The Master Plan: Our NYR Roster In 2011 & 2014

All summer long Dave, Chris, and I have been trying to bring you all rational posts on draft picks, prospects, free agents, trade targets, and in-depth analysis of our beloved team, the New York Rangers.

Sometimes to keep the Rangers blogosphere in check, we’ve poked fun at those who want to see NYR’s future roster be entirely composed of draft picks and homegrown players (great idea, but unrealistic). Other times we have taken jabs at those who wish to trade our important pieces like a Michael Del Zotto or a Derek Stepan for other teams veterans (bad idea, and also not happening this summer).

No matter what the topic or rumor, we are generally here to keep the peace, keep our analysis on an even footing, and avoid the toxicity that can be sports blogging. I surmise most of you have realized this at one point or another, as it is probably why you are part of the conversation here and not elsewhere.

Well today we are putting all of these separate conversations and posts into one MASTER PLAN, if you will.

Why 2014?

In our minds, 2014 likely is the year where we will know if our current core and highly touted picks (Kreider, Thomas, McIlrath, 2011’s pick, etc.) are ready to dominate (Stepan) or disintegrate (Jessiman). Not every core player or highly touted pick will be a Ranger, such is the nature of sports, but by then we should all know if this team is seriously ready to contend or pretend.

If you ever watched the show Lost, you would know that “The Incident” was the cause and effect for the entire storyline and character foundation. Whether you are pro-Richards or not, “The Incident” for the 2011 and 2014 rosters will be his potential signing. If we sign him, and I think we will, the team’s build likely goes one way. If we don’t sign him, the team likely goes another way…

The 2011 roster

If we do sign Brad Richards, we believe the rest of the roster will remain pretty much intact, save a depth move or two. We all have a potential top 6 consisting of Wolski-Richards-Gaborik and permutations of Dubi-Stepan-Cally. The bottom 6 likely looks like Feds-Anisimov-MZA, and Avery-Boyle-Prust. Though lines are never set in stone and likely a carousel, figure this is the basis for which we can work.

If Carl Hagelin should have a solid training camp and is ready for the NHL, we have Hagelin moving into the bottom six and perhaps Wolski gets moved or buried, with MZA moving over to left wing, or perhaps he’s moved.

If the Rangers strike out on Richards, we have a hard time believing that Sather will roll out the same exact roster as last year, not with this amount of cap space. If the Rangers truly believe that Stepan and Arty are the 1-2 punch of the future, then maybe they make a move for Dave’s coveted left wing powerforward. If not, they’ll try to acquire a Statsny-type player.

It’s hard to say who would likely go in such a deal, but our candidates to be traded this season are P-Tank, Boyle, Wolski, and perhaps MZA…not necessarily packaged together, but some iteration of those three and perhaps picks.

***Side note, I wrote this post last Wednesday (6/22) and had Grachev on this trade candidate list as well. I figured he could be packaged for more, but Sather’s hand was obviously forced. Oh well…there’s still plenty of pieces.


Michael Del Zotto does not get moved at this point period, end of story. Matter of fact, with or without Richards, I think the current defense stays together at least one more season. Perhaps Gilroy is resigned to a more reasonable offer after he tests free agency, perhaps not. Does anyone really care? Not me.

The 2014 roster

Now we get to the fun stuff. What you think this roster looks like in 2014 probably depends on how aggressive you think the Rangers organization will be. Do they horde every last prospect or do they make a splash? Being the centrists that we are, and given Sather’s recent trade history, we think it’s a combo.

In a perfect world we’d like to see a top 6 consisting of Dubinsky-Richards-Gaborik, with perhaps Kreider-Stepan-Thomas or Cally giving them a run for their money. Our third line potentially consists of Hagelin-Anisimov-Cally or Thomas. Fourth line could be Prust surrounded by other bottom sixers acquired via the draft or outside of the organization. Notice I said in a perfect world.

Look, we don’t have a crystal ball, but should any combination of Hagelin, Thomas, or Kreider not work out over the next couple of years, we think someone like an Anisimov could be moved for another goal scorer. I have no doubt he will be a solid player in the NHL. I just have a hard time seeing the organization show him the kind of patience needed. I’ve been saying since he was a rookie that his transition and growth in the North American game are going to take several seasons. With the direction this team is moving, he simply may run out of time, but I hope not because the skill is there.

