Hours before they played the Bruins at the Garden on Wednesday, the Rangers announced they had traded rugged forward Cody McLeod to the Nashville Predators for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft. Later, to take McLeod’s spot on the roster, the Rangers called up Vinni Lettieri – on his 24th birthday – from their Hartford Wolf Pack farm team.
McLeod, 34, returns to Nashville a little more than a year after the Rangers claimed the enforcer off waivers from the Predators in January 2017. He played a total of 56 games for the Rangers over a 12-and-a-half-month span, scoring one goal, collecting two assists, with 99 penalty minutes. This season, he had a goal and 60 penalty minutes in 31 games. He had played in 15 straight games before being scratched for the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the L.A. Kings on Monday.
“This gives him an opportunity to get a chance to win the Stanley Cup, where his family is, where he came from,’’ coach David Quinn said of McLeod. “They were hot after him. It gives us a chance to bring another young player up to continue to develop and move forward in that area. It made a lot of sense; we got another asset, which we’re trying to accumulate, obviously. And it just made a lot of sense.’’
Lettieri, who made the Rangers out of training camp, played 16 games, mostly on the fourth line, in two separate stints with the parent club. He did not score a goal or an assist for the Rangers. At Hartford, he played in 29 games and scored 12 goals with 15 assists for 27 points.
“Vinni’s been playing well down there,’’ Quinn said. “He’s earned this opportunity.’’
Lettieri entered the lineup and replaced defenseman Neal Pionk as the Rangers returned to a 12-forward, six-defensemen setup.