Gerard Gallant has warm welcome for Rangers' trade reinforcements
NEWARK — It’s likely the person who was most excited by all Rangers general manager Chris Drury was able to get done at the NHL trade deadline Monday was coach Gerard Gallant, who found himself Tuesday in New Jersey with three new pieces to play with for the final 19 games of the regular season and the playoffs.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I would have been disappointed if nothing happened yesterday,’’ Gallant said at Tuesday’s morning skate at Prudential Center, where the Rangers were visiting the Devils. “When you add some character people, and give yourself a chance to win, considering the season that we had, I think our management staff did a great job yesterday. They added some strong pieces for us.’’
All three of the new additions — forwards Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte and defenseman Justin Braun — were in the Rangers’ lineup against the Devils. Braun had the easiest commute to Newark, driving up the New Jersey Turnpike Tuesday morning from Philadelphia, but Copp had to fly from Winnipeg and Motte from Vancouver. All three said jumping right into a game without so much as a practice was the easiest way for them to transition to the new team.
“Yeah, getting into a game right away is probably the best way to kind of get to know guys a little bit, and try and wear off the ‘new’ as quickly as possible, and just kind of get into the flow of things and get into a rhythm,’’ Copp said.
For Copp and Motte, feeling comfortable with the Rangers was made even easier because of thei relationship with Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba and fellow newcomer Frank Vatrano. All four played together in the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“Going back with ‘Motter’ and playing at Michigan and the U.S. program, you know having him and Troubs, guys I basically consider brothers that are here make that transition a lot easier,’’ Copp said.
As to where all the new guys will end up fitting, that is a puzzle Gallant and his coaching staff will have to figure out over the remainder of the season. On Tuesday, Vatrano, who was acquired last week from the Florida Panthers, remained on the right wing of the Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome line, where he played his first three games with the team. Copp, who can play center or either wing, started out on the left wing of the third line, with Filip Chytil in the middle and Dryden Hunt on the right, and Motte played on the left of the fourth line, with center Barclay Goodrow and right wing Ryan Reaves.
Braun started out on the third defense pair, partnered with Patrik Nemeth as 20-year-old rookie Braden Schneider came out of the lineup.
Gallant acknowledged adding the new players to the lineup would necessarily force players who have contributed to the Rangers’ success out of the lineup...
“It's always tough,’’ Gallant said. “But you know what, we’ve got good people here and good character. And I think when everybody's healthy, we're going to have 27 guys around. And then we're going to discuss that, and talk to the guys, and you know what, it's all about trying to win. And that's what you're trying to do. I mean, we're trying to win as a team . . . If you go to the Stanley Cup Finals, if you're fortunate enough to get there, you're fortunate to make the playoffs, it's going to take all 27. So that's going to be the message, you know?’’
Speaking specifically of Schneider, who had played 26 straight games since getting called up from AHL Hartford in January, Gallant said it’s not a certainty he’s permanently dropped from the top six defensemen.
“We love Schneids,’’ Gallant said. “He's played a lot of games for us, and he's showed a lot. And it doesn't mean because we brought Braun in that Schneider's not going to be in our top six. It's going to be about competition, and who goes well and who plays well. But [Schneider’s] a kid, and he's getting some great experience. And he's played great. So we're real happy with him.’’