Tyler Motte
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers made some massive improvements at the deadline to an already solid lineup.

This morning, we said the New York Rangers needed to go for it before Monday afternoon’s NHL Trade Deadline.

And they did just that.

One of the best teams in the league just got significantly better. The Rangers have been making moves over the past few days and their activity should pay off.

Frankie goes to MSG

On Wednesday, they acquired forward Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a fourth-round pick. This is good value for a guy who’s going to (and already has had) have a major impact on a team lacking forward depth.

The most appealing aspect of Vatrano’s game other than his above-average shot is his versatility, which makes him playing as the 2RW until Kaapo Kakko returns a no-brainer.

Vatrano is capable of playing both on the wings as well as down the middle and for a team that doesn’t have much depth on the right and at center, this is perfect.

Vatrano has played three games as a Ranger, all as the 2RW, and has looked pretty good. While Dryden Hunt has his pros, he wasn’t cutting it there and Vatrano is going to be quite the upgrade.

Once Kakko returns, expect to see Vatrano as a third-line winger.

Blue line assistance

Next up, the Rangers got their veteran defenseman. The Rangers have been linked with several veteran blueliners, but they ended up going with a bit of a surprise.

Justin Braun, arguably one of the best defensive-defensemen in the NHL, stood tall on the Philadelphia Flyers, one of the worst defensive teams in hockey. Imagine how he’ll do on a significantly better team and defensive unit.

Braun won’t bring any offense at all, that’s not something the Rangers really need. Heading into the season, the hope was that Patrik Nemeth would be the veteran defensive-defenseman the Rangers need.

Although he’s been better as of late, this season has been an overall disaster for Nemeth and the Rangers simply can’t put him out there come playoff time.

Even rookie phenom Braden Schneider has been shaky lately and the Rangers can’t afford to have such a weak third pair.

Braun is even more attractive because of his versatility. He’s capable of playing on either side and that will make the decision-making process for Gerard Gallant much easier.

Minor move

The Rangers followed this up with a minor moving, sending defenseman Anthony Bitetto to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward prospect Nick Merkley.

The former first round pick has struggled to break through at the NHL-level and has been traded multiple times already, but this is a good move for the Rangers. As we’ve mentioned, they don’t have much forward depth and Merkley’s ceiling is high.

He’s still years old and could end up being valuable to the team down the line. For now, he’ll likely play important minutes for Hartford.

Up next came the final two trades of the day.

Scoring help

The Rangers biggest splash came first, when they acquired forward Andrew Copp and a 2023 sixth-round pick from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for forward prospect Morgan Barron, two conditional second-round picks, and a 2023 fifth-round pick.


Copp is a highly coveted middle-six forward who has had a strong season in practically all situations. Copp used to specialize at defense, but has really turned it up offensively.

He has 35 points in 56 games and should have no problem setting career-highs in every offensive category. Bringing that kind of offensive production to a pretty unproductive Rangers’ bottom-six is a game-changer.

Copp has been especially excellent on special teams and should fit in comfortably. The Rangers have one of the best power plays in hockey and adding Copp to that second unit will make it even better.

Copp has been outstanding as a penalty killer, too, and should make the an already-strong Rangers PK that much more effective.

We can envision Copp playing as the 3LW (he can also play center) alongside Filip Chytil and Vatrano. It’s going to be exciting to see the impact he has on Chytil, who hasn’t been blessed with the most skilled of linemates throughout his young career.

Last up is Tyler Motte, who the Rangers got from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 2023-fourth rounder.

Motte is no Vatrano or Copp, at least not offensively, but he’s an upgrade over several bottom-six forwards that have been playing regular minutes for the Rangers such as Julien Gauthier, Greg McKegg, Ryan Reaves, and Kevin Rooney.

Motte is definitely more of a defensive-forward, that’s his greatest strength, but he isn’t completely useless in other areas. He’s very fast, a good fore-checker, and is great on the penalty kill, but also has a good shot and can provide some offense.

Motte will likely feature on the team’s fourth line and when the Rangers are at full strength, he could play alongside Barclay Goodrow, who’s having a career year offensively. Goodrow has been scoring, but has seen his usual fantastic defense get worse.

Playing alongside someone like Motte will balance things out and the Rangers’ fourth line is going to be so much better than it has all season.

A veteran defensive-defenseman and middle-/bottom-six depth. That’s what we all knew the Rangers needed and were likely going to address come the trade deadline. And that’s what they got.

They’re putting their full faith in Braun to step up on that third pair and clearly think the remainder of that defensive unit is good enough moving forward.

They went and upgraded their depth forwards by acquiring Copp, Motte, and Vatrano. They even improved their prospect pool by trading for Merkley.

This was a great deadline for Chris Drury, who addressed all of the team’s biggest needs without really overpaying for anyone.

The Rangers aren’t perfect just yet and still have a few holes to fill, but the roster has been upgraded tremendously and this is a team that’s fully capable of running with the big boys come the playoffs.

Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.