Musings: Game 3, Ilya Kovalchuk’s return and fresh blood on D

Ilya Kovalchuk was second in KHL scoring this season with 78 points

– The best player on the ice for the Blueshirts last night was Mika Zibanejad. Everyone expected Big Game Brass to take vengeance on his former club, but it’s Zibanejad that has three points in the series while Brassard has zilch. Zibanejad really has all the tools. In a few years we’ll either look back at the Zibanejad/Brassard trade as the modern day McDonagh/Gomez swap, or we’ll view Zibanejad as Nik Zherdev 2.0. I still think he’s going to blossom into a star.

– Another major positive from Game 3 was the return of Kevin Hayes. Along with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, Hayes has been pretty much invisible throughout the postseason. He looked like a different player last night.

– Tapped in Russian reporter Slava Malamud created a bit of a frenzy this week with a series of tweets in which he indicated Ilya Kovalchuk’s desire to return to the NHL after a three-year stay in the KHL. Malamud also noted there’s not much interest in a reunion by either Kovalchuk or the Devils, but Kovalchuk’s preference would be to stay in the NYC area (read: Rangers or Islanders), or move to Florida.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, we’ve heard these rumblings about Kovalchuk’s return before, so I’ll believe it when I see it. Second, the Rangers are pretty set up front and don’t have the cap space to accommodate Kovalchuk’s needs. I don’t think New Jersey would give a second thought to dealing Kovalchuk across the river – the Devils are currently irrelevant and need assets any way they can get them – but it’s not a great fit for the Blueshirts. Kovalchuk joining Sasha Barkov and the legend Jaromir Jagr with the Panthers, or fellow countrymen Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa? That I can see.

– Kovalchuk aside, we may be seeing the start of a new batch of Russians on Broadway. Pavel Buchnevich has opened the door and will be a mainstay, while recent signing Alexei Bereglazov seemed eager to join the Blueshirts as well. With the KHL in shambles more players will attempt to return to the NHL and New York may be in solid position to scoop up a couple.

– The Twitterverse was shredding Kevin Shattenkirk on Monday night for yet another tough game in a postseason full of them.

Then he went out and scored the OT winner. It will be fascinating to see if Shatty’s contract negotiations are affected by his obvious struggles in the playoffs, critical comments from coach Barry Trotz and increasing media sentiment that Shattenkirk was sheltered in St. Louis and perhaps more the second pairing guy some around the league believed him to be than the marquee game changer he was perceived as by fans before the trade deadline. I’m less and less convinced Shattenkirk will be a Ranger, but I’ll save that for a future post.

– Once again the front office has done a wonderful job replenishing the prospect pipeline over the last month through untraditional means. Bereglazov, Vinny Lettieri, Vince Pedrie, Chris Nell and then out of nowhere this week, Neal Pionk, joined the ranks. It sounds like there may be a couple more European imports still to come, too. I’ve said it before, but what an unbelievable luxury it is to attract talent using the Big City’s magnetic reach.

– Here’s some highly recommended reading on part of what makes Erik Karlsson so great via Evan Sporer.

Question time:
1) Do you want Kovalchuk? If so, what moves would you make to accommodate his salary?
2) Which of the UFA prospect signings has you most excited?
3) What do you think is Zibanejad’s ceiling?

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  • Enough with chasing ‘high priced free agents’….how many scott gomezs, brad richards, keith yandles, wade rennens, chris drurys, valerie kamenskis bob holiks……does it take to realize that method doesn’t work!!!

    I may overate our talent somewhat but I see a talented, fast, physical young core to build on… conner mcdavids but enough to compete with the right moves….

    Imagine this team with anton strallman instead of nick holden….and brandon dubinski [ veteran, physical leader we desperately need] instead of derek stepan. Stupid moves we shouldn’t have made.

    Kovalchek instead of nash ??? Interesting but will it get us over the top or just another bad free agent signing?

    • I failed to say Shattenkirk I would PASS on big time….NO THANK YOU >>……Smith and sjkel and mcdonagnh to start and maybe some prospects will come through for us next year ………or graves or one of many free agents prospects we just signed…….

      • Dubinsky over Stepan? No way … Stepan is a better defensive center and produces more offensively. Admittedly he has’t had a great playoffs, but he still is out producing Dubinsky who had 2 points and was a -2 in 5 games (Stepan 4 points in 9 games) … and if you look at this series, it’s Stepan who has gotten the majority of ice time against Brassard (Mr. Big game) and has held him off the score sheet and made him so far in this series irrelevant. Lastly, he’s 5 years younger than Dubinsky.

        Re: Shattenkirk, for the right money (under $6m) and if we can free ourselves of both Staal and Girardi, then yes — at the very least he’s very good on the PP).