Erixon, McDonagh, and MDZ all have the potential to bring more offense than Girardi does, who is just not elite. Staal, Sauer, and potentially McIlrath all do a better job of clearing the crease. Girardi is kind of a jack of all trades, so it will be interesting to see what happens with him long-term. Our defense of the future likely embodies Staal, McDonagh, McIlrath, Del Zotto, perhaps Sauer and Erixon. Should Del Zotto or Erixon not live up to expectations, perhaps Girardi is moved, but it’s still too early to tell.

Noticeably absent from these rosters:

Avery is gone after his contract is up. Fedotenko is a short-term stop gap and rightfully so. At 5’8 160lbs, Bourque is likely too small to be a bottom 6 player. I’m not anti-diminutive players (the NHL is indeed getting smaller), but I think to be that size in the NHL its likely top 6 or bust.

Dale Weise won’t be a fulltime Ranger, nor will Kundratek due to better options above them on the depth chart. But as I always say, you’d be a fool to deal with absolutes when it comes to prospects. Well, that’s we got. We don’t think it is too radical, but I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreements.

***I initially forgot to mention Erik Christensen in this post…says a lot doesn’t it?

Like 99% of you who read this site every day don’t comment, but we want to hear from you! Tell us what you agree with, disagree with. Get in the conversation. Let’s hear your plan!

101 Responses to “The Master Plan: Our NYR Roster In 2011 & 2014”

  1. Solid article. I agree with your points about Girardi and AA. I could see either or both moved at some point to acquire more scoring.

    • Dan Girardi is currently the best defenseman on this team.

      195 hits, 9th in league
      236 blocked shots, 1st in league
      31 pts, 42nd in league
      missed only 2 games in last 4 yrs
      10-19-29 on PP last 4 yrs

      140 hits, 34th in league
      109 blocked shots, 89th in league
      29 pts, 47th in league
      missed only 7 games in last 4 yrs
      4-8-12 on PP last 4 yrs

      Sounds about right to get rid of him…

      • Hits and blocked shots aren’t what makes a defensemen great. He’s good don’t get me wrong, but he’s not elite.

        His offense is average.

      • Blocked shots and hits are also highly skewed by the home town scorer. The NYR scorer is known to be a little bit biased with his stats.

      • Everybody keeps saying that +/- is no good, now hits and blocks aren’t good either? Come on, why do we like Cally so much? Blocks are a big part of that – it speaks to the nature of the player. Same with hits; bringing the physicality without the PIM (37 PIM for Girardi and 50 PIM for Staal). Being in the box is no good if your team needs to rely on you.

        Also, the NYR scorer favors Girardi more than Staal? hmmmm…

        • Girardi isn’t favored over Staal by the scorer, but the Rangers are generally favored over the opponent. But all that is secondary to the fact that Girardi just isn’t elite, particularly on offense.

          He also doesn’t level people the way Staal does, or break up dangerous plays the way Staal does, or clear the crease the way Sauer does. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very good defensemen, but his biggest strength is shot blocking. Good tool to have, but on a contending team he’d have to provide more on the top pairing.

  2. Girardi. I can see that. It would be a shame to see aa go.

    He competes hard rarely takes a shift off and when he wants to can put on some crazy moves.

    • I agree, I do like Arty, but he’ll be on the clock this season if he doesn’t take a step forward. I’d also like to try him on the wing, if we get Richards. Might be better for him to play second line wing then 3rd line center. Tough call…

      • If we get Richards, then I’d assume the top three lines get equal ES time. He needs to show he can contribute on the PP.

  3. I see no mention of the Miller kid from this years draft, nor the Pashnin kid, from Russia, who is a solid defenseman, or so they say. I will admit that for all the years I have followed the Rangers, since the mid fiftys, I can’t ever remember having these many options, how great is that!!!!!

    • It’s a great thing indeed. Pash was a bit too far down on the depth chart for this piece (18th) at hockeys future. Till he comes stateside, I will reserve judgement.

      Miller was just drafted. To pencil him in is a bit premature. We’ll see what kind of camp he has.

      • Its allready been said that he is coming this year He is in the prospect camp as we speak. And the only way he doesnt stay is if he isnt playing in the AHL or NHL this year

        • My point was that he may not want to spend a year in the AHL to make it to the NHL, which is why he fell to the 7th round. The KHL is much more attractive to Russians.

