Archive for State of the Rangers
Much has been made of the Rangers’ salary cap woes with the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin set to be free agents and the ceiling unlikely to increase much in the offseason. However, the emergence of several top prospects has made biting the bullet of letting a key player or two go much easier.
Obviously every franchise wants to retain as much talent as possible, but of course there is only so much money and so many positions to go around. The good news is that the team is well prepared to weather a significant loss.
Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich are potential replacements for Zuccarello, St. Louis and Hagelin; Brady Skjei will take the Matt Hunwick/John Moore job; and now it looks like even Oscar Lindberg could be useful should the team need to deal Dominic Moore in a penny-saving move.
*due to the large percentage of the BSB staff who were physically at the Canucks game, Dave’s goal breakdown will be posted this afternoon.
The entirety of the Rangers’ community held their collective breath during the announcement that franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was experiencing continued symptoms from his fluke neck injury. It was a strange coalescence of events that ended in a vascular injury and an uncertain timetable for his return. In his stead, it was a no-brainer to turn to Cam Talbot. What was somewhat surprising was that 20-year old MacKenzie Skapski got the nod to play second string for the big club.
That’s not a knock on Skapski, mind you, who has been playing very solid hockey in his first pro-season in the AHL. After eight games without Lundqvist, Skapski is still yet to start a game (however rumored to be starting tonight in Buffalo). Since Lundqvist’s injury is relatively rare in hockey, his timetable and confidence is his overall health going forward somewhat suspect. All of this begs the question of whether the Rangers would be wise to bring in some additional goaltending depth prior to the deadline. With this in mind, I thought I’d break down some low-cost candidates who could be waived if need be in the event Hank comes back strong and ready to go for the stretch run.
MacKenzie Skapski, New York Rangers:
Let’s start with the obvious. The Rangers could simply give Skapski a try and see if he can handle the speed of the NHL game. I admittedly haven’t seen much of him, but the little I have watched shows a quick, athletic tender, with a tendency to get too busy in his movements and can overplay his positioning. Beniot Allaire is a master at quieting a goaltender’s motions (see Talbot, Cam), so I think this possibility is worth a shot. Better than Skapski riding the bench until Hank returns.
Yann Danis, Hartford Wolfpack:
Alternatively, the Rangers could swap Skapski for career journeyman Yann Danis. The 33-year old Quebec native has seen NHL action for the Habs, Islanders, Devils and Oilers over the course of his career, posting decent numbers in small samples. Something tells me he would make it through waivers on his way back down, and I would much rather see him decorating the bench at MSG and letting Skapski play in Hartford in the Rangers don’t see playing time in MacKenzie’s short-term future.
Anders Lindback, Buffalo Sabres: (1 year/$925k, pending UFA)
Just a couple years back I was a big fan of Lindback. He was a big goalie who had played well in limited time behind Pekka Rinne and looked to break out as a starter with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead, Lindback tanked and another massive goalie in Ben Bishop stole the crease in Florida. His large frame has gotten away from him and his mechanics have gotten all out of whack. He is as dispensable as it gets, though, turning UFA after the season.
Scott Clemmensen, Albany Devils: (1 year/$600k, pending UFA)
We’ve all seen plenty of Clemmensen over the years, both with New Jersey and Florida. He is about as vanilla as a backup goalie gets, but we can be confident in his competency for a few games at a time. The bigger question is whether Sather and Lou could get together for a trade even of this microscopic magnitude.
Reto Berra, Colorado Avalanche: (2 years/$2.9m remaining)
Two years and almost $3 million left on his deal. Pass.
Mike McKenna, Arizona Coyotes: (1 year/$550k, pending UFA)
Another career journeyman and pending UFA. McKenna has bounced around with the Lightning, Devils and Blue Jackets before landing in the desert. For what it’s worth, he has better AHL numbers than Danis does, but that’s hardly a conclusive argument for going out and getting him. Plus, it’s not like the ‘Yotes have goalie depth to spare at this point. McKenna is not likely worth the hassle for an incremental upgrade on what the Rangers already have.
