Photo: The Score
Dion Phaneuf. Yes, I said it. The Rangers have a huge question mark in an area – defense – which on paper at least, they have had good depth. Michael Del Zotto is likely, barring a stunning turnaround, on his way out of New York in the summer (at the latest). Marc Staal’s long term future is full of doubt due to injury. That leaves –on paper– two key cogs: Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. McDonagh is a stud, he’s a future, perennial Norris candidate if he gets some support; unfortunately Dan Girardi is no longer the guy to provide it.
Girardi’s game appears in decline, and yet he’ll still get paid handsomely in the summer, based on past achievements. His play this year has been underwhelming (on a team that, in his defense, has collectively underwhelmed) and he hasn’t been the same consistent presence we grew to appreciate, for the last two years. That’s a long time, playing under his normal assumed levels, to commit to a long term future at a big financial cost.
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Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain
Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.
The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup. But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville. So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.
Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation. A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning. New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term. Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team. If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender. But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price. Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch. No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.
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Despite all the recent trade rumors swirling around Michael Del Zotto, the young D-man may remain a Ranger beyond this year.
I’ll spare you the argument that Del Zotto is still very young for a defenseman at just 23 years old, because frankly I don’t buy that as an excuse for his erratic play any more either. But though Del Zotto hasn’t lived up to expectations, he is still pencilled in as a top-four defenseman in New York’s short- and long-term plans.
That matters because another key member of the top-four, Dan Girardi, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in July. And the way things are going, Girardi might not be back. Girardi has been better than Del Zotto this season, but not by much. He’s coming off a down year under John Tortorella, so Girardi’s struggles can’t be blamed solely on the coaching change. No, at 29 years old, it’s likely that we’ve already seen the best of Girardi, and quite possible that he’s begun his decline. Read more »
It’s been a while since I’ve written the musings, so I’m taking the opportunity to do that today. Have to admit, they are some of my favorite posts to write.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve noticed that I’ve been pretty hard on Dan Girardi lately. He’s certainly had a lot of trouble adjusting this season. It is probably just a bad year for the defenseman, or at least a bad quarter season. These things happen, but there were signs this could happen before. One of the big thing is that Girardi constantly leaves his feet to play defense, instead of taking the angle and using his body to create better positioning. That’s something that needs to be fixed. He hasn’t lost a step, but the best forwards –forwards he plays against night in and night out– have caught on to this.
Girardi isn’t the only one who is struggling either. Michael Del Zotto is struggling. John Moore has had issues. Justin Falk is showing why he came a bit on the cheaper end on the trade market. If not for Anton Stralman, Marc Staal, and Ryan McDonagh, this team would have a lot of questions on the blue line.
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Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
I’m not as high-tech as Dave is, so you don’t get pictures tonight. Not that you wanted them…
Well, that was fun. The Rangers dropped a laugher tonight to the Devils in Newark by a score of 4-0. Let’s break down the ineptitude…
Devils 1, Rangers 0
This play started in the offensive zone, where Derick Brassard made an ill-advised pass through the middle attempting to find John Moore at the point. Instead, the pass was picked and the Devils went to work in the Rangers’ zone. As the cycle progressed behind the net, Moore got caught wandering and failed to pick up his man. Hank provided a juicy rebound and Andrei Loktionov was left all alone in front to net his first of the year.
Devils 2, Rangers 0
The Suit and I found ourselves in a little disagreement over this one on Twitter. Girardi committed to a questionable pinch, and a nice pass by Jagr saw Adam Henrique streak behind Darrell Powe and Girardi along the boards. Henrique sped in an ripped a shot over Lundqvist’s blocker on the short side. Suit thought Hank should have had it, I thought it was just a nice shot. Anyone care to weigh in? Read more »
It’s always easier to write the Musings after a win. Last night was a huge relief to many Rangers fans so let’s talk about it.
John Moore: If Moore continues with performances like last night’s against the Capitals, then he could quickly go past Michael Del Zotto in the pecking order. A quick release, a good overall game and solid defensively, Moore still has a ton of upside to be explored. His skating is very good and his upside is exciting. You get the feeling he could prosper under Alain Vigneault.
