Musings: Need for bigger change detracts from Gorton’s solid offseason

GM Jeff Gorton still seeks a big move to shake up the roster
GM Jeff Gorton still seeks a big move to shake up the roster

– 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:

Question time:
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?

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  • As much as we all feel Girardi has got to go buying out his contract will cost us way too much next year and a some years after. Paying 3.75 mill for a player that’s not even there anymore is too much in my opinion. I’m hoping they at least move him down in the pairings. Maybe with less ice time and playing up against teams bottom 6 he will be more effective. He played on so,e banged up knees last year so maybe we’ll see a healthier Girardi and one that wants to prove he can still play this game. He does have to be much better with his decisions when it comes to passing the puck cause he really did have some bad turnovers last year. We all know had a bad year but he’s been a main part of our D and held the best players in the league down his whole career so I’m sure he’s got a lot of pride and wants to able to do it again. Let’s see how he used this year and if he sits out games so he stays rested cause buying him out will cost us for 10 years.

    • He was horrific against the Kings in the 2014 Cup Finals, and his decline since then has been steep and astonishing. He is not currently a NHL player, and his contract hinders our team from making other moves (like keeping our best defenseman last year in Yandle, or not giving out horrible bridge contracts that screw us down the road). In the playoffs the following players on the right side were better than him: Klein, Boyle, McIlrath, and Diaz. He shouldn’t have been playing a minute, yet AV consistently

      The guy is a warrior, but his body is shot. That is a fact we need to accept. This is the third off-season in a row where we do not want accept this, and live with this horrific defense which is horrible in transition, and impedes our ability to control games. Continuing to live with the fiction that he can be a top 4 guy, let alone a top pairing d-man (he hasn’t been one in at least three years), will waste yet another season of Hank’s all-time career, and effectively shut our window for good.

      The fact the Rangers did not upgrade the defense (we are basically the same team, but worse on defense with Yandle and Boyle gone), means that we will barely (if we are lucky) make the playoffs this year. Hank carried us last year with one of his better years (look at his save percentage at even strength, phenomenal numbers considering the workload and quality of shots he faced), but expecting that again this season is ludicrous. Plus we should expect a decline from Klein after a career year.

      For me at this point we should be blowing it up and trying to see if we can build up something for 5 to 7 years down the road. This group of guys had their shot and blew it, mostly due to management’s blind faith in Staal and Girardi. I am heartbroken just thinking about.

  • the defense needs to get younger and stronger and faster we have a good nucleus on d but we have to play better in front of hank

  • Jeff Gorton was dealt a lousy hand, and to be honest, he has done a reasonable job of getting the best he could, with the limited funds available!!!!!!!!

    In response to Ranger 11, Girardi should be the 7th d-man, or no better than the third pair, based on his immobility. If we are to have to carry him on the roster this season, as it appears, well he could be used against the lower quality teams, with less speed, in order not to be exposed again. Probably as the trading deadline approaches, we could trade Dan for something, what exactly, I don’t know, but something. Teams who are preparing to make a run in the PO’s, usually try to add depth on defense, and that’s when Dan has some value………….

    For the reason stated, the off season should be rated a B.

    The next in line to be a splash for us will be Graves.

    If I had the cup. I’d go to Filthadelphia, to rub it in, I hate that team !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Disagree. Gorton showed his hand with the inexcusable E. Staal trade where we gave up precious picks and prospects for a rental that was then misused by AV.

      The fact that Gorton did not move heaven and earth to keep Yandle also shows a lack of understanding of the importance of controlling the game and pressing other teams.

      He’s just as much a problem as AV is.

      • You don’t think Sather wasn’t pulling the strings at all?????? The mans hands were tied, what do you what from him?????? I have to give him slack, read your post about the contracts…..

  • The off-season isn’t completed yet. Buying out Girardi will cripple us for more years than if he plays. I think a kid like Boo Nieves could be a player to watch is a year. While everyone jumps on our defense, I still think we need a stronger, more potent offense. We do not scare anyone. We do not wear anyone down. Our top 3 lines need to step it up. Out PP needs a QB and needs to be more lethal, Why not try Skjei or McIlrath there?

    I think sheltered minutes for Girardi and Stall along with a maturation of Skjei and McIlrath will strengthen our backline. Let’s put more in the net. I am talking to Hayes, Lindberg, JT, Fast and the Kreider. Earn your new contracts!

  • I would like to see Jeff make a pitch for Yakapov in Edmonton. The kid oozzes talent and would give the Rangers more scoring depth. Fast could be part of that move as new york has plenty of 3rd and 4th. line players.

  • 1) A- This is EXACTLY what I hoped Gorton and the rest of brass needed to do. Never felt we needed an complete overhaul, but just some natural tinkering to continue to be one of the top (homegrown and young) teams in the league.

    2) Skjei- I’ll give it to him over Buch because we saw what Skjei looked like and to me was very impressive along with playoff experience, along with the fact that our needs on D are slightly higher then up front.