Richard Bachman/Viktor Fasth, Edmonton Oilers (1 year/$615k, pending UFA/1 year/$3.4m cap hit remaining)
Bachman is another McKenna-type. Pending UFA on a small deal, but since they are overflowing with mediocre goaltenders in Edmonton, maybe this makes a little more sense. Fasth on the other hand has another year on his deal at a $3.4m cap hit. Yuck.
Jason LaBarbera, Norfolk Admirals (1 year/$750k, pending UFA)
When I first looked up old friend Jason LaBarbera, I was almost positive he was a free agent. Apparently the Ducks snuck him down to Norfolk, where he has very solid numbers in twenty games. Might be worth a flier, but not much of a huge upgrade to be had here. If he was a UFA, I’d say grab him and let him play a few games to rest Talbot, but he’s not exactly an ideal trade target.
As you can see, the pickings are slim. I don’t suppose you can really seek a meaningful upgrade when Lundqvist will hopefully be back in the next couple weeks, but depth is never a bad thing. Personally, I would soldier on with out internal options, whether that is Danis or Skapski. If I had to go outside the organization, I think Clemmensen is your best bet, but good luck with that. Moral of the story: get well soon, Hank.
What a time it is to be Glen Sather these days. One of his favorite times of the year is quickly approaching, but Sather’s carefully crafted trade deadline plan has been continuously influenced by new developments over the last few weeks.
First Henrik Lundqvist went down with a scary vascular injury, ceding his throne to backup Cam Talbot. The Prince had played well in spot duty over the last two seasons, but it was still anyone’s guess how he would respond to immediate full-time duty. Though it’s been rocky at times, Talbot has seized the job with a 5-1-1 record since taking over as the starter.
The team’s chief perceived position of need was at third-line center, but Kevin Hayes has been white-hot of late and it almost seems like it would be a shame to give away his gig in the middle to a mercenary when Hayes himself could continue raising his level. Read More→
Anyone watching the Rangers closely since preseason will have seen Kevin Hayes visibly grow and learn on the job. Considered an outside bet to make the Rangers opening night roster, on the back foot because he missed a few games through injury and starting in a position he wasn’t accustomed to playing, despite all this Hayes has done a wonderful job the past six months.
Putting his faceoff inadequacies to one side, Hayes has improved immeasurably. His decision making has become faster and more instinctive while his playmaking and passing have been particularly evident recently. What’s more, the flashes of skill he showed early in the season have been far more frequent recently as Hayes has become a consistent threat in the offensive zone. There have been games recently (encapsulated by the Avalanche victory) where Hayes’ line has been the difference for the Rangers, that’s how far Hayes has come.
Hayes has flashed Rick Nash ability driving to the net and is on course for a very acceptable and productive rookie season as a third line pivot. Sitting eighth in rookie scoring; only one rookie from the top twenty scorers has had less ice time per game highlighting how effective Hayes has been offensively. If Hayes can improve his faceoff effectiveness and shoot a little more he could have a very strong second half.
Henrik Lundqvist’s injury may have you feeling otherwise, but the Rangers remain in excellent shape to make the postseason. With an eight-point cushion over ninth-place Florida, securing a wild card berth shouldn’t be difficult even if overtaking the Penguins and Islanders for the Metro Division title may now be unrealistic.
Of course the team’s playoff hopes are pinned to Lundqvist, but there’s reason to believe the best is still ahead for the 2014-2015 Blueshirts – and it’s not because they’re sure to add an impact player by the trade deadline.
When you stop to think about it, how many players are really having standout seasons? Rick Nash, obviously. Kevin Klein has certainly exceeded expectations. Derek Stepan has been a point-per-game player when healthy. And Kevin Hayes has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Read More→
The Rangers obviously endured a significant loss with the news that Henrik Lundqvist will miss around three weeks of the regular season but here’s the thing; if it was going to happen then now is the perfect time, in the perfect situation and with a great schedule coming up. Providing Lundqvist comes back 100% the Rangers may see this as a blessing in disguise.
A quick look at the Rangers busy schedule for the next three weeks and there are several games where, based purely on standings and opposition quality, the Rangers shouldn’t ‘need’ Lundqvist which begs the question whether Talbot would have been in line for more starts this month anyway. In February alone the Rangers have several ‘bottom feeders’ on tap.
