Narrowing down the Rangers’ final roster

October 7, 2016, by


The Rangers closed out their exhibition schedule last night, dropping the finale to the Flyers, 4-2. With all the competition in camp, it has certainly been an interesting pre-season. After Wednesday’s cuts, the Rangers sit at 28 remaining players in camp. As we all sit with baited breathe to see if we are stuck with yet another full season of Tanner Glass, I’m going to lay out my cuts and ideal opening night roster.

This is all for fun and will probably differ, not only from what the club will actually do, but also, these things will change and evolve as the season goes along.

With Magnus Hellberg on waivers and Mackenzie Skapski already in Hartford, the goalies are set. The tandem this season will be Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta, but you already knew that.

The defense is a bit of a mess and there has been no truly stand out performance amongst the younger options, but there have certainly been flashes. Brady Skjei has looked shaky so far in camp, and is waiver exempt, so I would start him in Hartford. He would be down there to log big minutes and provide injury depth, but also to make him force his way into the plans for the big club. This would leave us with seven defensemen, and ideally would be deployed based on matchups.

The idea would be not only to rotate pairs based on who is in the press box, but also choose who the 7th D would be based on the opponent on any given night. I personally would like to see a McDonagh-Klein first pairing, though. After going through the list and possible combinations, the Rangers really don’t have much quality back there.

The forwards are a much trickier knot to untangle. Two young players, Vesey and Buchnevich, presumably negotiated a spot in the NHL lineup when they inked their respective deals, so there is less flexibility to drop one from the top nine in order to fit in, say, Brandon Pirri. When we remove Gabriel Fontaine and Boo Nieves, the Rangers are left with sixteen players for thirteen spots. Place Oscar Lindberg on LTIR, and it’s fifteen for thirteen spots.

Let’s look at the locks: Hayes, Kreider, Miller, Nash, Stepan, Zibenejad, Zuccarello and Fast. That is eight no-doubters. Add in Vesey and Buchnevich for the foregoing reasons, and you are up to ten. Three spots left for Gerbe, Glass, Grabner, Jooris and Pirri. Glass is an easy cut for me. Four players for three spots.

Gerbe, Grabner and Jooris offer somewhat similar skillsets as defensive minded, 4th line and PK options. Pirri, on the other hand, is a pure goal scorer and one of the few shoot first players on the roster. For me, I am finding a spot for Pirri for that very reason. So, now we need two defensive minded players to fill out the 4th line and extra forward spot.

I think Grabner is more or less automatic, considering his speed and penalty killing prowess. Which brings us down to Gerbe v. Jooris for our final roster spot. Both players are extremely similar in their skillsets. Both are defensive minded forwards who can play both the wing and the pivot. The biggest differences are size and age. Gerbe is 29 and Jooris is 26. Neither are long term pieces, so the age difference isn’t really all that big of a deal. Size wise, Jooris is 6’1”, 197lbs, and Gerbe checks in at a diminutive 5’4”, 176lbs.

This is an oddly difficult decision for an extra forward. Honestly, I think I would take Jooris, and use him to increase flexibility depending on the matchup. Pirri throws a bit of a wrench into the traditional roles of the forward group, especially if AV is going to try to shelter Buchnevich and Vesey.

I still do wonder if a trade is coming, especially considering Oscar Lindberg’s pending return. Clearly, nothing has happened on that front, but something has to give. Assuming everything remains status quo, my opening night roster looks like this:

Forwards: Zuccarello, Nash, Miller, Hayes, Zibenejad, Kreider, Stepan, Pirri, Vesey, Buchnevich, Grabner, Fast and Jooris. Lindberg on LTIR.

Defense: McDonagh, Klein, Staal, Clendening, Girardi, McIlrath and Holden

Goaltenders: Lundqvist, Raanta.

Depending on the cap situation, you could always try to keep Gerbe around as a 23rd man on the roster, but I don’t necessarily think that it makes sense to carry three extras, but feel free to disagree.

What do you think? Sound off with your ideal roster in the comments below.

"Narrowing down the Rangers' final roster", 5 out of 5 based on 18 ratings.


  1. Pony says:

    Or trade Miller for Trouba??

