Rangers situation at center will impact their future

Is it safe to assume both Derek's are here for the long haul? (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
Is it safe to assume both Derek’s are here for the long haul? (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Caps are making most of the headlines (and justifiably so) while the Bruins, Lightning and the Islanders are all streaking at the right time of the season but, despite their inadequacies on the blueline and on special teams, there is no team in the East that the Rangers should fear as playoff season approaches – thanks to their depth at center.

The team’s center ‘situation’ however figures to change significantly over the short term almost regardless of how successful this year’s edition end up being. Against the Kings two summers ago, the Rangers were dominated at center and that difference up the middle left an undeniable imprint on the organisation and the acquisition of Eric Staal will have certainly been influenced by the organisation’s desire to control center ice, as well as find the ideal running mate for the team’s one elite forward, Rick Nash.

With that said, the Rangers’ situation at center promises to get serious scrutiny over the summer. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard (barring abysmal – but unlikely – finishes to their respective seasons) are locked in for the immediate future but with JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, Dominic Moore and Staal on the roster, the Rangers have seven players who can play center on the current roster alone.

Varying contractual situations (four of the seven named players have expiring contracts) will obviously influence how the Rangers take to the ice next season but the Rangers will likely be able to keep whoever they feel offer the best chance of continued success.

Eventually the Rangers will need to begin a phase of gradual transition and make changes to the roster as they address the long term future of the organisation. The Rangers clearly need to make changes to the defense and their bottom six forwards – these are surely the greatest needs on the squad long term. Dealing from a position of strength (the center position) will be the Rangers best hope of addressing other needs as there won’t be buckets of cash to spend.

The Rangers have big decisions to make on the likes of Hayes and Miller; what are their best positions and are their long term futures even with the organisation? The team will need to decide if Lindberg is best served as a trade chip and they’ll need to decide whether Moore and Eric Staal can provide value in the short term (value being oh-so critical in deciding a player’s future in the current NHL landscape) but the team have the players at their disposal which is always better than having to go out and find them in the first place. It’s always best to trade away rather than needing to chase talent.

Can the Rangers realistically keep Eric Staal and Keith Yandle while icing a team with sufficient depth? The next few months will tell us if the team even want to keep both elite talents in the fold but the Rangers best chances of re-building on the fly lie with the talent they have at center. Don’t spend the next few months getting too attached to Lindberg, Hayes and co. If the Rangers are going to prolong this era of contention, chances are the best returns they’ll receive will come from some of their center talent. The remainder of this season will tell us who are the most ‘expendable commodities’ amongst the Rangers’ stable of centers. It’s not just Eric Staal that’s playing for his immediate future. Let the auditions begin.


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    • What is wrong with you? A team that isn’t playing well, that keeps winning games and is flirting with 50 wins and you don’t think they’re a legit threat (Tampa)? Ok then….

    • Staal will resign with the Rangers unless some GM gets crazy. Yes it has happen once or twice before.It would have to be a playoff team and for big bucks. He’s just coming off his I’m rich contract. So why leave NYC for less.

      • Actually I think Staal might re-sign with the Rangers for less than we think to stay with his brother. He’s already made a ton of money so maybe he signs for 5 mil. Just depends on his ego & whether money is his prime consideration.

        • I agree that he would probably take a discount to stay with the rangers. It would stilp take some decent money to resign him though. I’ve been thinking about who the rangers might try to trade away and if it would be possible to resign both Yandle and Staal. By trading away a big player they might be able to recoup some prospects and picks.

    • don’t assume Moore is gone just because he’s on a expiring contract. He’s a useful intelligent player who would be worth another year if he can be brought back cheaply.

  • Like Alex said,,Staal is one and done and Moore will likely hang up the blades after this season. The Ranger organization lacks depth on the blueline and while they have some young promising forwards, they have no superstar game breakers on the horizon. I can see the Rangers dipping into the unsigned draft pick or undrafted player market this summer in order to restock.

    • The Org. like to grab a few college kids to retool the cupboards so would expect them to do it again. But what makes you think Buchnevich can’t be a superstar game breaker? he’s been immense in Russia and there’s no obvious reason (at least to me) why he can’t come over and do what Tarasenko has done and become a top flight forward.

      • I haven’t watched Buchnevich play since the World Juniors in 2014 where he was good but not a Conner McDavid or Jack Eichel by any means. I find the young highly talented Russia players are always a crap shoot as for every Tarasenko or OV there are dozens who can’t make the jump to the NHL.

  • this article, very well written, was headed to a thumbs up, but at the end it went big time bad.

    Correctly pointing out the glut, the conclusion is we may lose Hayes/Lindberg.

    No. The same numbers objectively emphasized in the first half prevail at the end, yet were improperly ignored.

    We need to retain the youngest core (Miller, Hayes, Kreider, Skjie) and move the vets older by either calendar or salary structure (Nash, Brassard/Zuc, and especially Stepan, who earns a NMC after next season).

    Moving Hayes is especially foolish, as without Hayes + Kreider, we are undersized Canadiens. Lindy is a real $ value with upside not too much to be unmovable, but way so not to be casually moved, either.

    move da (older) vets
    play da kids
    if AV doesn’t like it, too bad.
    The GM, who renews our talent pool when the idiots with the win now mentality don’t deprive him of picks, is the real asset here, and properly holds greater power.

  • the rangers put in two bad games this weekend now you have to look to the west coast trip starting today the three teams there are playing well so now a good effort is needed

  • The player i would move is Stepan, hes getting paid 6+ million and is no more than a 3rd line center on this team. Brassard is our 1 and Staal needs to be our 2 and Stepan for the contract they gave him isnt worth it. At least when we gave Zuuc the money that was high based on his production he stepped his game up big time and is showing that it was a good investment…..Step i just dont see that and see a lot of cap space being eaten up by him and we could get a good return for him from say St. Louis or another team without a legit 1 center that may think stepan could do better with them or Minnesota to bring the local guy back like they did with Zach P.

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