If not now, when? Filip Chytil is only 22 years old and has already played in 253 regular-season games for the Rangers, but his time in New York has been anything but consistent. The speedy youngster has shown flashes of potential in his first four seasons on Broadway, but the former 1st round pick has yet to breakout. That is until this postseason when he almost equaled his regular-season goal total of eight with seven tallies in just 20 postseason games.
Chytil’s breakout month of May couldn’t have come at a better time for the Rangers and General Manager Chris Drury. This summer and next will be extremely tight regarding the Salary Cap for the Rangers, so tough decisions will have to be made very soon. Does Drury resign Ryan Strome or Andrew Copp? What about Frank Vatrano or Tyler Motte? Does he dip his toes into free agency?
Before Drury answers any of those questions, he must answer this one first, what is Filip Chytil? Is he a number two center? Is he a top-six winger?
If the organization doesn’t believe that Chytil will ultimately be a number two center, it might be in their best interest to move him in a package this summer to acquire someone they believe will be precisely that. His trade value will be at an all-time high following his postseason, and it may be best to cash in on that now instead of waiting for that value to decrease in the coming seasons, especially if he’s moved to the wing.
If they believe he can be a valid number two center in this league, it’s time to go all-in on the kid. What was the point of the rebuild if you’re not going to pass the torch to these kids eventually? The benefits of sticking with him outweigh the risks.
Moving him and the rest of “The Lottery Line” to the second line would help immensely with the salary cap crunch this year and next. Alexis Lafreniere, Chytil, and K’Andre Miller are all RFA’s in the summer of 2023. Keeping as much cap space available for them should be of the utmost importance.
This would also free up cap space to strengthen the entire bottom six. Bringing back Tyler Motte and filling other crucial roles to balance the lineup should not be overlooked this summer.
Although he’s one of the longest-tenured Rangers on the current roster, he’s still only 22 and not fully developed yet. The Ottawa Senators traded Mika Zibanejad at the same age; do they want that trade back? He’s received limited time in the top-six, but most of his time in New York has been with a rotating door of lesser talented players on the third line. The most stable cohort he has been a part of was with Lafreniere and Kakko during this past playoff, where he almost equaled his regular-season goals in just 20 games.
It’s no secret that the Rangers have struggled to win faceoffs since the Clinton administration. Chytil was abysmal in the faceoff dot when he first arrived in New York, and while he’s gotten better, he’s still not very good. Each season he’s gotten slightly better, but he still has a career percentage of 40 in the dot. Sometimes younger centers struggle in faceoffs because they haven’t fully developed their frames yet. Nazem Kadri struggled with faceoffs early in his career but has been more than reliable the past five seasons.
Chytil has made several trips to the IR over the past few seasons. Luckily the injuries he’s sustained were nothing too catastrophic, but it’s something worth pointing out. Will his body hold up if he gets more minutes and responsibility?
While he’s probably not going to win any Selke Trophies in his career, he’s no longer the liability he was defensively when he first debuted in 2017. His possession numbers have increased each year he’s been in the league, and there’s no reason to suggest why that won’t continue while playing with more talented players. It’s worth mentioning again that he’s 22 and will continue to develop.
His turnaround wasn’t just contained to the playoffs. Chytil took off and was a noticeably different player on the ice after Gallant’s mid-season rant about how he wanted him to play more like Mika. Whatever Drury decides to do (and we’ll find out soon), his moves will tell us what he and the rest of the organization think of Filip Chytil and his long-term potential.