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Derek Stepan has registered at least 53 points in each of the last four seasons

With the Rangers hamstrung by a tricky cap situation, several cumbersome no-movement clauses and few tradable assets that make sense to part with, there’s been quite a bit of chatter that Derek Stepan might be the most logical piece to dangle in exchange for a right-handed defenseman.

But while there’s some plausibility to the idea, dealing Stepan would also leave a gaping hole at center. So hypothetically speaking, how could the Rangers handle the crucial pivot position if Stepan were shipped out of town?

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Navigating the salary cap and expansion draft with a weak prospect pool will be a tall task

The spring cleaning began in earnest for the Rangers yesterday with the firing of Hartford coach Ken Gernander and reassignments of Chris Drury and Jim Schoenfeld. The work will only get harder from here for the team’s front office.

Unlike last season when the Blueshirts considered a wholesale makeover but chose to mainly stand pat, GM Jeff Gorton and coach Alain Vigneault have been candid in the wake of the latest playoff ouster that major roster changes will be made this summer.

But that will be easier said than done.

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Categories : Offseason
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Ilya Kovalchuk was second in KHL scoring this season with 78 points

– The best player on the ice for the Blueshirts last night was Mika Zibanejad. Everyone expected Big Game Brass to take vengeance on his former club, but it’s Zibanejad that has three points in the series while Brassard has zilch. Zibanejad really has all the tools. In a few years we’ll either look back at the Zibanejad/Brassard trade as the modern day McDonagh/Gomez swap, or we’ll view Zibanejad as Nik Zherdev 2.0. I still think he’s going to blossom into a star.

– Another major positive from Game 3 was the return of Kevin Hayes. Along with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, Hayes has been pretty much invisible throughout the postseason. He looked like a different player last night.

– Tapped in Russian reporter Slava Malamud created a bit of a frenzy this week with a series of tweets in which he indicated Ilya Kovalchuk’s desire to return to the NHL after a three-year stay in the KHL. Malamud also noted there’s not much interest in a reunion by either Kovalchuk or the Devils, but Kovalchuk’s preference would be to stay in the NYC area (read: Rangers or Islanders), or move to Florida.

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Categories : Musings
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Apr
26

Rangers vs. Senators: Defense preview

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Erik Karlsson led the league in scoring by a defensemen three straight seasons from 2013-2016

Erik Karlsson is so good that you could make a case that he alone gives Ottawa the edge on defense over the Blueshirts.

The 26-year-old D-man is in the midst of his greatest season – which we seem to say every year. In addition to being the catalyst for the Senators’ offense, Karlsson has really rounded out his defensive play and is now a shutdown player in his own end, too.

Karlsson is averaging over 30 minutes a game so far during the playoffs and shows no signs of being hampered by two hairline fractures in his left foot. Keeping him in check may be the key to the series.

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Categories : Playoffs
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Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw will make life miserable for Henrik Lundqvist

New York’s group of forwards is surely better than 12th-best in the playoff field, but you can throw the team’s gaudy offensive stats out the window heading into this series.

The great equalizer, as the Blueshirts well know, is goaltending and Carey Price has been locked in for the last several weeks after an inauspicious start to the season.

So though this matchup is probably where New York should enjoy its biggest edge over Montreal, it would be foolish to expect the Blueshirts to simply outgun the Canadiens. Read More→

Categories : Uncategorized
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Mika Zibanejad has just four fewer points than Derick Brassard despite missing 25 games with a broken fibula

For Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, the 2016-2017 season did not go according to plan.

Zibanejad missed 25 games with a broken fibula suffered on November 20th and Buchnevich was removed from the lineup to undergo a midseason strengthening plan devised by the Rangers coaching staff.

But despite their lengthy absences, both players exhibited early signs of what they can bring to the table. Zibanejad was New York’s most dominant forward in the preseason other than Chris Kreider and quickly demonstrated the creativity and two-way play that attracted the Rangers to him this summer.

Buchnevich took a bit longer to flash as he adapted to the North American game, but he racked up goals in four straight games before going on the shelf.

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Categories : Players
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Alain Vigneault and co. would never publicly admit their glee about how their team’s playoff picture is unfolding, but things are progressing quite nicely for the Blueshirts.

Start with the obvious – the rejiggered playoff format will allow New York to open against the Atlantic Division winner (likely either Montreal or Ottawa), then square off with a second Atlantic foe should they advance, while the juggernaut Penguins, Capitals and Blue Jackets beat the heck out of each other. Those Atlantic foes shouldn’t be taken lightly, but advancing through that half of the bracket looks infinitely easier than the Metro murderer’s row.

In their slot as the Eastern Conference’s first wild card, the Blueshirts will be the road team for the duration of their playoff run. Normally that’s cause for concern, but not so much for a club that’s threatening the single-season road wins record and also possesses perhaps the best Game 7 goalie in league history.

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Ryan McDonagh has regained his status as one of the league’s elite defensemen

In hindsight, the 7-6 circus loss to the Dallas Stars on January 17 might have been the low-water mark of the 2016-2017 season for the Rangers. That marked the third time in 11 games the club yielded as many as seven goals and the Blueshirts were mired in a stretch of atrocious defensive play that made playoff contention seem comical.

But since that night, New York has given up four goals or more only six times in 27 games, and just twice surrendered as many as five.

In fact, the Rangers have allowed just 64 goals over that timeframe – a stingy 2.37 goals-against per game, which would rank fourth in the league if it were the team’s season-long rate.

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Categories : Defense
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Brendan Smith looks like a keeper on defense (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

– Both Dave and the guys at Blueshirt Banter started beating the drum last week – but they’re absolutely right that Brady Skjei deserves more attention. Skjei has gotten lost in the shuffle because of the ridonkulous rookie class, but he’s been better than anyone could have imagined this year, especially offensively. That part of Skjei’s game was never trumpeted in scouting reports, but his unexpected passing skills combined with his ability to skate the puck to safety have made Skjei a very dangerous weapon.

– With Ryan McDonagh’s return to an elite level and the reports that New York is interested in retaining the very useful Brendan Smith, the Blueshirts could be halfway to a solid defense going forward. Smith has been pretty much exactly as billed – he brings nothing to the table offensively but is rock solid in his own end, plays with an edge and flips the ice pretty quickly. There’s no flashiness to his game but he’s a perfectly effective player.

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Categories : Musings
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Feb
28

Musings: Trade deadline eve

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Michael Grabner could bring in a haul, but that’s irrelevant to the Rangers

– Washington really came out of nowhere to land Kevin Shattenkirk. And good for the Caps – just as the Rangers have been frenetically trying to capitalize on Henrik Lundqvist’s remaining years, Washington has been trying to finish the job with Alex Ovechkin. The Rangers were surely in this, but in the end they may prove to be smart allowing Washington to sacrifice future assets while still ultimately landing Shattenkirk this summer for another run next year. The reported cost of first- and second-round draft picks along with prospect Zach Sanford isn’t absurd, but clearly it was more than Jeff Gorton was comfortable paying. Kudos to him for drawing a line – now we’ll see if it all works out.

– The question is, do the Rangers now change their plans? The prevailing favorite just landed the highest impact player of the deadline. Is anyone in the Eastern Conference other than the Penguins confident enough they can go toe-to-toe with Washington that they want to splurge assets on mediocre talent? It might not be the most sensible arms race.

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Categories : Musings
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