– 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.
Has anyone lost more future earnings in these playoffs than Shattenkirk?
— Japers’ Rink ? (@JapersRink) May 2, 2017
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.
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?