        • 5 years younger is a factor……however stepan is a Terrible defender……..against montreal and ottowa he has FAILED to cover his man in the slot twice and once in front of the net resulting in 3 goals against !!!!!
          His fear of contact makes him too soft to be a good defender and the fact that he is poor on faceoffs has led to several goals as well. AV deserves some blame for that for using him to take faceoffs in defensive zone late in game!!!
          Dubi had game winning or tying goal in last couple minutes driving to net…stepans points [ short handed gift] come because of skilled wingers zucc and kreider…..easily replaceable soft as marshmellow player.

      • Exactly what we need is a 31 year old 40 point scorer with a 5.8 million dollar cap hit until 2020. That’s brilliant.

        • Spozo,
          Do you realize that stepan is making 8 Million Dollars this year !!!!!
          He has got to be the softest, most uninspiring, slowest, non-physical, least productive [ 10 goals in 80+ playoff games] center in the nhl!!!!!
          Dubi is the veteran presence THIS team desperately needs……He has been called the ’emotional ‘ leader of the CBJ. By the way he has 10 goals in ONLY 40 playoff games , whats that twice as many as stepan?????!!!!!

          • I don’t care how much a player makes in a year. The cap bit is all that matters. The cap hit dictates what other players can be on the roster. Pay stepan whatever. His cap hit is only 700K more than Dubinsky.

          • Where are you getting your stats? I see stepan has has 19 goals in 94 games and Dubinsky has 9 in 42.

          • You brought up the salaries, i just pointed out that the better player is cheaper!
            You are correct stepan does have 19 goals and dubi 9, not sure which site i got it on………so goal wise its a wash…..but watching each play, for my money its not even close…..
            Dubi ‘brings it’ every game, stepan I call the invisible man!

    • I don’t see how dubinsky over stepan would make this team anything but worse…. Mind you, I like dubinsky, but you’re seriously underrating step.

      Furthermore, about the free agents, ALIEN BINGO did not use yandle correctly at all, whatsoever, so it’s hard to really judge how well he might have done while he was here. Unless, you agree with AV that he belonged on the third pairing & free of powerplay duties for much of his tenure here?

      Other than that, you have a point, most of these guys have failed miserably. Although, it is somewhat moot, since there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of the derbils ever trading him here because – rivalry!!11111!one – or whatever.

      Not that I necessarily would want the guy; we already have a couple of excessively talented forwards that , um, lack sufficient intensity…. certainly, we don’t need one more of them.

      If anything, assuming his demands are reasonable (lol), the rangers should try to sign radulov. I liked how he played for MTL this season, not to mention the headache he was in rd 1. Only issue is term; I’d hate to see what he’d look like out there with rock solid job security.

  • 1) No no no, if we want that type of “star” high salaried player I prefer to keep Nash, who even when he doesn’t score plays a soid all-round game;
    2) Bereglazov, Vince Pedrie, and Neal Pionk … but I don’t see any of them being more than “depth” players … maybe I’m wrong and one of those d’men turns into 2nd pairing material; and
    3) A non-elite 1st line center that plays an acceptable defensive game as well (65-70 points max) although he still has a year or two to prove a slightly higher ceiling, shame he broke his leg mid-season because we would have a little more to go on.

  • 1) No. Will be interesting to see if the Isles can retain Tavares if they land Kovalchuk? Seems more likely he heads to the Panthers

    2) I hope they land Andreas Borgman, but signing Pionk was a nice surprise.

    3) Henrik Zetterberg might be a good comp? Maybe not a 80+ point guy, but in the 60-70 point range?

  • Tough to comment on Ilya before you know what the Rangers look like post expansion draft. We also have no clue what he has left in the tank. That said, Buch may learn more playing a year alongside a guy like Kovalchuck in a Ranger system, if (really big if) Ilya knows his role is to teach the kid the NHL game.

    I really want to see what Vinny Lettieri can bring to camp. the Univ of Minn is like a minor league hockey organization. They breed very good young players and I am worried that we may lose Oskar. Vinny may be able to step in as a #4C.

    Zinbad can play, but I fear he has a touch of Kreideritis. Nuff said.

  • 1) Kovy- no thank you.
    2) Any and every defenceman who can skate and move the puck fluidly.
    3) I am fully convinced that Zib is our new, real deal “1C” and think that everyone would have realized it by now if it weren’t for his brutal early season injury. As far as ceiling….my bullish view is a 30g/70p realm during his prime years. I would absolutely despise Eugene Melnyk if I were a Sens fan….. probably enough to influence my rooting interests. What a tight pocketed peckerhead of an owner. I’m convinced the 2mil savings + Zib’s contract implications influenced that decision more than Brassard did.

