Thoughts following the Brandon Pirri signing

Photo by Ronald C. Modra/NHL/Getty Images

In case you missed it, the Rangers signed another forward this week, inking Brandon Pirri to a one-year deal.  The signing is a nice pickup, and another indication that this front office knows what it’s doing. Still, this now leads to a glut of forwards all fighting for roster spots, and it’s hard to say exactly where he might fit in. So let’s get to some thoughts heading into this season with this logjam at forward.

-Ideally Vesey and Buchnevich would be getting sheltered starts on the third line, which would then bump Pirri down to the fourth line. That’s all fine and good except that Pirri’s strength is shot generation and not much else – his shot suppression numbers are pretty bad, and for comparison I’ve included Kevin Hayes’ HERO chart as well (i.e. if you think Hayes is defensively irresponsible, get a load of Pirri). This leads to the question of where to put Pirri, and on that question I really have no idea.

Story 1

– As I mentioned in the last point, ideally Vesey and Buchnevich would be getting time on the third line. I say this because while they’re both skilled players with high upside, they are rookies, and so sheltered starts would be best for them. Plus, watching the two of them with Kevin Hayes as their center would be a sight to behold.

– I mention them also because it’s worth noting that although there’s some serious competition for roster spots, it shouldn’t include Buchnevich and Vesey. This isn’t just because I’m high on both of them (even though I am) but because it’s hard to imagine the Rangers landing Vesey without a promise of serious playing time, so an AHL stint is doubtful (and if it does happen, expect it to be short, as he is very likely NHL capable aleady). Along similar lines, putting Buchnevich in the AHL runs the risk of him going back to Russia, so I highly doubt they’d do something like send him down. All of this means a significant logjam, which brings me to my next point…

– We may be on the verge of a fairly significant trade. This is all pure speculation on my part, but I’ve got to believe that with the amount of forwards on the Rangers roster at the moment one or more forwards is on the way out in exchange for some help on defense, which is the obvious need. Whether it’s a blockbuster involving Rick Nash or Zuc (I sure hope not) or a package centered on someone like Jesper Fast or Oscar Lindberg (the latter being unlikely due to his injured status) I have no idea, but I would not be surprised to see some forwards leave at some point.

– The big question is when. One would imagine the summer being the time to make something happen, but given the management’s comments about Dan Girardi and Marc Staal I would not be shocked if they’re banking on one or both of them having a slight rebound before packing them with someone as part of a deal for a defenseman. Ideally, the two of them play better than last year and then the market for either of them opens up a little bit more and one or both of them is out of here. My other crazy conspiracy theory is that the Rangers are waiting until the trade deadline when the market is wild and crazy, flipping a bunch of those forwards, and then buying out one of Girardi or Staal before the expansion draft. This is kind of out there, and leaves some questions about the Rangers’ status as a contender this season, so I doubt it happens – I’d imagine that a trade happens either this summer or early in the season. My crazy pipe dream hope is that there’s a deal to be made for Hampus Lindholm, but that’s also probably pretty farfetched.

– Lastly, a comment on this forward corps and what its assembly says about management. This is the youngest and fastest the Rangers have been up front in quite some time, with Zibanejad, Vesey, and Pirri all adding some nice skill to the already solid mix of guys like Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, and JT Miller. All of this says to me that Jeff Gorton has his head on straight and understands that this league is moving more and more towards speed and skill. Whether this means they’re analytical inclined I have no idea, but there’s a slightly more than vague sense I get of the FO being tuned in to what it takes to win in this league. Along those lines, I’m of the belief that Gorton and his compatriots understand that Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are relics of the past, and that this defensive corps needs an upgrade. What lengths they’ll go to in improving the blueline I’m not sure, but at this point in the summer I have faith in management.

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  • I am glad you posted that graphic. Shows that Hayes is not bad at suppressing shot attempts. If I read that correctly, Hayes is playing defensively like a 2nd line forward despite playing primarily a 3rd line role. I think Pirri could be a trade candidate. We are full of forwards as it is and that’s without Buchnevich and anyone else on the cusp of making the NHL roster.
    If this kid can’t play defense then he cannot play 4th line minutes. You still want your 4th line to have over a 47% CF% like the 13/14 4th line did.

    I think this signing shows that Gorton has something planned for adding a defenseman. Maybe STL wanted Pirri but he wouldn’t sign there. The NYR didn’t need him.

    • Actually, when you look at the time he gets, Hayes is deployed like a 4th liner. That’s why it says 4th line center at the top of his chart. If he got 2-3 minutes more a night his numbers would be stunningly good.

  • I believe Gorton has to wait to trade either Staal or Girardi. They have been destroyed in the media so what the hell would you get for them? Hockey players have pride and want to play. So if they sit them at some point they will want to be traded. But if they don’t play teams can’t see if they are any better then last year. A tough choice for the coach and GM.

    I also believe a trade or two is coming. No team gets that much depth for the season. I think Gorton has done a GREAT job this off season. He’s done more in one year to make this team better then Sather has done in 10.

