Amid the brief optimism and subsequent let down of the lockout negotiations (aka ‘far apart’) Rangers prospects have been getting it done and, which has been the case all season long, the Swedish contingent are shining bright.
Jesper Fasth continued his strong start to the SEL season and now has 9 points in 14 games for HV71. Fast grabbed two goals on Wednesday as HV71 beat Färjestad 4-3. The most encouraging thing in regard to Fasth is the fact he’s producing on the powerplay (2 of his 6 goals so far) and is seeing considerable ice time at close to 20 minutes/game.
Clearly, Fasth is becoming a go-to option for his club which should stand him in good stead long term. With Oscar Lindberg still scoring at a point/game clip (now 14 in 14) come next season there will likely be another two Swedes making a serious case for inclusion on the Rangers roster.
So how does this affect the roster, aside from player turnover?
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No question, the Rangers made a huge splash this summer with the acquisition of Rick Nash. Thanks to the move the Rangers find themselves with more (legitimate) elite talent than they have had in well over a decade but at some stage even top line players need offensive support. Even the dominant Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s had role players step up when needed.
With the loss of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov the Rangers lost two core role players. They lost two home grown Rangers that proved they had offensive ability, even if they lacked consistency. Unfortunately you have to give to receive. With those two gone however, it offers a bigger chance for another player or two to step up. Forget Callahan, Stepan and Kreider. All three could be needed in the top six and will be counted on to various degrees.
The opportunity that presents itself is a perfect chance for Brian Boyle to reassert himself as a critical piece in the Rangers line up. Boyle needs a good season. While he came on toward the end of last year, offensively he wasn’t as effective as he was during his breakout season a year prior.
Despite continuing in his role as a defensively reliable player Boyle will need to offer more up the other end of the ice given the Rangers’ up and coming array of centers in the system such as Steven Fogarty, Mike St Croix and Oscar Lindberg. Each offers legitimate NHL potential either as an offensive player or as a checking center while offering the benefit of significant cap savings as opposed to Boyle.
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Although the Rangers are likely to benefit from a lockout –due to the injury to Marian Gaborik– there is still a solid chance that when the season starts, the club will still be without their top scorer from last season. Gaborik, who had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in June, is said to be out five or six months recovering from the surgery.
The acquisition of Rick Nash actually gives the Rangers tremendous flexibility when dealing with this injury. Nash is a rare forward that can play both wings, and play them at a high level. This gives the Rangers the ability to fill the spot opened up by Gaborik’s injury on either the left side or the right side.
The players that are likely to play on the top six –alongside Nash, Brad Richards, and Derek Stepan– are the ones you would expect: Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, and Chris Kreider. All three played on the top two lines in the playoffs, and are either decent offensive threats (Cally), or players with some great offensive potential (Kreider, Hagelin).
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In an attempt to take our minds off of the inevitable lockout, let’s turn our focus to the Rick Nash acquisition and if he will play with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.
The concept of a “super” line with these three sure is enticing. After all, it worked in Ottawa with Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatly. It has worked in the past with Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, and any winger that gets placed on that line (let’s be realistic here, you or I could play with those two and put up 35 goals). But what it gives a team in superior scoring talent, it takes away depth issues.
There are pros and cons to putting those three together, but it’s something that the coaching staff will at least look at when Gaborik is healthy. Whether that is before the season starts or after, well that’s up to the owners and the NHLPA.
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As the season (hopefully) draws nearer, there are a lot of excited Ranger fans, and for good reason. Following the Rick Nash trade, the Rangers finally have scoring depth to match their bottom-six depth. If Mike Sauer can find a way to get healthy for the start of the season –having made tremendous progress– then the Rangers defense could be one of the best in the league. Throw in Henrik Lundqvist, and you have a Rangers organization that is strong and balanced from top to bottom.
But therein lies the expectations. On Twitter the other day, there were many people tweeting to me that they expect Ryan Callahan to hit 70 points this year. They expect Chris Kreider to hit 60 points this year. If these are the expectations for two players that likely won’t be seeing much time with more than one of the big three (Nash, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards), then it scares me to think what the expectations are for those three. Based on the Cally expectations, are people expecting Nash, Gaborik, and Richards to each break 90 points? Perhaps 100 points?
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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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Only five players have scored more goals than Rick Nash since 2003-2004. His 272 goals is indeed an impressive total. To date, Nash has scored 83 powerplay goals in his NHL career, a number that would surely have been larger had he had a better supporting cast during his time in Columbus.
While Nash only scored six powerplay goals in each of the last two seasons that number should grow when considering the presence of Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and players such as Ryan Callahan and Mike Del Zotto on the power play.
Nash is a legitimate threat who is not afraid to shoot the puck, something that the Rangers powerplay hasn’t nearly done enough. With over 300 shots per season over the last two years Nash comes to a Rangers team with players to feed him the puck unlike in Columbus. The premise is that with more opportunity should come more production.
Perhaps the biggest Achilles heel of the Rangers last year was their ineffective powerplay. The presence of Nash adds elite skill, makes the team bigger, more trigger happy but also from a personnel point of view, deeper on the powerplay. The big winger will bump several players down onto a second unit, and will round out a first powerplay unit that should be explosive.
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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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According to Larry Brooks, Glen Sather may have the intention of trying to entice Shane Doan and Rick Nash to New York. Should the general manager manage to pull off that coup what would it mean to the Rangers immediate future?
First and foremost, like many others I believe that Shane Doan is a longshot to land on Broadway despite his meeting with Rangers management within the last week. Doan has an obvious preference toward Phoenix and a man that has played in hockey afterthoughts such as Arizona is likely to prefer the western conference than change completely and play in the media capital of the world, New York.
However, assume for a moment that Doan lands in New York and Sather adds Nash through a trade. All of a sudden the Rangers are the Stanley Cup favourite; ahead of Vancouver, ahead of LA, ahead of even Pittsburgh and Philly. With a returning Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan and of course Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan the Rangers top six would suddenly be stacked with an almost perfect balance of youth and experience, size and skill.
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During the first post discussing the best European Rangers of all time we discussed a couple of Scandinavian wingers, and the great Jaromir Jagr. We also discussed a certain Swedish goalie that may well end up as the greatest Ranger ever, period. Let’s take a look at a few more great Europeans who lit up Broadway.
I’m old enough to remember Zubov traded and for many Rangers fans it’s still a painful memory. Zubov won a Cup in New York – as a home grown Ranger – and was a dynamic offensive weapon and for those reasons Zubov’s Ranger tenure should be fondly remembered. People forget that during the cup winning season of 1994 Zubov led the Rangers in scoring during the regular season with 89 points, an unthinkable total for a blueliner today. An in-his-prime Zubov would command obscene amounts of dollars from clubs in the current NHL era.
You could make a valid argument that 165 games as a Ranger isn’t enough to be in this discussion but when you average almost a point/game as a blueliner (156 points/165 games) in the regular season and grab 30 in 32 playoff games, including 19 in 22 during the Cup season, the impact is undeniable. Another draft steal (5th round, 1990), his trade to Pittsburgh still hurts.
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