Lineup Changes

Reinforcements are on the way

John Moore might not play every night once everyone is healthy

The Rangers are so shorthanded right now that they’re bringing in Tomas Kaberle to skate with the team today, but that won’t last much longer.

Derek Stepan’s return is imminent, Dan Boyle’s recovery is also in it’s final stages, and John Moore’s suspension will be over after Sunday’s game. Kevin Klein could follow soon after, though no official prognosis has been made on his foot injury.

So how will things change in the coming days and weeks?

For one thing, the return of Stepan and Boyle should, should, get the power play on track. Statistically it can’t be much worse than the three-for-32 slump to start the season (Pittsburgh has 19 power play goals already…), but even a mediocre stretch by the man advantage would mean an extra goal every few games, a not insignificant padding for the patchwork defense. 

Stepan’s return should also help the penalty kill and provide some stability to the line combinations, which have been in a constant state of flux due to coach Alain Vigneault’s search for a competent center. Slotting Stepan and Derick Brassard on the top two lines and Dominic Moore on the checking line leaves only one spot between Kevin Hayes and Chris Mueller. It should be much easier to find longer-term trios with that settled.

The biggest question is on defense. Ryan McDonagh’s extended absence will give Vigneault time to make a decision, but the top-six has been clouded with the emergence of Matt Hunwick, who has outplayed Moore, Klein and, at times, Marc Staal. Staal and Dan Girardi are the acting top-two, while Boyle will also become a big part of the puzzle. But where do the other three fit in? Heck even Mike Kostka has been more than serviceable since his first-game disaster, and a guy like Conor Allen could make things interesting, too.

When everyone is healthy (knock on wood), Hunwick could squeeze out Moore or Klein. And if the Blueshirts are thinking seriously about assembling a package for Andrej Sekera, another D-man, or even a center, then Moore and odd-man out J.T. Miller make for a very logical starting point.

Sather’s failure to acquire adequate center depth and decisions to let Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman go have been the story of the early season, but things aren’t nearly as bad as they’ve seemed. The Blueshirts are hanging close in the standings – impressive given all the turmoil – but they will soon be in position for their considerable depth to pay major dividends. Our first chance to fairly evaluate the 2014-2015 Rangers is nearly upon us.

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  • I’m not going to panic until all the injured return, and see how the team plays!!

    If indeed the Hunwick kid continues to paly the way he does, and J Moore is platooned, so be it, that is a good problem to have. As for trading for another d-man (Sekera), is that really a very good idea??? I’m not so sure, but again, let’s see how the team plays when healthy!!

    • Would be an upgrade over everyone besides McD, so depending on price, could be a big help. Assuming you’re in agreement that Staal/G are on the downswing…

  • Not so sure we “let Strallman and Boyle go”. It was more like they each wanted money like a top pair defenseman and an 2nd center. Neither is and while we could use both at this point, neither will put up those types of numbers by years end.

    Stepan can’t hurt the powerplay – most underwhelming statement of the day.

    • Stralman is gone. No reason looking back now. I think the Rangers wanted to sign the 17th best possession player in the NHL but after hearing his initial offer. Sather felt he needed a righty D that could make the PP work at big moments. It was a good move by Sather. Boyle just got hurt but you know what this could have a positive in the long run provided the Rangers continue to tread water. 38 year old Boyle will be fresher come the end of the season playing less games. I’m sure he’s still in skating shape.
      I think if the Cains would take a reasonable deal for Sekera. You make that deal. He’s what the Rangers need on Defense. Grit and physicality along with a decent amount of offense. Bump John Moore to 7th D or let him work his way back. Hasn’t been bad but hasn’t lived up to potential.

  • @SalMerc Boyle certainly didn’t get paid like a 2C. Both guys have been very clear that their preference was to stay in NY, but the Rangers didn’t make an effort to keep them.

      • Boyle would have been very, very easy to accommodate at his miniscule raise. Choice between Stralman and Boyle, or Stralman and G…

        • To pay a fourth liner $2M a year in a capped league is ridiculous. I loved Brian Boyle but he’s not worth that contract. D. Moore is better than Boyle and cheaper ($1.5M cap hit).

          In retrospect, the guy the Rangers should have looked at to replace Boyle is Manny Malhotra. Manny at $850k could have ably filled in for Brian Boyle.

          • Dumping Dorsett/Boyle for Glass/whoever is a significant downgrade. The Glass contract this year is a killer.

          • That’s a fair point Dave. I still say Boyle makes too much though. TB is using him as their 3C, it may be working for them now, but we all know how that story ends. Spoiler Alert, it doesn’t end well.

            As far as Glass, AV likes the guy and I would wager he was on board with the signing which tells me there is more to Glass’ game than the advanced stats are telling us. AV has been pretty clear with his views on fighting, so it’s clear to me that AV values the other parts of Glass’ game.

  • “Kevin Klein could follow soon after, though no official prognosis has been made on his foot injury.”

    NHL website is reporting that he’s likely in tonight.

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