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Category: Offseason

Replacing Richards

Spezza could be an option

Spezza could be an option

I think most of this fan base understood that Richards needed to be bought out. It was certainly something I pushed for last summer and I fully support the move. However, the obvious downside to this decision is now we have a major hole on our roster that needs to be filled.

Assuming the Rangers want to keep Stepan as a 1 or 2c and Brassard as a 2 or 3c, finding another secondary center appears to be the route we’re going to take. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot available. At least no one that I’d consider an ideal candidate.

Here are the few options that will be available this summer and what they would likely cost us should we chose to pursue them.

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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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Potential UFA target: Mikhail Grabovski

Mikhail Grabovski is not a #1 center, but he could still help the Rangers

New York’s top two offseason needs are a No. 1 center and an offensive defenseman. There’s not much denying that, but sometimes there just aren’t players available to fulfill those needs, and sometimes the cost of doing so makes for unwise decisions.

With Andrei Markov now off the market, the lone offensive-minded blueliner of note that’s set to hit free agency next week is Matt Niskanen, who’s sure to be overpaid based on one standout season. There doesn’t seem to be a solution on the trade market either, so the Rangers seem be out of luck.

On the other hand, there is a bevy of top-line centers available, including Paul Stastny, Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton. Unfortunately, only Stastny can be had for money alone, and the contract he’s about to receive will be massive for yet another center that’s best served as a No. 2 (sound familiar Rangers fans?). Stastny is poised to cash in on a monster playoff year, but he’s had injury problems and is coming off his first 60-point season since 2009-2010. He is best served as a secondary option, so the funds and term required to land him would create a Brad Richards problem all over again.

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Potential UFA target: Paul Stastny

The best player available.

The best player available.

With the buyout of Brad Richards, the Rangers created a hole at center. Assuming Derek Stepan is still slotting in as the 1C, the Rangers still have a hole at either 2C or 3C, depending on where you slot Derick Brassard. There aren’t many attractive options on the market, but the best player available is clearly Paul Stastny.

Let’s get the big thing out of the way first: Stastny will be expensive, but he will not (should not) be getting much of a raise on his $6.6 million salary. Stastny hasn’t sniffed 70 points since the 2009-2010 season, and his 60 points this past season were his highest since that year. That said, Stastny has also been playing behind Matt Duchene and ahead of Ryan O’Reilly in Colorado (holy depth Batman!), so he’s not getting the prime matchups either.

But Stastny’s worth goes beyond the stat sheet. Stastny not only puts up decent points, he’s a #fancystats darling.

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Would the Rangers and Jason Spezza make sense?

Would acquiring Spezza make the Rangers stronger?

Would acquiring Spezza make the Rangers stronger?

The Rangers need an elite playmaking center, Jason Spezza wants out of Ottawa and the Senators General manager, Bryan Murray has already publicly admitted he won’t get full value for his star center. There are countless reasons why Jason Spezza makes sense for the Rangers, not least because of positional need. Of course, with the Ducks, Blues and other Western Conference teams heavily rumoured to be looking at Spezza, the Rangers may not even be in the picture. This much we do know; the Rangers have a need, Spezza has ten teams he won’t go to and that list doesn’t include the Rangers.

The Rangers had their opportunities against the Kings in the Cup Finals. They didn’t make it a closer series in part because they did not convert enough on the powerplay and because the Kings were the better team down the middle. Spezza helps address both issues. He has been a powerplay force, he is an elite playmaking centre and he is strong in the face off circles.

Perhaps most crucially is the fact that Spezza doesn’t come with a significant contractual commitment. With only one year on his remaining deal the Rangers wouldn’t need to commit to Spezza before seeing whether he can perform on the New York stage and given the acknowledgement by Murray he will likely get less than equal value there’s a chance for the Rangers to steal an elite player who fills a need.

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Report card: Defense

You were expecting a photo of Ryan McDonagh, weren’t you?

