The Rangers have officially announced the roster for the Traverse City Tournament:
If you’ve been around these parts long, then you know we really push process over results when it comes to roster moves made by the Rangers. If the right idea was there, but a player didn’t work out (Lee Stempniak), then so be it. The thought process was correct, but hey, not everything works out. The premise here is that proper process is usually a precursor to success. Stempniak was one of many bargain bin free agent signings meant to address scoring depth (Benoit Pouliot, Viktor Stalberg), but the only one that didn’t work. Two out of three isn’t bad.
The process started to get away from the Rangers right before the 2014 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Mistakes made in talent evaluation on the blue line was the big blow. But there were other signings that were puzzling. Tanner Glass is the most obvious here, but others like Jarret Stoll, Daniel Paille, and Ryan Malone also belong in this category. None of these players added anything to the lineup other than the hope that they could regain enough to be a fourth line forward. Not exactly high reward for the risk.
The Rangers have made another shrewd signing, inking free agent forward Brandon Pirri to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million, per Elliotte Friedman. Pirri is another low-key forward who has solid rate metrics, which suggest he could see an increase in production if given more time.
Pirri scored a whopping 22 goals in 49 games with Florida in 2014-2015 (with just two assists), and had that balance out a bit last year with a line of 14-15-29 with the Panthers and Ducks. The 25-year-old forward will likely be a bottom-six player with the Rangers, possibly insurance in case Pavel Buchnevich isn’t ready.
The Rangers have a lot of flexibility on the bottom six right now, something they didn’t have last year. In that regard, it’s been a solid offseason for Jeff Gorton. The depth the Rangers have is incredible.
The Wolf Pack have added some depth to their lineup, signing forward Philip McRae to a contract. McRae’s name may sound familiar, as he’s the son of Minnesota North Stars and “The Mighty Ducks” star Basil McRae. Oh how Basil must have loved lining up next to Mike Modano for that movie.
McRae is on an AHL deal, so he won’t be at Rangers camp or be a Ranger at all, nor does he count against the 50 contract limit. He’s veteran depth for a very young Hartford team.
The Rangers landed Jimmy Vesey on Friday, which bolsters their forward depth at a bare minimum cost. Vesey isn’t a savior and likely isn’t even going to crack 40 points this season, but he certainly opens up some options for the Rangers. Vesey likely slides into a third line role with Kevin Hayes and possibly Pavel Buchnevich. That pushes Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast to permanent spots on the fourth line.
This, of course, is if no other moves are made. The blue line has gone suspiciously unaddressed this offseason, and a change there is needed. Moving Dan Girardi and/or Marc Staal likely isn’t happening, but there are still other ways to upgrade the blue line if Jeff Gorton goes that route. The forward position is a major strength for the Rangers. They have arguably ten forwards that could feasibly play a top-nine role on this team, plus another three that slot in well on the fourth line.
The Rangers have landed their guy. Jimmy Vesey is now a Ranger, signing a two-year entry-level deal to be in New York.
Vesey was the most sought after NCAA player that became a free agent on August 15. In landing him, the Rangers get a middle-six forward for the bare minimum, a huge need for a team that needs bargain scoring.
Vesey, originally a third round pick of the Nashville Predators, was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, where he did not sign. It’s expected Vesey will make the roster out of training camp.
A lot has been made all over the internet about Jimmy Vesey’s free agency. Vesey became a free agent on Tuesday, and has met with several teams, including the Rangers. Celebrities were tweeting at Vesey to sign in New York. That’s how ridiculous this has become. It’s kind of humorous, but it may actually wind up shooting Vesey in the foot with ridiculous expectations.
Here’s the thing with Vesey: He’s not Gretzky. He’s not Crosby. He’s not Ovechkin. He’s likely a middle-six forward who at his peak could be a consistent 20-goal, 50-point player. That’s a solid NHL player, but not a top line, can’t miss guy.
Per Mark Divver, the Rangers have agreed to terms with NCAA free agent defenseman John Gilmour. Josh wrote about Gilmour, who is a left-handed defenseman our of Providence College. The former 7th round pick for Calgary is a strong skater who makes good decisions with the puck. He’s the type of “new-age” defenseman teams want, in that he can quickly transition to offense with a strong first pass out of the zone.
Gilmour put up career highs in his senior season, with a line of 9-14-23. The 5’11, 185 lb defenseman signed a two-year ELC, and will likely spend the first year at Hartford, where he will complement Ryan Graves on the left side.
Generating offense can be tricky to analyze. Most use raw point totals, but those don’t tell the entire story sometimes. What point totals can miss is overall creation of offense and quality chances. Only 8.5% of team chances wind up in the back of the net on average (assuming a .915 SV% as league average), and that’s in all situations. Are we only supposed to judge offense on 8.5% of all hockey plays?
That’s where some of the passing projects come into play. The main one is Ryan Stimson’s (@RK_Stimp) passing project, where he employs many different people to manually track pass types and how they lead to goals. This got taken one step further by @loserpoints, who looked at specific pass types (Steve Valiquette’s Royal Road passes, behind the net passes, etc) and how they led to dangerous shot attempts. The full details are here.
Last week, I went through the bottom half of the New York Rangers 2016 Top 25 Under 25. The bottom half had a lot of turnover, as the 2016 draft was an early success for the Rangers that warranted some shifting in the rankings. Couple that with four players who were ranked last year that are no longer with the organization, and you have a refreshed system that is something to get excited about.
Let’s remember that there are a good number of players on the NHL roster that are under 25 years old, so the top half of this list is mostly populated with them. There was a shift in the rankings for some of these kids though, as we’ve learned what each one is capable of in the lineup.