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Stepan for Trouba not JT. The Rangers would get out from under what is a bad contract. JT is younger, faster,tougher and will stick up for his team mates. At a great price. Move him to center because Mika is our number one not Stepan. Fans fall in love with players and don’t see the decline or when they have topped out. Stepan is slow and getting slower. This team needs more high end speed and skill. Trade Stepan for Trouba or a first or young skilled assets. For those of you who say Buch should be sent down are out of your minds. The kid makes quick descsions with the puck,great skater and I’ve seen that he take no Shit. He’s the kind of high skilled player this team needs more of. He makes guys around him better. Danny G is done just look at Sean C. Goal last nite. Time to move on from not just Brassard but guys like Stepan. Dan and Staal. If the Ranger hero’s of the 60’s and early 70’s can be traded certainly these players can. Stepan is no Rafelle and Dan ain’t Brad Park.

      • Chris A says:

        You would make a terrible GM. Trading your best center for a 23 year old D that you will lose for nothing in less than 12 months at the expansion draft is beyond stupid.

        • HARLEMBLUES says:

          Mika is our best center no question. His skill level is far above Stepan. In every area Mika is bigger, faster, tougher and has a higher ceiling. His hockey IQ is higher than Stepan that’s why he can play with anyone and make others better. Ask Krieder and Buch. Mika can be a Superstar player or very close to one. Stepan will never come close which is one of the Rangers problems. You win CUPS with Superstar centers. History says so.

        • HARLEMBLUES says:

          See I would BUYOUT Danny G. And make what roster moves to get it done.

      • Bobby B says:

        Harlemblues , speaks the truth!! Spot on..

    • Leetchie Nut says:

      Good thought

  2. SalMerc says:

    I am not sold on this roster. Before we continue to heap praise on top of Gorton, our defense is still pourous and the PK needs A LOT more work. Pony may not be wrong in stating that we should really consider trading an offensive asset for a guy like Trouba. Our defense needs a shot of youth that can play DEFENSE! I am sorry, but the kids we have, just have not shown that they are there yet.

    And what we have with the 9 forwards trying out for the 3rd and 4th lines – is quantity, not quality. It is like shopping at a second hand store for clothes to your cousins wedding. Whatever you find might be okay, but really, it isn’t quite good enough.

    Sure we hope that Nash/Stepan/Zuch and Kreider/Z/Buch can score some goals. Agreed we can pin our hopes that Vesey/Hayes/Pirri? can possibly be a formidable third line, but that is a lot of hope. The rest of the team does not scare me or anyone else.

    The defense, while we hope will be better (yes I am one who feels Girardi and Staal can be better), think we still need a top pair player to join McD. We just do not have that guy on the roster. Clendening looks great because we are comparing him to guys who should be playing in the geriatric league. We need a hero, a number 1. Hate to say it, but I do not see that guy out there unless we move a Zucc. Even then, I am not sure who that player is.

    We are an 90 point team.

    • Chris A says:

      Can’t start fixing the D until next season. Next summer, Girardi can be traded to half the league without his permission. That’s when Gorton can get creative.

      Any D you pickup now will be lost at the expansion draft unless the Rangers swallow the poison pill and buyout Girardi and kill their cap space for the next 8 years.

      • Leetchie Nut says:

        Girardi Staal and Nash can all be traded now. They just need to agree to go and Gorton needs to stop over valuing all 3. BS excuse to say it has to wait til next year.

        • Chris A says:

          Why would they ever agree to a trade? Don’t you think they negotiated those NTCs for a reason?

          It’s not a BS excuse, it’s called reality.

          • HARLEMBLUES says:

            So SIT them because they aren’t performing at a satisfactory level. That’s all one has to do. Stop with the BS excuses. So you would just burn a year of this teams development to wait to cut G loss.?

            • Chris A says:

              I’m ok with that. If Girardi is the 8th D on this team and never plays, I would be thrilled.

      • Ranger 11 says:

        I seem to agree with your points a lot Chris. Not just here but in all the blogs. I think Gordon can only do so much this year. It’s next year that he can really begin to clean things up with the D. Fans say buy out Girardi cause they’re anxious for him to go. But that would hurt us way too much financially for years to come. I’m just hoping we found some new young talent on forwards this year that will have some good chemistry by next year for when we can get some better D men in here to get back to the team we were a few years ago or better.

    • Leetchie Nut says:


  3. Ray says:

    I mostly agree with your choices, though I think the Rangers will opt for 14 forwards for the first week or two.

    I don’t know that you are wrong, but I don’t like what you said about Vesey and Buchnevich. I am uncomfortable with the notion of promising players that they will make the team and would hope Gorton would feel free to send down these kids if they did not belong. (and it seems sort of weird for Gorton to have signed so many forwards if the roster was so locked).

