Our New York Rangers have recently signed Josh Jooris to a one-year deal, which is just one in a series of signings to revamp our bottom-six. While being a hard working player with nice hands in the NHL, Jooris was also an extremely popular player during his time with Providence College. The NCAA has become a great producer of prospects for NHL teams, most notably for the Rangers, who have a plethora of talent that went through the NCAA.
One snag that has been bothering a few GMs is the fact that a drafted player can sign with any team, not just the team that drafted him, after spending four years in college. Once again, the NYR are a beneficiary of that rule with the not lazy but super talented center Kevin Hayes. This year’s prize on August 15th is Jimmy Vesey, a former 3rd rounder of the Nashville Predators who seems poised to be a quality goal scorer.
The Rangers made their first, and possibly only, big move yesterday, shipping Derick Brassard and a 2018 7th round pick to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 2nd round pick. The move saves the Rangers $2.35 million in cap space while getting arguably equal –with the distinct possibility of it evolving into better– production while also getting younger. They also nabbed a second round pick as well. All in all, it was a solid trade for Jeff Gorton, adding to his already solid offseason. Here are my thoughts on the trade.
1 – First things first, it stinks to see Brassard go. But if any of the centers were to go, he was the only logical choice. Brass was the best trade chip for the Rangers, as Gorton cashed in on what is likely a depreciating asset. It was highly unlikely he was going to score 27 goals again next year, as he needed a whopping 15% shooting percentage to get to that. It was the first and only time Brass had ever cracked 20 goals, and at 29 years old when the season starts, he’s already peaked. Zibanejad already has a pair of 20-goal seasons at just 23 years old. Both Brassard and Zibanejad will put up 50 points next year. I’ll take the cap savings any day.
The Rangers have acquired forward Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 2nd round pick from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Derick Brassard and a 2018 7th round pick. Zibanejad, 23, put up a line of 21-30-51 last year for the Sens, following up his impressive 20-26-46 rookie campaign. He has one year left at $2.65 million on his current deal.
Brassard, 28, is coming off a career high in goals with 27 last season, and has put up 60 points the last two seasons with the Rangers. Brassard has three years left at $5 million per season.
– I’m a little stunned by some of the quality free agents still floating out there. Guys like Brandon Pirri and Justin Fontaine should be appealing to the many front offices that have hired #fancystats analysts and developed more progressive player evaluation models. A few of those players will still find homes before the season starts, but a good number will likely end up with PTOs at training camp. Remember, Lee Stempniak signed a PTO with the Devils before last season and ended up having a huge year. There’s potential for the same thing to happen with a couple of guys this season and the Rangers should be eyeing them closely.
– Overall the Rangers have made some pretty strong moves this offseason. Nick Holden should be a nice upgrade to the third pair; Nathan Gerbe, Josh Jooris and Michael Grabner bring speed, depth and penalty killing prowess; Adam Clendening and Michael Paliotta are two post-hype prospects that still have some real potential on defense; and the draft class was loaded with value picks that fit the direction of the franchise. Failing to re-sign Viktor Stalberg is the one head-scratching departure, but it’s hardly worth losing sleep over.
Last week, I proposed a somewhat scandalous suggestion, in that it doesn’t rely on either the eye test or on advanced statistics. It called upon the Rangers’ lack of enthusiasm and other intangibles that often make stats people a little upset. It’s worth a quick read prior to this post.
The majority of comments cited a need for change, that the Rangers have outrun their window to win. However, does this necessarily mean blowing up the team? From Gorton’s moves this week, it certainly looks like he’s trying to create a team to win, with prudent signings this week which will hopefully ameliorate the current core.
As Dave pointed out earlier in the week this offseason has been eerily quiet, especially considering the rumors early in the offseason that big changes were coming to the roster. Instead we’ve seen the Rangers make small, savvy moves like the recent acquisition of Josh Jooris. While it’s entirely possible that there’s still a trade to be made (I remain cautiously optimistic, as usual) I think its also worth entertaining the notion that the Rangers have waited too long to make any serious trades.
