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Rumor: One of the most respected captains in the game may be traded.

Huge trade rumor involving NHL captain.

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One of the National Hockey League's most well-respected captains may soon find himself playing for a different team. 

Despite the fact that he has been by all accounts an exemplary member of the New York Rangers organization, the Rangers are now faced with the reality that their captain, Ryan McDonagh, will be an unrestricted free-agent at the end of next season.

While the Rangers could in theory re-sign the 30-year-old defenseman, the team appears to be in somewhat of a rebuild and it seems like general manager Jeff Gorton is looking to make his team younger as quickly as he can do so. 

Rangers insider Larry Brooks now believes that a trade is a legitimate possibility for the Rangers to entertain, and in fact his comments suggest he may believe it's the best one. 

From Brooks:

And it may well be that McDonagh’s greatest future value to the Rangers is as a trade chip, whether at this year’s Feb. 26 deadline or at the draft. Because once it gets to the summer, the clock will begin ticking on free agency.

And the one certainty is that the Rangers cannot allow their captain to go (for) free.

This is the first we here of a legitimate possibility to see McDonagh, who again has one year left on his deal after this season, traded as early as this season. Needless to say a trade of that magnitude would be a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline, and there's really no telling what kind of return moving McDonagh would fetch the Rangers.

It has to be said that making this kind of deal won't be easy for a number of reasons including the fact that McDonagh has a modified no-trade clause on his current contract. He can submit a list of 10 teams to the Rangers that would preclude them from trading him to those teams.