The Rangers had three glaring holes coming into the offseason: The defense, the bottom-six, and the penalty kill. Two of the three –the bottom-six and the penalty kill– were addressed with a pretty massive overhaul. The Rangers signed three players and cut loose two in an effort to get younger, faster, and better defensively.
Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, and Josh Jooris give the Rangers a ton of options. Losing Viktor Stalberg is a bit of a wash with Grabner, but it’s arguable that Jooris and Gerbe can be effective replacements for Dominic Moore. Deployment is key, but versatility can make the Rangers dangerous.
The Rangers began their retooling of the bottom-six by signing winger Michael Grabner to a two-year deal this summer. He was the first of numerous signings with the purpose of addressing the bottom-six and the penalty kill, and easily the most high profile signing they made this summer.
The 28-year-old speed demon is a former 30-goal scorer, putting up 34 goals in his first full NHL season. He then put up 20 goals his following season, then a 30-goal pace in the lockout shortened 2013 season. All these came with the Isles. Since then, Grabner has topped out at 12 goals, and has seen his goal totals in decline since.
With the signing of Marek Hrivik, the Rangers have cleared up most of their to-dos for this summer. They locked up their restricted free agents. They got younger, cheaper, and faster with a big trade that also brought back a high draft pick. They retooled their bottom-six with quicker, more skilled, better defensive, and better penalty killing players. But the one major move that has been oddly absent is the big change to the blue line.
Many expected –hoped– that the big change on the blue line would come at the expense of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. That was fueled by some draft day rumors that the Rangers were looking to move the pair. However that was shot down eventually by the public statement that Jeff Gorton expects Girardi to have a bounce back season. Considering the contracts, trading just one of them has always been a long shot. But perhaps the upgrade on the blue line will come from a relatively unexpected place – Kevin Klein.
The Rangers have re-signed RFA Marek Hrivik to a one-year deal. Hrivik was the last RFA the Rangers needed to sign, and barring any trades, will be the last move the Rangers make this offseason. Hrivik has spent the overwhelming majority –just 5 NHL games– of his four year career in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack, putting up an impressive 12-29-41 in 68 games last season.
Hrivik might compete for a fourth line role in camp, but with some of the signings made, it appears he is still on the outside looking in. Hrivik would be a good fit on the fourth line as a good skater who is competent defensively. It’s unlikely the offense would translate to the NHL level, though.
The 6’1, 197 lb winger makes a better option than some of the other options that are going to be in camp this year. It will be interesting to see how long of a look he gets.
Per Renaud Lavoie, forward Maxim Lapierre will be brought into training camp on a PTO this September. Lapierre has that old school “gritty” reputation as a defense-first fourth line guy who can help the penalty kill. Problem is that he isn’t that guy. He’s that guy in the way that Dan Paille was that guy this past winter.
The 31-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, opting to play overseas in Switzerland and Sweden. He is familiar with Alain Vigneault though, as a member of the 2011 Vancouver Canucks that went to the Stanley Cup Final.
This isn’t anything to get all pissy about, it’s a PTO, and it’s unlikely Lapierre makes the team. The only concern is that this is now the second of “AV’s guys” brought in to fix a problem, and the guy brought in only exacerbates the problem.
Per Renaud Lavoie, the Rangers have signed defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy to a three year entry level deal with a $724k (and change) cap hit. The big (6’4, 195 lb) defenseman was the Rangers third round pick in 2015, and was a bit of a surprise pick by the Rangers in that spot.
Zborovskiy is big defenseman, and honestly that’s all there is to say about him. His numbers improved last year, putting up 8-17-25 in 64 games, an improvement on 3-16-19 from the prior year. He’s a decent skater for his size, and is smart and physical.
Zboro, as I’m going to call him because that last name is a pain to type, is going to spend a while in the WHL. He’s 19 now, turning 20 in February. He will have this season and possibly next in the WHL before coming to the AHL.
Dan Girardi has been a polarizing player this offseason, by no fault of his own. The 32 year old defenseman, who has spent his entire career in New York, played most of last season with a cracked kneecap. For all of his faults, Girardi has brass cajones for playing through the entire season like that. But that said, he is 32, is coming off this injury, and has a lot of wear and tear on his body.
The front office and coaching staff are expecting Girardi to have a bounce back season. Those who have been looking at his underlying numbers for the past few seasons don’t believe this is possible for a number of reasons. But is it possible for Girardi to have this bounce back season that we all hope for?
Last summer, I was asked to provide some insight into which stats I use, how I use them, and why I use them. I held off on writing that post until now for a few reasons, most importantly being my personal use of the stats available. This is going to be a very long post about how I use stats, why I use them, and how my use of them evolved over time.
First things first, I am not a statistician. For the most part, I do not understand a lot of the stat posts I see that dive into r-squared calculations. I read the first paragraph, I skim through the meat –which is where these posts begin to lose me– and then I read the conclusion. I also read what the trusted minds say about these pieces, and I draw my conclusions from there. But generally speaking, the “mainstream” stats have been peer reviewed multiple times. In any field, from math to medical to business, peer review is essential, which is why these are the ones that hit mainstream.
The Rangers signed their last two remaining RFAs yesterday inking Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes to contract extensions. Kreider received a long term deal (four years), while Hayes received the standard bridge deal, coming off his ELC. Both deals come with great cap hits for a team that is supposed to be cap strapped heading into the next few years. But here’s the thing: With this much cap space available, and everyone signed, why wouldn’t the Rangers look to at least lock up Miller to longer term? There are too many signs that something else is brewing.
1 – The Rangers have about $3 million in cap space –let’s call it that, as Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich need to be added and Adam Clendening removed and assuming Tanner Glass is still here– which is very odd for this team. If no more moves are planned, I would have liked to see Hayes and J.T. Miller get longer term deals. I have no idea if they only wanted their short term deals though, with the chance to earn more. But this was a real opportunity to keep future costs down as well. Which brings me to point 2.
The Rangers have locked up their last remaining RFA, agreeing to a two-year deal with Kevin Hayes. The deal will carry a $2.6 million cap hit. Hayes will be 26 when the deal expires, with one year left of team control.
I would have liked Hayes to get a longer term deal, but I seem to be in the minority regarding his play. Hayes is a solid 3C producing at 1C levels, and it’s a reasonable assumption that with more playing time, he will produce more as well. Yet others believe that Hayes is lazy, mostly because he sounds like he’s had a lobotomy when he talks.
Hayes will be the teams 3C, likely serving as the primary center for Pavel Buchnevich in mostly sheltered zone starts. He is expected to “rebound” from his “down year” as well.