Mats Zuccarello is a very good hockey player but he’s surely on shaky ground as a Ranger. Yes, the season is but six games old but he’s brought next to nothing to the table, and that’s despite being on a scoring line. He’s averaging close to 17 minutes a game which is plenty. He’s not even averaging a shot/game at this stage. If he’s not producing give a prospect those 17 minutes per game.
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Dan Girardi has had an atrocious start to the season but yet is one of the key players the Rangers will have to rely on to turn their difficult start around. While plus/minus is not a particularly accurate statistic, his minus 7 rating is a bad indicator and Girardi’s decision making, positioning and overall game thus far have been far from his usually consistent and reliable standards.
The Rangers have appeared all at sea in their own zone so far this season but a quick turnaround from Dan Girardi and in net, Henrik Lundqvist would see fortunes quickly reversed. Perhaps no two players can individually aid the team more, immediately. With both All Stars in poor form the Rangers have required help in other areas and have failed to receive it (goodbye Martin Biron).
Girardi should be motivated. With Girardi approaching unrestricted free agency, a bad season from the veteran blueliner – and subsequently the Rangers overall – could see the long term marriage come to a separation next summer. Prior to this season Girardi stood to command a significant raise on his current $3.4m salary (3.325 cap). Defenders that can play twenty five minutes a game, play physically and chip in twenty to thirty points a year can command quite the financial return on the open market.
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MDZ: time to be a difference maker
One game does not a season make. That is why the Rangers enter tonight’s game with plenty of reason for optimism. On the flip side, your boys got some making up to do.
I want to see Michael Del Zotto start to impose himself on games more. He has the talent to be a top pair defenseman and is more talented than a guy like Dan Girardi but does he have the decision making and will to be more consistent? I’ve said it before but this is such a pivotal year for MDZ.
Speaking of Dan Girardi – not many Rangers (your King included) have yet to distinguish themselves this season but Girardi has had a particularly sloppy start. Several turnovers and he’s been caught out of position often. The Rangers need more from Girardi.
Keeping on the defensive theme – when you concede 14 goals in your first three games there are multiple issues to solve but Marc Staal is arguably the only defenseman so far that has been solid at either end of the rink. On paper the Rangers have good depth. On the ice, it hasn’t translated as it should. Is that all down to the new system being implemented?
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Best case: Johnson is an adequate depth defender and is significantly better than Stu Bickel in spot duty.
Worst case: Johnson is no better than Bickel and the Rangers are back where they were last year if top-six blueliners get hurt.
Best case: Stralman continues to be an unsung hero for the Blueshirts and finally earns the attention he deserves with a standout campaign, including some gaudy power play numbers.
Worst case: Stralman’s hold on the #6 job loosens and Justin Falk pushes him for playing time. Read more »
My name is Rick Nash. I am very good at hockey.
The quiet season is well and truly underway but that doesn’t mean the hockey world is standing still. Let’s have a look around the league and have an impromptu musings shall we?
The Capitals signed Mikhail Grabovski this week and it’s a good move. They needed to add some talent and he’s a solid center. It’s incredible to think the Leafs bought a player out less than 18 months after giving him a long term extension. With losing Mike Ribeiro the Caps were in danger of going backwards, Grabovski helps a lot for $3m.
I keep reading that the Rangers are in danger of losing Derek Stepan? Calm down folks. There is no urgency here. He has no negotiating power and it would take an over-the-top offer sheet for the Rangers not to match. The lack of a new deal is no indicator of the importance Stepan has, merely that it’s not a critical priority.
My first prediction for the new season: With one year as a Ranger under his belt, with a full camp, Rick Nash will top 40 goals. In a new system that should give him more offensive zone starts there’s no reason Nash shouldn’t reach that number again. If Nash is healthy and has support from his line mates he should reach that figure. He was close last year (on pace for 39). With Callahan and Hagelin missing to begin, he’ll be needed more than ever.
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