TAMPA, Fla. – The four trade-deadline acquisitions brought in by president and general manager Chris Drury have panned out extremely well for the Rangers on this run to the Eastern Conference Final.
From Andrew Copp’s versatility, Frank Vatrano’s shoot-first mentality, Tyler Motte’s penalty killing and Justin Braun serving as a depth option who ultimately leapfrogged veteran defenseman Patrik Nemeth during the postseason, the Rangers have reaped many benefits of the March 21 deadline.
All four are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. While Copp appears to be the Rangers’ priority to retain going forward, especially with Ryan Strome’s situation up in the air as the second-line center approaches unrestricted free agency as well, Motte should be the other addition that Drury aims to keep.
An industry source close to Motte told The Post that the 27-year-old has loved his time in New York so far. It’s rare for contract negotiations to go on during the playoffs, so the expectation is that a conversation with Drury will take place at the end of the season. Considering the Rangers’ looming cap situation, with key players in line for new deals, it sounds like the possibility of Motte signing for less will come down to term.
Motte, whom the Rangers acquired from the Canucks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick, has brought a speedy and pesky presence to the fourth line and penalty kill. He seems to only have one gear, and it is pedal to the metal at all corners of the ice.
“Coming into this group, it was pretty straightforward,” Motte said when asked if he had to make adjustments to his game after joining the Rangers. “Maybe some system adjustments and those types of things, but for the most part, they asked all the guys coming in to just play their game. We’ll learn a little bit on the fly. Obviously, at this point, we know what’s expected of us. But I do not think I had to change a whole lot. Our forecheck is a big part of our game and that’s an area I think I can excel in.
“We’ve got some good speed in our group as well, I like to think that’s part of my game. Playing with speed, playing with pace, playing physical. I think it’s been a good fit all around, for sure. “
Motte has the ability to drive a line, in addition to its effectiveness while shorthanded. He can disrupt teams in the neutral zone and simply gives the Rangers’ fourth line a different look than it had for a majority of the season.
Among other fourth-line options like Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, Kevin Rooney and Sammy Blais, who has been sidelined for a majority of the season after tearing his ACL in November, Motte makes it a more serviceable unit and allows for head coach Gerard Gallant to take some PK responsibilities away from the top six.
The Rangers received a notable boost from Motte’s return in the first round against the Penguins from what the club described as a “significant” upper-body injury, which he suffered at the end of the regular season and sidelined him for the first five games of the playoffs.
“He’s been great since the day we got him,” Gallant said. “He works hard. If you have to move him up sometimes, you move him up and he plays well there. He does a great job with those guys. His speed is real good, good on the PK and he gets in the shot lane a lot. He does everything we want from him, has been really good, good and positive influence for our players. ”