The Rangers did not get immediate help in the return for Nils Lundkvist, but in acquiring either a 2023 or 2024 first-rounder from Dallas for the unhappy 22-year-old Swedish defenseman, general manager Chris Drury has acquired a critical asset he can move for immediate help at the deadline.
That is the crux of the matter for the Blueshirts, who will have two first-rounders with which to play as the rental market — in this space known as The Patrick Kane Derby — takes shape.
If Dallas’ pick is among the top 10, the selection then slides without protection to 2024. The Rangers will also get either the Stars’ third- or fourth-rounder in 2025 depending on Lundkvist’s production.
This represents a notable recovery for the Rangers in exchange for a young player who did not want to be in the organization just as was previous GM Jeff Gorton’s acquisition of a second-rounder that became Will Cuylle in exchange for the recalcitrant Lias Andersson.
Lundkvist, drafted No. 28 overall in 2018 with the selection obtained from Tampa Bay in the Ryan McDonagh-J.T. Miller deal, had requested a trade after having been leapfrogged on the right defense depth chart last year by Braden Schneider.
Indeed, Lundkvist, who recorded four points (1-3) in 25 games last season before he switched places with Schneider in early January and then played the remainder of his rookie North American pro season with the AHL Wolf Pack, was not expected to report to training camp this week.
The officially and generously listed 5-foot-11, 187-pounder had difficulty in adapting to the faster game that features more forechecking on the smaller North American rinks. He did not live up to the notices that preceded him, though he was not the one hyping his arrival following a 2020-21 season in Sweden in which he was voted the SHL’s Salming Award as best defenseman.
Had Lundkvist not signed last year, he would have become a free agent this past summer. When he was sent to the Wolf Pack, The Post has learned that the Rangers gave his agent, Claude Lemieux, permission to contact teams in order to gauge interest on a trade. There were no biters at a price Drury could accept. Similarly, offers were negligible at the draft.
As The Post reported, Lemieux notified Drury that it was unlikely Lundkvist would report to camp and reiterated his desire to be traded. Sources indicate that there were a handful of teams interested, but unwilling to pay the price set by the Rangers.
That is, until Dallas offered the first-rounder, plus. The process, we are told, was amicable between Lemieux and Drury, teammates in Colorado in the late 90’s.
So now Lundkvist will get his shot to compete both for a top-four role and a power-play assignment in Dallas that, barring injury, he would not have gotten in New York behind Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and Schneider.
The Rangers, though, have little — if any — organizational depth below the varsity three on the right side though lefty Zac Jones played half of his 12 NHL games on his off-side last season. If any of the top three on the right suffer a long-term injury, the Blueshirts could have a problem.
But Lundkvist wasn’t interested in being a depth piece … or competing for a job. Left with this scenario, the Rangers did well. We might find out just how well at the deadline.