The Sabres, Coyotes (twice), Leafs are all on the February schedule while the Flames, Flyers and Avalanche also play the Rangers and aren’t exactly intimidating opponents this season either. Given Alain Vigneault’s declaration that he knew which games Talbot was going to get moving forward, did he look at the rather friendly – and busy – schedule and had already planned a heavier workload for Talbot in February?
The 2014-2015 campaign has been something of an odd season thus far. The beginning was marred by injury and ineffectiveness, although that’s not all that weird. Rangers fans have gotten somewhat used to slow starts recently. We had all the Anthony Duclair drama. Some soft goals and Hank debate. Rick Nash’s resurgence. The kids trying to make their mark. Zuccarello’s one-year deal and subsequent slow production. Marc Staal’s exntension. Salary cap issues. And, of course, Tanner Glass.
That’s a lot going on for just under fifty games. All of that of that only even gets into what was happening internally with the team. Forget the drama over Anton Stralman’s success in Tampa, Islanders all of a sudden relevance, the four horse race in the Metropolitan division, or the NHL jumping on board the #fancystat bandwagon with jersey microchips. This season has had no shortage of narratives.
As the New York Rangers powerplay continues to struggle, one area that has become a glaring issue is the lack of right-handed shots, specifically those that can be used on the powerplay. Last week I looked at the 1-3-1 powerplay the Rangers use, and how Dan Boyle’s presence as the QB has kept penalty killers honest.
The main purposes of the 1-3-1 is to create multiple passing lanes for easy shots on net. This is accomplished by having shooters at the circles on their off-wings. The problem is that the Rangers have just two right-handed shots that can play on the powerplay: Boyle and Derek Stepan. Outside of that, their only righties are Lee Stempniak, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, and Jesper Fast. Girardi is not the answer on the powerplay, as outlined by Kevin Power of Blueshirt Banter. Klein has a rocket of a shot, but that’s all he has for that spot. Fast is unknown to be honest, and Stempniak has exactly zero powerplay points.
Mats Zuccarello is not producing the goods. To some that’s a pretty inflammatory comment, but think about it for a moment. Zuccarello’s production is well down compared to last season’s impressive totals, and it’s not just because his powerplay numbers are down (an issue in its own right, covered today at noon). He’s simply not impacting games right now, and hasn’t for most of the season.
I saw a blog comment recently and the writer made a very valid point; given his linemates Zuccarello’s numbers should be much better. For the majority of the season he’s shared a line with Rick Nash, who had been on an All Star level tear, and has predominantly had Derek Stepan (close to a point per game himself) as his center, yet Zuccarello’s production is modest.
Thanks to several large, long term contracts, the Rangers face a struggle to retain Zuccarello at the end of this season. Regardless how you judge Zuccarello’s season so far, he’s surely going to expect a raise on his $3.5 million salary. He’ll also know that if he hits free agency he’ll get that raise he’s looking for because, to put it mildly, the upcoming free agent class is underwhelming at best. Remember what Benoit Pouliot got from the Oilers on the back of a solid but hardly All Star season?
Regardless of their current record, the Rangers have a lot of passengers at present – quite a few players need to improve beyond just the four we discussed yesterday. If we were being critical, how much of the solid yet unspectacular record the Rangers currently have is the product of Rick Nash’s season (so far) and Henrik Lundqvist’s December hot streak? You can argue core players such as Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, and others need to be better, but you can also reasonably suggest Alain Vigneault needs to change as well.
Most elite players (goaltending aside) around the league are ridden by their head coaches: Double shifted, out on the ice as much as reasonably possible. Sure, at times John Tortorella rode his star players too much, which can be counterproductive but consider this: Amongst the top-30 goal scorers in the league, Rick Nash sits just 19th in ice time. Nash is definitely not playing too much.
Those with less ice time than Nash included Tampa’s Kucherov, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in Detroit, and Max Pacioretty of Montreal – players on clubs who, arguably, all ice more balanced and deeper line-ups than the Rangers do up front. All three clubs certainly have more than two settled lines, which is all the Rangers have at the moment. Given the way the Islanders fourth line outworked the Rangers on Tuesday, are the Rangers losing games because they haven’t got the depth they require?