Prior to the start of the 2013-2014 season, few could have imagined that the Rangers would trade their heart and soul captain, Ryan Callahan, at the March 5 trade deadline. But such is life in the salary cap world – GM Glen Sather determined a contract number he wouldn’t exceed for both Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi. Girardi proved willing to negotiate within Sather’s limits, Callahan did not, and he was stunningly traded for Martin St. Louis.
Why bring this up now? Because just as with last fall, the Rangers are about to open camp with a few mega contracts looming on the horizon. New York has a bit more financial wiggle room this time around, especially with the salary cap ceiling likely to increase, but there are still tough decisions to be made. So what lies ahead?
Who will be the captain? – Not all of the major personnel decisions are financial – who will be the next face of the Rangers is as important a decision as any. The logical candidates – Girardi, St. Louis, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh – all come with questions. Girardi’s play dipped dramatically in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs after he signed a six-year, $33 million contract, so it could be a risky move to give the 30-year-old blueliner this honor without knowing if he can maintain his previous level of play. St. Louis has just one year remaining on his contract and is 39 years old, so while he might be the perfect veteran leader right now, that could represent flawed short-term thinking. Like St. Louis, Staal has just one year left on his deal and faces an uncertain future with the organization. That all leads to McDonagh, who’s certainly the unanimous choice among fans. It would be a major shock if he didn’t receive the C, but that’s also a lot to throw onto a 25-year-old who’s still blossoming as a player.
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Loads of armchair GM’s have had one thought on the backburner of their mind since Ryan Callahan was traded last March: who will be the next captain? Instead of instantly naming a new captain, a move which the Lightning made immediately upon the captain-for-captain swap of Callahan for Martin St. Louis, the Rangers simply promoted Dan Girardi to full time alternate. Joining Marc Staal and Brad Richards proudly wearing the ‘A’ on their sweaters was a promotion of sorts for Girardi, who signed an extension during the regular season.
Around now is when I would cite some reliable sources about the most recent news as to who will be leading our beloved Blueshirts through seasons to come, but quite frankly I would rather irresponsibly yap about my opinion and play a few rounds of Devil’s Advocate. We know that Richards can’t be the captain, leaving us with two logical guesses in Staal and Girardi. Many are convinced that Ryan McDonagh is a lock for the role. How about veteran and former captain St. Louis? Or another former captain in Rick Nash? The possibilities are endless.
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Happy Almost-Three-Day-Weekend folks. A lot has gone on in Rangerland over the past few days, so let’s get to the musings.
Their best and most complicated trade chip. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
- The Rangers have $14.6 million in cap space to fill six forward spots and one defense spot. If you allocate about $12 million to Derick Brassard ($4 million), Mats Zuccarello ($4.5 million) , Chris Kreider ($2 million), and John Moore ($1.5 million), that leaves $2.6 million for three forward spots. That’s not much room to work with, even if you do use kids to fill the remaining roles.
- The Rangers said that they want to add one more forward, but don’t know if they will sign someone or trade for someone. If they sign a forward, it’s going to have to be another experimental forward, like Benoit Pouliot last summer.
- Mike Ribeiro is the name that will probably be thrown around a lot, as he was just bought out by Phoenix and could come cheap. I’d venture a guess that he would settle for a Brad Richards deal (one-year, $2 million). That’s as cheap as they come, but Ribiero hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire lately.
- Aside from Ribeiro, the other UFAs are either too expensive or not intriguing: David Legwand, Derek Roy, Steve Ott, Saku Koivu, Michal Handzus. None of these guys fit (from a cap perspective or from a talent perspective).
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Dan Girardi – What a roller coaster year Girardi just completed. He looked totally lost at the beginning of the season (like several Blueshirts), but quickly turned around his game and played like his old self during the second-half. Management was convinced that Girardi’s early-season hiccups were an anomaly and rewarded him with a six-year, $33 million contract, essentially choosing Girardi over captain Ryan Callahan. But Girardi again looked like a liability once the playoffs started, culminating in his train wreck performance (mixed with a healthy share of bad luck) during the Stanley Cup Final that left many fans calling for a trade. Girardi had no more than a dislocated finger during the playoffs, so his pylon-like play should raise eyebrows given the substantial financial commitment New York made to him just a few months prior. Nevertheless, Girardi has been a tremendous player for the Rangers during his eight-year career, and, just as Brad Richards did at the start of this year, Girardi seems likely to bounce-back from this most recent embarrassment in a big way. Grade: B-
Anton Stralman – For almost his entire tenure in blue, Stralman was the most underappreciated player on the team. But thanks to his particularly stellar play during the postseason and some gushing comments from talking heads and bloggers alike, Stralman is now viewed as a must-keep player by many fans. Advanced metrics make Stralman look like a true stud, but he’s been a very good second-pairing defender, not necessarily a $5 million a year blueliner. Stralman contributes next to nothing offensively – though some argue that his possession metrics suggest he was a victim of bad luck and believe Stralman actually does far more to help the attack than his point total indicates. Stralman has certainly emerged as a very good defender, but he seems like a guy that was underrated for so long, he’s now overrated. Grade: A-
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The Rangers needs more from Zuccarello, starting tonight.
