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The New York Rangers ought to be concerned and not necessarily because of Derek Stepan’s current contract situation but because of the looming contract issues that currently sit just over the horizon. The NHL annual free agency frenzy was surprisingly (and encouragingly) muted this summer but don’t let that fool you.
The leagues’ posse of general managers realised value for money wasn’t there, perhaps money and internal resources weren’t there to spend and as a result we saw a lot less head scratching moves made. However, some of the contracts that were dished out bordered on the ridiculous. And it starts with arguably the most exciting player to be moved this week in Brandon Saad who joined Columbus in a multi-player swap.
Last Saturday was a very, very strange day in Rangersland. So many of us were either angry, or in denial, or still numb to the incredulous feeling of losing a Game 7 at the Garden. I thought for sure one thing would be true, with 2012 as a good indicator: the 2014-15 NHL season was over.
Laying out beside a pool with two of my diehard Ranger fan friends, we went through most of the motions of grieving. There was anger, questioning, bargaining, heck I think I got choked up once or twice… but then something strange happened. We remembered that there was a Game 7 that night, and we made plans to head out that night to watch it.
How could that be? We’re Rangers fans, man, this was our year. We can’t watch anymore. The only benefit of losing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final is that after that, it was over, there was no worrying about who you wanted to win the Cup. Sadly, last year also taught us that the offseason is very, very long. When you get excited to watch a replayed TOR-ANA game live in a bar in Toronto, you know the withdrawal is real.
One of the silver linings to the Rangers’ season ending in slightly premature fashion is that we have opportunity to bring back the BSB Off-Season Plan Contest. We first launched this little exercise in the summer of 2013 and it was a tremendous success. Since there are so many moving parts up in the air this summer, there should be ample opportunity for creative maneuverings.
The rules are fairly simple. You, the wonderful BSB community, will submit an off-season proposal to the writing staff. You will have all of the existing cap space and assets of the organization at your disposal to sign players, make trades, call up young players and re-sign/extend current players. Your plan should be a comprehensive outline detailing your goals and plan of attack for the roster, taking us from draft day to the start of training camp. Read More→
The Rangers took Game One with a strong showing of puck possession and defensive play. They got a lucky bounce for the game winner, but that’s how playoff hockey works most of the time. Henrik Lundqvist was again strong, as he has been all playoffs. Ben Bishop was also extremely good, so the Rangers will need to do a better job of making him move.
This Rangers team the Bolts are looking at are not the same Rangers they played seven months ago. There are very few teams in the league with the speed to match Tampa, and even fewer with the defense to shut them down. The Rangers have both, and it frustrated the Bolts on Saturday afternoon.
– I thought Monday was among Rick Nash’s best games of the year, and by far his best of the playoffs. Nash has been far better this postseason compared to last, but he’s still not finishing. That doesn’t make Nash a bad player, but it also means New York is going to have a tough time winning.
– Braden Holtby has been dominant. And yeah, the Rangers didn’t get nearly enough traffic in front of him early in Game 3, but Holtby has been in hero mode for the whole postseason. While goaltending issues have arisen for several other supposed contenders, Holtby has climbed close to the top of the list when you think about the league’s best netminders.
– I still think The Ghost of Marty St. Louis has one signature moment left, but he’s really fighting it. He’s a far cry from Mats Zuccarello on the top line, but luckily young bucks like Jesper Fast have been picking up some of the slack.
– Zuccarello’s absence has been evident from the opening puck drop of the series. The Blueshirts are an extremely deep team and could withstand most injuries, but Zuccarello is about as irreplaceable as it gets.
– Alex Ovechkin is terrifying. He didn’t even register a point on Monday night and his fingerprints were all over the game. The saying “you have to know where he is on every shift” is cliche and overused, but it absolutely applies to The Great 8 right now. This might be the best he’s ever played.
– One of the big knocks on the Capitals has been their lack of solid depth players behind Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but it’s hard to understand when you see the contributions guys like Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle make. Adding Evgeny Kuznetsov to the mix has been absolutely huge for Washington, too.
– Let’s not forget about Eric Fehr, who is still expected to return in this series. Fehr isn’t nearly as important to Washington as Zuccarello is to the Rangers, but he’s a solid secondary scorer that will only extend the Capitals’ lineup.
– I wrote about it last week, but the way the Caps play now is so reminiscent of John Tortorella’s Rangers. They keep you to the outside, block shots, play physical, outhustle you and have the star goaltender to hold it all together. The 2-1 deficit here isn’t because the Blueshirts are doing much wrong, it’s because Washington is a very, very good team.
