– The list of available puck-moving defensemen has quickly dwindled with the Ducks re-signing Sami Vatanen and Avalanche GM Joe Sakic insisting he will keep Tyson Barrie. The one possibility floating around that still makes a lot of sense is a match with Minnesota, which might be willing to part with Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, or Jonas Brodin in exchange for an impact forward. There were rumors a few weeks back that the Wild coveted Derek Stepan, so there’s some smoke here.
– The one other big name that looks like he may be on the move is Kevin Shattenkirk. It’s common knowledge that Shattenkirk would love to be a Blueshirt, but with one year remaining on his current contract and a hefty raise inevitable, moving major assets to acquire him is not without risk. A Shattenkirk for Rick Nash swap still seems possible, but St. Louis has cap woes of its own that makes things tricky.
Update: It was brought to our attention that the wording of the Sportsnet article is confusing, and that the limited NTC business discussed was in relation to NMCs that don’t have full no-trade protection, like Fleury and David Clarkson. Regular NTCs may not have to be protected, which certainly helps the Rangers immensely. This should be confirmed next week.
The latest news from Sportsnet on a potential expansion draft to stock the new Las Vegas franchise next summer revealed some important details on how teams can build their “protected” lists. Here’s a summary of the key criteria:
- Each team must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman that played at least 40 games during the 2016-2017 season, or 70 total games over the previous two years.
- All teams may protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
- Players with no-movement and no-trade clauses that extend through the 2017-2018 season will count against the protection limit, but those with clauses that expire at the end of next season may be exposed. Teams may also seek agreements with individual players to waive existing clauses.
- Players with two years of pro experience or less are exempt from the process.
- Each team can lose a maximum of one player to expansion.
– Rangers fans have been salivating over the possibility of trading for RFA Tyson Barrie from the Avalanche. He’d go a long way towards rebuilding the defense with more adept puck movers, but there’s going to be a long line of teams waiting to poach the 24-year-old PPQB from Colorado. New York might be able to entice the Avs with one of its RFA forwards, but the dream scenario is that Colorado might be dumb enough to accept one of the Blueshirts’ anchors as part of a package for Barrie. Unfortunately, TSN’s Bob McKenzie made it clear that the Avs know they need help on D, but don’t want to tie so much money up in one player. That would pretty much rule out Marc Staal or Dan Girardi. It’s not that the Avs don’t have cap space, but they’ve always been a budget team as opposed to a cap ceiling team, and Colorado must also re-sign RFA Nathan MacKinnon this summer without much significant money coming off the books. It’s hard to see a match here.
– Larry Brooks’ piece last week was extremely depressing for the most part, but his suggestion that Minnesota is very interested in trading for Derek Stepan caught my eye. I would be loath to part with the team’s best two-way centerman, but the Wild has a very intriguing collection of young talent. If Matt Dumba (and more) were on the table, that could go a long way towards rebuilding the defense.
– I’m dying to know what the Rangers were offering Tampa Bay in exchange for Jonathan Drouin earlier this season.
Sportsnet’s John Shannon lit a match next to a can of gasoline when he sent this tweet on Saturday:
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) May 22, 2016
Does the idea of dumping a bunch of salary via trade only to immediately reinvest a mega deal in another free agent sound familiar to anyone else?
On June 30, 2009 the Blueshirts shipped Scott Gomez and his remaining $33.5 million to Montreal. The very next day those short-lived savings were spent on Marian Gaborik, who inked a five-year, $37.5 million deal. Read More→
– A major reason for the Rangers’ struggles defensively that was astutely pointed out by Rick Carpiniello was the disinterest in playing on that side of the puck by so many of the team’s top forwards. Whereas in the past the Blueshirts have had Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, etc. playing key roles and devoting just as much attention to their own end, this season a host of forwards including Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and at times JT Miller were no-shows in their own zone. They didn’t do Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and co. any favors by botching their assignments so regularly.
– Oscar Lindberg’s surgery was a real curveball. Lindberg’s dirt cheap $650k cap hit is a hugely important piece of the puzzle heading forward given the Blueshirts’ cap woes and expected push towards youth, but now they’ll have to plan around his absence for the first month of the season. Given Nicklas Jensen’s outstanding showing at the World Championships and similar cap hit, Lindberg’s injury may have granted Jensen a regular spot to lose at camp.
In a utopian hockey world, the Rangers’ roster would be full of 6-foot-6 tanks that all skated like the wind, possessed unreal skills, and paid equal attention to both ends of the ice.
But in reality, NHL teams can really only afford to focus on a couple of attributes in building their rosters. The best franchises have identified those characteristics within their existing talent pool and continued to add and improve over the years. The Kings, Ducks and Panthers are teams of physical giants that will grind you into a pulp, while the Lightning, Penguins and Stars have focused on speed and skill.
The 2015-2016 Rangers lost their identity. They maintained the same all-world goalie that was key to the John Tortorella-era Blueshirts who were airtight defensively, and the recent Alain Vigneault edition that became a lightning quick counterattack team. But this year’s group never quite figured out what it was beyond having that super-safety net in goal.
The Rangers’ 2015-2016 season was about a team that didn’t necessarily lack enough talent, but certainly had the wrong mix.
That’s not meant to absolve Alain Vigneault. There’s no question the coach deserves a share of the blame for his atrocious deployment – but there was also only so much Vigneault could do to right the ship with faulty personnel.
New York’s major problems were three-fold – and all were hallmarks of previous success that suddenly became glaring warts. The headliner was the disastrous blueline with long-time rocks that crumbled and created a domino effect that directly impacted the club’s other two biggest issues – forechecking and the penalty kill.
We’ve talked about the blueline repeatedly and are in universal agreement that fixing the defense will be priority No. 1 this offseason, so let’s explore the other two dilemmas.
The smoky remains of the 2015-2016 season are beginning to clear and the Rangers front office must begin sifting through the wreckage and addressing the various questions that surround the team’s future.
Given New York’s cap crunch, it’s going to be a monumental task to diagnose what went wrong, develop a go-forward plan and reevaluate and retool the roster.
The process must start with getting rid of not just one, but both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Each has a no-movement clause, but recent history shows that those hold very little weight when it’s made clear to a player that he’s no longer wanted. It will be very difficult to show these long-time loyal soldiers the door, but it’s in the best interest of the team to rip the Band-Aid off as quickly as possible.
– That was a tough, tough loss. When Chris Kreider’s goal was called back, it seemed like a lot of wind was taken out of the team’s sails and the Rangers couldn’t recover. The Blueshirts battled tooth and nail all night, but they had a very difficult time gaining the offensive zone and creating any sustained pressure.
– That said, I’m far from panicking. Despite what many believed heading into the series, there’s not much separating these teams. I expect New York to come out flying in Game Four and send the teams back to Pittsburgh tied 2-2.
– Can the Rangers give Brady Skjei a real number? The kid might already be the team’s fourth-best defenseman after Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein. He’s been a savior on the blueline and has demonstrated remarkable poise with the puck and compete level. Between him and Pavel Buchnevich, I have a hard time listening to the annual panic about the window closing. Will the team be different next year? Sure. But if the organization makes smart personnel decisions, there’s no reason the Rangers can’t extend this run.