September 26, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Islanders right wing Leo Komarov (47) and New York Rangers defenseman Nils Lundqvist (64) battle for position during the first season of a preseason game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA Today Sports
Nils Lundqvist requested a trade last offseason after being sent to the New York Rangers in January. This was revealed by his agent Claude Lemieux, who cited the lack of immediate or long-term prospects for the young defender.
“Last year, when Niles went down, we asked for a trade,” Lemieux said in a statement to Forever Blueshirts. “Hopefully something will be done in the next few weeks.”
While a trade is likely before the season starts, it’s not really GM Chris Drury’s style to rush any moves. You saw it with Vitaly Kravtsov, who officially requested a trade last September after refusing to report to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He still gives him a chance to win a role in the team, not just here.
Lundqvist also has two years left on his $925,000 entry-level contract. Such cost certainty only helps the business value.
New York Rangers prospect Nils Lundqvist
The New York Rangers and Nils Lundqvist have reached a critical season. After being a highly anticipated 2018 first-round pick (28th overall) out of Sweden, it only took one season to see him take off.
Before heading to the Rangers, Lundqvist was considered one of the top prospects in the organization. In his final SLL season, he scored 14 goals and 32 points in 52 games and won the Salming Cup as the league’s best Swedish defenseman. This was the most goals by a defenseman in SHL history by a player 21 years of age or younger.
Lundqvist competed for the 2021 Lars-Erik Sjöberg Award as the top rookie in training camp. A smooth skater with a great stroke, he was positionally strong in all three zones. Being a natural right-handed defenseman and his ability to quarterback the Rangers’ second power play unit was a key factor in why he beat out Zach Jones to win the No. 6 defensive tackle spot.
“It was an adjustment,” Niels said after the first exhibition game. “You need to play more in the middle of the ice. Back home[in Sweden]when you’re in points, you have more space. When you’re there, you’re closer to the pucks — so it’s going to be an adjustment. It’s going to get better.”
That adjustment seemed to come very slowly and eventually caused him to occasionally scratch. Playing against struggling left-back Patrik Nemez didn’t help his cause. Lundqvist played 25 games with the Rangers last season, recording 1 goal and 3 assists.
Lundkvist’s lack of luck
Lundkvist’s lack of luck is a concern, especially since he’s right-handed. The Rangers right-back has been strengthened for the next few seasons with newly named captain Jacob Trouba, Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and the aforementioned Schneider.
It’s clear that he might try to switch to the left side to make the team, but Zach Jones and Matthew Robertson are high on the depth chart. Both are natural lefties and have experience playing with Schneider in Hartford.
It doesn’t take a genius to read the tea leaves inside and see that Lundkvist’s chances of cracking the Rangers’ lineup are slim to none.
So what would the 22-year-old defenseman bring on the open market? Who would be interested? These are important questions and the answers will determine whether you trade Drury now or at the deadline.
Nils Lundkvist Trading
If the Rangers were to trade Lundqvist before the season started, you can safely assume it would be a similar prospect. Drury is asking for a top-tier player, perhaps a first-round pick and a center who still has a year or two on his entry-level contract.
Of course, that’s not set in stone and not many teams are jumping to trade for a top center prospect. That’s why I believe this could take a long time, and Drury could be more valuable to save high trade chips with a rental deadline like Patrick Kane.
For argument’s sake, here are a number of teams that have or may have interest in Lundqvist.
Vancouver Canucks: When JT Miller was acquired last season, Lundkvist’s name was believed to be the Rangers’ promising defense. Vancouver was said to be asking for Schneider (and a lot more), which is the reason no deal has been made. The team is still looking for help at RD and Lundkvist remains a target for them. Maybe it could go the other way for pending UFA center Bo Horvat at the deadline.
Montreal Canadiens: Everyone assumed Jeff Gorton would make an offer for Kravtsov once he took over the Habs. If a proposal was submitted, there was no obvious competition. Now everyone expects the GM who drafted Lundkvist to be ready to get him. While that may be the case, the Habs are looking to rebuild the Patriots and hope not to trade them.
Toronto Maple Leafs: They really need a puck-moving defenseman at a reasonable cost. But do they have something to offer? While the Rangers hope to step in with Schneider on the left side, Toronto remains unsigned RFA Rasmus Sandin. That would make for an interesting swap, but the Rangers don’t have the cap space to accommodate Sandy if he’s looking for a big contract.
Detroit Red Wings: Like the Canadiens, they are another rebuilding team. They would definitely love to add Lundkvist to their mix on defense, I’m just not sure I see it. Devin Little of Hockey Writers recently recommended 22-year-old Joe Veleno. That could interest Drury to improve depth in the organization and act as an insurance policy for Phillip Chytil, who has just one year left on his deal.
Chicago Blackhawks: All signs point to the Hawks for me. Let’s face it, the New York Rangers are a Stanley Cup contender and adding Kane at the trade deadline would put them over the top. Remember, Kane controls where he goes and if he wants to go to the Rangers, it probably won’t take much more than Lundqvist and a 1st round pick.