– I thought this would go seven, and I still do.
Update: It’s been brought to my attention that MSG retracted this, and that Amirante will be appearing “from time to time” as a guest performer.
Saturday night was the last time John Amirante sang the National Anthem to begin a New York Rangers game. It marked 35 years of Amirante singing the anthem, a history that started in 1980. Amirante was singing about half of the Rangers games in 2009, but the number of games in which he had been performing had dwindled significantly since. He sang just four games this season, with this past Saturday marking his unceremonious retirement.
Amirante has been synonymous with Rangers hockey since I was born. It is truly disturbing that the organization not only forced him out, but tried to do so without letting Amirante say goodbye to the crowd that has cheered him for 35 years. You can view that video on Blueshirt Banter.
Amirante’s history goes beyond just singing the anthem before Rangers games. He sang the anthem following the tragedies of 9/11. He sang after Ronald Regan was shot in 1981. But perhaps his most emotional was singing just days after the death of his daughter in 1985.
My personal favorite is when Amirante sang before Game 7 in 1994 against the Canucks, when you couldn’t even hear him singing. He was so into it, the fans were so into it. Truly a memorable moment for an iconic voice inside MSG.
Per Newsday, Amirante wanted to retire with dignity, and the organization did not allow him to do so. As Amirante stated, a formal announcement, to allow Amirante to say goodbye to the fans, and to allow the fans to say goodbye to Amirante, would have been the right way to do things. It was only because Newsday broke the news that Amirante got a partial send-off. Not nearly the one he deserved, though.
Chris is still out gallivanting around this glorious country of ours, so I’m covering his musings today. I don’t like to dawdle with long intros, so let’s get right to it. It’s the final musings before the trade deadline.
- There has been a lot of action the past two days, and it looks like all of the solid potential targets that we wanted for the Rangers are now gone. Let’s recap the trades around the league:
- Montreal sends Jiri Sekac to Anaheim for Devante Smith-Pelly
- Florida sends Sean Bergenheim and a 7th round pick in 2016 to Minnesota for a 2016 3rd round pick
- Carolina sends Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg for a 2016 3rd round pick and a conditional 2015 6th round pick
- Toronto sends Daniel Winnik to Pittsburgh for Zach Sill, a 2015 4th round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick
- Caolina sends Andrej Sekera to LA for a 2015 1st round pick and solid prospect Ronald McKeown
- All of that happened since Tuesday, which leads us to believe that actual deadline day will be boring. Of course now that I said that, there will be 14 blockbusters. No more. No less.
- The Rangers could have really used Winnik to shore up that fourth line if they aren’t sold on Lee Stempniak or Oscar Lindberg. Tanner Glass is no longer a viable option there. The Rangers probably could have acquired Winnik for the same price, but draft picks are becoming a rare commodity for New York. I can see the logic.
- That said, I think the asking price for Bergenheim was just fine, and something the Rangers should have gone for. He was one of those guys that came up in the same chart as Mats Zuccarello when I analyzed him a few weeks back.
Oscar Lindberg’s stay with the Rangers was brief, subbing in for the injured Rick Nash for last night’s 1-0 win over the Calgary Flames. Lindberg was immediately returned to the Hartford Wolf Pack following the game. This is likely due to the fact that cap space is very tight, and since cap space is calculated on a daily basis, Lindberg’s $760,000 cap hit only stays on the book for one day (about $4,000 over a 160 day NHL season). If they need him again Saturday, they will call him up then.
As for his performance, Lindberg played 8:18 on 16 shifts, primarily with J.T. Miller and Carl Hagelin. He was a +4 SATF/CF in those eight minutes. He had 2 SOG, 3 hits, and won 2 of 5 faceoffs. He was tentative on his first few shifts, but seemed to gain comfort and confidence as the game progressed. Lindberg played just two shifts in the third period.
Today is the NHL All Star Game, and Rick Nash will be the lone representative for the New York Rangers. Yesterday, Team Foligno beat Team Toews in the skills competition 25-19 after all six events were completed. I didn’t get a chance to watch that (or the draft, which was supposedly very cool), but it appears a good time was had by all, fans, players, and viewers.
The game itself is today at 5pm, and I again will not be able to watch. I’m a busy guy, what can I say? Anyway, use this as your open thread for the game.
Happy Friday, BSB faithful! I know it’s been a while (blame accounting), but the live chat makes its triumphant return this afternoon. We can talk All-Star stuff, the recent run, contracts, whatever. We will get started at noon, but make sure to stop by at 11:45am to fill the queue with questions. See everyone in a bit!