    3) I would throw a BSB Party with the Cup 🙂

  • I think it’s crazy to buy out Giradi just to show you did something. If they do that we will be complaining about Giradi a lot longer than if we didn’t. It’s not a smart move. You don’t do something just to say you did something. Also I don’t know why I hear we should trade Klien. He’s one of the guys that has a good contract and he does was he’s expected to do. I know there’s changes that need to be made. But it can’t be forced. We don’t know what deals feel through

  • Those numbers posted on total shots & shots on goal(1,533 shots Hank stopped-#1 in league!!)helps to understand the problem. As far as blaming it all on the defence, well that’s crazy. To get that many shots against tells me the forwards were not doing their job either. That stat reflects not only a total team failure, but also a coaching failure as well. It also highlights just how good Hank was last year, despite the silliness of his detractors. Buying out G is lunacy & I can’t understand why this even comes up. As far as G & Staal go, I’m willing to keep an open mind about them. We’ll know soon enough(training camp) what kind of shape they are in & if they have the goods. If we play that same D-zone system as last year, it won’t matter whose out there because the slot will be open & the shots will rain down on Hank.

    I rate the offseason a B, and would have given it an A, if AV had been replaced. Gorton has blinders on there.
    Graves is obviously the next one, Nieves will need at least one season in the AHL.
    Throw a party with our friends, fill the Cup with Rum Punch & have Queen’s WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS blaring out on the deck.

    • Yes! Thank you Paul for reminding everyone how phenomenal Hank was last year. I actually thought it was one of his best seasons based on the fact that he faced an alarmingly high number of high quality scoring chances.

      Can’t agree with you on AV though. I guarantee that if AV was fired he would have a new NHL head coaching job in less than a week. Last year was a lost year for many different reasons. The main one being this team has simply played too much hockey over the last five years. I thought it was telling that the three teams that have played the most games in the last 5 years, NY, Chicago, and LA, all got bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

      AV tried to get this team to limp through the year by not practicing. That showed in the level of sloppy play throughout most of the season. The lack of practice time also made it impossible to change any systems over the course of the year. The only way AV was getting fired this summer was if the team had a mutiny like they did at the end of Torts’ time. Seeing how Torts has become fully unhinged, I can see why the team turned on him the way they did.

      • I don’t see how anyone can question the statement that the 2015-2016 Rangers were poorly coached. There are really only two kinds of coaches in the world – bad coaches and coaches who get some teams right and other teams wrong. Of course, the best coaches get a higher percentage of teams right.

        Several years back, when Tortorella was coach and mostly playing a veteran lineup, everyone realized the Rangers needed a new coach, even Torts. The next year Tortorella came back with a completely new focus, determined to ride Ranger youth as far as it would take the team. And it WORKED.

        The Rangers need a new coach now. Can Alain Vigneault be that new coach? – I don’t know. So far we’ve seen little sign of it, but AV is quite close-mouthed, so who knows. Maybe Ulfie’s departure is a clue; I hope so.

        • Or, like I said, the Rangers simply played too much hockey and AV tried to make the best of an extremely sub-optimal situation.

      • “The main one being this team has simply played too much hockey over the last five years. I thought it was telling that the three teams that have played the most games in the last 5 years, NY, Chicago, and LA, all got bounced in the first round of the playoffs.”

        Prior to the playoffs starting, Boston was 4th on the list and they failed to make the playoffs. The top 7 entering this year are:

        Rangers 86
        Chicago 85
        Los Angeles 75
        Pittsburgh 70
        Boston 66
        Tampa 65
        San Jose 65

  • 1. A- not buckling under to fan pressure is huge.
    2. Skjei
    3. ??

    Consider four comparable defensemen. Dan Girardi, Adam Larsson, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle.

    Larsson is the youngest and has the most reasonable salary – which is why he netted Taylor Hall in trade and the others wouldn’t. Interestingly though, while G and S seem overpaid, Yandle got just as much money on a new contract.

    Dan Girardi is a solid defenseman. Any GM with half a brain would happily give him a one year contract for $2-2.5M a year and probably a good bit more. The cap space that would be freed up by buying him out would not allow you to get a player of equal value.

    Maybe the contracts were ill-advised. But the bottom line is that the Rangers must live with the consequences of those decisions one way or the other — and it is silly to cope with the out of sight out of mind approach – which BY THE WAY
    is vintage Rangers pre 2005.

      • Also, in what way is Larsson’s salary reasonable?

        There is decent chance Larsson completely craters this year now that he no longer has his Andy Greene security blanket.

        • We’ll see. It used to be that defensemen took a lot longer to mature than forwards and guys Larsson’s age were nowhere near the peak.

      • They play at about the same level. They are different sorts of players and some would value some above others, but basically none are really first pair defensemen, but all are generally regarded as good second pair guys. Obviously some disagree. Personally I regard Yandle as a distant fourth; others think little of G and S.

        The important thing to remember is that fans have extreme opinions. Depending on who you listen to, Henrik Lundqvist is either one of the top three goalies in hockey or the possessor of a contract which dooms the Rangers. A second pair defenseman who makes $5-6M a year is incomprehensible. Either the guy deserves his salary or he belongs in Hartford – there is no middle road.

        Management has to deal with actual reality.

    • Larsson netted Hall the same way Gomez netted McD and Higgins. GMs can make atrocious mistakes. Chiarelli has already shown he doesn’t know how to handle young superstars with his equally ridiculous Seguin trade while he was in Boston.

      100% agree that buyouts are not the way to go with G and Staal. Just manage their ice time and hope someone is dumb enough to take them off your hands midseason.

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