Category: State of the Rangers

Should the Rangers retain Brian Boyle?

(Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images)

(Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images)

With the regular season coming to an end in a few short weeks, speculation will increase as to whether Brian Boyle should be retained or not. For the right price, Glen Sather should absolutely keep Boyle – for the short term. It may be Boyle’s demands that scupper any extension with New York, but from a pure skill perspective he still fills multiple needs for the Rangers.

The Rangers are not a good face-off team. Derek Stepan is at best inconsistent in the face-off circle and, with Brad Richards likely to leave in the summer, the Rangers definitely need some face-off proficiency wherever they can get it. This is a big reason why keeping Boyle is a wise move. Boyle is a solid defensive player (he’s one of the best fourth line players in the game) and he’s essential to the penalty kill, A big part of that is because of his face-off ability.

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Stralman rejects three-year, $9 million offer

Per Larry Brooks, Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman has rejected a contract extension from the Rangers worth $9 million over three years. Stralman, who signed as a free agent during the 2011-2012 season, has a line of 1-7-8 in 63 games this year while playing on the second pairing with Marc Staal. The recent acquisition of Kevin Klein –couple with Stralman’s poor play lately– has moved Stralman to the bottom pairing with John Moore.

Stralman is on the final year of his deal that pays him $1.8 million ($1.7 million cap hit). Despite the low offensive production, Stralman is the team leader in relative puck possession (+7.3% Corsi relative). He starts 51.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which helps his puck possession stats a bit, and has seen the fourth-highest quality of competition among defensemen (which makes sense based on his usage).

The rejection is a bit….confusing. Then again, Andrew MacDonald turned down $4 million a year from the Islanders. So what do I know?

Where does Raphael Diaz fit in?

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

When the Rangers sent a 2015 5th round pick to Vancouver for Raphael Diaz, many wondered where he would fit in. The Rangers seem set in the top-four with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, and Marc Staal. They also have a fairly effective third pair in John Moore and Anton Stralman, although that pairing has been rather inconsistent of late. With Justin Falk serving as the backup, the acquisition of Diaz –at least on the surface– seemed odd.

But this isn’t an acquisition that we should sleep on. Aside from the obvious depth issues (Falk would be getting at least 10 minutes a night if there were an injury to one of the top-six), the Rangers are one of the worst in the NHL at getting production from their blue liners. Diaz isn’t just some scrub pick up. He’s got more points than Moore, Stralman, Klein, Falk, and Staal. From offensive production alone, he’s already third among Rangers blue liners.

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Rangers can’t afford to be wasteful with draft picks

Diaz cannot represent a waste of a draft pick when the dust settles

Diaz cannot represent a waste of a draft pick when the dust settles

Henrik Lundqvist was picked 205th overall in 2000. Ryan Callahan was a 4th round pick in 2004. Anton Stralman was a late round draft pick, and even former Rangers such as Nigel Dawes offered mid round value to the franchise. All the above are just a few examples that evidence that you don’t just throw away draft picks, no matter the round.

With the acquisition of Raphael Diaz from Vancouver for a 5th round pick on deadline day, it was perhaps alarming to hear Alain Vigneault refer to the Swiss blueliner as another ‘depth guy’. Of course, no one is expecting the former Montreal Canadien to come in and log twenty minutes per night or put up huge offensive numbers, but it’s important the franchise get value from the defenseman if they’re giving up a pick for him.

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Dealing for Ryan Kesler is smart, but not at the expense of Derek Stepan

Kesler

Kesler

There is a lot of interested in trading for Ryan Kesler, and for good reason. Kesler is a top line center who is usually good for about 60 points per season when he isn’t hurt. He plays a solid two-way, three-zone game, and would give the Rangers a lot of options in their top-six. In a vacuum, dealing for Kesler is a very shrewd move that would cement the Rangers place as a true contender in the Eastern Conference.

The problem is the cost. The Canucks are rumored to want a “young center that is 20-25 years old, a top prospect, and a third round pick.” You can’t blame them for wanting this much, as Kesler is locked up for another two seasons at $5 million per year. For the Rangers, that would mean dealing Derek Stepan, a top forward prospect (Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast), and the pick.