      • The reason he was a 7th pick is he was the over all #1 pick for the KHL that year, and we decided that there wasn’t much to loose with a 7th pick on him. By the way, the KHL draft came first, hope this helps.

        • Exactly…the reason was questioning his desire to come to the US if he’s going to have to play a year in the AHL.

          • My russian/KHL post couple weeks back got into all that.

            The KHL is def an alluring option to kids who don’t want to play in the AHL for 65K when they can make triple that in their home land.

            Watch Grachev end up in the KHL if St. Louis doesn’t put him in the NHL this season.

            • Wouldn’t shock me at all. A lot of people say the “winner” of the trade will be determined by Fogarty…it’s actually going to be determined by Grachev’s destination.

  4. This is indeed a great post! Walt; we’ll be mentioning Pashnin and Miller in this afternoon’s post. 5, 6 years ago Pashnin would be a good prospect in this organisation. it says a lot about the progress made that he’s pretty off the radar (maybe because of his location) at present.

  5. First off, go hard after Richards. I’m hoping a contract similar to Gaborik’s gets it done, maybe six years. I’m wary considering so many long term contracts turn out to be headaches down the road, but the Rangers truly need what Brad Richards can bring to the table. I would then be pretty much ready to take this team straight to training camp as is and let the kids that don’t have spots nailed down fight for them: MZA, Thomas, Hagelin, Weise, EC, etc.

    As far as Wolski is concerned I wouldn’t be surprised at seeing him traded now considering how teams need to add salary to merely get to the cap floor. He’s young, talented, can score, and subject to RFA status when the one year left on his deal expires. So any team that traded for him would still have his rights if he panned out. He does make a little more salary compared to his cap hit of $3.8mil. The only hitch here is that I don’t see him traded until late July or August because this will be when the UFA craziness has settled and teams that are still under the cap floor will have to get creative.

    As far as D is concerned, I’d have to think that Slats takes a look at Anton Babchuk, he’s righty, big, has a hard point shot which makes him a candidate for PP duty. Slats has stated he likes competition for roster spots and this will certainly create it as now MDZ, Erixon and V-Tank would have to compete for 2 slots with the loser heading to the Whale. It may be assuming too much to expect all 3 of these guys to be ready for full time NHL duty.

    Goal is set in the immediate future with Hank and Marty.

  6. I completely agree with this article. We probably will part ways with AA or Girardi at some point maybe package them together along with another prospect or draft pick to get Statsny if the rangers dont sign Richards.

  7. I actually think Valentenko is going to surprise a lot of Ranger fans and make the team this year. Bob Crawford peged him as the most improved whale last year and all he needs is to increase his foot speed. His toughness in front of thenet is just what we need and Torts will like him. MDZ will have to play a smarter & tougher game to make the team.

    • Sounds accurate, Torts loved him last preseason too. Assuming he works on his skating, he could be a dark horse to make the team and force out someone like Girardi.

  8. Great Post first of all guys. You guys never cease to amaze me in how creative you get. Just a couple points though.

    Anisimov turns it around this season. A guy who works that hard will eventually get it. His numbers have been going up every season and I see him being a mainstay on this roster for the near future.

    Girardi is definitely a goner. I’d be OK to cut ties with him now, rather than later, but I want to be certain that Erixon and MDZ are ready to come back and play. Until we see that his value to this team is very high. He couldn’t be used to get a team to Cap Floor because we would want to trade him for a scorer and those don’t come cheap.

    Kreider better be ready to come to the NHL and tear it up. By the time he gets here he should be competing for the Calder.

    As for the upcoming season Richards will take Drury’s role, and the rest is up for grabs. We still have to replace Frolov, Prospal, and Boogaard. I want to see two prospects make the team and that would be huge for down the road.

    • Thanks dawg. Thanks for contributing down here in the depths every day. I award you a silk tie.

    • Girardi is most definitely NOT a goner. He is just good ammo used in a deal for a scorer. Moving him now would be a mistake given how young the rest of the defense is presently. Girardi is a guy you consider moving starting at the deadline if some other D progress well and definitely NOT if they don’t.

