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.
The concept of change is not a complicated one. One thing becomes another. Yet, out in the real world, change embodies complication. It can be lengthy, violent, compromised, terrifying and exciting. It tends to affect most things, some more than others. Some is met with little resistance, some with the greatest force you could ever imagine. The way it effects you will be determined by your investment, your willingness to adapt, and what you stand to lose. It effects economics, politics, art, religion and yes, sports. At this juncture, our beloved sport of hockey is at such a crossroads of change.
It was brought to light yesterday that Matt Pfeffer, an analytics consultant for the Montreal Canadiens was let go from the organization for his impassioned plea for the club to reconsider trading PK Subban. Now, in a vacuum, while it raises operational questions, it is not a big deal. Any employee who does not see eye to eye with their employer can be let go. However, this situation is emblematic of hockey’s growing civil war between the current powers that be and the emerging sub-culture of analysis-driven management. Read More→
Full disclosure: this is pure speculation, but did the Rangers prioritise J.T. Miller when dealing with their own Free Agents? The Rangers wrapped up the Miller situation on Wednesday, agreeing to a new two year bridge deal with a cap hit of 2.65m per year. It’s clearly a prove yourself deal, which goes against the recent league wide trend of committing long term to younger players and is a deal that has frustrated a lot of the Rangers fanbase.
I personally have no problem with a bridge deal. Its already good value for the team, if Miller breaks out in a big way it’s a bargain, and in two years time Miller may indeed get a bigger deal but he’ll also get tied up for a lot longer. Rick Nash, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Tanner Glass (at a minimum) are highly unlikely to be Rangers in two years time. That’s a lot of money coming off the books. Retaining Miller shouldn’t be a problem unless he becomes a 60 goal scorer and demands max terms. But I digress…
The Rangers have re-signed their first major RFA, coming to terms with J.T. Miller on a two-year bridge deal. The 23-year-old winger will get $2.5 million next season and $2.75 million in 2017-2018, for a total cap hit of $2.65 million over the life of the deal.
I’m not the biggest fan of bridge deals for someone like Miller, since it paints the Rangers into a corner when it comes to buying out UFA years, like it did with Carl Hagelin. However you can’t be upset with the “right now” value. Miller comes in as a bargain given his production.
Miller will look to improve upon his first full year in the NHL, where he put up 22-21-43 in 82 games. He bounced between the second and third lines last season, but it is likely he has found his spot in the top-six going forward.
They say it takes five years to really judge a draft class in hockey. Very few players come in and play in the NHL immediately following their draft year. Heck, it’s usually two or three years before a draft pick even turns pro. Factor in another year or two in the minors, and you have a four or five year waiting period before some rookies even get a chance to play regularly in The Show.
If a team gets one NHL regular in a draft, it’s considered a successful draft. If they can land a second player, it’s a big win. For the Rangers, 2011 was the final time they would draft in the top-fifteen through today. They took J.T. Miller with that first round pick, their one consistent NHL player. The rest of the draft features Steven Fogarty, who just turned pro, and four mid-to-late round picks.
Heading into the offseason, the Rangers were rumored to be heavily invested in a roster shake up, one that saw them fielding offers on everyone on the roster except for Henrik Lundqvist. They were rumored to be going after the fourth overall pick (Edmonton) and/or the 15th overall pick (Minnesota) in an attempt to re-stock the farm system.
Instead, we are left with two bargain bin free agent signings in Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe, and one minor trade for Nick Holden. The club has the exact same blue line, just with Holden/Brady Skjei replacing Keith Yandle/Dan Boyle. Grabner and Gerbe replace Viktor Stalberg and Dominic Moore.
So what happened?