The Rangers continued their promised roster overhaul just before the N.H.L. trade on Monday, dealing the captain Ryan McDonagh and forward J. T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning for three players and two draft picks.
McDonagh’s departure, which came a day after the Rangers traded forward Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins, completed for now a roster dismantling that the Rangers had warned their fans was coming. The Rangers last week dealt Nick Holden to the Bruins and sent Michael Grabner, their leading goal scorer, leaving them to move forward as a last-place team stripped of some of its most popular and reliable names with 19 games to go.
The Rangers signalled that big changes were coming two weeks ago in a letter from the team president, Glen Sather, and General Manager Jeff Gorton, telling fans that the team “may lose some familiar faces, guys we all about and respect” in order to add young, skilful players.
In Monday’s deal, the Rangers acquired the 25-year-old Russian forward Vladislav and two prospects: Brett Howden and Libor Hajek. The Rangers also got Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in June’s draft and a conditional second-round draft, which will become a first-round selection if the Lightning, who lead the Atlantic Division, win the Stanley Cup this year.
“It hit on a lot of things we wanted to accomplish as far as acquiring high picks and getting young players we’ve really liked for a while,” Gorton said on Monday. “We’re getting some younger players we can really build around.”
The Rangers, who have lost seven straight, now have three first-round picks (one of which was acquired in the Nash deal), two second-rounders and two third-rounders for the June draft in Dallas. The raft of picks could be parlayed into even more deals after this season.
The Rangers are 3-13-1 in their last 17 games and are almost certain to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They are focusing instead on building their roster for the future.
A first-round pick by the Lightning, is the only player currently on an N.H.L. roster whom the Rangers acquired through their deals over the past two weeks. A 5-foot-11-inch forward, Namestnikov has 20 goals and 24 assists this season and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
The 19-year-old Howden is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound centre who was Tampa Bay’s first-round pick two years ago and is in his third season with the Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League. Hajek, 20, is a 6-foot-2 from the Czech Republic picked in the second round.
The 28-year-old McDonagh, who became the Rangers’ captain in October after Ryan Callahan was traded to the Lightning for Martin St. Louis, has not played since a 6-1 home loss to Boston on Feb. 7 because of an unspecified upper-body. After that defeat, a clearly McDonagh said it was “one of the worst games and one of the worst games I’ve ever been a part of in my Rangers.”
McDonagh had two goals and 24 assists before his this season. A first-round selection by the Montreal, he joined the Rangers via trade.
“It’s a very difficult thing to do,” Gorton said of trading McDonagh. “He’s a player we view as a really special Ranger, the captain of our team.”
The trade reunites McDonagh with his former partner Dan Girardi, as well as the former Ranger Anton Stralman. McDonagh and Girardi were a crucial blueline duo for the Rangers when they reached Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
McDonagh’s contract expires after next season.
The 24-year-old Miller was in his sixth season with the Rangers, who selected him 15th over all in the 2011 draft. He had 13 goals and 27 assists in 63 games but seemed out of sync at times this season with Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault shifting him between center and wing.
The Rangers have been lacking true centers since trading Derek Stepan to Arizona last June. That has surely been a reason for this season. They are last in the Metropolitan Division before starting a three-game trip in Vancouver on Wednesday.