    Now I am not saying that Vesey and Buch should not be on the team. In fact, Vesey has very much earned a spot. But, based on what we have seen this fall so far, it is not clear to me who would win in a fair contest between Buch and Glass. (and I tend to be literal, I really don’t know). Obviously, Buch is way more talented and hopefully will be a star for years to come. But one of the most important things to AV (and frankly any good coach) is to have a minimal number of players on the roster who you have to worry about being on the ice at the wrong time. This isn’t the way to actually coach, but AV would like four lines and three defensive pairs that he can just roll without paying attention to who is out for the other team or where the puck is. Yes, he does like to improve the odds with personnel management, but he doesn’t really want players that require it because the situations cannot always be controlled.

    Here, BTW, is where Ranger management breaks with the BSB brain trust. People here get excited about a player who will thrive in a sheltered role and the Rangers don’t chase those players. The great thing about Tanner Glass is that he plays as well against Sidney Crosby as he does against a fourth liner. [Nobody seems to have noticed that he does that by being inadequate in both roles – he was -17 during his brief Hartford stint last year.]

    • Buch's agent says:

      I think your whole post is a joke, and not literal if your saying you honestly can’t decide between Glass and Buch.

      • Ray says:

        I haven’t had a chance to see Buch play so far, but my impression from reading what has been written here is that he has gotten mixed reviews.

        Tanner Glass is actually quite a good hockey player – not good enough in my opinion to play in the NHL, but still very good (likely better than anyone posting here). The Rangers should do better, but they can do worse. And most talented not yet ready rookies are actually worse. I hope Buchnevich is ready, but nothing I’ve read here says that he is (and again I haven’t seen him play).

        • paulronty says:

          Nothing mixed about Buch at all, he has been very good.

          • Ray says:

            BTW, I was not aware of Buch’s performance last night. I stand behind my original point that he should have had to earn his spot on the team, but now agree that he has actually done so.

  4. Douglas Peters says:

    Need to trade a forward for a quality D. Don’t like Clendening – smallish and weak in our defensive zone. Skjei is bigger and as good a skater if not better than Clendening. He has this fault of holding the puck too long before making a pass. By the time he makes the decision to pass the opposition is on top of him. NHL is faster than AHL. He needs time with the big club not the minors.

    Let Gerbe go and go with the size – Jooris. We already have a quality small forward in Zucc.

    Size and speed wins in current NHL.

    • paulronty says:

      The overhype on Skjei is not his fault because he’s not yet the guy he’s going to be, as Bloomer has repeatedly asserted. Clendening is the flavor of the month, but his deficiencies in the D-zone will be exposed in the real action. Chris A is right that the overhaul begins next year with Graves coming up, Skjei improving at Hartford, and Shattenkirk coming over in free agency.

      • Chris A says:

        Ryan Graves is going to be a beast Paul. I’m so excited to see him play next season. He’s going to be exactly what everyone here hopes McIlrath will become, minus the fighting.

        Anytime a guy as big as Graves can skate that smoothly and still have the muscle to move bigger NHL forwards, you have the makings of a stud D. Furthermore, Graves was a 4th round pick, further proof that any pick after the top 15, is really just a lottery ticket.

        • paulronty says:

          Both those guys have 100+mph shots and frankly Chris, I see them as a solid pair for many years.

          • Chris A says:

            I’d be completely fine with that. Mentally, I’m just preparing to lose McIlrath in the expansion draft this summer.

            • Ray says:

              Hard to say who the Rangers will lose. Las Vegas has to pick an assortment of players at different positions and can’t just pick cheap young players. Yes, McIlrath may be an appealing choice, but so is Raanta, so perhaps is Klein or Holden, or maybe the best forward the Rangers expose.

            • Swarty says:

              They better get DMC some games or he walks as a UFA and they will also lose someone else to Vegas.

        • Ranger 11 says:

          Can’t wait for Graves to be ready to go. If fans are so thrilled with Mcilrath then just wait till they see Graves. That guy can skate and shoot the puck. That goal he scored in preseason was a nice shot. But with his size and ability to stand up big forwards is something I really look forward to.

      • Ray says:

        I partially agree with you on Clendening, but I say let him fail. Take advantage of Skjei’s waiver exemption and let Clendening play. If he is victimized, you may lose a game or two and you let him go. If he works out however, there is a big payoff.

