August is the worst for hockey fans. There is almost never anything of substance to talk about as we eagerly wait for Rangers hockey. Over the last few days I was wondering what to write about and the only thing that seems to come to mind is the intriguing cap and roster situation that the New York Rangers are in. Even though I am young, I cannot remember the last time that the Rangers would seemingly be walking into a season with over $3 million in cap space with five contract slots open.
With the forward group for next season looking filled and the defense currently having eight guys (including Clendening), I find it hard to believe that the Rangers will be making a signing involving the likes of Jiri Hudler or anyone of that stature. The only moves that I can see coming to the actual roster would be the anticipated Rick Nash trade with nobody knowing what the return can be, or maybe just a PTO to a player like James Wisniewski or Jakub Nakladal, two good right handed defensemen that can be given a shot with our shaky blue line.
In any case, that still gives us 45 contracts (44 after Zborovskiy slides) out of 50 possible slots and I believe those slots can be used the following ways.
After weeks of relative silence, the rumor mill will begin churning again this week as August 15 approaches. That’s the day Jimmy Vesey officially becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The heralded Harvard alum is essentially this year’s version of Kevin Hayes and will draw league-wide interest after spurning first Nashville, then Buffalo after the Sabres traded for his rights prior to the draft.
By most accounts, Vesey is an NHL-ready prospect that could instantly step into an NHL lineup and has legitimate top-six potential.
Over the past three years, I’ve gone through the Rangers organization and ranked the top 25 players under the age of 25 years old (2013, 2014, 2015 part one, 2015 part two). The ground rules for this list are simple: To qualify for this list, a player must be under 25 years old. It doesn’t matter if this player is in the NHL, AHL, or in any of the leagues around the world. If they are Ranger property and under 25, they were considered.
First, let’s go through the players from last year’s list that no longer qualify and honorable mentions who missed the cut:
Aged out: Chris Kreider, Magnus Hellberg
No longer with the organization: Aleksi Saarela, Ryan Bourque, Petr Zamorsky, Emerson Etem, Keegan Iverson, Ryan Mantha
Honorable mentions: Tyler Nanne, Marek Hrivik, Sergey Zborovskiy, Calle Andersson, Tyler Wall, Gabriel Fontaine
I was thinking the other day just how solid an offseason Jeff Gorton had been having (despite not being able to significantly improve the blueline) and it got me thinking about where Gorton ranked amongst his peers. Taking that one step further it got me thinking about General Manager’s around the league, who’s doing well and who’s not. All this made me spitball about a power ranking of the NHL General Managers.
Everyone loves a pecking order, no? There’s been some significant change throughout the NHL recently and some GM’s will be hard to judge given their shallow bodies of work but it doesn’t mean we can’t try. Split into three posts over the couple weeks (starting at 30 and working our way up), here’s a brief insight into how I think the NHL’s key decision makers stack up against each other and where I think Jeff Gorton fits as he enters his second season in charge of the Rangers.
The Rangers head into this season having lost their best defenseman in Keith Yandle, and with Dan Girardi and Mac Staal hanging around things aren’t looking so hot on the blue line. There’s still some reason to feel hopeful at least, given that the Rangers 28th overall pick from the 2012 draft, Brady Skjei, is due for a real shot with the Blueshirts after just dipping his toes in the water last year. That’s not to say however that Skjei will replace Yandle, who is truly one of the elite puck-moving defensemen in this league, but it will at the very least be fun to watch him grow and develop throughout the season. Given his skillset and pedigree, here’s what to expect.
In Skjei’s first season as a University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, he registered three points in 36 games, but he picked it up from there and found himself producing 14 points in 40 games the following year and 10 points the year after that. Following the conclusion of his 2014-15 college campaign he joined the Harftord Wolf Pack, with whom he played eight regular season games (registering no points) and 15 playoff games, notching a goal and two assists.
Happy Friday, BSB community! Can you believe it is August already? It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve had the time to write, as the summer is the busiest time of year for me at the office. I suppose I haven’t missed much, though, as most of the Rangers’ business was taken care of in early July. We are now only a few weeks away from the return of the World Cup and training camp/pre-season is just around the corner.
There are still a few features I plan to write before the season (Top 30 Goalies!), but for this morning, I wanted to share some thoughts now that I have had some time to digest the summer moves.
Last week I talked about how the Rangers’ off season signings can possibly fit as penalty killers. When we look at how GM Jeff Gorton did over the summer, it is easy to be happy that he did do his best in improving the penalty kill. That said, as happy as I am with the steps taken, I am not keen on automatically giving Gorton a pass for Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, as he was likely a big player in the re-signing of them.
We talked about these players a lot and I think we saw one of the most negative effects of having their contracts on the payroll when Keith Yandle was traded. You can hate Yandle because he is not in the realm of Kris Letang or Erik Karlsson. You can hate Yandle because you automatically equate him as the reason the Rangers lost Anthony Duclair. But his ability to move pucks out not only at even strength but also be a valuable player on the power play will be missed. Add a retiring Dan Boyle to the fold, and you just opened up two holes on the back end for both even strength play as well as power play.
GM Ray Shero pulled off the coup of the offseason when he landed Taylor Hall from the Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson. Hall gives New Jersey the top offensive talent to build around its been lacking for years – and with Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique’s continued emergence, plus 2015 first-rounder Pavel Zacha and 2016 top pick Michael McLeod on the way, there are finally some pieces up front. The Devils are set in goal with Cory Schneider firmly entrenched among the league’s best netminders, but New Jersey’s defense was weakened with the departure of Larsson. The Devils signed Ben Lovejoy – who should play major minutes – but they are still waiting for some of their other blueline prospects to emerge. New Jersey won’t be easy to play against, but the Devils are still likely a couple years away from being serious contenders in the division.
The Rangers had three glaring holes coming into the offseason: The defense, the bottom-six, and the penalty kill. Two of the three –the bottom-six and the penalty kill– were addressed with a pretty massive overhaul. The Rangers signed three players and cut loose two in an effort to get younger, faster, and better defensively.
Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, and Josh Jooris give the Rangers a ton of options. Losing Viktor Stalberg is a bit of a wash with Grabner, but it’s arguable that Jooris and Gerbe can be effective replacements for Dominic Moore. Deployment is key, but versatility can make the Rangers dangerous.
The Rangers began their retooling of the bottom-six by signing winger Michael Grabner to a two-year deal this summer. He was the first of numerous signings with the purpose of addressing the bottom-six and the penalty kill, and easily the most high profile signing they made this summer.
The 28-year-old speed demon is a former 30-goal scorer, putting up 34 goals in his first full NHL season. He then put up 20 goals his following season, then a 30-goal pace in the lockout shortened 2013 season. All these came with the Isles. Since then, Grabner has topped out at 12 goals, and has seen his goal totals in decline since.