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Category: Musings

Opening Night Musings: Strengths, questions, and more heading into the 2014-2015 season

Elsa/Getty Images

Elsa/Getty Images

Tonight is opening night, and if you haven’t caught the systems preview, you should. The Rangers are in St. Louis tonight, Columbus on Saturday, and then open at home on Sunday against Toronto. Chris is hung up at work, so you all have to suffer through a musings with me.

  • There are a lot of questions about the center depth for this club. It’s something I brought up last month, and that was before the injury to Derek Stepan. The fact is that the Rangers have a winger playing center (Martin St. Louis), and a rookie as the pivot for the third line. Even when Stepan returns, you have the same concern about J.T. Miller’s future at 3C, and whether or not Derick Brassard can handle 2C competition.
  • As for Miller, the reason why I think he’s best off as a winger is because of the defensive responsibilities of the center position compared to the wing. He’s been vastly improved this season, but until he proves he can handle the defensive responsibilities on a consistent basis, there will be questions about his ability to play 3C and the Rangers center depth as a whole.

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Rangers Approach the Season Opener: the Musings

What to expect from Jesper Fast? (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

What to expect from Jesper Fast? (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Rangers are entering the home straight and the regular season is almost upon us. It’s a Thursday so let’s throw together some thoughts about the past few days in Rangerland.

Anthony Duclair. Everyone’s favourite Rangers’ prospect appears to be forcing the organisation’s hand into finding him a roster spot. 5 points, 3 goals in 3 games. Blazing speed, a wicked shot and respectable defense for a 19 year old rookie who, two weeks ago, wasn’t on anyone’s radar (for this season).

The thing is this: if he makes it, if he plays, he has to be on a scoring line to be effective. Is there an appropriate spot up for grabs and who suffers as a result? The most realistic scenario would be Mats Zuccarello slipping to the third line (also a productive line under coach Vigneault) but can the team justify pushing their top scoring forward of last year down to the third line for a 19 year old? It’s a great dilemma to have but also a major headache, potentially.

October 9th, at St Louis and then at the Blue Jackets two days later. Do the Rangers have the hardest opening two game set? A road trip to the big, physical Blues and Jackets? It gets physical quickly for the Rangers.

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Prospects to the fore: the Musings

Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images

Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images

It’s the dawn of a new season and already we’re full of anticipation, panic and dilemma… What fun it is to be a New York Rangers fan. Anyway, it’s Thursday so let’s have the first Musings of the season shall we? There’s plenty to talk about.

The obvious major talking point in Rangerland is the injury to Derek Stepan. I’m an optimist. Stepan’s injury hurts the Rangers in the short term but his absence shouldn’t cost the team a playoff berth and the team has plenty of younger prospects they can test out. This is an opportunity the franchise may never have had if it were not for the injury. Now is the time to throw in a Lindberg, Hayes and/or JT Miller and see whether they can step into a full time NHL role.

Long term, the injury to Stepan may have been a blessing in disguise if the Rangers develop one (or more) prospects for the long term because of this unfortunate situation. If this was Lundqvist going down for a long stretch it would be time to panic but Stepan missing 10-12 games will not cost the club long term. No need to panic. Prospect development time is upon us.

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Which lineup is better: The 2014 Rangers, or the active ex-Rangers?

Marian Gaborik heads up a deep group of ex-Ranger forwards

We’re (finally) just one day away from training camp! There will be a whole lot of real Ranger news coming up, but since we’ve exhausted pretty much every type of camp preview imaginable this summer – allow me just one more random post before the action kicks into high gear.

What would happen if you were to pit the 2014 New York Rangers against the best lineup of former Blueshirts still currently playing in the NHL?

Here’s my take on the best hypothetical roster of ex-Rangers that takes into account positions and logical scoring and checking lines:

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Potential Rangers training camp surprises

Ryan Bourque is riding a wave of momentum after his strong second-half performance last season

Immediately after July 1, it looked like the Rangers would have several forward spots open to competition at training camp. However, the eventual signings of Matt Lombardi, Lee Stempniak and Kevin Hayes have made it much more difficult for anyone else to earn a spot in the lineup. The likes of J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg still figure to duke it out with some of those depth signings for the final spot or two, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for anyone else to enter the fray. With that said, here’s a look at the handful of forwards and defensemen that could conceivably be in the mix with a standout performance at camp.

Ryan Malone – This one is a real long-shot not only because of the legal questions surrounding Malone, but because the Rangers would have to ship out a player to fit Malone under the 50-contract limit. Malone was once an effective power forward and is presumably being invited to training camp on the off chance the Blueshirts catch lightning in a bottle in their search to replace Benoit Pouliot, but unless Malone dominates, it’s highly unlikely he makes the team.

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Who would the Rangers keep in a theoretical NHL expansion draft?

Photo: Bruce Bennett

Photo: Bruce Bennett

Last year, I had some fun with a theoretical expansion draft. I did that more as an August musings post than anything else. This time around, there are big rumors about expansion, and it seemed like a good idea to do another theoretical expansion draft. After all, the roster has changed and the team’s situation has changed. As cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City, and Toronto become more entrenched in the expansion rumors, it becomes hard to ignore the need to prepare for an expansion draft.

