Julien Gauthier, Jeff Gorton
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton dealt Joey Keane to improve on a team weakness with the trade deadline five days away.

Frank Curto

The minor league transaction the New York Rangers executed on Tuesday afternoon was another smart move by general manager Jeff Gorton.

Julien Gauthier, 22, was acquired by the Rangers in exchange for 20-year-old defenseman Joey Keane. The Blueshirts are anticipating Gauthier will fit into their system now.

He will not report to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack. In fact, instead, he will head to Chicago to meet up with the team for their game on a Wednesday night. Gauthier will wear No. 12 on his sweater.

With plenty of defensemen in their minor league systems, the trade made perfect sense for the organization. The Rangers were able to address a weakness by trading a strength and the fanbase should tip its cap to Gorton.

Yegor Rykov, Libor Hajek, Nils Lundqvist and K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin NCAA) are a few of the perennial defenseman that will have every opportunity to play in New York in the near future.

Julien Gauthier

Gauthier played this season for the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League. He was fourth in the league in goals scored with 26.

The Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec native was Carolina’s first-round pick (21st overall), in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

He comes with explosive speed and a scorer’s touch. He is fearless in the corners and tends to win the puck battles, which, in turn, creates offensive scoring opportunities. With his 26 goals, Gauthier recorded 11 assists for 37 points. He also played in five NHL games for the Hurricanes recording an assist.

The 6-foot-4, 227-pound right-winger has played in 184 career games over the course of three seasons in the AHL, recording 69 goals and 34 assists.

The kid knows how to win and has been a part of three different championships while in the minor league system. He helped Charlotte win the Calder Cup in 2018-19, and he also helped his team win the QMJHL Championship twice in his junior career.

Kaapo Kakko, RoboKaapo T-Shirt

What’s next for the Blueshirts

The Rangers have yet to address the elephant in the room. Chris Kreider’s fate is still undecided, but every indication points to a parting of ways for the player and team.

The trade made on Tuesday would allow Gauthier to step in for Kreider or fellow teammate Jesper Fast, should one or both be dealt prior to Monday’s deadline.

The trade does verify that defenseman Tony DeAngelo is staying with the team. Joey Keane was a right-handed defenseman, as is DeAngelo, but the trade should defense any further trade rumors.

This trade put an end to much of the trade speculation for DeAngelo as he prepares to get back on the ice after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury.

The first of many expected trades for a Gorton and the Rangers has been completed. Trades are like a complicated puzzle where fitting one-piece can sometimes open a huge opportunity to fill in other pieces to complete it.

For the Rangers, Gauthier is that first piece. Now the club can explore opportunities to find other pieces that will fit with current pieces and bring this puzzle to life.

Jeff Gorton has been very successful over the past two seasons when trading players for high-value draft picks. This season is different, though; now, he looks for pieces that will continue to build a team with playoff hope of not this season, certainly for the 2020-21 season.

A puzzle can be a fun but frustrating process. Perhaps when this one is completed, it renders a picture of the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo.

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