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Only 10 regulars remain from Gorton’s first season running the organization

Jeff Gorton was officially named general manager of the Rangers on July 1, 2015 and though his influence on player personnel decisions began long before then, that date marks a clear crossroads in organizational strategy.

Gorton spent last summer methodically revamping the forward corps and followed that up with a defensive overhaul this offseason. His fingerprints are now all over the roster, with a clear commitment to youth, speed and skill.

While there have been a slew of minor transactions along the way, I’ve focused on Gorton’s more significant moves to gain perspective on his tenure thus far.

June 27, 2015: Traded Carl Hagelin, a 2nd-round pick and a 6th to Anaheim for Emerson Etem and a 2nd (Ryan Gropp)
Though Gorton didn’t technically take office until a few days later, he was assuredly calling the shots here. And while the Blueshirts were in a cap bind and needed to shed salary, the return for Hagelin was a pittance. There’s still a chance that Gropp turns into a serviceable NHLer, but right now it’s hard to view this swap as anything but an unmitigated disaster.
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Categories : Offseason
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James van Riemsdyk scored a career-high 62 points last season

Though there remains the possibility of a trade for a center, the dust has mostly settled on the 2017 offseason.

But what might the future hold? There will likely be significant changes again next offseason, when Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, David Desharnais, Nick Holden and Ondrej Pavelec are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Assuming Mika Zibanejad re-signs, that will leave the Blueshirts around $23 million in cap space. A big portion of that will go towards re-upping RFAs J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei, but there should still be some cash to play with.

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Categories : Offseason
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Jul
12

Exploring the trade market for centers

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Over the last four seasons Tyler Bozak averaged .68 points per game. During that time, Derek Stepan averaged .73.

Tyler Bozak

The Leafs backed themselves into a corner with the signing of Patrick Marleau and now exceed the summer salary cap threshold, leading to speculation they may have to trade a veteran for some relief. But with both Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton on the roster in name only and headed straight for LTIR, Toronto isn’t in nearly as bad of shape as it might seem. Still, the Leafs have a glut of forwards so pending UFAs James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak continue to circulate through the rumor mill. With the players carrying nearly identical $4.2 million cap hits and not part of the Leafs’ future plans, there’s reason to believe Toronto might move one of them before the season.

New York would likely be interested in acquiring either player. A move for JVR would cement J.T. Miller’s move back to the middle, but give the Blueshirts impressive depth down the wings. Bozak, 31, would slot in as the second center behind Mika Zibanejad and be capable of matching Derek Stepan’s offensive production while also representing a huge upgrade at the faceoff dots. The Rangers would surely try to build a trade package for either player around Nick Holden, an expiring contract himself. But while Toronto might view Holden as a useful addition to a patchwork defense, Holden’s own $1.65 million cap hit reduces the allure somewhat.

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David Desharnais registered 14 points in 49 games with Montreal and Edmonton last season

– David Desharnais was a frequent whipping boy in Montreal, but he put up pretty solid numbers across most of his tenure with the Habs until the bottom fell out last year and Desharnais was sent to Edmonton for Brandon Davidson. In an extremely weak free agent crop with most of the available centers already scooped up, Desharnais was one of the better options. But don’t kid yourself – this is a bargain bin flyer and nothing more. Desharnais will be 31 when the season starts and has little left in the tank. He has drawn highly favorable offensive zone starts throughout his career, which might be hard to come by in New York. Desharnais should still chip in some supporting offense, but he still leaves the Blueshirts one-dimensional down the middle and lacking a pivot that can handle tough assignments.

– It looks increasingly likely that J.T. Miller will be moved back to center. He’s a better option than anything else that’s realistic at this point, but Miller presents the same problem as Desharnais and Kevin Hayes. None of them are aces in their own end, leaving a whole lot of pressure on Mika Zibanejad. An improved defense will mask this deficiency, but it’s going to be a problem nonetheless. Perhaps Boo Nieves or Lias Andersson can steal a job at training camp, but asking them to anchor a checking unit as a rookie would be unfair.

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Categories : Musings
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Jun
28

If not Joe Thornton, then who?

