Welcome to Part II of the Top 30. In case you missed our first installment, you can find that right here. Bizarrely enough, there are no housekeeping matters to attend to with this portion of the article (you can find all relevant rules, methodologies, etc. in the first post), so let’s dive right in with rankings 20-11…
20. Steve Mason- Philadelphia Flyers. Last year’s ranking: 27
- Mason has been kicking around the list for the past two seasons right on the cusp of the #30 spot. He was always just that one shaky year from fading into oblivion after a remarkable start to his career. Last season, Mason finally started to round back into form, in Philadelphia, of all places. He was rewarded with the starting job (courtesy of Ray Emery) and a, we’ll call it “generous”, three-year contract. All eyes on Mason in the City of Brotherly Love this season to confirm last year wasn’t a fluke.
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It’s that time of year again; welcome to the 3rd Annual Top 30 Goaltender’s List! Before we get started, just a couple housekeeping matters to attend to. There are no major changes to the methodology this year. I am still advising a hypothetical “team” on how to prioritize seeking a goaltending solution, irrespective of standings, roster composition, contention window or organizational view of its current options. The rankings are obviously subjective, so feel free (and encouraged!) to disagree with me.
Last year, I introduced a “dropped” section to give a little context as to why goalies who appeared on the first year’s installment didn’t make the cut the following season. Unfortunately, this year saw a huge drop off in the 30-21 range (8 goalies), so I don’t have room for that section this year. With all that out of the way, let’s start with the honorable mentions:
James Reimer- Toronto Maple Leafs: I’ve never been a Reimer fan, and after losing his job to Jonathan Bernier, failing to perform in big games and being involved in perpetual trade rumors, I felt justified in leaving him off the list. Whenever the inevitable trade to Winnipeg comes, he can continue to be a key contributor to mediocrity.
Ondrej Pavelec- Winnipeg Jets: Speaking of Winnipeg, I’m done waiting for Pavelec’s A-list talent and D-List work ethic to develop. He has squandered a golden opportunity to be a fantastic NHL tender, but now the KHL seems more likely than ever once his ridiculous five-year contract expires.
Cam Talbot- New York Rangers: After a fantastic rookie Cam-paign (see what I did there?), Talbot looks to show that last season was no fluke before hitting the open market in July in search of a starting job. I thought it was a little premature to include him, but he is well on his way.
Onto the Top 30 Proper…
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In a bit of old news (sorry for being late on this one), the Rangers have hired ex-Vancouver Assistant Coach Daryl Williams to join Alain Vigenault’s coaching staff. Williams will replace the now departed Dan Lacroix, and will likely be AV’s “eye in the sky.”
The Montreal Canadiens have hired Rangers Assistant Coach Dan Lacroix to their coaching staff. Lacroix joined the Rangers last summer, watching games from the press box to give coach Alain Vigneault the “eye in the sky” view.
Lacroix’s depature leaves Scott Arniel, Ulf Samuelsson, and Benoit Allaire as the coaching staff under AV.
Last night, the Rangers re-signed their final arbitration eligible RFA, locking up Derick Brassard to a five-year deal at $5 million per season. This came a few days after locking up another key RFA, Mats Zuccarello to a one-year deal at $3.5 million. The reactions to the Brassard and Zuccarello contracts seem to be a bit mixed. Fans are clearly happy the players are back, but the contracts seem to be “backwards” as most have communicated.
It’s true, the Rangers took a calculated risk with Zuccarello, and a little less of a risk with Brassard. But let’s tackle the first question: Why did the Rangers give Brassard more than he was asking for in arbitration?
The answer here is simple: Arbitration for Brassard was a one-year request, and it would make him a UFA at the age of 27, where he could cash in big time from a team in need of a 2C/3C. The Rangers bought four of those UFA years, through the age of 31 (remember, Brass will be playing out his twenties in New York, not his thirties). That costs money. In fact, it only cost them $50,000 more per year for those seasons.
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Kreider could be a league wide bargain next year – if he reaches his potential.
Everyone will be breathing a little easier now Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello are under contract for next season but the potential fallout of the two deals really is a mixed bag for the Rangers.
