For the low season there is a fair bit of news floating around and quite a bit involving the Rangers. It’s been a while since I mused, so let’s take a look at Rangers goings on and also some of the news from around the league.
Brad Richards announces retirement
News broke Wednesday night that Brad Richards announced his retirement via an NHLPA announcement. If you forget about the awful contract the Rangers gave him, Richards had a great NHL career (15 years, 932 points in the regular season) and was an absolutely solid Ranger. 151 points in 210 regular season games was no bad achievement in a league with ever dwindling offense.
Richards was a solid playoff performer for the Rangers, at least in his first year when he was close to a point per game and the Rangers had such a magical run. Again, the Rangers didn’t see the best of Richards but he was solid – including two seasons with at least 19 points on the powerplay. Richards can be proud of a fantastic, Cup winning career.
Full disclosure: this is pure speculation, but did the Rangers prioritise J.T. Miller when dealing with their own Free Agents? The Rangers wrapped up the Miller situation on Wednesday, agreeing to a new two year bridge deal with a cap hit of 2.65m per year. It’s clearly a prove yourself deal, which goes against the recent league wide trend of committing long term to younger players and is a deal that has frustrated a lot of the Rangers fanbase.
I personally have no problem with a bridge deal. Its already good value for the team, if Miller breaks out in a big way it’s a bargain, and in two years time Miller may indeed get a bigger deal but he’ll also get tied up for a lot longer. Rick Nash, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Tanner Glass (at a minimum) are highly unlikely to be Rangers in two years time. That’s a lot of money coming off the books. Retaining Miller shouldn’t be a problem unless he becomes a 60 goal scorer and demands max terms. But I digress…
Jimmy Vesey has a lot of admirers. Not least in Toronto, Boston and the recently highly active Sabres who acquired his rights. The Rangers are apparently also in on the young, soon to be college free agent but the timing of Vesey’s public saunter toward free agency is not good for the Rangers and they cannot wait for Vesey. Vesey should therefore be treated as a bonus and nothing more.
There’s no doubt that the Rangers would be better off if they could entice Vesey to New York (on an entry level deal) and add a quality prospect for nothing but dollars and an NHL contract. For a talent pool as diminished as the Rangers’ that would be a great scenario.
Any prospect that has finished his college career the way he did (104 points in 70 games, during his final two years at Harvard) and who has his finishing ability and size (6’1, about 200lbs) would be a great add for the Rangers.The problem is that August 15th (when Vesey becomes a free agent) is a long way off right now and the Rangers will need to address their issues long before then. They cannot wait for Vesey.
The storm before the calm? It’s fair to say that the free agency ‘frenzy’ that opens on Friday will be a lot less exciting following the handful of moves that shook the league on Wednesday. However, did PK Subban going west affect the Rangers? What does Taylor Hall in Jersey mean to the Rangers? Let’s take a look at some of Wednesday’s goings on.
PK Subban traded to Nashville for Shea Weber
One Norris trophy winner traded for a perennial Norris trophy contender. Everyone knew PK Subban was on borrowed time in Montreal. However most people assumed that if the Habs would move their (by far) best skater, it would be for young players, blue chip prospects and/or quality draft picks. In Shea Weber the Habs appear to have made change for changes sake. While Weber is slightly less mobile, not quite as dynamic but a monster with a monster shot and no doubt a quality defender, like Subban he too brings with him an onerous price tag for the long term.
So how does this influence the Rangers? It doesn’t really. The Habs still own an elite goaltender in Carey Price and they still have a bonafide number one defenseman patrolling their blueline. It will be other changes that the Habs make that will tell us how they measure up in relation to the Rangers. It will be interesting however to see how Weber acclimatises to the East.
Ironically, Keith Yandle’s contract with the Florida Panthers is one I would consider reasonable. Too long? Sure. That’s free agency for you. Too much? Maybe slightly, but it’s not an ugly contract for a club, unlike the Rangers that has cap space and a young core, in the ascendancy.
With that all said, if the Rangers are going to show financial restraint (aka not signing Yandle et al) during the next few weeks then that is absolutely fine, they just need to be consistent and stick with it. Don’t throw good money after bad.
