6:49PM: On the trade, Jeff Gorton said, "It hit on a lot of things that we wanted to accomplish, acquiring some picks, some high picks, getting some young players that we have really liked for a while. The ability to get Howden and Hajak and Namestnikov is a player that we have liked for a while. It hit on a lot of things that we wanted to do as we move forward is probably the best answer."
5:12PM: The Rangers have officially announced that they have traded JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a package that includes:
- 2018 First Round Pick
- Vladislav Namestnikov
- Brett Howden
- Libor Hajek
- Conditional First Round Pick in 2019
From the Rangers release:
- Namestnikov, 25, has skated in 62 games with Tampa Bay this season, registering 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points, along with a plus-11 rating and 35 penalty minutes.
- He has established career-highs in goals, assists, points, average ice time (17:30), power play goals (eight), and shots on goal (127) this season.
- Hajek, 20, has split the 2017-18 season between the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL), registering 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points, along with 28 penalty minutes in 52 games.
- Internationally, the Smrcek, Czech Republic, native has represented his country in several tournaments. Most recently, Hajek registered eight points (one goal, seven assists) in seven games at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. He was named one of the Top Three players on his team, as he led all defensemen in the tournament in assists and tied for first among all defensemen in the tournament in points.
- Howden, 19, has skated in 38 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season, registering 22 goals and 36 assists for 58 points, along with a plus-25 rating and 36 penalty minutes. In addition, Howden is serving as Moose Jaw's captain for the second consecutive season.
- Internationally, the Calgary, Alberta, native has represented Canada in several tournaments. Howden helped Canada earn a gold medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, registering seven points (three goals, four assists) and a plus-nine rating in seven games during the tournament. He was also named one of the Top Three Players on his team during the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championship, as he recorded eight points (five goals, three assists) in six games.
Hajek was acquired by Tampa Bay, from Arizona, in-exchange for Tony DeAngelo at the 2016 NHL Draft.
No salary was retained in the deal. (LeBrun)
In last year's Future Watch edition of The Hockey News, Hajek was ranked as their top prospect, saying "blessed with high hockey IQ, Hajek makes smart plays in his own end and understands the right times to join the rush without forcing plays. While his skating is not considered a strength, Hajek has taken noticeable strides in that areas. 'He's a solid two-way puck mover and a hard worker. He's improving his skating and has gotten a lot stronger over the summer." Hajek was listed as the 68th overall prospect in the issue.
In last year's Future Watch edition of The Hockey News, Howden was ranked as Tampa Bay's 5th prospect, saying "Named captain of the WHL Warriors at the start of the season, Howden has taken the expected step forward in his third junior season. With a strong hockey IQ, the tall center has seen his offensive production accelerate while working harder on protecting the puck in tight quarters. 'He's a good, honest, 200-foot player who is putting up good numbers. He's getting to the net, making plays off the rush and skating well."
Adam Rotter: In moving Ryan McDonagh the Rangers have traded their captain, best skater and someone that, at one point, seemed destined to be a career Ranger. McDonagh never seemed comfortable being the Rangers captain and too often tried to do too much to match the responsibility that came with that letter. The Rangers struggled to find the right partner for him and get the best use out of his skill set. Injuries hurt him this year and the dream of him and Kevin Shattenkirk leading the Rangers on defense never came to fruition. I'd expect McDonagh to thrive in Tampa Bay where he won't have the burden of being the top skater, top defenseman or captain. He can play big minutes for Tampa, but in a smaller role, and not have to deal with anything like he did with the Rangers. He's a good player, was a great Ranger and has the potential to put Tampa Bay over the top.
At some point the Rangers were going to have to move JT Miller, Kevin Hayes or Chris Kreider. I'd alternate between which one I thought was the best to move but they landed on Miller. At times last season Miller looked like a future All-Star for the Rangers but he didn't take the net step this season. Miller was pushed hard by Alain Vigneault because Vigneault could see the talent and ability that Miller had. He's a great passer, has a great shot, when he takes it, and can play a hard, fast, physical game. He also has a penchant for making terrible turnovers and then getting shifted around by Vigneault. Miller joins a team where he's more of a depth player and certainly doesn't need to be looked at to be a top offensive performer like he was with the Rangers. He's super talented and can still become an All-Star caliber player, but with a new contract needed, the Rangers opted to move on rather than take a chance and invest longer-term in Miller.
As for the return the Rangers got, it's a lot, but nothing that really jumps off the page and grabs you. Namestnikov is a good player and someone who will have an opportunity for a bigger role with the Rangers than he did in Tampa Bay. The Rangers want him at center and he can take on that tweener role behind Mika Zibanejad and ahead of Kevin Hayes for the rest of this season. The first round picks are and important part and then there are Howden and Hajek. Those two will ultimately determine whether this trade works out for the Rangers in the long-run. Neither, according to reports, seem like they have the type of talent as someone like Filip Chytil might, but the Rangers valued hard work, leadership and high hockey IQ in all of the trades they made. The Rangers want to get back to being an organization that outworks the other team, makes smart plays with the puck and can go fast from one end of the ice to the other.
Overall this is a very strange day for the Rangers. I didn't think they would move McDonagh until the draft and I certainly didn't expect them to package McDonagh and Miller together. The rebuild is on and while there is still a lot of work to be done at the draft and in free agency, the next most pressing question about the Rangers is who stands behind the bench when all of these young players, prospects and draft picks take the ice.