Assuming Alain Vigneault can continue to improve Kreider’s defense, Kreider’s contract should immediately become a bargain. The big, skilled forward has the potential to explode this coming season. He is now firmly established in the NHL, will have another camp under his belt, will be coming off a solid playoff season and will also want to prove that he was worth that $2.9 million he was demanding prior to agreeing with Glen Sather earlier this week.
Kreider is still all about potential and –while still slightly raw– he has 30-40 goal potential. Given his likely line mates (Stepan and Nash) and his talent, there’s no reason why he can’t hit 30 goals this coming season. In fact 30 is a number many fans will expect (albeit unfairly expect) from Kreider given his development over the past year. Twenty-One players scored 30 or more goals during the last regular season, and only Ryan Johansen of the Blue Jackets (33 goals, on his entry level contract) earned less than $3 million.
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Photo: New York Times
As the lone RFA from the Rangers that is not arbitration eligible, the John Moore contract renewal falls at the bottom of the to-do list for the Rangers. Moore’s contract will become more of a focus after Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello all sign, but that doesn’t mean Moore is forgotten about. If you remember Glen Sather’s history, he waits until August to get his non-arbitration RFAs under contract.
As for Moore, he’s coming off his ELC that paid him $810,000 in salary, with an additional $125,000 available in performance bonuses. The 23-year-old defenseman played the majority of his time on the third pairing, splitting his time with Michael Del Zotto and Kevin Klein. Moore played his weak side before the Del Zotto/Klein swap, moving to his strong side once the right-handed Klein came on board. Moore also put up career highs in goals (4), assists (11), and points (15) this season while averaging between 11-13 minutes per game.
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Photo: Michael Ivins, USA TODAY Sports
Derick Brassard is the third and final RFA that filed for arbitration this month (Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider). I’ve looked at both Kreider’s and Zuccarello’s next contracts already, and with arbitration dates coming up, it’s time to look at Brassard’s potential deal.
Brassard is an interesting case, if only because of his high salary and inconsistent production. Despite his inconsistencies, he was a part of the most consistent line and powerplay unit for the Rangers last year. Brass has been a 50-point pace guy in the regular season, and has actually been a nice playoff producer as well. He is just off his second contract, which paid him $3.7 million last year (his QO) at a cap hit of $3.2 million over hit over the four years of the contract. At 26 years old, the Rangers will be buying his UFA years.
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Will #36 soon be celebrating a fat new deal? Image: Getty
Mats Zuccarello and his agent will have enjoyed the news out of Buffalo when the Sabres announced the new deal for Tyler Ennis this week. Ennis grabbed 43 points (21 goals) for an awful Sabres side who scored a meagre 150 goals all year. Ennis somehow managed to be a minus 25 but on such a bad side, it can be expected to some degree. While Ennis is (at least on paper) a more established NHL’er than Zuccarello, there are similarities.
Both players are on the smaller side, speedy forwards that are creative with the puck. Neither player would be considered a shoot first player but both have an underrated shot. Ennis’ star has been a slow burner but he’s certainly trending in the right direction – much like Zuccarello. Prior to last year, during his last full 82 game season (2010-11) Ennis grabbed 49 points and 20 goals and he’s averaged better than a point every other game in the two years in between.
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Following the news of former New York Ranger and fan favourite Brandon Dubinsky signing an excessive (market representative?) new deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets I was having a twitter chat with well-informed Ranger fan and friend of the blog George Ays (Ranger Smurf). We started discussing the Derek Stepan situation and how Dubinsky’s deal affects the talented Ranger pivot.
Derek Stepan represents a huge headache for the Rangers management. He has already proven he’ll stick to his guns and risk a holdout if he doesn’t get what he feels he deserves and if this summer has shown anything, it’s that it’s very much a sellers’ market. There truly is a dearth of available young talent at the center position. In other words, Stepan knows that if he has a strong season in 2015, he’s getting a truck load of cash.
In fact, the stark reality is that Stepan doesn’t need to be brilliant next year and he’s still going to get rewarded. A young, American forward who has been close to a point/game player (albeit in a lock-out shortened year), who has contributed heavily to a run to the Cup Final and who is arguably the top line center on an original six team? The kid is going to get paid even as a pending RFA. The next deal Stepan signs will likely buy up some UFA years and that’s where it begins to get expensive.
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