  • 1) Do you want Kovalchuk? If so, what moves would you make to accommodate his salary?

    I’m a former Thrashers season ticket holder (I’ve lived in Atlanta for the past 26 years). He has a great wrist shot. One of the best I’ve seen. But he’s in his mid-30’s now, so he’s at the “buyer beware” stage of his career. He never played much defense, at least not with the Thrashers. I’d love to have him with a Rangers-friendly contract. I’d deal Stepan (and I like Stepan, I just don’t love Stepan) if he would sign a deal that pays less than Stepan.

    2) Which of the UFA prospect signings has you most excited?

    I’d still like Shattenkirk. I expected he would be the player he is for the Caps. There was a reason he was on the 3rd pairing in St. Louis. There is a reason he was on the #1 PP there as well. I think that’s exactly the player he is… a bottom 4 blueliner who is a top QB on the PP. He’s “losing money” in the playoffs. Great! That means the Rangers can get him without overpaying.

    3) What do you think is Zibanejad’s ceiling?

    He’s the #1 center that neither Stepan nor Brassard was able to fill. His ceiling is 35 — 40 goals for two or three seasons. Not elite, but not someone you think you need to upgrade on a Cup contending team.

  • Mika and Mats had great games it seems big game brass is stuck in neutral but he will bust out eventually hopefully not tommorrow

  • Mika is going to be a great player and he will thrive in NY. Brassard turned it on in NY. I don’t think you can compare that trade to Gomez/McDonaugh. That was so 1 sided it’s not funny. But if you go back to when Brass was 24 he had 41 points in 71 games with a marginal Columbus Team. Zib 37 points in 56 games. Mika’s points per game has and did trend higher this year.
    On Kovy, can’t see him in NY as we don’t need him or have cap space. Hard to see him in Tampa also if they resign Tyler Johnson. They are already looking at possibly having to move Droiun because of Cap Space. Maybe Florida, but Maybe Phoenix. They need a #1 center desperately among other things and have cap space and assets. Also if Taveres does not look like he is going to come back to the Isles they may want him. Won’t be surprised if nothing comes of him coming back though.
    On Shattenkirk I think they will take a run at him, but offer him less than market. And if someone else offers him a big number let him so somewhere else. I did not think Smith was a game changer for the D, when we pulled the trigger on him, but I believe I was wrong about that. He has good chemistry with Skjei and his level pf play has really been elevated. (Even if AV has a hard time seeing it) It would make a of of sense to try and keep him around for the next 4 years.
    Agree with you on the signings so far. The flailing KHL and NCAA are great sources to find players. And The Rangers have done a good job getting some of them.

  • 1) Kovalchuk? Please, not under any circumstance. We’ve made this mistake too many times already.
    2) None of them has me excited at all. All too often these NCAA guys turn out to be busts or career minor leaguers. As I’ve said before, forget Shattenkirk & sign Alzner instead. And sign Smith.
    3) I see Z as a potential 25 goal, 30 assist guy. Trade Stepan, make JT Miller a Centre & let’s get on with it.

  • We still burning AV on the cross in front of the Garden or nah?

    I understand he had a bad game 2, but the guy has been highly successfully in his time here. It’s very, very easy to fire a guy, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

    To that point. If you’re firing AV, who’s his replacement? You can’t just start calling for a guy’s head without having a better alternative in mind.

    • Well, you can, but…

      Besides, didn’t you hear? Daryl Sutter, destroyer of the Kings, is going to be our savior.

      • Chris

        Come on man, destroyer of Kings????? He got them two cups in what 4 years or so? If that is destroying a team, please AV destroy the Rangers, because I may not be on this good earth in the next 20 years, and at the rate we win cups, well once in my lifetime will have to suffice!!!!!!!!!!!

        By the way, I’m not calling for Sutter, but give the man credit for what he did do………..

    • That’s a good point… knowing the rangers, they’d manage to find an even bigger clown than the one they already have….

      What about a compromise with this never-ending-dead-horse-beatdown? Hows about, instead of canning his ass, we instead lock AV upstairs in a pressbox during the games, and have (literally anyone else) manage TOI lineups etc?

  • Kovy is the real deal but because of his age(how old is he?) I wouldn’t sign him beyond three years at 15mill. Trade Stepan to the Devils for his rights. Kovy is a big highly skilled number one center. Would be good for the other Russian players to have around to learn from. I say no to Shattenkirk unless it’s for a fair contract say 5.5 for 4years.

    • He’s 34. I wouldn’t sign any 34 yr Old to anything more than a 2 yr deal and even then it would only be because the cupboard is bare.

      So Snow will trade a 1 and sign him for 5 years.

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