Its Thursday so time for another dose of around the league, with some Rangers thoughts scattered in for good measure. While we have some hockey back on tap (rejoice!) the dog days are clearly here.
In news that will surprise absolutely no one, the NHL ‘invited’ both Las Vegas and Quebec to participate in the second round of the expansion application process. Of course, given the non refundable bonds put up to begin the process this is really just a formality and both groups were always going to enter this round.
Skapski sighting: The Hockey News check out Rangers goaltending prospect McKenzie Skapski’s new mask. It’s pretty cool.
In addition to checking on the teams in the Metropolitan we’re going to take a look at general league goings on as we’re in the middle of hockey summer and as we eventually approach the pre-season. So, without further delay…
Unsustainable shooting percentage
Starting with some Rangers stuff (hey, we’re a Ranger blog after all). Having looked at the shooting percentages, Kevin Hayes (15.3%) will be an interesting follow next year as his shooting % is surely unsustainable. Offensively Hayes finished the regular season on fire but can he repeat his numbers, can he kick on offensively or, given a likely shooting percentage regression, will his numbers take a dip?
Bernier lowballed by the Leafs.
While several Rangers prospects have received much greater attention over the past season or so, Steven Fogarty has flown a little under the radar despite making solid progress at Notre Dame. One of the main reasons Fogarty went the college (and Notre Dame) route was to concentrate on his play away from the puck and Fogarty looks like a player that can play all three zones. He’s become a strong defensive player.
Fogarty is a big boy at 6’3 and 200+ lbs and the Rangers have been able to leave him to develop at his own pace which means four full years at the college level. Fogarty will play one more year of college but the big two-way center has intriguing potential at the pro level and has appeared to make good progress throughout his college career. Fogarty wears the ‘C’ in Notre Dame and the level of responsibility bestowed on Fogarty will stand him in good stead as he approaches professional hockey.
The Edmonton Oilers have announced that they will raise a banner at Rexall Place to honour current Rangers President and now former Rangers general manager Glen Sather. Sather was, of course, the architect behind the Oilers dynasty in the 80’s.
The ceremony will take place on Dec. 11 before the game the same night against the Rangers. Sather coached the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships. Sather has obviously been a polarizing figure for Rangers fans but no one can deny the impact he had on the Oilers so the banner raising is certainly well deserved.
‘Tis the season. It’s that time of year when teams look to lock up their free agents and it’s the time of year when a lot of long term deals get hammered out. The latest of those long term deals came this week as Ryan Kesler signed a 6 year pact with the Ducks for 41.25m. Kesler is a quality two way center and for a while, exactly what the Rangers would have liked at the 2C spot.
While Kesler is clearly at a different point in his career, he does offer some reflection on the Derek Stepan situation. Kesler averages around 50-55 points for his career and plays a very good two way game. He’s had good playoff success and with his reputation even $6.8m per year appears a team friendly deal for the Ducks – at least in the short term. Could the Rangers refer to Kesler in the Stepan negotiations?
We’re fast approaching the dog days of the hockey summer or are we already there? Let’s have a quick scan at some of things going on around the league as well as Rangers thoughts from the week just gone.
Power rankings: I place no great stock in power rankings at the best of times but especially ones published in summer. With that said, the hockey ‘experts’ at ESPN have the Rangers ranked at 11. Really? Do recent performances count for nothing? Three conference finals in four years, no truly significant roster losses and yet they’re behind Columbus, Montreal, Calgary, Washington and Minnesota amongst others. Ok then…
In my opinion, the Bruins did a lot of things wrong this summer but Jimmy Hayes was a nice acquisition and the new deal signed by Hayes could be a bargain. If he gets the ice time and develops and has the right linemates, 2.3m per year for three years could be an absolute steal. Especially given the inflated prices of 20 goal scorers in this league…
The future starts now for the Rangers. Every team need entry level contracted players to step up and provide cap relief and ideally play significant minutes – it’s a critical part of successful salary cap survival. With Derek Stepan about to get a serious pay rise (thanks Buffalo) the Rangers will need a younger player or two to step up sooner rather than later. With Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, amongst others, due for significant raises next summer, the Rangers would dearly love a prospect or two to force their way onto the roster and/or into significant roles in the short to middle term.
The immediate options for the coming season are obviously Emerson Etem, JT Miller and Jesper Fast. All three are absent of arbitration rights this season, so remain cost controlled; two of them are established Rangers and all three of them have serious upside, albeit in different forms (with Fast’s ceiling likely to be a solid two-way third liner).
The New York Rangers ought to be concerned and not necessarily because of Derek Stepan’s current contract situation but because of the looming contract issues that currently sit just over the horizon. The NHL annual free agency frenzy was surprisingly (and encouragingly) muted this summer but don’t let that fool you.
The leagues’ posse of general managers realised value for money wasn’t there, perhaps money and internal resources weren’t there to spend and as a result we saw a lot less head scratching moves made. However, some of the contracts that were dished out bordered on the ridiculous. And it starts with arguably the most exciting player to be moved this week in Brandon Saad who joined Columbus in a multi-player swap.
For those accustomed to watching the Rangers leap head first into free agency and enjoy the fall out, they will have been disappointed as July 1st turned to the 2nd. For the rest of us, yesterday would have been a pleasant change. Ironically, as Glen Sather officially relinquished his GM duties to Jeff Gorton, yesterday also offered a change of approach by the Rangers, albeit a partially enforced one because of the aggressive moves made over the past two or three seasons.
Barring any significant changes over the next days and weeks (changes that could obviously yet happen) the Rangers core is in place for next season and the overall make-up of the roster is set. It’s better than it was a week ago. Losing Hagelin hurts, Talbot also. But the Rangers acquired solid depth in Viktor Stalberg, potential upside (and youth) in Emerson Etem and value for money in Antti Raanta.
Considering the unknowns, the main reason Rangers fans should be on tender hooks until the new season begins to play out is not because of the loading up in free agency by the Penguins or the aggressive moves by the Blue Jackets, nor the complete retooling undertaken by the Bruins. It’s because so much of the Rangers immediate future is the Rangers gambling on their own. Read More→
Let’s have a gander at the grades for the Rangers’ top two forward lines shall we?
Rick Nash’s overall season can be argued both as a positive and a negative. Indeed, there are few players that have divided opinion the way Nash has since he became a Ranger. A season that featured notable career highs but that was offset by another underwhelming postseason, things went as far as culminating with Nash being considered prime trade material this offseason. Hardly the appreciation you’d expect for a 42 goal player and early season Hart Trophy candidate. The problem is that Nash, like many Rangers, is now judged primarily on what he does after the regular season and this is where he failed to live up to both his regular season production and significant salary.
Nash needs to be a leader, the go-to guy offensively and in the postseason that didn’t happen nearly enough. Nash lacked postseason consistency, was never close to being his dominant regular season self and as the Rangers went quietly into the offseason, tellingly, so did Nash. Once again, despite solid numbers the microscope will firmly be on Nash come October. Despite the disappointing end, Nash finished in the top ten for the Hart trophy. Grade: B