      • That’s basically what I said. I only said sooner rather than later because his stock is very high at the moment, and I would hate to be stuck with too many solid D-men. Too many forwards is a great problem, but it’s hard to get rid of D-Men at times.

  9. Excellent post Suit. I am all for the home grown. HOWEVER, not counting MDZ, Kreider, and McIlrath because the jury is still out obviously, the Rangers have had just 2 “hits” in the first round over the previous 20 years (Cherapanov was not their fault obviously). The 2nd round has been much kinder. Wonder why we go the FA route? There’s your answer. AND we even had 2 shots at it in the 90s with the 9th and 11th pick in the same draft and whiffed on both of those. Now Gordie’s in charge. I trust him. BUT I wanted Skinner last year. I wanted him 2 months before the draft, I was that sure of him. He went before we picked. Can anyone say that the Rangers would have picked Skinner instead of McIlrath? The answer is “probably not.” Why? Because the Undertaker was THEIR MAN all along. Another reason? JOEL ARMIA. This guy was my “Skinner” for this year. Miller may be a nice player but Armia has the chance to be an elite superstar. Buffalo probably ran to the podium to make that pick. We currently have NONE of those type players (with “elite” potential) in the pipeline that can help in the next 2 years. I love Thomas. I think he pans out better than Kreider quite honestly. But with the Rangers’ schedule next year, where they start in Europe and go on the road because of the renovations, keeps the Rangers from giving Thomas the “9 game look-see” which is a shame. So, as a result, Richards is a MUST HAVE. Repeat, MUST HAVE, in order for the King to have a chance to hoist the Cup. When was the last time a Ranger’s first round draft pick made the all-star team as a forward? 20 years? 25 years? Ever? Kidding. But when? That’s all you need to know.

    • Good stuff ’94. I’ll admit I know zero about this Miller kid, but we got a post coming soon from an “expert” that should give us the low down. Stay tuned…

  10. I hope we hold on dealing wowo till aftercamp. I want to see what a summer of underhill did for him.

    • Doesn’t sound like he’s getting bought out, so looks like they are holding on to him. He may find gold with Ricahrds/Gaborik.

    • I’m interested too, but she can’t give him balls. And the will to battle down low is about will more than anything.

  11. The only thing I had a problem with in your 2014 roster is that I feel Callahan is definitely a top 6 forward. When you look at the strides he took this year setting a career high in goals (23), assists (25) and in points (48) in only 60 games I think he will definitely be at least a second liner. If he had played an entire season this year he would have hit about 31 goals and 65 points. I can expect him to consistently hit around 25-35 goals and 55-75 points in the next few years while he continues to develop in the NHL. Also, in 2014 he would be 29 years old and in the prime of his career and I feel that he is definitely a top 6 forward for the Rangers now and in the future.

    • Callahan will never, ever touch 70 points. He’s slowly becoming injury prone, and his skill with the puck is being incredibly overblown this year. He will always be a 20-goal/50 point guy. He may get 30 one year, but not if he keeps blocking shots with reckless abandon.

    • The good thing is though, Callahan doesnt need to be in the top 6 to produce offense given the way he plays… and if he ends up on the third line that can only mean we have great depth ahead of him and the Bruins showed us what depth can do…

      I do think your point total for Cally is slightly high though. A 75 point guy? Maybe not. Only a small number of guys went beyond 65 this year.

      • I LOVE Cally, but he needs to learn to convert on transition rushes (that thought is so getting stolen) if he is to ever become a consistent 30 goal guy.

      • Yeah the 75 was a stretch for what he possibly can achieve if he had one career year, but I definitely believe he will be hitting 60 or 65 in the next few years. Injuries could be what holds him back from taking his game to the next level. I have no problem with him blocking shots like that because that is about sacrificing yourself for your team and that is one the many intangible qualities that Callahan possesses and Tortorella looks for from his players. How many times are you going to get hit in the foot by a 105 mph shot courtesy of Zdeno Chara?

  12. That top line of Dubi,Richards and Gaborik would be sick but if Stamkos gets to july 1st without a contract id rather see Sather throw everything at him. A younger player with a higher skill set. I am looking forward to the arival of Mcilrath also.

    • Well worth the cap hit and the 4 first round picks it would cost. I’m with you there, but Slats is on the record saying he doesn’t believe in offer sheets.

