Rangers GM Chris Drury made it no secret that the No. 1 priority for him this offseason was to make the Blueshirts tougher and harder to play against.
Late Thursday night, Drury made the Rangers a whole lot tougher to play against when he sent a third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Ryan Reaves, perhaps the most feared fighter in the league.
The move gives the Rangers a 6-2, 225-pound countermeasure to the Capitals’ Tom Wilson, the bruising forward whose body slam of Artemi Panarin in a game May 3 illustrated the Rangers’ lack of toughness, which ultimately led to the firing of team president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton two days later.
Reaves, 34, and Wilson, 27, have a rivalry on ice that includes Reaves’ December 2018 blindside hit on Wilson which resulted in a concussion. With the Rangers opening next season against the Capitals Oct. 13 in Washington, the game within the game between Reaves and Wilson figures to be must-see TV.
Reaves, who played for Rangers coach Gerard Gallant his first two-plus seasons in Vegas, appeared in 37 games in 2020-21 for Vegas, scoring one goal with four assists and accumulating 27 penalty minutes. In 686 career games over parts of 11 seasons with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Vegas, he has 49 goals, 52 assists and 937 penalty minutes. He is entering the final year of a two-year contract that pays him an average of $1.75 million.
Earlier in the day, the Rangers announced a transaction of a very different sort, when they re-signed center Filip Chytil, a restricted free agent. Chytil, 21, agreed to a two-year deal that will pay him a reported $2.3 million in average salary.
Whether the young Czech will be on the roster on Opening Night, though, or off to Buffalo as part of the return package for Jack Eichel, remains to be seen. Chytil battled injury, and COVID-19 in 2021, and had eight goals and 14 assists in 42 games. He missed five weeks with a broken hand and had COVID-19 during the time he was out.
The second of two first-round picks by the Rangers in the 2017 draft (No. 21 overall), he has 34 goals and 37 assists, having played mostly as a third-line center, but also spending much of his rookie season in 2018-19 at left wing.
As Drury continues to ponder a trade for Eichel, the disgruntled Sabres captain, Chytil’s name has been mentioned as a candidate to be going to Buffalo in any deal, along with the likes of, possibly, forwards Ryan Strome and Vitali Kravtsov, and prospect defensemen Zac Jones and Braden Schneider.