  • Gorton has proven to be shrewd with his cash; let’s see now if he can pick somebody’s pocket in a trade.

    • Is there any reasoning here or are these just two independent statements? For example: I got a haircut today… buy a bike

    • @TJ,

      As much as I agree with your sentiment that G n Staal are FAR from being relics just yet.

      To call Dave (out of all people) names, is insane! Not cool!

      You’re out of line Mister!

      • The reason that Staal, and particularly Girardi, are relics is not their ages. Rather it is their lack of mobility and ability to keep up with the faster game NHL hockey has become. Both are quality people so the remark might sound harsh, but the assessment is accurate.

        • Peter,

          This is where I disagree with most of my fellow BSB’ers, and quite frankly, I’m pretty tired of talking about this, as it’s been talked about to death.

          You said. “Rather it is their lack of mobility and ability to keep up”

          Agreed! It’s because they are injured. I believe, once these guys are healthy, they’ll be allright.

          You also said: “Rather it is their lack of mobility and ability to keep up with the faster game NHL hockey has become.”

          Although I agree the NHL has become a faster league. This isn’t anything new. The NHL has evolved to a faster game, and is continually becoming faster. This has been the case for almost ten years now. This has been the prime agenda of management for a long time.

          Dave and the staff here at BSB were one of the first guys that were advocating this years ago.

          In my opinion, these guys (Staal n G) are definitely quick enough to play in todays game still, ONLY when healthy.

          • “Although I agree the NHL has become a faster league. This isn’t anything new. The NHL has evolved to a faster game, and is continually becoming faster. This has been the case for almost ten years now. This has been the prime agenda of management for a long time.”

            Amen to that because i have been saying the same thing ad infinitum.

          • Travis Yost says D men called “stay at home” D men in this NHL are D men that can’t skate and can’t keep up. Sound familiar? lol

          • Bob

            It’s great to show loyalty to these two guys, who over the years were very good, but due to the game changing, they are no longer able to keep up, therefore, they are washed up.

            You’ll get your chance to see this year, when they are healthy, that it makes not a bit of dufference, and I suspect you may have to admit, you were thinking with your heart, and not your mind. Sorry to be so bold, but I believe that to be fact !!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Walt,

            With respect, out of anyone of the “Regulars” here, I’m surprised that you think that I’m wearing my colors on my sleeve when it comes to these guys.

            I’ve stated countless, countless, countless amount of times for my reasoning on why I still believe in these two.

            I’m not a simpletonian that puts up 2,3 basic facts up at the board and says… That’s it, they’re washed up, they suck, let’s move on. Sorry, I think for myself and even if not true, I believe there’s nobody that understands this sport more then myself, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the defense, and I do not get brainwashed and refuse to be a drone by jumping on the “G n Staal Suck” bandwagon.

            I’ve NEVER missed a Ranger game my whole life (44 years old), which means I’ve seen more then enough games that G n Staal have played. Also, I’ve played Defense since 4 years of age, so I tend to watch games with the Defense as more of a focal point. These guys have gone thru hell n back, and their performance over the past 2 years has been without a doubt due to injuries! Period!!! If you remember, I was saying this before anybody was talking about it.

            You know what’s interesting Walt. One of your major gripes about the Rangers has been how we’ve always been a team that goes after these “re-treads.” You know that I agree with you. Although, this is unfortunately something that were known for as an organization throughout the Hockey world, for more then anything else. I have to say, that there’s the other side to that coin as well. How come it’s soooo hard for us to keep players that play with their hearts on their sleeves for their whole careers? Gosh, now that I think about it, I can only think of a handful of players that have been lifelong Rangers…. Harry Howell, Gresch, Richter. Can’t even say Leetch grrrrrr lol.

            Thinking out loud here, but……
            Maybe, that’s why we go after the “Re-Treads” so much, because we refuse to keep the guys that should be life long Rangers to begin with.

            Sorry bud. Staal n G are MUCH, MUCH better then the hell they get here and everywhere else (and I’m not talking about his cons as a player that Dave has pointed out for the past 8 years). I’m talking about the ridicule he gets from almost everybody else since the finals against LA. To me, it makes me nautious reading some of these comments about the two. I guess, this is the world we live in these days…. I’ve watched, what, around 650-700 games G has played over the years, and instead of being decorated as the warrior he’s been, the armchair fan’s blame him for one screwup in the finals against LA, like a 6 year old watching Hockey for the first time.

          • Nice to see someone back up Girardi for a change. I know the guy struggled last year. We all seen what happened. But he was hurt all year so that didn’t help. If fans want to say he’s done is one thing but I get so pissed seeing all the stupid nick names him n Staaal are getting. Girardi was one main guys that helped us win those one goal playoff game. Think about the games he played against Ovechkin and shut him down. So yeah man I’m glad to see some support for the guy.

          • Walt,

            Oh and one other thing.

