Cup.

Lafreniere gets closer to first 20-goal season

Alexis Lafreniere’s two goals in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Devils gave him 16, which matched his total from last season and put him on pace to get 23. That would be a career high in what is turning out to be the best of his four seasons in the NHL.

He got his 17th goal on Saturday, scoring the first goal in the Rangers’ 2-1 win over Philadelphia.

So what would getting 20 goals for the first time (he got 19 in his second season in 2021-22) mean to Lafreniere?

“It would be good, but it’s not something I really look at that much,’’ he said a few days ago. “I just want to play well, and with the chances I’m getting, put the puck in a little more. But it’s not something that really worries me. I just, obviously, want to get as many as I can.’’

Lafreniere finally is having the kind of season he was expected to have after becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. No, he’s not Jack Hughes, but he’s a top-line winger, playing with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. Lafreniere is creating multiple scoring chances every night and is a big part of why the Rangers are winning as much as they are.

“He’s obviously putting the puck in the net, and he’s had a lot of opportunities to put the puck in the net that haven’t [gone in],’’ Jacob Trouba said. “I think he’s taken a massive step, especially this year, all season. He’s continued to get better and he’s getting more and more opportunity and he’s kind of running with it. So I’m happy for him.

“Everything he’s kind of been through — his development and growth — he’s a great person who takes it very seriously and puts a lot of pressure on himself. And he’s kind of running with it right now, and it’s good to see and I’m happy for him.’’


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months