With Derek Stepan only three compulsory games away from a return to the Rangers lineup and Derick Brassard firmly entrenched as the Rangers second line center, questions have already begun to surface about what will be best for Kevin Hayes’ development.
Hayes has had a fairly promising start to his NHL career amid difficult circumstances. Asked to start his big league career in a position that isn’t his best and in the Rangers’ weakest position, Hayes has struggled in the face-off circle winning a feeble 24.6% of his draws. On the flip side, Hayes has shown excellent skill on the puck, a willingness to play both ends of the rink and composure on the puck that isn’t seen from most rookies.
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Rick Nash is off to a hot goal-scoring streak to start the 2014-15 season, scoring 7 goals in 6 games, tops in the NHL. Nash, who was the subject of much criticism over the off-season for “not showing up” in the playoffs despite strong possession numbers, is in for a bit of a wake up call, which may be coming sooner than later. Ranger fans should be expecting a goal-scoring slump from the winger, but it’s ok.
Nash has had strong possession numbers over the course of his first two seasons with the Rangers. His CF% is 54.8 over that span. This season, in even strength situations, Nash’s CF% and FF% are last on the team (44.9 and 43.1 respectively). His saving grace thus far has been an insanely high and unsustainable SH% of 44.4%, which is going to drop dramatically over the course of the season. For a player who led the NHL in shots last postseason while only scoring 3 goals, he was bound to find a string of good fortune and he seems to have found it early on this year.
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Just saying the name brings up a debate that becomes more heated than the never-ending Michael Del Zotto debates. A first round pick who is still just 21 years old, Miller has been touted as high as a potential 1C (not happening) to an epic bust (too soon, but also not likely). Much like the discussions about him, Miller has also played all over the place in the lineup.
But here’s what we do know about Miller: He had a great preseason, and seemed to finally take the next step after two years of bouncing back and forth from the AHL. He is close to a point-per-game in the AHL, so he has offensive talent. Prior to this season, he was also a defensive tire fire.
So what can the Rangers do with Miller?
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The Rangers have formally announced that Ryan McDonagh will be the 27th captain in New York Rangers history. The Rangers were without a captain following the trade of Ryan Callahan and the buyout of (more or less) acting captain Brad Richards. Naming McDonagh captain was the worst kept secret in the organization, as it was widely expected this summer.
Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Martin St. Louis, and Derek Stepan will be the alternate captains.
Thank you Bob Gainey, Scott Gomez, and all those involved in the Gomez for McDonagh swap.
A must keep.
When we last checked in on Marc Staal, he was rumored to be looking for a Dan Girardi contract, roughly $5.5 million over six years. The cost isn’t that big of a deal with a rising cap, and the term is fine by me since Staal is just 28 years old (34 when that contract would expire). Sure, having two contract like that might be harmful, but Staal is a top-four defender, and that’s what they get nowadays.
It’s highly unlikely the Rangers will play out the entire season without a deal in place for Staal. Like Girardi and Ryan Callahan last year, the Rangers will work to get a deal done, and if they aren’t close, will trade Staal at the deadline. It’s not a guarantee, but last year set the precedent that the Rangers will not let their top guys leave for nothing. But that hasn’t stopped the Marc Staal rumors from cirulating, from trade to re-sign to letting him walk.
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Incase you missed it the Rangers and defenseman John Moore finally reached an agreement on a one-year $850,500 contract on Wednesday. Moore, who is slotted in to the Rangers bottom defensive pairing once again, will be entering his fourth NHL season in 2014/15. At 23 years old (24 in November), the 2009 first round draft pick is running out of time to make me, amongst others, find confidence in his ability to blossom into the top four defenseman we were told he could be.
After noticing a lot of debate amongst Rangers fans I decided to take a closer look at Moore’s 5v5 metrics (his PP TOI was too small a sample for me to consider of any value).
The first thing that pops out when looking at Moore’s 5v5 numbers is his zone start percentage (ZS%) of 64%. Amongst 2013/14 Metropolitan Division defensemen this was the highest ZS% for anyone. Moore should have been able to thrive being placed in the offensive zone as often as he was, however his result was less than impressive. Moore held a corsi for percentage (CF%) of 51.7% with his relative CF% (relCF%) at -1.26%, an awful number when taking into account how he was handed the offensive zone on a silver platter. This is not out of the ordinary for Moore, who has failed to record a positive relCF% since breaking into the league with regular playing time in 2011/12 .
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Talking about needing to fill a big hole.
When the Rangers signed Dan Boyle to a two-year deal worth $9 million, they were signing someone to fill a pair of holes. The first hole to fill was that of the now departed Anton Stralman on the second pair, and the second was to fill Brad Richards’ role on the powerplay. It’s a gamble to take on a 38-year-old defenseman, but it’s a calculated gamble that, in reality, is relatively low-risk considering the term.
In Boyle, the Rangers get one of the premier powerplay quarterbacks in the game, albeit several years past his prime. Almost half of Boyle’s offensive contributions throughout his career have been with the man advantage, something the Rangers have sorely missed since the Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, and Jaromir Jagr trio left town. His booming shot from the point still commands respect, and his ability to move the puck is still solid.
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Well, he can do this.
If you’ve been coming here for a while, then you know we very rarely call out management decisions. It’s not our style. We question, we find positives, we find reasons, and while we may not agree with a transaction, we discuss and move on. This is one of those rare occurrences where I tried, but could not. But don’t take that the wrong way, there’s still plenty of discussion to be had over Tanner Glass.
Look, I understand why Alain Vigneault wanted him. I understand why Glen Sather wanted him. He’s a good skater, he’s fairly fast, he’s familiar with AV’s style, he kills penalties, and he wins fights (which doesn’t really mean anything in relation to wins). The Rangers had a big, big hole on the fourth line when they lost both Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett, and they wanted Glass for the aforementioned reasons. I get it.
But as we did with Lee Stempniak (a signing we love here), it’s time to take a look into the deeper numbers for Glass.
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Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images
When the Rangers signed Lee Stempniak to a one-year deal worth $900,000, many applauded Glen Sather. He found another low-risk, high-reward player that could potentially replace Benoit Pouliot on the third line. In all honesty, they are pretty identical players from a #fancystats point of view. But of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story.
One of the best parts about Stempniak’s signing is that he’s a right-handed shot. Based on that alone he helps the left-handed heavy Rangers be a bit more balanced on the wings, and potentially on the powerplay. He’s a strong possession forward who plays a solid, if unspectacular, two-way game. He also saw some significant time on the penalty kill with the Flames/Penguins last season. so he presents even more flexibility on special teams.
But one of the bigger questions is about how he will affect his teammates on the ice.
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Some quick notes (before I head off to Aruba…yea, be jealous) about the prospects, free agency, and those who left the Rangers.
- Brady Skjei, who by all accounts appears to be NHL ready, will be returning to the University of Minnesota for his junior year. Skjei is a first pairing defenseman with the club, and was instrumental in leading them to the inaugural B1G Championship last season. Skjei wants to win a Frozen Four before turning pro.
- Anton Stralman, who turned down a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers mid-year, was disappointed that the Rangers never “really” negotiated with him. That offer was rumored to be increased to four years and $4 million per year. Stralman eventually signed a five-year deal worth $4.5 million per season.
- Mats Zuccarello knows the Rangers are right up against the cap, and will work with the team to settle on a deal. However, he understands that he can’t take a pay cut either.
- Jeff Gorton is on the record saying the Rangers want another forward. I wouldn’t expect this to be a big landing, probably just a journeyman on a “show-me” deal like Benoit Pouliot’s last year.
- Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello have all filed for arbitration.