  5. paulronty says:

    Kudos to BOO last night for a very good effort. Big, strong centre, who can fly, pass the puck well, & kill penalties, what’s not to like? It’s really hard to comprehend why Jesper Fast gets so much love and is automatically pencilled in, when he appears to be nothing more than average. I used to be really high on Jesper, but he seems to increasingly diminish in my eyes as time goes on. Who to play with MAC always seems to be the dilemma. Somebody suggested DMAC & I don’t think that idea is so outrageous as many think. Look how DMAC did with Yandle & I think the same would happen with MAC, allowing him to go on the offensive more often. I still see the same problem of guys sneaking in from the point and forwards failing to cover the slot. Someone needs to teach these guys to stop puck watching & start player watching or it’s going to be a long, long season.

    • Chris A says:

      You’re 100% right about the team’s zone coverage. Look at the first goal from last night. Jooris was puck watching and drifted away from his man, towards the puck (Jooris was responsible for the crease) and Pirri didn’t sag down off the weak side point man enough to support Jooris. The result was an easy cross ice pass that almost turned into (another) miraculous save by Hank but ended up trickling over the goal line.

      What bothers me is that AV’s system, while different and unique, is actually quite simple. When it works, there are no cross ice passing lanes and the close pressure eventually results in turnovers and odd man rushes for the Rangers. The downfall of the system is that when someone has a brain fart and blows an assignment, it opens up a huge patch of ice down low. The players are just stubborn and seem to forget their assignments.

    • Ray says:

      I think people don’t get what a coach is looking for. AV wants players who follow the script, do what they are supposed to do – and in that he is not particularly unusual. He likes Jesper Fast because Fast plays hard and does what he is supposed to do. He is the best hockey player he can be and that counts for a lot.

      The idea has merit. Obviously, you want Fast ahead of the more talented Zherdev, but in general, deciding between talented players and good soldiers is a tricky balancing act. Most fans choose talent until they get disgusted with a player. AV errs on the side of good soldiers, perhaps too much.

      • paulronty says:

        Following the script is not how a team is successful in a read & react game. I’ve said it before, AV wants the team to be robotic & they think too much, just like Kreider described himself, rather than playing instinctively. That’s why they are all running around in the D-zone, trying to figure out where they are supposed to be, rather than being in the right place by tracking the play.

  6. Johnny Red says:

    Simple: A.V. LOVES his vets and will use them even if it hurts the team. Unless Gorton had a talk with him that’s the way it will be. He did it in Vancouver!

    Boy I hope I’m wrong!!!!!!

  7. amy says:

    AV it is time to change the lineup for this reason you can’t over use your vets because they will get hurt quick I like the idea of a kiddie corp on one of the lines also a line with Z-Bad , Nash, and Zucc would work and then use buchenvich with Kreider and Stepan and keep Pirri up here he is a scorer

    • Chris A says:

      Mika, Kreider, and Buch have looked great all preseason, and according to reports, looked great together in training camp, as well. Why would you break that line up now?

      • Buch's agent says:

        Your right there, this line will be given every opportunity to succeed, Zibby and Buch might turn Kreider into a 30-40 goal man! Kreider obviously loves playing with Buch they have instant chemistry and I think Zibanejad could play with anyone, as much as I love Brassard, I think Gorton got a steal with Zibby

        • Chris A says:

          Mika is going to be the Rangers best forward over the next couple years. I don’t think a lot of fans understand how great a player the Rangers stole from Ottawa, just because their owner is more concerned with getting to the first round of the playoffs rather than winning a Cup.

          We will be talking about the Mika trade as the second greatest trade heist in recent Rangers history, just behind the Gomez for McD/Higgins swap.

          • Pootie Tang Jr. says:

            Boy, I love the smell of hyperbole in the morning. Rangers traded a good though aging player for a good younger player with a decent upside. Much different from the McD-Gomez trade, where a cornerstone defenseman was acquired for an obvious downgrade in terms of contract alone, let alone skill.

            • Chris A says:

              Nah, it’s not hyperbole. Mika has always been a dynamic player. I know we had this same disagreement a week or so ago, but I’m not changing my position.

              Mika is one of the better young players in the league. And will continue his 1C trajectory in NY.

              Brassard has peaked. If he ever posts 60 points in Ottawa, I’ll be shocked.

  8. Leetchie Nut says:

    Glass wore an “A” on Tuesday. He’s not going anywhere. Nice try.