(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When the Rangers opened camp in September, the assumption was that Brad Richards would play either second or third line center and Chris Kreider would be playing first or second line left-wing. It’s amazing how quickly things change. Six games into the season, Richards has solidified himself as the top LW, while Kreider is working on his game in the AHL.
With Richards no longer playing center, the Rangers vaunted depth heading into the season is no more. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard are still the top two guys down the middle, but Brian Boyle –who we believe is best suited as a 4C– is now lining up as the 3c, and Dominic Moore is lining up as the 4C. The best case scenario for the Rangers has Boyle and Moore on the same line, providing excellent defense while chipping in offensively here and there.
Naturally, this creates a hole at 3C. Boyle is a great asset to this club, but he is best served as a shutdown guy taking defensive zone draws.
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B-Rich has started well
Highlighted by his two goal performance in the impressive win over the Kings, Brad Richards has started the season well; which is a great sign for the Rangers. Having played a lackluster preseason – which came on the heels of his well documented (abysmal) 2012-13 season – Richards has begun to lay to rest the lingering concerns for this season.
He is skating well, looking to put the puck on net, and is getting separation from defenseman – something he did all too rarely last season. Perhaps most importantly is the lack of blind, drop passes on the blue line which were littered throughout his play last season.
While it’s only two games in to the new season – one of which was the sloppy Coyotes’ loss – the start laid down by Richard’s bodes well for the team. An in-form Richards would be hugely beneficial because, while Derek Stepan was much improved against the Kings (wasn’t everyone?), Stepan still has work to do to get back to his form of a year ago. If Richards can give the Rangers a strong year it’ll give the Rangers excellent depth down the middle.
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Norm Hull/Getty Images
Last night, the Rangers lost their 2013-2014 opener in Phoenix. It was neither pretty nor particularly encouraging. Sure, there were some bright spots; Brad Richards showed signs of life, Marc Staal looked great and the defense as a whole looked much more active in the offensive zone.
Since the pre-season started, the staff here at BSB has been preaching patience. There has been a ton of upheaval even though there was very little roster turnover from last year’s team. Not only has there been the difficulty of a coaching change and all new systems implementation, but the Blueshirts start the season on a 9-game road trip.
Derek Stepan got a late start on camp due to his contract situation and two top-6 forwards in Callahan and Hagelin are out to start the season; not to mention the disappointing camp from Chris Kreider.
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A bounce-back season from Brad Richards would be a huge boost for the Rangers
Best case: Asham continues to provide comedic relief on Twitter and plays in a handful of games with the Blueshirts.
Worst case: New York is unable to find a taker for Asham on waivers and he spends the final year of his contract in Hartford.
Best case: The former fourth-overall pick puts it all together as a Blueshirt and records a 20-goal season.
Worst case: The Rangers learn why Pouliot has already played for four teams in his young career and the big forward is invisible most nights. Read more »
Training camp is here, the hockey world is back full time and the Rangers have what appears to be a significant amount of questions as they enter first camp under Alain Vigneault. Let’s hit the musings to open the season.
Derek Stepan: Over his first three years in the league he outscored highly rated youngsters such as Jeff Skinner and Evander Kane. He deserves a significant pay rise; it’s a lot harder to produce in a market such as New York than outposts such as Carolina or Winnipeg. That said, I’m in Sather’s corner; you do not give up your strong negotiating position. However, there has to be a comprise. Stepan is a smart kid; he should not risk his immediate future by missing camp.
Johan Hedberg – he should be cheap, knows the division but indirectly he is a huge acknowledgement by the organisation that – as is the case with Biron’s current situation – if the organisation loses Lundqvist or Biron then there is a huge vacuum of talent at the goaltending position. No one internally is anywhere near the NHL level.
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What’s the status of Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin?
Both players underwent surgery on torn shoulder labrums following the 2013 season and their initial recovery timelines indicated they could each miss the first month of the 2013-2014 season. However, both Callahan and Hagelin have been skating with teammates in the weeks leading up to training camp and have reported no setbacks. Neither is ready for contact just yet, but they both seem to be progressing quickly. It’s still a good bet that neither player will be ready for the season-opener, but we should get a clearer picture of their status during camp. Read more »
Perhaps the smallest but most intriguing piece of news that has come out of Ranger land in recent days is that of Brad Richards already spending significant time on the ice ahead of the up coming season. Last season Richards wasn’t prepared (at all) for the abbreviated, condensed season and it showed all year long. The Rangers did fine without a strong season from Richards but it goes without saying that a well rested, fully functioning Richards makes the Rangers much stronger and more dangerous.
The fact Richards has been skating for the best part of a month is fantastic news. It indicates he is aware of the necessity of being in top shape in a critical juncture in his career and it indicates he’s willing to do whatever it takes to rebound. Barring an MVP like season it is likely Richards is heading into his last year as a Ranger but a good year for Richards means he could make himself attractive to other teams. The free agency market is not looking strong next summer and a 70+ point season from Richards would likely give him another chance to cash in.
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Like it or not, they need him.
It’s no secret. I was very vocal about using our last compliance buyout on Brad Richards this summer. Rather than run the risk of injury and getting stuck with his cap hit —for what will seem like perpetuity if he does get injured— the Rangers decided to give him one last shot at glory.
While I’m disappointed in the decision, I assure you I won’t put a target on his back this year just because the org disagreed with me. After all, my name isn’t Scotty. What’s done is done, and now the org needs to shift gears and figure out what exactly is the best way to get the most of Richards.
Whether or not you think he will rebound this year likely depends on several variables. A) Are you an optimistic person? B) Do you trust or are you very comfortable with advanced stats? C) Do you believe Alain Vigneault and his systems will be an antidote.
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AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Despite coming in at 17th and 19th respectively on various prospect website rankings, the Rangers need not worry when it comes to the talent pipeline just now. Everyone assumes cap mathematics will be the driver behind letting Brad Richards go in twelve months time, and this is indeed true, but the Rangers are especially blessed with promising centers making their way up the system.
With Cristobal ‘Boo’ Nieves, the Rangers have a highly thought of prospect that had an exceptional first year in college in Michigan. They have the Swedish playoff MVP on his way in Oscar Lindberg, and they have a player in Michael St Croix that has been a dominant scorer in the WHL.
Without considering the obvious merits of a JT Miller, the promise (albeit perhaps a little further down the line) of Steven Fogarty, or a talented yet underachieving prospect such as Andrew Yogan, the Rangers don’t need to panic about letting Richards go, nor should they worry about filling his eventual departure through free agency.
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He’s in New York for at least one more year (USATSI).
Rangerland is divided on Brad Richards. Half wanted the Rangers to use their second compliance buyout on the struggling center, while the other half wanted to see what one more year would look like. There were pros and cons of both decisions, but this humble (humble loosely defined) blogger believes Slats made the right call. Justin and I are the only two here that wanted another year of Richards, and we got our wish.
Everyone knows the riskiness of this move. If Richards gets hurt at the end of the season, and remains hurt during next year’s compliance buyout period, then the Rangers are stuck with his contract for the six subsequent seasons at a $6.6 million cap hit. If he retires before the end of the contract, then the Rangers get nailed with the new cap recapture clause, where the Rangers would be penalized with the following cap hits should he retire before his contract expires
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