July 18, 2024

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 15: Steven Stamkos #91 and Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning talk against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the Amalie Arena on January 15, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Sanna Grundberg -  egresados.uce.edu.do

Karl Henriksson departure caps one of worst trades in Rangers history

New York Rangers prospect Karl Henriksson is departing the organization to sign a three-year contract in the Swedish Hockey League. It’s not a big loss to the farm system since Henriksson had struggled to put the pieces together offensively, with 18 goals and 40 points in 134 games in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack across the past two seasons.

However, it does mark a fitting, anticlimactic end to the infamous trade of Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, with Henriksson being the last remaining piece in the Rangers organization from that 2018 deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

On February 8, 2018, Rangers president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton released a letter to their fans, warning that the team would seek to acquire young talent and potentially part ways with familiar faces as the upcoming trade deadline, setting the course for a rebuild after a string of successful seasons and deep playoff runs.

They ended up trading several key players, including McDonagh who had served as captain for the previous four seasons, and Miller, who was an exciting forward and former 15th-overall pick.

Karl Henriksson departure caps one of worst trades in Rangers history -  Forever Blueshirts

This particular deal saw McDonagh and Miller shipped to the Lightning, who were pushing to make a Stanley Cup run. In exchange, the Rangers received Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, and two early draft picks — the Lightning’s first-rounder in 2018 and a second-rounder in 2019. New York took Nils Lundkvist with the first-round pick and selected Henriksson 58th overall with the second-rounder.

Six years later, not a single piece from the trade package remains in the Rangers organization. It remains a black mark on the Rangers’ rebuild, arguably the worst move in general manager Jeff Gorton’s tenure, and one of the worst trades in Rangers history.

Related: Early look at 2024-25 Hartford Wolf Pack roster, including Brennan Othmann

Trading Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller to Lightning in 2018 one of worst in Rangers history

NHL: Stanley Cup Champion-Tampa Bay Lightning Parade
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Unable to pry away prized young talent like Brayden Point or Mikhail Sergachev from Tampa Bay, Gorton built the deal around Hajek, a former second-round pick with exciting upside as a 20-year-old defenseman. But Hajek never sniffed his lofty expectations.

Given numerous chances to seize playing time and a permanent spot in the Rangers defense corps, Hajek never played more than 44 games in a single season across five years. The Rangers let him go after the 2022-23 season, and he has not played a game in the NHL since. He played 110 games as a Blueshirt, managing just 12 points and a minus-9 rating.

Karl Henriksson departure caps one of worst trades in Rangers history -  Forever Blueshirts

Namestnikov had four and a half years of experience at the time of the trade, all with Tampa Bay. The 27th overall pick in 2011 had already set NHL career highs in the 61 games prior to the trade, scoring 20 goals and 44 points. He scored two goals and four points in his subsequent 19 games with the Rangers, and to this day, has not scored 20 goals or 40 points since.

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