(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Two summers ago (2011), we started writing posts titled “Reasonable Expectations.” The idea behind these posts was to outline what we should expect from some of our core youth on the Rangers. It’s natural to expect every player to turn into a first liner, but that’s not reality.
When we wrote these expectation posts two summers ago, they were obviously for last season (2011-2012). Now that the season has come to an end, Suit brought up a good idea to track how we did with our predictions. Since it was my idea to start with the Reasonable Expectation posts, it only makes sense that I go first.
Beginning in February of the 2010-2011 season, I wrote three Reasonable Expectation posts: one for Michael Del Zotto, one for the Brandon Dubinsky/Artem Anisimov/Ryan Callahan line, and one for Tim Erixon. Considering the players I wrote about, it looks like I have a kiss of death. Apparently if I write a Reasonable Expectations post about a player, he has a 60% chance of being traded for Rick Nash.
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It truly is the low point of the off season. The Rangers are quiet, at least publicly, and attention around the league is primarily focussed on the CBA talks. There are still a few things we can talk about though so welcome to another musings. Jump on in.
The Hockey News wrote an article recently on why the North West division is the league’s worst. It got me thinking again about the Atlantic. It is comfortably the best in the league in my humble opinion. It’s full of depth, big market teams and is stacked with superstar, marquee names including the division worst Islanders if you respect John Tavares’ ability like I do. Given how tough the Atlantic is it really puts the Rangers’ last season performance in greater context.
Just to recap on the Anton Stralman contract; he recently signed a 2 year $3.4m contract. While I think he has a fair bit of room for improvement when you look at what other defensemen signed for this summer, its good value for a player that got better as the year progressed and who is still very young. Stralman could realistically be a 30 point player for the Rangers and if he hits that number then $1.7m/year is a bargain.
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When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash, they did so by dealing two roster players that played key roles on the bottom six forwards. Losing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov may not look like much, especially when they are dealt for someone like Rick Nash. However, it does lead to the discussion of how to replace these players, especially Dubinsky, who was one of the Rangers top defensive and puck possession forwards.
It seems logical to begin with Anisimov, who I believe to be the easier of the two to replace. Anisimov bounced around on the Rangers lineup from top line to fourth line so often, I’m surprised he wasn’t dizzy from all the pinballing around the lineup. Throughout his young career, he has shown flashes of offensive talent while putting up 30-40 points per season, almost entirely at even strength.
His defensive peripherals (.005 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 52.7 OZone%) aren’t spectacular, but they are still solid and show that Anisimov was still very reliable in his own end. He’s the type of two-way forward that could develop into a 50-60 point player if given the right opportunity and powerplay time. That said, he wasn’t going to get that opportunity with the Rangers. Jeff Halpern has comparable numbers (-.029 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 39.2 OZone%), but can add more in terms of veteran leadership and face off wins.
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On top of avoiding surrendering prized young players like Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto in yesterday’s blockbuster trade, GM Glen Sather also did an effective job of keeping the Rangers in good shape with the salary cap.
The Rangers are now on the hook for the remaining six-years, $46.8 million of the eight-year, $62.4 million contract Rick Nash inked with Columbus in 2009, but they still have plenty of room to operate.
Some thoughts on the financial impact of the deal:
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It should come as no surprise, but Glen Sather fleeced a rival general manager yet again.
After months of speculation and negotiations, Sather’s patience finally paid off this afternoon as the Rangers completed a trade for Rick Nash. Derek Stepan wasn’t involved in the deal, neither were Michael Del Zotto, Chris Kreider or Ryan McDonagh.
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Everyone assumes that Brandon Dubinsky will be the one ‘major’ piece to move if the Rangers acquire a high priced/elite forward through a means other than free agency. Non free agency acquisition likely means Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. One of the major issues here is that Anaheim likely wants a cheaper piece than Dubinsky and Columbus wants a lot more in addition to Dubinsky.
The demands and desires of the clubs possessing the shiny new toys the Rangers crave mean there’s a chance that the Rangers might need to keep Dubinsky and move other pieces such as Derek Stepan or Artem Anisimov. Derek Stepan’s level of organisational security depends on how desperate Sather and co. are for the big time scorer they need. Only people internally truly know the answers.
