– I’m a little stunned by some of the quality free agents still floating out there. Guys like Brandon Pirri and Justin Fontaine should be appealing to the many front offices that have hired #fancystats analysts and developed more progressive player evaluation models. A few of those players will still find homes before the season starts, but a good number will likely end up with PTOs at training camp. Remember, Lee Stempniak signed a PTO with the Devils before last season and ended up having a huge year. There’s potential for the same thing to happen with a couple of guys this season and the Rangers should be eyeing them closely.
– Overall the Rangers have made some pretty strong moves this offseason. Nick Holden should be a nice upgrade to the third pair; Nathan Gerbe, Josh Jooris and Michael Grabner bring speed, depth and penalty killing prowess; Adam Clendening and Michael Paliotta are two post-hype prospects that still have some real potential on defense; and the draft class was loaded with value picks that fit the direction of the franchise. Failing to re-sign Viktor Stalberg is the one head-scratching departure, but it’s hardly worth losing sleep over.
– The problem lies with the moves the club hasn’t made. GM Jeff Gorton needed to make big changes to improve the roster and satisfy the fan base, and he has failed to do so. Returning essentially the same defense is completely unacceptable. The Rangers are still in the same salary cap conundrum and look poised to be good but not good enough. By all accounts it’s not for lack of trying and while there’s something to be said for the theories that patience is a virtue and making no move is better than forcing a move, the Blueshirts could have taken a big step and freed up a whole bunch of cap space by biting the bullet and buying out Dan Girardi. No, that’s not ideal, but it would have been something – a sign that the organization is not being complacent and turning a blind eye to its problems. And the Blueshirts could have used those savings to bring in one of several significantly better replacements on defense.
– Of course, Gorton is still actively tinkering with the roster and working the phones, so it’s not impossible that the big splash is yet to come. But don’t hold your breath. By now most teams have spent the last two months envisioning their roster for the 2016-2017 season and have been working steadily to assemble the pieces. Few clubs are in position to add major salary, or looking to part with the players New York coverts. Yes, an unexpected arbitration complication could force a team’s hand, but most have a pretty good idea ahead of time where the dollar figures will end up well before those court date approaches. The blockbuster trades that do happen this late in the summer are much like the Rick Nash deal of a few years ago. The Rangers and Blue Jackets had been talking for months and the delay was due to the Blueshirts holding out as long as possible before finally adding Tim Erixon to sweeten the pot. It really doesn’t seem like there’s anything that far along right now.
– Personally, I still think the quickest remaining path to tangible improvement is to ink James Wisniewski to quarterback the power play and bolster the right side.
– But I can’t help but look ahead to next offseason when the Blueshirts will finally have a first-round pick (until they deal it for Patrick Marleau), a couple more prospects potentially on the way (Ryan Graves, Boo Nieves), Tanner Glass’s contract comes off the books, and childhood Ranger fan Kevin Shattenkirk hits the open market. New York will still be very tight against the salary cap, but Rick Nash and Kevin Klein might be more tradeable with only one more year remaining on their respective contracts. The expansion draft will probably result in the Blueshirts losing Oscar Lindberg or Jesper Fast, but you can see a path to a much-improved roster.
– This is a pretty great way to celebrate your day with the Stanley Cup:
— CBS Sports NHL (@CBSSportsNHL) July 15, 2016
1) How would you grade the offseason?
2) Beyond Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich, which prospect do you think is next in line to contribute at the NHL level?
3) What would you do with the Cup for a day?