The possibility that the organization’s conservative approach so far has resulted in any potential trade market drying up shouldn’t be cause for doom and gloom however, at least not entirely. Due to the Rangers’ unique RFA situation, with more than 2 players filing for arbitration, the Rangers now have a second buyout window. If the market for trades really has dried up it may be in the organization’s best interests to utilize that buyout window to clear at least some cap space for the future.
The Rangers have signed their fourth player today, inking prospect Robin Kovacs to a three year entry level deal. The 19-year-old winger (20 in November), the Rangers third round pick in 2015, had a very impressive season last year in the SHL. As a boy among men, Kovacs had a 20-goal season and put up 34 points in 44 games.
It was previously expected that Kovacs would spend another year in the SHL before coming over to North America. I am unfamiliar with how the transfer agreement between the SHL and the NHL works, but I’m assuming that if he signed, that he will play in the AHL next season.
Bringing Kovacs to the AHL is great news for a team that needs young, cheap talent infused into the lineup regularly. Kovacs is among the top prospects in the system, and projects to be a good middle-six forward if he continues to develop. Following up his strong age-19 season with a solid showing in his rookie AHL season is a good start.
The Rangers are busy today, cleaning up a bunch of loose ends. RFA Tommy Hughes has been re-signed, terms undisclosed (side note: It’s 2016, just release the terms). Hughes was one of the few Hartford RFAs to receive a qualifying offer, and his inclusion in this was a surprise to a few people, given his relatively meager production over the life of his ELC.
The 24-year-old undrafted defenseman (righty) has spent the last three seasons in Hartford, with his best season being last year. He’s not a guy that will light the lamp often, and is relied on more as a prototypical defensive defenseman.
Hughes will likely spend another full year in Hartford. It’s unlikely he sees much, if any, NHL time.
The Rangers have signed UFA forward Josh Jooris (terms undisclosed), who was with the Calgary Flames the past two years. Over 119 games with Calgary, Jooris put up 16-21-37 as a bottom-six forward. The 26-year-old, right-handed forward will likely serve as a depth forward. It’s worth noting that Jooris hasn’t spent significant time in the AHL over the past two seasons.
Jooris is a curious signing, as the Rangers appear to be loading up on bottom-six guys. With Nathan Gerbe, Michael Grabner, and now Jooris in the mix, it appears the Rangers are preparing for life without Oscar Lindberg in the short term, and perhaps looking for cheaper solutions to the fourth line and Tanner Glass’ relative ineffectiveness.
It’ll be interesting to see where Jooris slots in. It doesn’t look like he’s AHL bound. Perhaps he’s the 13F. But with Gerbe, Jooris, Grabner, and Glass in the mix, it doesn’t look like Nicklas Jensen or Marek Hrivik will get serious looks this Fall. Jooris is highly regarded by stats folks as one of the best defensive forwards in the game. This sounds like a solid signing.
The Rangers have locked up their second RFA, agreeing to terms with defenseman Dylan McIlrath on a one-year deal. The deal will pay him $800,000, per Tim Wharnsby. The big defenseman is a constant topic of conversation and point of contention for many folks for reasons well beyond his control. From the questionable selection at tenth overall to questionable usage, McIlrath has stayed professional through it all.
In 34 games last season McIlrath put up 2-2-4, but showed a steadiness and calm nature on the ice that was a bit unexpected for many people. He was a pleasant surprise in that small sample, and he certainly earned more ice time that he didn’t get last season. Whether you agree he’s a future mainstay or not, he certainly deserved more ice time.
It’s uncertain what McIlrath’s role will be this coming year. He’s one of three RHD’s on the roster, and while Alain Vigneault loves his equal LHD/RHD lineups, the acquisition of Nick Holden and the assumed promotion of Brady Skjei make for an unclear blue line at this stage in the offseason. It’s likely he resumes his role as the team’s 7D, unless more changes are made. But he must play 42 games, or else he becomes a UFA next season.