Archive for State of the Rangers

James Sheppard makes his Rangers debut against the Detroit Red Wings tonight so from a Rangers perspective we know very little about Sheppard. What we do know about Sheppard is that he brings faceoff skill (better than all but Dom Moore on the Rangers), versatility and defensive ability to the table. As a top ten pick back in 2006 he brings pedigree and perhaps some untapped offense as well (was tabbed as a scorer before he got rushed by the Wild).

In the past Sheppard has had a tough time staying healthy but resurrected his career in San Jose via the AHL. He has become solid depth player at the NHL level even if Minnesota expected more when they drafted him. Sheppard’s arrival also means (health allowing) we’ve seen the last of Oscar Lindberg in New York this season after a mere one game cameo.

The bigger question now becomes what Sheppard’s arrival means for Lindberg in the mid to long term. After all, there’s only so long a prospect is allowed to dwindle in the minors and only so long before that prospect wants a change for the sake of his own career development as well.

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Once again it seemed like Rangers GM Glen Sather had little to no maneuverability under the salary cap, and once again Slats found a way to wriggle his payroll under the cap ceiling.

By exploiting a to this point little-used clause in the new collective bargaining agreement, Sather got Arizona to eat half of Yandle’s contract. Of course Sather had to sweeten his offers to persuade the Coyotes to offer financial aid, but Sather still shrewdly found a way to take on salary and improve his club when it seemed to be nearly impossible.

The Coyotes will absorb half of Yandle’s cap hit again next year, but the $2.625 million the Rangers have added to their payroll is still going to be difficult to work around given that the guys Yandle is replacing, John Moore and Matt Hunwick, counted just $851k and $600k, respectively, against the cap this season. Read More→

Perhaps the biggest concern with the deal for Keith Yandle is that the Rangers gave up Anthony Duclair to land Yandle. There was plenty of outrage over dealing Duclair, and it’s tough to really blame people for the outrage. Duclair isn’t even 20 yet, cracked the roster out of camp, and was showing significant promise as a potential impact player.

Despite what he showed in camp, Duclair was still a prospect, and thus a relative unknown. He may turn into a 30-goal scorer, he may not. We may look at this as the Anthony Duclair trade in five years, we may not. The Rangers needed to give something of value to get Yandle at half his cap hit, and Duclair was the guy they selected to give up.

Looking into the roster construction, it’s fairly easy to see why they sent Duclair to Arizona.

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At last season’s trade deadline, the Rangers played chicken with their captain. Ryan Callahan was demanding a relatively outrageous contract extension that the Rangers were extremely hesitant to hand out. He was looking for top line dollars to play a well rounded, third line game. Down in Tampa, the Bolts’ long-time captain wasn’t feeling the love anymore. A first-ballot Hall of Famer left off the Olympic roster by his own GM. It was a recipe for bad blood.

Glen Sather was forced to make a choice between a legitimate top 6 upgrade or letting a homegrown, valuable player walk for nothing if his contract demands did not back down into reasonable territory. Ultimately, I still believe that Sather gave up too much ancillary value in the form of two first round picks, but such is life. The point is, it was appropriate for Sather to make that call in the middle of a competitive run. Upgrades are upgrades. Draft picks can be sorted out later. Read More→

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.

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*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→

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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.

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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→

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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?

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Categories : Goaltending
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