The Rangers enter tonight’s crucial game two trailing the Kings after one and given the Rangers relative poor home form it’s essential they get even in the series tonight. The Rangers could really do with winning tonight’s game two as the pressure would be back on the Kings heading to New York. To do so, several Rangers are going to have to improve on their recent performances. Let’s take a look at three Rangers who could have a huge influence on tonight’s game with improved performances.
Following a breakout year leading the Rangers offensively and being part of the club’s most consistent line all year long, things have gone stale for the little Norwegian. With no points in his last six playoff games Zuccarello is the definition of cold. For a team with no obvious, go-to offensive producer and for a team reliant on balanced scoring Zuccarello can’t remain so ineffective in game two.
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Little man get paid big?
Yes, I know Dave gave you a Musings this morning. Whatever. You’re being spoiled today with two. As the Rangers close in on a playoff spot, form, health and special teams become so incredibly important at this time of the year. With the Avalanche on tap this evening, let’s have a muse for the second time today.
It’s nice to see the Captain (the real captain) holds no apparent bitterness toward the Rangers following his coaching snub last summer. Mark Messier says the Rangers have a chance at the Cup and, if they avoid the Bruins, there’s no reason to think they can’t go far if health and form holds up.
That said, the Rangers cannot go far in the post season without a better powerplay and consistency from Nash, St Louis, Richards – in that order. The defense will keep this team in games, Henrik Lundqvist will steal games but the offense needs to spot the King a lead or two. Stating the obvious?
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Can Staal get back to his dominant old self?
With Marc Staal returning to the line-up tonight, speculation will begin (again) as to whether the timing of his return is right, and whether Staal will ever be able to return to his previous best. In addition to the obvious chase for a playoff spot, and the continued (prolonged) acclimatisation to the new coaching staff, the Rangers will need to treat the second half of the season as an audition of sorts for Marc Staal.
There’s no question that Staal – at his best – is an elite All Star calibre defenseman, capable of shutting down the league’s best scorers, while also contributing offensively. However there are a boat load of questions regarding his durability, the task of re-projecting his long-term potential, and subsequently measuring his relative importance to the Rangers. In addition, the club needs to consider the financial risks that come with committing to such an injury prone and potentially concussion-vulnerable player.
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The steadiest of the steady (Elsa/Getty Images)
Suit kicked off our annual midseason grades yesterday with his review of Alain Vigneault and the coaching staff. As Suit mentioned in his preamble, we all hand out ‘performance grades’ around the mid-way point of the regular season and just after the commencement of the playoffs. As always, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization.
We do not take these grades lightly. Each grade is very well thought out. For the defense, I graded based on two areas: on-ice performance based on role on team, stats (both traditional and #fancy) based on role. It’s important to note that I stressed role on the team. This means that a player like Dan Girardi will be graded based on his role as a shutdown performer, and Michael Del Zotto on his offensive contributions.
A quick note about the numbers being used: Goals-Assists-Points, Corsi, OZone starts, Quality of Competition faced. Details here.
Ryan McDonagh (6-17-23, 51.3% Corsi, 47.4% OZ starts, 29.6% ToTm QoC)
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Per Seth Rothman, both Ryan Callahan (knee) and Marc Staal (concussion) are with the Rangers on the current road trip. Staal has been out since the December 7 loss to New Jersey, and Callahan since the December 10 loss to Nashville. Staal has been skating for a few days now, and it was rumored that he would return on this road trip. Callahan was supposed to be out 4-6 weeks with his MCL sprain, so news of him traveling with the team is a bit of a surprise. The team needs both of them back in a hurry.
Per Larry Brooks, concussed defenseman Marc Staal is skating again, having taken the ice yesterday and after practice today. There is still no timetable for his return, but Staal said that this concussion is nowhere near the same as the last concussion he had. The sooner Staal returns the better, as the Rangers could really use a boost on the blue line.