      Just remember with offer sheets, the comp package is based on AAV of the contract over a span of 5 years for offer sheets over 5 years. Meaning, if they give him a 10 year, $50 million contract, the compensation is based on 5 years, $50 million.

  13. I don’t have an argument really, but the anointing of Stepan ahead of Anisimov is somewhat baffling. Stepan got ~2/3 offensive zone starts, bottom of the barrel competition, and more PP time. That results in a single extra point in the boxscores.

    You’re going to need a tough minutes center on this team. Richards isn’t it, neither is Stepan, at least at this stage. Boyle’s ok in that role, but I have a tough time seeing him outscoring toughs on a consistent basis.

    • I think it’s mostly because Step has more of that “flashy” quality, while AA is more steady and less eye-popping. Both will be solid players.

    • I believe Stepan is indeed ahead of Arty on this depth chart and will grow into that role.

      The faceoffs aren’t there yet, but I think he can boost his % to the mid high 40s with work. He also had better vision, skating, and made decisions a little quicker.

      I caught a few open practices too, and he was the best forward on the ice. I know it’s just practice, but the potential is there.

      • The faceoffs were so bad, I don’t see them every coming around to an adequate level.

        I won’t argue Stepan has the skill set, and all rookies get sheltered year one. I just believe Stepan has to make some big strides himself before I start moving Anisimov.

          • Granted, Stepan just posted one of the worst seasons since the lockout though (if not the worst, I forget how close he came)

            • Eh, McLovin will work on that, he seems like the type that identified that as a weakness he will address.

              • I have no doubt he will, but the guys that put up similar seasons to his (Cogliano, Malkin, E. Staal) have barely progressed passed 41-42%. It’s a cause for serious concern.

              • It’s a cause for concern, but let’s see how it plays out before we shift him to the wing. He has great vision that suits him well as a pivot.

                He could wind up in a role opposite of Dubi, where he would play center, but someone else would take the draws.

      • How do you go to those open practices? I know they’re in Westchester, but do you get invited or pay or what’s the deal?

      • Stephan really needs to improve his faceoffs as that was his Achilles heel last season. Stephan is a much better skater than Anisimov and has more playmaking abilities. I also feel that Anisimov’s point totals were raised by the time he spent on a very productive line with Callahan and Dubinsky. Both Anisimov and Stephan need to improve and they are still very young players with bright futures ahead of them.

        • Agreed. A lot of faceoff improvement is about improving your core strength (think deadlifts, squats, power cleans). Once these kids muscle up a bit, I think they’ll improve.

          • Nothing Mark Messier can’t help em’ out with. I just think the key to faceoffs is to be very aggressive, something which Stepan has to be more of.

            • Depends on the particular strategy. But I see what you’re saying.

              One strategy he rarely used was lifting the opposing center’s stick, instead of going for the puck, but again, hitting the gym will help that.

              • It’s amazing how few people (especially at my gym) realize that core strength is the most important aspect of lifting.

  14. 2011:

    Thomas-Stepan-Zuc (midget line)

    (Insert UFA F here)

    UFA LW-Boyle-Prust

    Staal, McD, Erixon, Sauer, MDZ, UFA Dx2

    In a perfect world…but I see a few trades with a few of the 2014 guys I have listen…most notably AA or Boyle.

    • Accounting for brain farts:


      Thomas-Stepan-Zuc (midget line)

      (Insert UFA F here)

      Dubi-AA/UFA C-Kreider/Thomas
      Stepan-Lindberg/UFA C-Cally

      Staal, McD, Erixon, Sauer, MDZ, McIlrath, UFA D

      • I worry about Kreider as he’s not really “dominating” at the NCAA level (I think Step had better numbers than him so far).

        Anyway, nice combos – could have potential. I keep wavering back and forth b/t putting all skill/talent together vs. having a balanced mix on each line.

        Does Wolski need someone like Dubi to make room for him or does the all talent less physical line prevail with puck possession?

        Actually, Dubi is pretty damn good at winning battles along the wall and holding on to the puck till others get open, that’s possession too. More and more I’m leaning towards balance and more complete players in the line up top to bottom.

        • Just because Step had better numbers doesn’t exactly mean he’s better than Kreider. How many Hobey Baker winners have tanked in the NHL?