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When trade rumors begin to surface, many begin to panic. It’s not unexpected to see this panicking, as the Rangers were so close last season to playing for the Stanley Cup, it makes you wonder what management will do to make that next step. Per Larry Brooks, the organization has dubbed seven key players as “untouchable” in their search for scoring:
The Rangers, who are believed to have quarantined Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Derek Stepan (in addition to Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist)…
Mentioning Cally, Girardi, and Lundqvist is just a formality, as these are guys in or entering their prime who are core pieces for the Rangers. As for the first four mentioned by Brooks, those names are expected to be deemed as “untouchable.” If the Rangers were open to moving any of them, the return would have to be monstrous.
McDonagh was a given for the status of untouchable because of the impact he’s made on the roster. McDonagh emerged as a top pairing defender when Marc Staal went down with his concussion, and stayed there even when Staal returned. The pairing of McDonagh and Girardi is one of the best shutdown pairs in the game today. Throw in the fact that McDonagh has yet to tap into his offensive potential, and we could be looking at a Norris winner in the future.
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Assuming Brandon Dubinsky is indeed available, Thursday’s news of David Jones being rewarded with a new four year, $16m contract from the Colorado Avalanche may make Brandon Dubinsky’s contract more appealing to potential suitors.
Dubinsky stumbled through a miserable campaign in 2011/2012 with a mere 34 points, a full 20 points and 14 goals less than the previous year where he was the Rangers top scorer. Jones on the other hand got his big pay day thanks to his second 20 goal campaign as he topped out with 37 points. Not much difference yet both players are being treated in very different ways for their respective 2012 seasons. Despite dropping from 27 goals and 45 points the year previous, the Avs felt compelled to give Jones a $1.5m pay rise and four years. Was the pay rise a result of a weak free agent market this summer?
Jones and Dubinsky are quite comparable in many ways. Very similar in age (Dubinsky 26, Jones 27), size (Dubinsky 6’1, 210lbs and Jones 6’2 210 lbs) and recent production (two 20 goal campaigns each in the past three seasons) both players now share similar contract arrangements, collecting around $4m each annually. Is either player worth the commitment?
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The bottom six forwards get a raw deal sometimes. Many base their usefulness on their offensive output, and unfortunately that is just not the role of the bottom six forward. Sure, contributing offensively is nice, but the role of these players is to shut down the opposition’s top lines. They are the ones that do the dirty work, they keep the opposing goons in check, they wear down the opposition.
So based on the above, let me reiterate these grades are based on the players executing their specific roles within our team concept. This isn’t just based on stats.
Boy did Boyle have some major responsibilities this season. He was generally responsible for lining up against the opposition’s top scorers and was given the job of shutting them down. He also was the guy that Torts turned to when he needed a defensive zone face off win. People look to his drop in scoring (11-15-26 this year, a drop from 21-14-35 last year) and they assume Boyle has just been awful. That’s not the case. Boyle started just 28.8% of all his shifts in the offensive zone, good for lowest rate on the team. But yet, he managed to finish 43.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. The result: a player that did his job. He handled the defensive zone pressure and set up the Rangers in the offensive zone. Oh, and he was tied with Brad Richards and John Mitchell for second on the team in face off win percentage (51.8%).
In the playoffs, Boyle was clearly getting under the Ottawa Senators’ skin, which is why Chris Neil decided to target him with a head shot. Boyle was one of the most effective Ranger forwards before the concussion, and was clearly not the same after. Mid-season: B/Full Season: A-/Playoffs: B+.
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The future of Brandon Dubinsky has been talked about to death. It’s testament to the talent and dedication displayed as a Ranger by Dubinsky that his future is as talked about as it is. However, what should the Rangers do? Should they keep him? How does Dubinsky impact the Rangers immediate future?
Revisiting a Rick Nash acquisition this summer is likely but acquiring the Blue Jacket should only be a serious consideration if the package is reasonable and cap space goes back to Columbus. That would make Dubinsky (once again) a leading contender for a move. At the very least, should Zach Parise decide he wants to explore free agency in July you can bet your house that Glen Sather will be inquiring about and enticing Parise to join the Blueshirts.
If either premier talent becomes a Ranger over the summer there will need to be casualties in either (or both) assets or financial space. This keeps bringing us back to Dubinsky and whether his use to the franchise going forward would best be served as a player or as a trade chip.
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