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New Girardi deal helps Rangers with organisational weakness

Girardi staying helps the Rangers look elsewhere long term. Photo Credit: US Presswire

Girardi staying helps the Rangers look elsewhere long term. Photo Credit: US Presswire

For several years the Rangers had a relatively steady flow of defensive prospects make it to the NHL through the system. Whether it was Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer or Girardi himself, the Rangers were able to supplement the NHL roster with cost effective home grown talent. Recently, there have been concerns of the talent approaching the NHL level.

With the relatively slow progress made by Dylan McIlrath (who still has time on his side) and the unknown NHL projections of Brady Skjei and Calle Andersson, the Rangers don’t have the ability to promote from within. Perhaps Conor Allen aside, there is very little that could step up in short notice.

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The Rangers cannot afford to trade Derek Stepan

Derek Stepan needs to be kept in a Ranger jersey.

Derek Stepan needs to be kept in a Ranger jersey.

It’s the time in hockey season where rumours are rampant. Ryan Callahan is apparently already half way out the door, the Rangers are apparently in bed with Martin St Louis and apparently Glen Sather will ‘check in’ on Ryan Kesler. All of these rumours have legs to some degree, so when you hear Derek Stepan’s name mooted as a piece Vancouver may want back for any Kesler deal, it does make you question the moving pieces.

The Rangers, for the long term, cannot afford to move Stepan. Not just because he is a home grown, quality player but because too much change is never a good thing. Consider the likely departure of Brad Richards in the summer. Consider also the expiring contracts of Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore. Then throw into the mix the still uncertain future of Derick Brassard (How much is enough? Is he even kept?). There is a legitimate chance in all of this then that the Rangers entire center ice unit changes. Until you realize no team in their right mind  would change an entire position over one deadline/off-season. Right, Glen?…

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GSAA: a step in the right direction, but hardly essential

Phys.org

Phys.org

A little over a week ago, one of my go-to publications, InGoal Magazine, released an interesting article, entitled GSAA: An Essential Statistic for Evaluating Goaltenders, touting a new advanced metric for analyzing goaltending, called GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average).  The author, Greg Balloch, does a nice job of breaking down the specific methodology that goes into determining how many goals a goaltender saves above the league-average.  Here is Greg’s explanation of the mechanics from the article:

 You take the league’s average save percentage and apply it to the amount of shots a particular goalie has faced. You get a number of goals that the average goalie in that league would have surrendered if they faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question. That number gets compared to the number of goals surrendered by that goaltender, and a plus/minus is created. If a goalie is in the positive, that is how many goals they have saved compared to a league-average goalie. If they are in the negative, then it is safe to assume that they are performing worse than how a league-average goaltender would perform in the same situation.

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The lines Alain Vigneault found success with are about to be changed, probably for good

The return of Derek Dorsett plus the call up of J.T. Miller minus Mats Zuccarello and maybe Ryan Callahan equals…?

I still can’t get used to Alain Vigneault’s steady line combinations after four years of John Tortorella’s incessant juggling, but Vigneault has stuck with the same combinations for quite some time now.  It’s worth nothing that the Rangers finally turned a corner this season thanks in no small part to the team’s balance and chemistry up front.  Mats Zuccarello has been the team’s best forward so far this season and a key cog in Vigneault’s formula, but with him lost for likely another week or two (not to mention the upcoming trade deadline), Vigneault will be forced to rejigger his preferred trios.

Throw in the fact that winger Derek Dorsett is ready to return from a broken fibula and 20-year-old J.T. Miller, who has been dominant in the AHL, was recalled last night, and it’s tough to predict what Vigneault will end up with.  It’s probably most likely that Vigneault will be forced to try several different new looks – which might not be settled by the trade deadline in three games, throwing us back to square one.

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Does Kevin Klein affect Dylan Mcllrath’s future?

What does the future hold for Dylan McIlrath? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

What does the future hold for McIlrath? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

When the Rangers made their Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein swap with the Predators, they gave up on a frustrating offensive talent and went with the less able but more reliable stay at home, physical type. What they also did was commit to a player whose size and physical ability is likely to be on the Rangers blue line for several seasons. They also committed to someone that inadvertently may be a road block for one of the franchise’s key draft picks, Dylan McIlrath.

While Klein doesn’t possess the same potential snarl or size as McIlrath, the additional four years (at $2.9 million per year) means the Rangers have solidified their third pairing with the type of player they’ve needed for what seems like generations. Is there still room for McIlrath? With his skating ability still his biggest question mark, Mcllrath’s future is at least partly dependent with how Klein acclimatises to New York, with the initial solid performances promising.

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