ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rangers traded Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday as a move needed to function adequately under the salary cap, but the acquisition of the veteran fullback in July 2021 was a key 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. Most importantly, they’ve created a $1.343 million cap, reduced the roster to 22 players, and can now start racking up more in preparation for the trade deadline.
The trade had to happen, but so did Reaves’ tenure with the Rangers, who once desperately needed even a fraction of the bravado the 35-year-old enforcer brings with him every day.
Reaves still has value as an NHL player, but not anymore for this Rangers team. After skating in 11 of his first 12 games this season, it became clear that Reaves just couldn’t keep up with the quick, skilled style of play the Rangers aspire to. Reaves had dressed just once in eight games before the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Ducks, making him a logical candidate to move one way or the other.
At the end of the playoffs last season, in which he was canceled for games 5 and 6 of the conference final against the Lightning, Reaves was not lost on the fact that his role as a niche fourth line could diminish depending on how you play. things are carried out in the off-season. This has become a reality rather quickly.
It is believed there was an understanding between Reaves’ camp and Rangers that if good accommodation could be found for him elsewhere, a deal would be made. Facilitating a trade was always going to be the preferred route so the Rangers could lose as much salary as possible off the books, instead of the apportioned $1.125 million they would have liquidated by assigning Reaves to AHL Hartford.
In part, he also wanted to give Reaves a decent start. The impact he made during his 483 days in New York didn’t go unnoticed, and evidently the Rangers wanted to do right by him.
There was interest in Reaves, but not as much as there would have been but for the way Julien Gauthier leapfrogged 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 for the rest of the league.
The trade appears to have benefited all involved. The Rangers received a low pick, which might not seem like much, but it really is when you consider that they couldn’t have gotten anything if they had given up Reaves and he was vindicated. Reaves joins an up-and-coming 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 player who has been known to bring a locker room to life.
“It’s not for fighting,” Guerin told The Athletic. “He has a great personality. He has a lot of energy. He has bravado. We missed this. The energy that he brings is really good. And size. It will help us recover our identity.”
This is the essence of Reaves. The Rangers needed his animated demeanor, his infectious attitude and his unapologetically bold presence. Reaves is more than his physically imposing contributions on the ice. There’s a different kind of trust in a dressing room with a player like Reaves.
Reaves brought fun to every workout, often making his teammates laugh out loud along the planks between exercises. Every one of his Rangers teammates had said at least once that they skated a little higher whenever he was around. He taught Vitali Kravtsov how to fight. He even coined his own pre-match he tradition, in which he bellowed at goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin to “release” the rest of the team.
Parting ways may have been necessary, but the Rangers needed Reaves to rediscover their talent. They’ll probably still be able to hear the echoes of his voice every time they hit the ice.