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NHL Trade Buzz: Rangers plan to be sellers

Golden Knights not changing course; Flames uninterested in rentals

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Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are 18 days remaining until the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET, Feb. 26). The New York Rangers are open for business. Has success changed the plan for the Vegas Golden Knights? The Calgary Flames don't want to pay big for rentals. Here's a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:

 

New York Rangers

Rangers president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton said Thursday they plan to be sellers ahead of the trade deadline, a position they haven't been in since 2004.

It's likely forwards Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, David Desharnais and defenseman Nick Holden, all pending unrestricted free agents, will be traded before the deadline. Forward Mats Zuccarello and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who are signed through the 2018-19 season, could go as well.

The last time the Rangers were big-time sellers at the deadline was 2004, and their actions that year eventually led to Nash becoming a member of the Rangers.

Video: BOS@NYR: Riley Nash chips in Backes' feed in front

Sather, then the GM, made nine trades ahead of the March 9 deadline; the biggest was trading defenseman Vladimir Malakhov to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Rick Kozak and a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

The Rangers used that pick (No. 60) to select forward Brandon Dubinsky, who, on July 23, 2012, was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with forward Artem Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft for Nash, a minor-league player and a conditional draft pick.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

The trade deadline is less than three weeks away, but don't tell that to Golden Knights general manager George McPhee.

The expansion team has a 10-point lead over the second-place San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division and looks like a lock to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. McPhee needs to decide if the Golden Knights should add a piece or two before the deadline, but he said Thursday he's not looking that far ahead.

"Nothing for us has changed," McPhee said in San Jose, where the Golden Knights play the Sharks on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; SN360, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV).

"We're going to figure out how to win the next game and we'll deal with the deadline when we get to the deadline."

Vegas (35-14-4) has signed forward Jonathan Marchessault and defensemen Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland, all of whom could have become unrestricted free agents on July 1, to contract extensions this season.

Video: VGK@PIT: Marchessault scores from along the goal line

Forwards James Neal and David Perron, proven NHL scorers, can become unrestricted free agents on July 1, and could garner interest on the trade market. But McPhee and his staff are cognizant of what they have on the ice and in the dressing room. Hockey chemistry is fragile and can disappear easily.

In short, it would take a lot to consider tinkering with their mix.

Also, McPhee has been steadfast in his core belief in not rushing the process or moving prospects into the lineup prematurely.

"We're just going to develop them right," he said. "It's never hurt a player to take time, so we'll keep doing that."

 

Calgary Flames

Flames president Brian Burke essentially ruled out the possibility of using draft picks to acquire rental players.

Calgary has gotten consistent scoring from its No. 1 line of Sean Monahan centering Johnny Gaudreau and Micheal Ferland. The three have combined for 62 goals.

But Burke told Sportsnet 590 on Wednesday that the Flames could use a wing who can score, though he said he's not willing to spend big for a rental and is more inclined to look internally. The Flames don't have a pick until the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft; they acquired defenseman Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders on June 24 for their first- and second-round selections in this year and a second-round choice in 2019 or 2020.

"We don't have a lot of [draft] picks … so we can't use the deadline to pick up a rental player with a relatively high pick," Burke said. "We're not going to use our '19 picks for rentals unless it's an extraordinary circumstance.

"We've got some good young kids that people are after playing in (American Hockey League) Stockton."

The answer could be the return of forward Kris Versteeg, who is recovering from hip surgery on Dec. 4 and skated for the first time Monday. Coach Glen Gulutzan said Versteeg is proceeding ahead of schedule and will meet with his doctor at the end of this month.

"He's important for us," Burke said of Versteeg, who had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 22 games and played the right point on the power play.

The tight playoff race in the Western Conference will have the Flames evaluating their options right up until the deadline.

"You lose two games in a row and you go from third in your division to 14th in the West," Burke said. "That's great for the fans. It's hard on us, but that's the way it should be."

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