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Sam Gagner posted 50 points last season, including 18 on the power play

At the draft GM Jeff Gorton expressed his comfort with having Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes as his one-two punch down the middle – and whether you take that at face value or not, the Rangers have a gaping hole to fill at center in the wake of the Derek Stepan trade.

The most attractive solution is to sign Joe Thornton, the surefire Hall of Famer that has anchored San Jose’s top line for over a decade. Thornton has demonstrated terrific chemistry with Rick Nash in the past and is the one free agent that’s capable of matching, if not exceeding Stepan’s annual production.

But signing Thornton is not without its drawbacks. For one thing, Thornton and the Sharks have a mutual love affair that seems likely to continue. The only thing precluding a new pact between the two parties thus far is Thornton’s desire for a three-year deal, which is a tough ask for a near-38-year-old coming off major knee surgery.

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Categories : Offseason
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Jason Demers carries an affordable $4.5 million cap hit for the next four years

Recent developments including the buyout of Dan Girardi, pending retirement of Kevin Klein and $2 million cap ceiling increase have dramatically shifted the offseason picture for the Blueshirts. What appeared to be a team in a relative bind a week ago is now one armed with the cash necessary to make seismic changes this offseason.

Assuming Klein does indeed hang up his skates, the Rangers should have upwards of $16 million available – and that’s before factoring in the player New York will lose this week to expansion. If it’s Antti Raanta, the number will climb to over $17 million, and if it’s Michael Grabner, the figure jumps to the neighborhood of $18 million.

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Categories : Offseason
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Matt Duchene is one of many intriguing players that could be on the move in the coming days

We’ve been speculating for months about what the expansion draft would mean for the Rangers and the consequences league-wide. And yet, here we are just days away from a seismic shift in personnel around the NHL and there’s still little clarity of New York’s plans. We know two things for sure:

1) The Blueshirts will lose at least one player to Las Vegas, and potentially several more in corresponding maneuvers.

2) The Rangers have expressed an organizational desire to get younger on defense.

Beyond that the dots are near impossible to connect. Read More→

Categories : Musings
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Kevin Klein’s retirement would shave $2.9 million from the Rangers’ cap total

Larry Brooks dropped the first of potentially many bombshells yesterday with his report that Kevin Klein is leaning towards retirement from the NHL. Though Brooks cautioned that Klein’s mind is not made up, it sounds like New York might be gifted $2.9 million in cap space at a very opportune time.

Klein only has one year remaining on his pact, but with Rick Nash’s hefty $7.8 million cap hit coming off the books next summer, the Rangers are really only worried about a cap bind in the short term. CapFriendly currently projects New York’s 2017-2018 cap total at $63.8 million, but wiping Klein from the ledger would drop them to $60.9 million of the projected $73 million ceiling.

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The Predators have four D-men with 10+ points, while Pittsburgh has the four leading scorers in the postseason

– As we relearn every year in hockey, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The final four teams in the 2017 playoffs were drastically different in style. The defending champion Penguins were built around two megastars down the middle, a younger rotating cast of supporting pieces and a patchwork defense. The Senators have one all-world talent on defense but mainly made it so far because of an outstanding commitment to team defense and dogged determination. The Ducks have probably the league’s deepest defense and are a load to handle up front, but were very top heavy. And the Predators have the most offensively active blueline in the league to go with an under-appreciated roster of blossoming young players. There’s no one model to achieve success in today’s NHL.

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Categories : Musings
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May
31

How good is Igor Shestyorkin?

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Igor Shestyorkin was 27-4-6 with a .937 SV%, 1.64 GAA and 8 shutouts last season

For the first time last season, Ranger fans were confronted with Henrik Lundqvist’s mortality. The King endured his worst statistical season in the NHL and while that certainly doesn’t lie only at his feet, there are signs that Lundqvist is no longer capable of being a magic eraser for New York every single night.

So while the thought of life after Lundqvist is extremely unpleasant, it’s a reality the Blueshirts are beginning to confront, much as the Football Giants began to do this spring with the drafting of Davis Webb in preparation for the eventual retirement of Eli Manning.

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Categories : Prospects
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