            You said “due to the game changing, they can’t keep up anymore”

            Firstly, the game started changing to a speed game at around the time these two were rookis to be precise. The game changing to a faster game is NOTHING new!

            Secondly. Please understand, as I’ve said this many, many times. I don’t believe they’ve been lackluster because of the evolution of the game nor their age, but because, simply due to their health.

  • Buyouts of Stasl & Girardi are non starters barring a dramatic hike in the salary cap.

    Zuccarello with a goal(I think his 2nd) for Norway in a friendly against Austria, lead 4-0 after 30.

  • The Rangers do not have a forward glut. People are mistaking guys who are not clueless on the ice for compelling NHLers. Look at Pirri. He did not have a high salary and was a restricted free agent. Florida could only get a sixth rounder for him and Anaheim would not even extend him a qualifying offer. And signing a $1.1M contract at this late date indicates nobody wanted him very much.

    Fact: If Brandon Pirri does not make the team out of camp and is waived, he will not be claimed and will be sent to Hartford.

    Here is what Gorton has done this summer. He has signed a bunch of players who have shown something but really no one else wanted (exaggeration but not far off the mark): Grabner (maybe an exception), Pirri, Gerbe, Jooris, Clendening. The Rangers will bring these guys to camp, expose them to the Ranger systems, coach them, and hopefully some of them will pan out. If Pirri, Gerbe, and Jooris are three of your top thirteen forwards at this point, you are in trouble.

    We can praise Gorton because we really like the lottery tickets he has chosen and because he has enough options to fill out the team and maybe find the next Pouliot, but until camp, we won’t know if he has anything. IMO, to be comfortable you want twenty forwards you would be willing to put on the ice in a pinch.

    Personal assessment: Pirri was so talented he played in the NHL at 19 and is still young. But he hasn’t been a good player. You don’t win a Cup with players like Pirri has been – but maybe you do with the player he could be. Now it’s up to coaching, chemistry, and commitment.

    I like the signing BTW, but it’s not like where is everyone going to play. Counting Grabner, the Rangers have nine forwards AV is committed to – ten if you can Vesey and I’m not inclined to. The rest need to earn their spots and that includes Buch, Pirri, and Lindberg.

    • I think the reason everyone is praising Gorton is because for once, the Rangers are making signings with some sort of upside, rather than wasting cap space on faded stars, enforcers, and overrated “character” guys who do little to affect the outcome of the game.

      Of course, none of these signings is guaranteed to work out, but it’s good to finally see the team operate in a sane, promising direction.

      • Oh, I totally agree. These players seem like good choices and have lots of upside. But they won’t all pan out and we are not now at that “where will they all play?” stage. Tanner Glass should be worried, but his ticket to Hartford is not yet punched.

    • I agree Ray. I like the signings but it’s not like we just stole star players from other teams. I’m seeing fans praise Gorton saying “he’s amazing”. We didn’t play a game yet and he’s already amazing. Im reading articles saying maybe now they trade Nash or Zucc for a D man. So I guess that means we can have one of the guys we signed take the spot of a Rick Nash or Zucc. Nash is our best 2 way player. I think we can use all the help we can with D but that’s another story. I’m just hoping that since we have a bunch of guys all competing for a few spots it brings out the best in them.

  • Can we PLEASE have some respect for other’s opinions. There is no reason to call anyone names. We are fans of the Rangers and we can respectfully agree to disagree. This is a great thing for fans to interact about the team we love. Let’s appreciate the work these writers put in to give us this site to enjoy. Express your opinion, but do it with respect!

    • Of course, it would also be nice to see some respect for the players. There is an occasional bad apple who doesn’t give his all, but highly overpaid but good players who work hard don’t deserve to be called traffic cones.

      To be fair to Tj, he misinterpreted Pat’s sentence. Pat intended relics of the past as referring to throwbacks to a past era when the game was slower, but Tj read it as fossils, which in truth would have been over the line.

  • Putting Pirri on the 4th line is like putting Mario Marois on the top D pair. Not a good move.

    So the belief is that some sort of trade is coming and that if Pirri is to play then it would have to be top 9. The 2nd line would seem to make sense if there were an opening which there currently isn’t. Hence the possibility of a top 6 forward for a significant D man.

    Unless the Rangers will trade bottom 6 players for picks but that doesn’t make sense because the other teams could have just signed them without a trade cost.

    The next few weeks should prove interesting.

    • I think you nailed it. What the Rangers really did was add top 6 competition (Vesey and Pirri along with Hayes and Buchnevich) in the event the Rangers do trade from that group of players – which they will have to do to get an impact defenseman.

      • So my latest “thing” is Zucc for Trouba, who would be a star if paired with McD. I love Zucc but if Trouba is “available” (he shouldn’t be but a lot of whispers that he doesn’t want to play in Winnipeg) then the Rangers have to ask.

        Trouba’s numbers not elite because he gets no PP time there with Big Buff getting the most PP minutes. Trouba would get those PP minutes here.

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