ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rangers traded Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday as a necessary move to properly operate under the salary cap, but acquiring the veteran winger in July 2021 was a crucial step in getting the club to where it is today.
The Rangers received a fifth-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft from the Wild in exchange for Reaves. More importantly, they’ve created $1.343 million in cap space, whittled the roster down to 22 players, and can now start racking up more in preparation for the trade deadline.
The trade was meant to happen, but so is Reaves’ tenure with Rangers, who once desperately needed even a fraction of the swagger the 35-year-old enforcer carries with him every day. .
Reaves still has value as an NHL player, but not for this Rangers team anymore. After appearing in 11 of the first 12 games this season, it became clear that Reaves could not keep up with the quick and skilful style of play that Rangers aspire to. Reaves had only dressed once in the eight games before Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Ducks, making him a logical candidate to move one way or another.
At the end of the playoffs last season, in which he was eliminated for Games 5 and 6 of the Conference Finals against the Lightning, it was not lost on Reaves that his role as a fourth-line slot could diminish. depending on how things went in the off season. It became a reality quite quickly.
It is believed that there was an understanding between Reaves’ camp and Rangers that if a good candidate could be found for him elsewhere, a deal would be struck. Facilitating a trade was always going to be the preferred route so the Rangers could lose as much salary as possible, instead of the prorated $1.125 million they would have cleared by awarding Reaves to AHL Hartford.
Part of that was also to give Reaves a dignified start. The impact he made during his 483 days in New York did not go unnoticed, and the Rangers clearly wanted to do him a favor.
There was interest in Reaves, but not as much as he would have been without the way Julien Gauthier passed him on the depth chart. Gerard Gallant coached Reaves with Vegas, and they developed a relationship, so the fact that the Rangers head coach wasn’t playing him probably spoke volumes to the rest of the league.
The trade appears to have benefited all parties involved. Rangers were handed a low draft pick, which might not seem like a lot, but it really is when you consider they wouldn’t have gotten anything had they waived Reaves and he was claimed. Reaves joins a rising team with young talent and a familiar face in Wild general manager Bill Guerin, who was Jim Rutherford’s assistant when he was with the Penguins in 2017-18. And Minnesota gets a known player to bring a locker room to life.
“It’s not for fights,” Guerin told The Athletic. “He’s a big personality. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s got the swagger. We missed that. The energy he brings is really good. And the size. He’s going to help us find our identity.
This is the essence of Reaves. Rangers needed his spirited demeanor, infectious demeanor and resolutely bold presence. Reaves is more than his physically imposing contributions on the ice. There’s a different kind of confidence in a locker room with a player like Reaves.
Reaves brought the fun to every practice, often making his teammates laugh along the boards between drills. Every one of his Rangers teammates had said at least once that they skated a little higher every time he was around. He taught Vitali Kravtsov how to fight. He even invented his own pre-game tradition, in which he shouted loudly for goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin to “release” the rest of the team.
It may have been necessary to part ways, but Rangers needed Reaves to help them find their flair. They will probably still be able to hear the echoes of his voice every time they take the ice cream.
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