Friedman: ‘I think the Rangers are one to watch’

It seems to be a matter of when and not if the New York Rangers will make some moves on the trade front.

The latest fuel for that fire came on Monday afternoon, when Elliotte Friedman riffed on the topic during an appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960.

Toward the end of the segment, Friedman was asked if there was much trade chatter around the league right now.

“I think there’s some,” indicated Friedman. “I think the Rangers are one to watch. I mentioned Namestnikov in my notes last week, I definitely think he’s out there. And I think the Rangers are pretty similar to where they were last year. I think they’re willing to listen on a lot of things, as long as it’s not one of their core young players.

“For example, Nick mentioned he thinks that the Jets have some interest in Kevin Hayes, and that makes a lot of sense. I just think the question is last year - and they have Zuccarello - last year they waited until they were basically done, at the trade deadline, to make their moves. So I think the question is how long do the Rangers want to wait. But I definitely think everybody knows they’re going to have some moves to make.

“People are also waiting on Toronto to see what Toronto does with Nylander. If you’re in on that, you’re holding your best pieces to see in case they move him. But I think there’s a lot of chatter out there, and I think it’s because some teams are off to slow starts and they want to try and save their year.”

Hayes is on a one-year, $5.175 million contract, and can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Mats Zuccarello can also become a UFA in July, as he’s in the final season of his four-year, $18 million pact.

Nylander is a restricted free agent without a contract for the Maple Leafs, and he and the team have until December 1 to hammer out a contract or he’ll be unable to play in the NHL this season.

As the conversation on 960 continued, Friedman was asked if he thought Henrik Lundqvist is 100 percent a part of the Rangers’ rebuild, or would they ever get to a spot where they would entertain moving him.

“I don’t think that they’re going to entertain moving him because I think this is going to be a big summer for the Rangers,” predicted Friedman. “In the sense that - first of all, the guy is still really good. He’s still a difference-maker. He bleeds Ranger Blue. They like him and he likes them.

“The guy that I’m wondering about is Panarin. Since we’re talking about gambling today, if there was a wager on where Panarin was going to be next year as a UFA, I think a lot of people would probably pick the Rangers. A guy like that accelerates a rebuild. And by then you’re hoping - Andersson’s a year older, Chytil’s a year older, some of your other guys who are a year older, and you can start going somewhere.

“I think until the Rangers see if they land him - assuming they’re interested - then I think that probably changes the franchise’s direction. So I wouldn’t imagine Lundqvist is going anywhere.”

Lundqvist has this season and then two more remaining on his seven-year, $59.5 million contract, which also contains a no-move clause.

The veteran goaltender has said repeatedly he wants to remain with the Rangers.

Artemi Panarin appears to be headed toward unrestricted free agency this summer, as the star forward does not appear to be inclined to sign an extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly