OffseasonState of the Rangers

Master Plan: New York Rangers roster in 2013 & beyond

Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?
Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?

For several off-seasons running, I’ve been creating these “master plans” that talk about the future rosters of the Rangers. The purpose of these posts is to really come full circle on all of the topics and rumors we’ve been covering over the course of the season. During prior offseasons, creating these plans was pretty easy for me as John Tortorella frequently talked about the Rangers “team concept”. Based on his vision, I just filled in the blanks.

With his team template in mind, these posts were generally unified by three main ingredients for success — roster balance, strong skating ability, and making an effort in all three zones. As trade deadlines and free agency periods came and went, my plans always revolved around the idea that the Rangers should stick to those three ingredients when evaluating their own team and what’s available on the marketplace.

This offseason is obviously different in that we don’t know what Alain Vigneault has in store for this team as far their identity goes, but my guess is it will be a lot different from the previous regime. Player’s responsibilities will change. And we probably won’t know anything until perhaps preseason when he’s had a closer look at players and prospects.

2013-14 Roster

Pyatt (Elsa/Getty)
Pyatt (Elsa/Getty)

Of course having a plan and executing it is two different things. No matter how AV wants this team to look and play like in the future, for now, the team is what it is. The decision to retain Brad Richards prevented this club from making any changes of significance. Although I disagreed with that decision, as I thought we could have made some upgrades in a few areas, at this point what’s past is prologue. For now, I’d expect the Rangers to roll out essentially the same roster.

Other than the recent depth acquisitions, the only key difference I see with this lineup is perhaps the role of Brian Boyle. By signing Dominick Moore, Boyle at center becomes somewhat duplicative. If I were AV, I’d consider moving Boyle to left wing on the fourth line. Although he can win face-offs, I think we need more playmaking down the middle and more muscle along the boards. Last season we spent too much time in our own end zone. Moving Brian to the wing can help alleviate the issue of lost board battles.

Other than moving Boyle, I really don’t see AV making many wholesale changes at this point. Perhaps Life of Pyatt is traded for a pick before preseason if we are tight against the cap. However, other than that I think the team is pretty much set. Based on how the team adapts to AV’s philosophy and systems, ultimately will determine the long-range projection of this roster.


2014-15 Roster and beyond

Next offseason is where things could get interesting. I wanted Richards to be bought out this summer, which won’t happen, so my expectation is that he will be bought out next summer regardless of how he plays this season. There’s just too much risk involved in not using that last get-out-of-jail free card (aka the compliance buyout). As Dave wrote earlier this offseason, the underlying data suggests Richie has a shot at a bounce back season. But how will he play in 2016, 2018, 2020? I don’t want to find out.

Between the cap space saved from Richie’s buyout and the expectation that team salary caps could rise from $64M this season to over $70M next season, Glen Sather could have some flexibility. Next year it wouldn’t surprise me to see Glen go after some big fish either via free agency or through a blockbuster trade if the current group of players don’t fit with AV’s system.



Recently, I spoke at length about the need to acquire a coveted right-handed defensemen that we could re-configure our power play around. Although our current roster has a lot of money spent on defensemen, Ryan McDonagh (a lefty) is the only player I see as a long-term fixture for us. In my opinion, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, even Michael Del Zotto are all expendable players in the long-term and could be traded for must-have needs down the road. John Moore & Stralman are good players, but probably aren’t long-term solutions either.

I know some of you hate to hear it, but it’s conceivable Staal walks at the end of his contract to go play with his brothers in Carolina. Girardi too could walk for more money elsewhere next summer when he’s a free agent. Plus, none of us know how he’ll adapt to a new system that might be less reliant on shot-blocking. Then there’s Del Zotto, who although made some major improvements in his own end zone last year, didn’t take that step forward we all hoped he would. I think 2013-14 is a make a break year for him to prove he’s a true PP QB under a different coach and system. If not, he’s a goner. In sum, this defense could look drastically different 12-24 months from now.


Brassard (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
Brassard (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).


AV is a lot like Torts in that he needs his type of players to fit his system. I hope to see a player like Derick Brassard really being a key cog for AV, as he has the potential to be a dynamic skill player who can go north/south or east/west depending on the game situation.

Cally, Stepan, and Nash are obviously core players, but they thrived in a heavy forechecking, north/south system. You would think they’d be Rangers for a longtime, but there’s no guarantee they’ll fit with AV. The rest of the offense feels like stopgap solutions for someone else. Boyle and Moore are stopgaps for Lindberg or Miller. MZA is likely a stopgap until Kreider or Miller are ready for full-time duty, though MZA could get a boost under AV since there will likely be a great emphasis on finesse. Hagelin is an effective forechecker and speedster, and those skills fit in any system. As for Lundqvist, he’s not going anywhere. Book it.

Also, in case you’re curious and want to check out my previous master plans, here’s my post from 2012, as well as 2011’s plan.

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  • Good analysis. I believe that’s the right way to look at this. Hank, Stepan, McD, Nash and Callahan are the core of this team and should all be in NY for the long-term. DZ, Hagelin and Boyle have potential to join this group in my opinion as they can add the strong offense from D and defense from forwards. Would like to see Brassard force himself into this group this year as well

    We have some young kids in Kreider, Miller, Kristo, Fast and Lindberg who should compete for spots as secondary scoring options as well as some promising “projects” in the pipeline

    Girardi and Stralman are both in the last years of their contracts and could be out the door as McIlrath becomes ready for the big league

    Moore’s development into a second pair LD could make Staal tradeable

    There is a lot to like about this team now and going forward as the talent cupboard has been restocked and the contract situation is manageable

    • Agreed – nice work, Suit. It’s much better to think holistically about the roster without going down the rabbit hole of line combinations.

      Identifying the handful of core players is key to determining the direction of the franchise. The salary cap environment dictates that only a certain amount of guys can be paid like “core” players, and on this team, Hank/Step/McD/Nash/Cally are likely what we’ll have, with the rest being spread around to fill depth.

      Our cup chances this season nonwithstanding, there will be a lot of expiring contracts next season, and a lot of decisions to make. With our core locked up, Sather will have to be careful with who he chooses to bring back (with a raise, presumably.)

  • I understand your point and it is tough to think that a player like Girardi could walk. However, I still believe that the team needs to add some beef this year. I hope the team is not ” what it is”. As it is presently constituted the team lacks overall toughness and not just toughness along the boards. There are some large bodies but those bodies need to be supplemented by a player that would stand up to those that choose to run the Rangers blue line. CLowe would have helped but we know his contract was silly. At least the signing of one tougher player would help perhaps change the dynamic a bit. OTherwise it is a pretty decent club.

    • The huge tough forward is one of the few things missing from the current roster but not many of them exist unfortunately

      I think the desire for a “punch the other team’s big guy” is off base. Yes fights are fun to watch but playoff wins are more fun

      • Ultimately, there has to be a balance between a guy who will throw the body around and also contribute in other ways — skating ability, PK, etc. We didn’t get much of a chance to see Dorsett last year. Unclear whether he has enough skating ability to play significant minutes, but it’s worth seeing what he has.

  • Nice write up, but way too many variables. I can see Staal being traded, when Carolina is convinced he is healthy, and possibly MDZ, but ???? on Girardi.

    I also believe that Hags has a long term future with this team, be it on a third line, checking roll with added scoring, PK, his speed is to die for. Also, with Lindberg coming on, he will make this team by year end, that makes JT Miller more of a wing option, than a centerman.

    I love reading these type of articles. Thanks for taking the time to write it, very thought stimuliting, great what if’s!!

    • I’ve always wondered this: Is it just Ranger fans (myself not included) who think Staal is bolting for Carolina, or is it everyone else too?

      • I think everyone who knows the Staal situation in Carolina recognizes that there is a chance Marc heads there soon. Put yourself in his shoes…not only is it crazy to have your three brothers in the NHL, but they are all on the same team! Marc definitely has first team all-FOMO (fear of missing out), so I will not be surprised if he heads there. I just hope he gets back to full health, and that we can either a)get a Stanley Cup from him or b) trade him for some value before he goes.

        Great writeup, I just don’t know how I feel about Hags and G being so expendable. Shot-blocking is part of any coaching scheme, so I don’t think G will leave because he isn’t getting the chances to shot block…he will always shot block. Hags won’t go unless we get a bargain in return, his speed is too crucial to our forecheck, and he is a great kid and teammate, selfless. I am happy Sather kept the roster so similar, because I am a firm believer in team chemistry. The 2011-12 squad was the closest team since ’94 (maybe partially to do with the HBO experience), but last season was a new group of guys with a shortened training camp and half of a season. They were given no time to mesh, and still made the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to a Bruins team that has hardly changed since 2009. Now that the team has half a season and some playoff experience under their belts, expect them to grow from that this year and go back to the 2011-12 ways on the top of the standings.

        • Randy

          Well stated, I agree about Stall, Hags, Girardi and the team over all. The only missing link is we really do need a tough guy to play against teams like Filthadelphia, and even the Pens.

          I can’t wait to see the Lindberg kid play, bet he lines up with Hags, and Miller!!!!!

          • Agreed. The team is definitely lacking some toughness and a fighter…Dorsett is solid but not big enough to be a real intimidator. But that is more reason that we need to hold on to Girardi…not a fighter but hits and not a lot of people try to mess with him. Maybe get McIlrath up for some time this season too.

            One option is just to hold on to Asham and dress him for games like philly, boston, or pitt, but I think they should look to move some combination of Pyatt, Powe, and Asham for a big fighting forward…maybe like Jamal Mayers.

          • He got a few games under his belt last season, and will most likely be a full time NHLer by the time Marc would consider moving there. I heard from a scout a couple years ago that Jared has the most promise of all of them, but that has yet to be proven.

          • They brought him up as a courtesy to him, since his brothers were all in town. He’s a borderline AHL bottom-six forward.

          • I look at this way. I’d love to keep Staal forever, but the brothers said they’d like to all play together one day. Free agency is really the only opportunity for players to dictate their own fate.

            While we don’t know if next year is the time when Staal will make a move, from an organizational perspective, you can’t count on him being there. If Marc gives Glen any indication of his intentions, he has to look into trading them.

        • On Girardi:

          I think he is a wonderful player and has been a great part of the Rangers over the past few years. However, he will be a UFA next summer and may price himself out of New York. He currently makes 3.3 or so and could likely command 5+ on the open market

          By no means is he a goner but, like Staal, he is not untouchable

      • He will be due for a raise. I say either trade him at the deadline in the final year of his contract (unless the Rangers are not a playoff team). To Carolina. For a couple of picks. This year they were really screwed over draft wise. Especially since it was deep. Or trade him in the offseason (if NYR are contenders), for a few picks. Than NYR need to find an LD. Also he is a fan favorite so that is also hard. Fans arent ready to see him go. Tough decision but we shall see.

  • I think the success of the Rangers in the last few years has been due to the play of their defensive players. They have had great goaltending, shutdown defencemen, and forwards who can back-check and close a team down.

    The Canucks were terrible on the back-check and their defensemen had a habit of getting caught up ice. Lundquist numbers may not look so great with AV behind the bench. They Rangers might score a few more goals this year but I am concern they will not win as many games.
    Next year will be even harder for the Blue Shirts to get under the Cap. I know Ranger fans don’t want to hear this, but this is the perfect time to move Hank. They would get premium value for him,( a decent goalie and young up and coming players) and having his salary off the books would solve their salary cap dilemma.

    Lastly looking in the future Slats time has come. He needs to move out of the way and allow his assistant to take over the reins. The organization lost a very good hockey man in Don Maloney because Sather stayed too long. I hate to see them lose another.

    • Move Hank, WHAT??????

      Maybe in a few years, if at all, but no way do we even think of this happening at his age. He will deliver a cup before he retires!!

      As for Slats, we are on the same page there.

    • So…you think they should trade Hank for “a decent goalie and young and up coming players?”

      I’m going to leave this alone, but I’d avoid reading the responses to this if I were you.

  • Have to go back to that comment earlier about team toughness. “Punch the other teams’ big guy” is a cop out on the issue. Check the Bruins…is Chara a goon? Lucic? McQuaid? The Rangers will go nowhere this year unless they make more moves to acquire team toughness, which is a combination of having and withstanding physicality, and having and withstanding intimidation. No need to take my word for it….look at Cup team in 93-94. That team doesn’t capture cup without Graves, Kocur, Wells, Beuke, Matteau and Noonan, as well as Messier, Leach, Richter, et al. Remember, even in the Finals, Shawn Antoski had to be kept in line. It won’t win a Cup alone, but its an essential component.

    • Totally agree we are missing some toughness and intimidation. NOT a goon. Some of our biggest failures in the recent past have been fighters who don’t do much else, including hit. This includes every fighter we’ve signed since Colton Orr was let walk. What we lack, and have lacked, is a BIG (bigger than Prust or Dorsett), tough as nails guy to stand in front of the net. Both nets. We lack the forward and the D. man.

    • While I agree with all of your points, you lost all NYR street cred with the misspelling of ‘Leetch.’ Blasphemy

  • I like Boyle on the wing much more than at Centre & I see a fourth line of Boyle-Moore-Dorsett. There is no room for Pyatt, Asham or Powe, given that at least two rooks are likely to make the team. I love Gordie Clark but I was really pissed when he drafted MDZ over Eberle because MDZ is really a liability back there. I think he has another year & then the undertaker takes his spot. I hate free agency because it has been our kiss of death for years. Teams always vastly overpay for FAs who invariably disappoint. As for these new FA D, only Falk is an Nhler, so I’d keep Eminger too. Amazing how Emmy gets no respect.

  • Don’t mean to be a jerk because I appreciate anyone who takes this much time to talk about hockey and keep these dialogues going, but this thought “In my opinion, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and even Michael Del Zotto are all expendable players” blows my mind.

    As a fan base, I think we get spoiled VERY quickly and we should all remember what life was like before Tom Renney, before the lockout, before we had home grown defensemen who are good.

    I know everyone picks on Del Zotto because he has mental lapses, but the kid’s barely old enough to drink legally. Staal’s eye issues are a bummer, but both he and Girardi have been an anchor on this team.

    Turning on Brad Richards after an abridged season didn’t shock me, but turning on our D is as crazy as you guys booing Dubinsky (who now wears an A for a resurgent Columbus) or how you booed Rozey everytime he touched the puck (who just won a cup logging 20-25 minutes a game for the Hawks) when he was leading the league in plus/minus for us.

    I love the passion here, but man you guys are a headache sometimes!

    Our Goaltending is our superpower, our defense is our strength.

    Leave ’em alone.

    Our forwards are our problem, but it’s not a lack of talent, and it’s the coaches SOLE job in sports to get the most of his talent, so hopefully instead of buying out our marquee players or trading them away like Gaborik, AV can get these guys going next year and we can be back in the Eastern Conference Finals where Hank belongs…

    • I read that as any of the 3 being expendable. Certainly not all 3. With McDonagh locked up as the #1 D and a young cost controlled group of Moore and McIlrath. The Rangers have the luxury of a deep pool of top tier defensemen. If it takes moving one of Staal, Girari or DZ to upgrade the forward corps / get an RD who can play PP I think you do it

      • Somewhere between keeping Staal, Girardi, and MDZ together in cap world for the rest of their careers (as Tim suggested) and trading one or two of them for upgrades or seeing them walk is where reality lies.

  • I agree about the defenseman being expendable and maybe not even here after next year. Staal Girardi are likely to walk after next season. MDZ may not last through this coming trade deadline. I do think that Hagelin is gonna improve each year he plays NHL hockey. I think he’s gonna be a great 2 way player in a few years and is gonna steadily score more each season. I think Richards is bought out next summer out of nessessity not production. I think he will have a nice 60-70 point Richie season this year but I think he gets passed up for Brassard and the way he plays. He will be key to this team this season and it’ll be pivotal who is put around him. I think he is capable of scoring 25 goals and 70 points himself incl 20 PP points! If he can do what he’s capable of on a consistent basis, then that’s 3 scoring lines the Rangers will have. Brass has the chippier game than Richie and will get mostly 3rd and some top 6 mins. He’s a solid face off man too! Wouldn’t be surprised to see AV use lines with 2 Centers at times on big draws. That’s an area Stepan must improve upon. I spoke about our 4th line in a different post.
    Everyone was so in aw about Boston’s 4th line. They had 17 goals in 48 games last season. That’s something that Moore-Dorsett and maybe Life of Piaat can duplicate and maybe win a few games for the Rangers this season. I think Pouliot needs a talking to from AV. If he can play like a guy that deserves Top PP unit time and top 9 ice then he has to play like it on every shift of every game. Otherwise he’s a glorified 4th liner.
    I believe AV wants Pyatt on the team from their 3 seasons in Vancouver. He had 2 seasons with 37 points and 1 with 23 goals. In the right situation and talent around him. His size will help offensive flow with his seem less play along the boards.

    • There will be a significant competition in camp for wing spots. Nash, Callahan and Hagelin will be on the team for sure

      Pyatt, Pouliot, Zuc, Kreider, Miller, Fast and Kristo will all be battling for spots in the top 9. Potentially Boyle can be moved to the wing up the lineup if D Moore will be the 4C

  • Look for Slats to allow AV to put his stamp on the team sometime within next season. Whether it is the promotion of a fast kid or the trade for a AV-favorite, I believe he will get the chance to move the team towards his style. That said, not alot of room to be very creative with current roster. Note that with Hank, our window is about 2-3 years.

  • Dorsett can’t fight and takes too many PM.
    Kyle Clifford of LA is a better fighter and player, and same age as Kreider.

    Girardi never misses a game, and Staal is over rated.

    McIlrath needs to make this team if Dorsett stays.

    Mashinter & Haley fighting for same job- Mashinter is 5 inches bigger & younger.

    Powe & Pyatt are probably gone.

    Miller & Kreider need to improve a lot. This is the last year of Kreider’s 3 year ELC. Kreider has run out of excuses-perform or move on.

    2nd round pick Kyle Clifford of LA is tougher, more physical, and scores 7 goals for LA than Kreider.
    And Clifford is a 3rd liner…Kreider needs to get his act 2gether.

    • Staal far from over rated. Took staal getting hurt for morons to figure out girardi was good.

  • K trade Girardi and staal ahahahahahahaha retarded. Dan Girardi and mark stall are two of the top5 shut down d me in the league. Rangers have stated more then one occasion how Girardi and staal will be long time rangers. In 2015 the cap is supposed to go up to around 80 mill. Trading Marc stall who will make mcdonagh m ey and Dan Girardi who will make mcdonagh money. Trade Girardi and stall we won’t even make the playoffs and will be around last place teams don’t trade those kind of d men because there impossible to replace stop writing blogs because your dumb. Delzotto is the only d man that makes sense to trade he’s terrible don’t quite your day job because your know nothing about hockey

    • Staal and Girardi have been a top shutdown pair over the last few years I agree 100%. However, this is a forward looking analysis and given their age / likely salary increases / injury history along with the development of other players they could potentially be moved

      They would only be traded or not resigned if it was to upgrade other areas of the team (i.e. scoring forward) while ensuring they would be replaced by a youngster ready for the increased responsibility (Moore, McIlrath, etc)

      None of the personnel decisions are made in a vacuum. All should consider the impact on the remainder of the roster and the marginal benefit / cost of making or not making the move

  • Why is MZA a stopgap? Feel like he’s under-appreciated. If he were the same player, but came up through the Rangers system, he’d be talked about as part of the “core”. He has creative instincts and a star attitude this team otherwise lacks, and seems intent on playing here. Hopefully the organization sees it that way.

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