Brassard and prospects key to center future

July 13, 2013, by
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Despite coming in at 17th and 19th respectively on various prospect website rankings, the Rangers need not worry when it comes to the talent pipeline just now. Everyone assumes cap mathematics will be the driver behind letting Brad Richards go in twelve months time, and this is indeed true, but the Rangers are especially blessed with promising centers making their way up the system.

With Cristobal ‘Boo’ Nieves, the Rangers have a highly thought of prospect that had an exceptional first year in college in Michigan. They have the Swedish playoff MVP on his way in Oscar Lindberg, and they have a player in Michael St Croix that has been a dominant scorer in the WHL.

Without considering the obvious merits of a JT Miller, the promise (albeit perhaps a little further down the line) of Steven Fogarty, or a talented yet underachieving prospect such as Andrew Yogan, the Rangers don’t need to panic about letting Richards go, nor should they worry about filling his eventual departure through free agency.

Derek Stepan emerged this past season as the number one center. He played an All Star calibre season, and at such a young age Stepan is likely the Rangers number one center for the long term. He has become a difference maker, with yet more room for growth. It is therefore down to Derick Brassard to solidify the position for the Rangers, offensively speaking.

Hopefully Brassard can slot in behind (or in front) of Richards and play a full season healthy and contribute regularly. If he can, Brassard will give the Rangers’ decision makers confidence that he can cement the no. 2 center spot as his own long term. His performance so far as a Ranger promises much for the future. Key to all of this is the fact that he doesn’t need to go out next year and hit 60+ points (although it would be nice). He needs to play consistently effective minutes, score regularly, and give the Rangers depth – and options – at center. He needs to make Richards a luxury.

If Brassard and Stepan continue their development everything should click naturally. With Nieves likely another season wiser at Michigan, with Lindberg by then acclimatised to North American hockey, and with Miller and St Croix also realistic options at center (as well as wing), the natural progression to the third line and regular NHL ice time is made a lot easier. This is especially true with two centermen already established. There would thereby appear to be no hole too gaping, leaving cap space to (hopefully) be spent elsewhere.

It is this reason why Brassard’s development makes his first full season as a Ranger next year so crucial. A good year from Brassard allows the Rangers to bring along the prospects at appropriate paces and allows the team to spend cap space on wingers; or on finally finding a powerplay quarterback, not on chasing another top six center.

Richards is going; on that we’re all almost certain of. How his position in the franchise is filled depends, perhaps exclusively, on Derick Brassard. Brassard’s future is his own to shape but how he does so, will have ramifications for countless others within the New York Rangers organisation.


  1. The Suit says:

    Good post. Brass is certainly a player who could have ripple effects for this roster.

    • Centerman21 says:

      I agree about Brassard, he’s the Rangers 2nd Pivot of the future. The problem is that Richards is still on the team and Brassard plays with a little more Jam to his game than Richards. Richie is a vet and can hold his own in the NHL but isn’t suited for a 3rd line role. If he doesn’t put up top 6 point totals then what happens? Richards becomes an expensive “Eye in the Sky” until he is bought out next summer. The Rangers have to plan for this. This may open up a spot on the roster for an Oscar Lindberg to step in.

      I’d like to know why Sather is taking so much time re-signing Derek Stepan. He’s an important piece of the Rangers puzzle this season. If a team with a ton of cap space like say the Islanders decide to send Stepan an offer sheet for say 6 mil per for 5 years it could be too much for Sather to match. It’s not likely the NYI go the offer sheet rout but a team like Nashville could.
      My point is the longer they wait, the more likely it becomes that an offer sheet comes to Stepan. He was one of the tops in the NHL in +/- last year and is an atractive player to many teams. Even the Capitals could use a 2nd Center. Brooks Laich isn’t gonna pull that off. Why not just get it done?

  2. Walt says:

    Brassard has been a terrific find, and made the trade for Gabby well worth, considering all we got in return for damaged goods!!

    As much as I hate saying this, BR coming back may be a blessing. Why you ask?? Remember back to his first season, he took Step under his wing, showed him the ropes, and look at what the kid has developed into. With this additional year, BR could also work wonders for the Brass kid. The one thing everyone has said from day one about BR, he is a team man, and wanted to work with the younger players.

    The future is bright for us at the center position, as well as defense, now get a propsect for goal, and a few more scoring wings, and we will be sitting pretty!!

  3. WilliamW says:

    Good points. Him excelling certainly enables the prospects to work their way into the line-up slowly

    Don’t forget he’s a RFA after this year too so is playing for a contract this year too

    Future is bright up and down the line-up with cost controlled players / potential trade assets

  4. supermaz says:

    Most of us were certain Richards would be gone this summer. You cannot assume he will be gone next summer. Never underestimate the ineptitude of Rangers management.

  5. JoeP199 says:

    Honestly, I didn’t see enough last year to convince me that Brassard is a solid #2 center. Yes, he showed offensive skills, but he also made some horrendous plays, giving the puck away. Can we blame that on a lack of familiarity with his team mates and the system? I sure hope so.

  6. howiehockey says:

    To paraphrase the king in “The King andI”. Glen Sather is a puzzlement. Sometimes he makes really brilliant moves and then other times he leaves you shaking your head as if to say has this guy completely lodt it.
    If you’re eventually (next summer)going to excecise a compliance buyout why wait until then.
    Why cut yourself off from signing a player like Damien Brunner or anyone else. Why go through hoops with regard to signing you RFA’s.
    I stll believe Richards will either be bought out
    after Zucs arbitration hearing or traded…before the start of the season.
    The only thing that makes any sense is Sather is using the current tight cap space as a way of holding down RFA’s salary demands or is trying to builsd up Richards’ value for a future trade.

    • Andrew says:

      The Richards buyout window has closed. What team in their right mind (flyers?) would be willing to take on that contract?

      • John says:

        Agreed, no one will trade for Richards. Who’s to say he won’t bounce back and be a productive center for years to come and bring us some cups I the process? I am not among those that believe his buyout is imminent next year. Remember how excited we were when he signed. The cap will continue to rise, thus be able to accommodate his salary and add to the team. All this of course depends on the year he has coming up. I, for one, wish him nothing but success this year, and a Conn Smyth to boot. It could happen.

  7. Centerman21 says:

    This kid Brassard was a wonderful pickup for the Rangers. He might’ve been a part of the best move (Trade or Free Agent) that Sather has made since taking the tiller 13 years ago. He’s happy to be here and his play showed it in the playoffs especially. It’s going to be tough to set the lines because neither he nor Richards are 3rd line Pivots however one will have the designation. Brassard has a lot more sand paper to his game so maybe he fits the bill better than Richie. I have a feeling the Rangers top 9 and maybe 4 lines will contribute offensively this coming season. I agree that Brassards’ season can make or break the Rangers but it shouldn’t make Alain Vineault change his thinking on the Rangers young kids ready to play in the NHL this year. Lindberg, and Kristo should get a good look at camp this year.
    Scoring depth should be filled in by youth. At least one kid should make the team out of necessity this season. Even at wing.