Dan Girardi – What a roller coaster year Girardi just completed. He looked totally lost at the beginning of the season (like several Blueshirts), but quickly turned around his game and played like his old self during the second-half. Management was convinced that Girardi’s early-season hiccups were an anomaly and rewarded him with a six-year, $33 million contract, essentially choosing Girardi over captain Ryan Callahan. But Girardi again looked like a liability once the playoffs started, culminating in his train wreck performance (mixed with a healthy share of bad luck) during the Stanley Cup Final that left many fans calling for a trade. Girardi had no more than a dislocated finger during the playoffs, so his pylon-like play should raise eyebrows given the substantial financial commitment New York made to him just a few months prior. Nevertheless, Girardi has been a tremendous player for the Rangers during his eight-year career, and, just as Brad Richards did at the start of this year, Girardi seems likely to bounce-back from this most recent embarrassment in a big way. Grade: B-

Anton Stralman – For almost his entire tenure in blue, Stralman was the most underappreciated player on the team. But thanks to his particularly stellar play during the postseason and some gushing comments from talking heads and bloggers alike, Stralman is now viewed as a must-keep player by many fans. Advanced metrics make Stralman look like a true stud, but he’s been a very good second-pairing defender, not necessarily a $5 million a year blueliner. Stralman contributes next to nothing offensively – though some argue that his possession metrics suggest he was a victim of bad luck and believe Stralman actually does far more to help the attack than his point total indicates. Stralman has certainly emerged as a very good defender, but he seems like a guy that was underrated for so long, he’s now overrated. Grade: A-

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Rangers final grades: Coaching

Needs improvement

Needs improvement

Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As always, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes this interesting and conversational.

Before I get started on AV and company, let me first say that grading coaching specifically is not easy. Many of the greatest coaches in this game have been fired multiple times over, and it’s never because they lost their ability to do what they do. More often than not, those decisions typically come down to politics.

So how does one evaluate a coaching staff?

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The reasons for keeping Cam Talbot beyond this year are adding up

Talbot’s cap hit is just $565,500 next season

When Henrik Lundqvist re-signed with the Rangers for seven years, $59.5 million on December 4, one of the possible dominoes was the team trading backup goalie Cam Talbot this summer.

Talbot has produced at probably an unsustainable level. With just one season separating the 26-year-old from unrestricted free agency, you have to assume Talbot is eyeing a chance to compete for a starting job.  Recouping some value by dealing a blossoming netminder still in his prime years for a draft pick seemed like it could be sensible since Talbot would never be able to assume the crown in New York.

However, the reasons in favor of keeping Talbot keep adding up.

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Best post-lockout Ranger tournament: Henrik Lundqvist is your champion

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This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to most, but Henrik Lundqvist defeated Dan Girardi yesterday to win the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout tournament. This tournament was pitched to us by Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8), and we would like to thank him for the hard work putting this together. We certainly had a lot of fun posting these and reviewing the results.

Lundqvist beat out #16 Olli Jokinen,  #9 Martin Rucinsky, #4 Artem Anisimov, #3 Ryan McDonagh, #1 Ryan Callahan, and #2 Dan Girardi to win the tournament. While all the wins were dominating ones, Hank did have to go through the longest tenured defenseman (Girardi), the captain (Cally), the future/current stud defenseman (McDonagh), and a player with a cult-like following (Anisimov). It wasn’t an easy road.

You can click on the image above to get a full sized image of the bracket. Personally, I was surprised by Derek Stepan’s run to the Final Four, as well as Girardi’s win over Jaromir Jagr in the Regional Finals. The fact that Jed Ortmeyer and Sean Avery lost in the first round were also surprises. Did any results surprise you? Were there any Rangers you wished were on this list?

Best post-lockout Ranger; Championship Game: Henrik Lundqvist (1) vs. Dan Girardi (2)

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Today is the championship game in the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout tournament. Naturally, it is the two longest tenured Rangers who meet up in the Finals: Henrik Lundqvist, the tournament favorite, and Dan Girardi, the longest tenured defenseman on the club. We want to thank Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) for pitching this idea to us. It was a great success and we hope you had as much fun voting as we did posting and seeing the results.

Henrik Lundqvist (Acquired – 2000 draft, round 7)

Hank is Hank. He’s a five-time Vezina Finalist, he’s won the award once. He’s been the backbone of the team, and the best goalie in the world. Not really much else to say here.

Lundqvist beat the overall #2 seed, and the #1 seed in the John Tortorella bracket, Ryan Callahan in the Final Four.

Dan Girardi (acquired – 2006 undrafted free agent)

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