The next week or two will tell us if the Rangers are learning from previous mistakes (and the previous regime) or whether they are absent a concept. Most fans, bloggers, media types have no idea how Jeff Gorton is intending on addressing the immediate future and that is causing angst amongst an already angst-ridden fanbase.
We’re approaching a significant few weeks in the NHL; for the Rangers but for the league generally. The draft, the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes, expansion (and all the fallout that comes with it), the World Cup of Hockey; all this promises to impact a busy and potentially landscape changing offseason. Let’s get into a Musings taking a look at both Rangers and league goings-on.
Do the Rangers have staffing issues?
So Rick Bowness stays in Tampa? You can’t blame the guy for staying in a good hockey situation (even potentially losing Steven Stamkos, the Lightning are well set) and I’m not sure what it says of Alain Vigneault’s ability to entice staff to New York anymore. It appears that Bowness won’t change employers unless it’s for another HC gig and the Rangers fanbase were never excited by this choice anyway.
We keep talking about how the Rangers are poised to make an array of moves to shake up both the roster and the organisation as a whole, but aside from signing Pavel Buchnevich (hurrah!) the team have been silent thus far. That may be because they aren’t done assessing the current situation yet; time will tell.
The Rangers are obviously going to need to reshape their defense – if they can – but perhaps the biggest decision they may have to make may be which center they have to deal. The Rangers don’t just need to shift cap space but they need to acquire assets and the Rangers best chance of a quality return – without negatively impacting any one specific position – may be moving one of their centers. It’s the position where the Rangers are deepest.
Former Rangers blueliner Jeff Beukeboom is likely the fan’s choice to replace Ulf Samuelsson and he’s the emotional choice to be the Rangers next assistant coach thanks to all his obvious connections to the big club. Emotions aside however, and Beukeboom is indeed the right choice, and for several critical reasons.
Continuity is something that’s a common theme in successful organisations and Beukeboom knows the organisation better than maybe anyone else – certainly better than any other assistant coach candidate. It can only be seen as an advantage that he’s so familiar with the club, with the systems and with the majority of the blueliners in the organisation.
Beukeboom has been with the WolfPack since 2012 and will know better than most how the Rangers can best integrate Dylan McIlrath (assuming he is even retained – which he should be). Beukeboom will know Brady Skjei well from their time together last season so he’ll surely be able to help accelerate the Rangers top prospect into a top four role. He’ll also know how far away fellow blueline prospect Ryan Graves is from being NHL ready following his own solid introduction to pro hockey.
Apparently, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are so bad (p.s. they’re not) that they are untradeable unless the Rangers do something ridiculous like take back Bobby Holik and Scott Gomez’s Ranger contracts.
Well, the rather perplexing trade between the Canucks and Panthers this week has taught us two things that should excite the Rangers and those are: NHL General Managers still make stupid decisions and there is most certainly a market for mediocre defensive defensemen.
Here’s the deal; Erik Gudbranson is a better, younger player than either Staal or Girardi but he has neither lived up to his draft billing (3rd overall in 2010) nor is he such a particularly impressive blueliner that teams ‘just have to have him’. Factor in the Canucks gave up the 33rd overall pick in what appears to be a solid draft, gave up on their 14th overall draft pick from 2014 and you have the makings of an overpayment regardless of the other bits and pieces in the deal.
We keep hearing the comparisons between Evgeni Kuznetsov and Rangers prospect Pavel Buchnevich. Also how Buchnevich bested KHL numbers from a certain Vladimir Tarasenko – arguably the best young sniper in the NHL today. We also hear that expectations should be tempered for Buchnevich partly based on the period of adjustment required for the aforementioned rising stars – and rightly so. No one should expect Buchnevich to come in with no English, no exposure to the North American style of hockey and pot 30 goals as nice as that would be.
With all that said, not only can Buchnevich significantly help the Rangers on the ice – by adjusting quickly to the rigours of the NHL – but he can help Alain Vigneault and the perceived notion that he is a veteran-favouring coach who often ignores developing younger players for immediate gains.