adam clendening

All is quiet in Ranger land at the moment. The trade deadline has passed. The Rangers would need to have an epic collapse to miss the playoffs. The only questions now are who they will face and how successful they will be. So with that, I posed a question about what you want to see in this post, and got some replies, so let’s have at it.

Kevin asks: What do you think the final stretch lines/pairings will be? (This came up multiple times, but Kevin was the first to ask)

I don’t think we are going to see much change in the lineup. The top nine will remain the same. We will see some changes on the fourth line though. Expect Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast (when healthy) to be the mainstays. Brandon Pirri and Pavel Buchnevich will rotate in. That’s what I have when fully healthy for the playoffs. While Fast is out, I expect Matt Puempel to join the rotation.

As for the defense, I expect Dan Girardi to be back in the lineup when healthy. I also expect Alain Vigneault to go to “ole reliable” and pair him with Ryan McDonagh. That will push Brendan Smith to the third pair with Brady Skjei, and force Adam Clendening out of the lineup. That said, I don’t expect Kevin Klein to be back in the lineup.

Mike asks: What does AV do with eight defensemen?

As alluded to above, I have no idea. I expect Clendo and Klein to be the scratches once fully healthy thought. And yes, that takes into account Clendo’s solid play lately. There’s no way Girardi is kept out of the lineup. Maybe, just maybe, Nick Holden is scratched. But his goal totals are sexy even if the rest of his play is terrible. I still think Girardi goes back to the top pair, which is the wrong move.

Corey asks: What are your preferred playoff scenarios?

This is an easy one. For the Rangers to have legitimate playoff success, they will need to secure the top wild card spot and head to the Atlantic for the playoffs. They will face one of Montreal or Ottawa in the first round, and likely the other one in the second round. They are significantly easier opponents than Washington, Pittsburgh, or Columbus.

That said, playing for your playoff opponent is not a smart move. Karma is a bitch.

Alec asks: What do you think happens in the offseason? Buyouts? How does the salary cap look?

This is a doozy of a question. The expansion draft makes it very difficult to predict anything. I still think Girardi gets bought out at some point. I said on the most recent podcast that I expect the Rangers to ask Girardi to waive his NMC to expose him at the expansion draft. Vegas won’t touch that contract, so there’s no worries there for Girardi. With Mika Zibanejad likely headed for arbitration, that means the Rangers will have a second buyout period in August, at which point I think Girardi gets bought out.

The salary cap is likely to remain stagnant this year, so expect a $74 million cap again. Doesn’t give the Rangers much wiggle room, especially if they want to sign Kevin Shattenkirk. One of Girardi or Marc Staal is gone. There’s no way around it.

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