Rangers acquire Frank Vatrano from Panthers for fourth-round pick
With the NHL trade deadline upcoming on Monday, Rangers GM Chris Drury moved Wednesday to acquire forward Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers, trading a fourth-round pick in this summer’s draft in exchange for the 28-year-old Massachusetts native.
The pick will be the later of the two fourth-round selections the Rangers own in the draft, either their own or the one belonging to Winnipeg, which had been acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Brett Howden trade last summer.
The move freed up salary-cap space for Atlantic Division-leading Florida (41-13-6, 88 points), which made another deal Wednesday night by landing one of the most coveted players on the trade market. They acquired defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Canadiens for Tyler Smilanic and two draft picks.
Vatrano is in the final year of a three-year deal that carries a salary-cap hit of $2.533 million, according to CapFriendly.com. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
For the Rangers, Vatrano will add some scoring potential to one of their bottom two lines. He has 10 goals and nine assists (19 points) in 49 games this season for the Panthers.
Acquiring Vatrano (5-11, 197 pounds) doesn’t figure to be the last thing Drury does before the deadline. Vatrano, who had been playing on Florida’s fourth line, wouldn’t seem to profile as the wing the Rangers have been seeking to play with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, and the Rangers still have multiple prospects to trade and $25.9 million in available salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.
The timetable for Kaapo Kakko’s return is a factor that could affect Drury’s thinking. The 21-year-old winger last played on Jan. 21 before going on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Gerard Gallant said Kakko is not returning this week.
If Drury believes Kakko will be back soon after the deadline, and reunite with Strome and Panarin, then Drury could then look to do other things.
Notes & quotes: Gallant, in addressing a question about the Islanders, noted they are a different team than the one the Rangers handled, 4-1, back in November at UBS Arena. "They had a lot of stuff going on with them early on, with the COVID stuff,’’ he said. "They had to play a bunch of games on the road to start to season, so things didn't go great for them. Now they're playing their style. They’re a hard-working team, they're a competitive team every night. Obviously, Barry Trotz coaches that team very well and they do a good job. But they're a talented team and they're playing much better last 10-15 games.’’ . . . Forward Morgan Barron was assigned to AHL Hartford.