The official start of summer is here, and it is historically a slow weekend for hockey teams not still playing. There is no hockey tonight, but there will be hockey on Monday.
However May 29 has some interesting history recently for the Rangers. In 2013, they fired John Tortorella. In 2014, they eliminated the Montreal Canadiens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2015, they were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Interesting how that works out.
Use this thread for your discussions this weekend. I’m thinking Pens in 6, but I’d love to see Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau finally get Stanley Cups. If the Pens win, at least Carl Hagelin will get his hands on a Cup.
Twitter broke last night when Larry Brooks published his article with his latest in Rangers rumors. Brooks is the only beat writer with real sources, even if he is about 50/50 on what he breaks. This time around, what he broke was a series of absolute doozies that rocked Rangers Twitter last last night.
Brooks’ first bomb was that the Rangers have no plans to buy out struggling defenseman Dan Girardi. They also have no plans to ask him to waive his no-move clause either. We’ve spoken at length on Girardi, and you know where we stand. But I do want to point out that you can want certain players traded for the benefit of the team and still be a fan of that team.
Unless you were living under a rock this season, you noticed that the Rangers need to make some changes if they wish to stay relevant in the NHL. Without singling out specific players, they were slow, apathetic, careless, and sloppy all season long. Some of it was attitude, with the apparent expectation that they could just flip the switch in the playoffs. That didn’t work.
The bigger issue was the inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone to transition to offense. On defense, only Keith Yandle consistently moved the puck out of the defensive zone. But he’s going to command $6 million on the open market. That snowballed throughout the lineup, as the forwards were unable to generate speed through the neutral zone. That stymied the offense, especially in the playoffs.
This poll has been on the sidebar for a while, but I wanted to make a post out of it to gauge the fan base about your preference for the offseason. The Rangers underwhelmed all season and got blown away in the first round in the playoffs by a superior Penguins team.
It’s clear –at least to me– that there need to be changes made. However the level of changes that need to be made is up for some serious debate. Do they need to blow it up? Do they need to just retool? Or do you believe that the team will be fine once they are all healthy?
Viktor Stalberg was a bit of a revelation for the Rangers, perhaps their best free agent signing since Benoit Pouliot. Stalberg, like Pouliot, was grabbed for a cheap one-year deal to serve as a bottom-six player with speed. Stalberg certainly impressed most people this year, even without putting up major points (just 9-11-20 in 75 games).
Stalberg is perhaps the perfect depth player for a team like the Rangers. He’s a great skater, he’s a two-way guy who can score and play in his own zone, and he’s a worker. At just $1.1 million, he was a welcome addition to the third and fourth lines, bringing stability to a forward group that sorely needed it late in the season.
The Rangers have agreed to terms with Pavel Buchnevich, a third round pick in 2013 (for real this time). Buch is one of the most highly touted prospects in the Rangers system in a while, and has comparable KHL numbers to Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko, although on the lower end of those trio.
Buch is expected to compete for a roster spot next year, likely on the third line. It’s important to note that even though Buch is incredibly skilled and likely to make the NHL, he is still just a kid. Tarasenko had 8 goals (38 games) in his rookie season, Kuznetsov had 11 in 80 games.
With Buchnevich in the fold, the Rangers can turn their attention to more pressing issues, like how to manage their cap situation with important players hitting some form of free agency. But at least they got this one move right.
Per John Rosasco of New York Rangers PR, goalie prospect Adam Huska was named the USHL’s goalie of the year. Huska started 37 games this year with the Green Bay Gamblers, putting up a record of 26-9-2 with an astounding 1.87 GAA and .931 SV%.
Huska was the Rangers’ 7th round pick in the 2015 draft, and joins Mackenzie Skapski, Brandon Halverson, and Igor Shesterkin as highly rated goaltender prospects for the Rangers. Just think, it was two years ago that goalie was a weak position in the system for the Rangers. Now, one of their strongest.
Huska is committed to UConn for next season.
Evaluating defensemen has always been a tough proposition for teams. It’s a tough proposition for anyone, really. There is so much that goes into the position. Skating, positioning, reads, hockey IQ, passing, shooting, physicality. The list goes on and on. But unlike forwards, who also need these skills, success isn’t necessarily tied to on-ice production.
Plus/minus, hits, and blocked shots are the traditional ways of viewing defensive success. After all, if you’re not allowing goals, blocking shots, and delivering hits, then you are doing the things that a defenseman should be doing. It’s a fairly simple theory, but it also represents an antiquated view of the game. Much like how pitcher wins is viewed in baseball. These are stats that are kept, but not very useful ones.
Per our very own Josh Khalfin, the Rangers have signed undrafted free agent Michael Joly to an AHL contract. Joly is injury prone but a known scorer, so an AHL deal is a risk free maneuver for the organization. Since this is an AHL deal, it doesn’t count towards the 50 contract max for the Rangers, but also means Joly can’t be a call up to the NHL team under this deal.
In his overage year in the QMJHL, Joly put up a line of 33-30-63 in just 39 games. Joly was also at least a point-per-game player in every season except his first year. His issue has always been health.
Joly will be one of the many new forwards in Hartford this year. The club is expecting significant turnover. While many may look at the deal as a low key move, which it is, there is something a bit bigger at play here. The Rangers are looking at young guys to fill the holes in Hartford, instead of bringing in veterans on NHL deals. That’s right process.
The biggest topic of this offseason will be how the Rangers address their precarious cap situation. With minimal cap space and several key free agents to sign, the Rangers are in a tough spot. The club has some rookies ready to take the next step, but it isn’t enough to fill out a lineup. Nor is it enough to contend for a Stanley Cup.
The elephant in the room of the cap strapped Rangers is the $11.2 million in cap space committed to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. It doesn’t take a great hockey mind to see that both were pretty terrible this year. We know it. The team knows it. The players know it. It’s just a simple fact. The big question is whether or not the team thinks this is a one-year blip on the radar or a sign of things to come.