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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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How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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According to Elliotte Friedman, Derek Stepan and the New York Rangers have agreed to terms on a 2-year deal. The value is estimated in the $6.5 million range, but is yet unconfirmed. Looks like Sather got his bridge deal, after all. Welcome back Step, now get to work.
For those that missed it, General Manager Glen Sather had some harsh words for holdout center Derek Stepan. Slats, in a rare moment, said that he doesn’t think [Stepan] is a big enough fool to think that he will sit out the year and it will do any good.” Naturally, that was the line that the media caught on to and ran with. The nugget right after –when Slats states that every player (forward) has signed a gap deal, and that what Stepan will get– is the more important bit. It confirms what we all know, but also puts a line in the sand in the negotiations.
First things first, Slats never called Stepan a fool. He chose his words carefully. Slats is also correct in the bridge deals, not in that every team should offer bridge deals, but in the manner that Slats approaches them. He is consistent. Every non-arbitration forward gets a bridge deal. Every single one. It’s consistency at its finest. Both Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan got paid, Dubinsky likely slightly overpaid, after their bridge deals. Callahan is the captain of the team too, and his bridge deal will likely be less than Stepan’s.
Some call what Slats said a desperation move. I call it a simple candid statement, used to send a message. Everyone else got one, you get one too. Get your head on straight and sign, and we will pay you oodles of money in two years if you continue to perform.
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 »
Will Kreider finally shine under AV? (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
So hockey has actually begun. The preseason games are underway and we’ve seen the preseason roster already begin to dwindle. So, what’s next? The Musings is of course.
When hearing Alain Vigneault discuss the potential of Chris Kreider being used in front of the net it gave a small but significant insight into his different mindset compared to John Tortorella. Vigneault looks at Kreider as an opportunity, not necessarily as a rookie who has to earn his stripes. There was merit to Tortorella’s approach (he was after all successful as Rangers HC) but trying to use players in a variety of scenarios will surely help maximise a players potential and the teams overall success.
Martin Biron: surely the only choice as the back up to the Rangers. Whether he’s more expensive than Hedberg or not, he’s arguably the best back up in the league and over a full season he’ll surely get opportunity to prove himself again.
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It signs the contract or else it gets the hose again.
Up until pre-season games start up in earnest, the fan focus around Rangerland will continue to be Derek Stepan’s unresolved contract situation. The boys around here have done a fantastic job covering the specifics, comparables and negotiating leverage surrounding the Blueshirt’s final RFA, but I wanted to examine a slightly different facet: the gaping hole in the CBA that lead to this situation to begin with.
The age in which a player signs his ELC will determine whether or not he is eligible for arbitration rights during his RFA years. Depending on how long the ELC is, a player could foreseeably have two years (though, usually just one) of RFA eligibility without receiving arbitration rights. This essentially means a player is allowed to seek “market” value (compared to other team-controlled players with no arbitration rights), but is still somewhat at the whim of the team’s valuation, with very little negotiating leverage. 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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Stepan > Kadri
In case you missed it, Nazem Kadri signed a two-year bridge deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs last night worth $2.9 million per season. Kadri has just 99 NHL games played –only one full season– and has a line of 23-37-63 over those 99 games. In his only full season, the lockout shortened season, Kadri put up 18-26-44. That 18-26-44 should look familiar, since it is the same line Derek Stepan put up last season. That should mean that Stepan’s market value is $2.9 million, right? Well, not exactly.
The problem is that Kadri has just one full year under his belt. He was bouncing between the AHL and NHL for the first two years of his pro career before that. Stepan cracked the roster immediately, and has three full years (without missing a game) under his belt. The point total for this year may have been the same, but Stepan has 212 NHL games played and a line of 56-84-140. That is an average of 0.66 P/G (1.91 P/60). Kadri’s average was 0.63 P/G (2.35 P/60).
Just an aside: I don’t know where I can find career –or even three-year average– P/60, which is the stat I wanted to use here. P/G isn’t terrible, but P/60 is a more accurate reflection. However, the point is still made. (Thanks George)
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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 »