Let’s assume that any future expansion draft will follow the same rules as the 2000 expansion draft. Each team is allowed to protect either one goalie, five defensemen, and nine forwards, or, two goalies, three defensemen, and seven forwards. At least one defenseman left unprotected must have played 40 games last season or 70 games in the last two seasons. Two forwards must meet the same requirements. All first and second year pros (including AHL players) and unsigned rookies are exempt (Anthony Duclair and Brady Skjei are exempt, J.T. Miller is not). All players on ELCs that will slide (Ryan Graves) are exempt as well.

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The Musings: Why so negative?

Ryan McDonagh is a bargain. Relatively speaking. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Ryan McDonagh is a bargain. Relatively speaking. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Now the dust has settled after the draft, week of pre-free agency negotiation and free agency itself, a few days of quiet are upon us before arbitration hearings, contract negotiation rumors and the scraps are picked at in free agency. With that all in mind, let’s take a little look around the league and reflect on the Rangers this summer so far.

Patrick Kane and Jon Toews got identical contracts but that’s where the similarities end – in my opinion. Toews is a natural leader and figurehead. He’s not worth the money he’s just got but if either player is worth it, it’s certainly Toews and not Kane as Toews brings so much more to the table than ‘just’ offense.

Patrick Kane is a Star. He’s a point/game playoff player and is incredibly talented but he just got $10.5 million per year yet has only once scored more than 73 points in a year and has one 30 goal season in his seven years in the league. Sure, it’s not just about numbers and sure, the Hawks are paying to keep the faces of the franchise in town but the money getting thrown about is out of hand. Nothing we didn’t know already, right?

Every additional, major contract signing that gets announced makes me love the Ryan McDonagh deal that much more. Five more years of 25 minutes a game, elite defense and 40-50 points per season for $4.7m a season seems like a bargain.

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Musings: What’s next? What is the ideal situation to trade Marc Staal?

Happy Almost-Three-Day-Weekend folks. A lot has gone on in Rangerland over the past few days, so let’s get to the musings.

Did you know that Staal has brothers? (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Their best and most complicated trade chip. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

  • The Rangers have $14.6 million in cap space to fill six forward spots and one defense spot. If you allocate about $12 million to Derick Brassard ($4 million), Mats Zuccarello ($4.5 million) , Chris Kreider ($2 million), and John Moore ($1.5 million), that leaves $2.6 million for three forward spots. That’s not much room to work with, even if you do use kids to fill the remaining roles.
  • The Rangers said that they want to add one more forward, but don’t know if they will sign someone or trade for someone. If they sign a forward, it’s going to have to be another experimental forward, like Benoit Pouliot last summer.
  • Mike Ribeiro is the name that will probably be thrown around a lot, as he was just bought out by Phoenix and could come cheap. I’d venture a guess that he would settle for a Brad Richards deal (one-year, $2 million). That’s as cheap as they come, but Ribiero hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire lately.
  • Aside from Ribeiro, the other UFAs are either too expensive or not intriguing: David Legwand, Derek Roy, Steve Ott, Saku Koivu, Michal Handzus. None of these guys fit (from a cap perspective or from a talent perspective).

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Thoughts heading into the Draft

The 2013-2014 postseason was such an emotional ride, I needed to take a little step back after the Rangers were tragically eliminated in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Sure, I did a report card and may have twittered once or twice, but I needed a break to collect myself. Big props to the crew here for putting together fantastic content, from end of season grades to draft/free agent previews.

Once I felt alright to reengage the hockey world, I wanted to put the past season into some context. We all know the roller coaster narrative of a struggling team at the beginning, some transformative trades and an emotional ride to the Final. Unfortunately, those stories had already been told and I emerged from hibernation a little late. There is way too much going on now to reflect. Off to 2014-2015 we go! Here are some scattered thoughts of the various goings on surrounding the Rangers as we head into tonight’s Draft…

  • I obviously agree whole-heartedly with the Richards buy-out for both business and performance reasons. However, the move does put a decent sized hole in the lineup during an offseason without a whole lot of options. Considering the timing of internal free agents, I doubt the Rangers can make a meaningful run at Paul Stastny, considering how overpaid he will be.

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Sunday morning musings

Bye Broadway Brad

Bye Broadway Brad

With the announcement of the schedule coming later today, those of us who were stuck in a catatonic state of denial are slapped awake to notice that, hey, when your team loses in the Cup Finals, there isn’t really that much time til next season. The Rangers open up in St. Louis on October 9, followed by their home opener against Toronto on October 12. That’s really not that far away, so rejoice! On to some random musings that have crossed this mind for the past few days…

–          The Brad Richards buyout made me feel a lot of feelings. I fully believe that it had to be done, and I fully believe that he should have been kept on for this past season. The thing to remember is this: without Richards, the Rangers win nothing in the beginning of the season and perhaps don’t come back at all. Maybe without Richards, the Rangers don’t trade for Martin St. Louis who was undeniably a huge factor during the postseason. It’s a little disheartening. Read more »