One more down, a few more to go. The Rangers were set to trade Michael Grabner to the Devils on Thursday in exchange for a second-round pick and 20-year-old defensive prospect Yegor Rykov, who was New Jersey’s 2016 fifth-round pick (No. 132 overall) and is currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. The trade is the first-ever swap between the Hudson River rivals, and went through soon after Grabner and Rick Nash were held out of the team’s 3-1 loss to the Canadiens at Bell Centre, their fifth straight loss in regulation. At this point, the Rangers (27-29-5) are choosing precaution over competitiveness, not wanting to jeopardize any deal in the hope of winning what have essentially become meaningless games. Coach Alain Vigneault said if Nash isn’t traded by Friday, he will remain out of the lineup for the second leg of this back-to-back, a Garden match against the Wild. The return on these trades before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline — among the many likely to come — is far more important than gaining points in this year’s standings, as was declared by team management when it publicly announced its rebuilding plan earlier this month. And it has left the Blueshirts woefully depleted and deflated, now losers in nine of their past 11, allowing a team like the Canadiens (23-29-8) to somehow outskate them all night. “Sure doesn’t help,” said forward Mats Zuccarello, who is on the trade block himself with one more year left on his deal at a $4.5 million cap hit. “There are a lot of key guys out. All the guys are battling hard, but this is as good a team as we are this moment.” Grabner, 30, is set to be an unrestricted free agent coming off his two-year, $3.3 million deal that turned out to be a monumental bargain. The speedy Austrian was leading the Rangers with 25 goals — including seven empty-netters — building off last year’s 27 goals. His presence immediately makes the Devils faster, as they try to get back into better standing, currently in the first wild-card position.
Rangers trade Michael Grabner to Devils in 1st deal between teams
New York Post | Feb 23