As the Rangers slog through a rebuilding season, they have chips to cash in on once again after last year's eventful trade deadline.
Chief among them is Kevin Hayes, who received only a one-year, $5.175 million deal as a restricted free agent last summer and is set for unrestricted free agency later this year. The ascending 26-year-old center could be a target for the Blue Jackets before Monday's deadline if they fail in their pursuit of Ottawa's Matt Duchene, according to Elliotte Friedman's latest 31 Thoughts column.
Columbus' president is former Rangers goalie and broadcaster John Davidson. The two clubs have done some big business in the past. The Rangers acquired Rick Nash from Columbus in 2012 in a deal which saw the Blueshirts trade Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov; in 2013 the Rangers dealt Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets while acquiring Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore.
Hayes had some rough patches after a good rookie season in 2014-15, but he's improved immensely over the last two seasons. He had 14 goals and 28 assists entering Tuesday's game at Carolina and his .86 points per game is a career-high.
Fan favorite Mats Zuccarello could also be on the move before Monday's deadline. The 31-year-old impending unrestricted free agent has been in good form on the Rangers' top line, and according to Friedman the Stars have checked in on the diminutive winger, who had 11 goals and 26 assists in 44 games entering Tuesday.
Additionally, there's been "traction" on veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid, per Friedman. The Blueshirts acquired McQuaid from Boston in September for Steven Kampfer, a 2019 fourth-round pick and a conditional seventh-round pick. The 6-foot-4 righty averaged 17:45 of ice time through his first 34 appearances this season.