J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the...

J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Crypto.com Arena on December 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Getty Images/Katelyn Mulcahy

The NHL trade deadline is three weeks away, now, and 52 games into the season, Rangers general manager Chris Drury should have a pretty good read on what his team is, at this point, and what it may need as he seeks to fortify the roster for the stretch run and playoffs.

Rangers fans have thrown lots of names out there on social media of players they would love to see Drury acquire. One of those names is an old favorite, J.T. Miller, who happened to be in the Garden Sunday night as his Vancouver Canucks took on the Rangers.

Miller, the former Ranger who was traded away at the deadline in 2018, at the start of the rebuild, was leading the Canucks in scoring with 57 points entering Sunday, including a team-high 20 goals. But his name has come up in speculation because the Canucks’ position in the Western Conference playoff race is dicey, and some think Vancouver may decide to sell off assets at the deadline. Entering Sunday, the Canucks were five points out of a wild-card spot with 29 games to go, beginning with Sunday’s matchup against the Rangers.

Miller, 28, might not be the type of player Drury is looking to acquire at the deadline, however. The Rangers have plenty of room under the salary cap – according to CapFriendly, they have nearly $32 million deadline space available – so they can add salary for this season. But with the long-term contract extensions for Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox kicking in next season, they won’t have much cap space next year, which suggests Drury might be more inclined to pursue players on expiring contracts, such as San Jose’s Tomas Hertl or Vegas’ Reilly Smith.

The flip side of the trade speculation is what assets do the Rangers have that they might be willing to give up. Former first-round picks Vitali Kravtsov and Nils Lundkvist might be players who could be shipped out to bring in reinforcements for the stretch run, and they do have their first-round draft pick, two second-rounders, and two fourth-rounders, which could be thrown in to any deals.

As far as NHL-ready prospects the Rangers might be willing to part with, center Filip Chytil is a name that has been floated, too.

Chytil, 22, is in his fourth season with the Rangers, but he’s never been able to elevate himself out of a third-line role with the team. This season he hasn’t been able to produce consistently. He has five goals and seven assists in 41 games.

Coach Gerard Gallant left Chytil out of the lineup for Thursday’s game against Washington and Saturday’s in Pittsburgh. On Thursday, Gallant said Chytil was "under the weather,’’ despite the fact he had practiced fully Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Saturday, the coach said Chytil was fine, but he opted to stick with the same lineup that had beaten Washington Thursday.

On Sunday, Chytil was left out of the lineup for a third straight game.

"We played two really good games," Gallant said before the game. "The last two games, the guys played really well, and I don’t want to change the lineup. Even though we lost (on Saturday) 1-0, they played really good."

If Chytil were included in any trade package, his $2 million salary would come off the books, which would open even more salary cap space for the Rangers to bring in another top-6 or top-9 forward.

The Rangers have gotten the bulk of their offensive production from their top two forward lines, driven by Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, and by Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Finding the perfect right wing for both of those lines has been challenging. Kaapo Kakko is on injured reserve with an upper body injury and is not close to returning; Alexis Lafreniere has looked good recently switching from left wing to right to play with Zibanejad and Kreider.

The third line, driven by Chytil, has had stretches where it has generated energy and produced scoring chances, but overall hasn’t produced many goals.

Georgiev in goal. Alexandar Georgiev started in goal for the first time since Jan. 27. Igor Shesterkin had started the previous eight games.

With Anthony Rieber

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