Nils Lundkvist was a highly touted prospect from Pitea, Sweden. He was drafted 28th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and was expected to be a centerpiece in the Rangers defense for years to come. He has played the bulk of the season in the AHL, with the Rangers affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack. In the AHL, Lundkvist has played 20 games, registering 11 points. In the NHL, however, he has racked up only 4 points in 25 games. He was sent down to the AHL in January and has not earned a call-up as of yet. So the question with Nils is: keep him or trade him?
Benefits of Keeping Him
Remember that Nils Lundkvist is only 21 years old. He has all the time in the world to develop into the star that the Rangers thought they were drafting. He is only a rookie this year, and just because he is not pro-ready this year, doesn’t mean that he won’t be next year or the year after that. Lundkvist is 5’11, 187 pounds, and has strong upside as an offensive-minded defenseman. He is a talented skater and has shown promise at passing and shooting the puck. The defenseman has struggled in his tenure in the pros. He has put up one goal and three assists, and a +/- rating of four. He had much higher expectations than these stats at the start of the season. Lundkvist shows that he is not pro-ready quite yet, and he needs to be more seasoned.
The Rangers are contenders. They are in win-now mode, sitting near the top of the league standings. Having a mix of veteran leadership, young players stepping up, and elite goaltending, they could be set for a deep postseason run. The one thing the Rangers are lacking is depth scoring. Their bottom six is almost non-existent on the offensive side. The Rangers are 7th in the league in 5v5 scoring which sounds good, but they need more to compete with their fellow Stanley Cup competitors.
The Rangers have reportedly inquired about trading for multiple scoring threats. JT Miller, Jakob Chychrun, Ben Chiarot, and Filip Forsberg have been some names floating around. If the Rangers were to trade for one of them, it would almost certainly include Lundkvist. Any one of the aforementioned names could help the Blueshirts tremendously. They would fill the scoring drought that the Rangers have been under. Depending on what the return is, trading for Miller or Forsberg would be ideal for the Rangers. They are big-bodied forwards who would provide much-needed scoring and depth to the team.
Lundkvist just needs to mature more like a true defender, and the sky would be his limit. Because of this, I have faith he would be able to develop into the player the Rangers want to, but considering that they are trying to win this year, they should trade him. It would be sad to see him go, but this is a business. The main goal is and will always be winning the Cup.