Musings: Desharnais, Jokinen and the future of the defense

David Desharnais registered 14 points in 49 games with Montreal and Edmonton last season

– David Desharnais was a frequent whipping boy in Montreal, but he put up pretty solid numbers across most of his tenure with the Habs until the bottom fell out last year and Desharnais was sent to Edmonton for Brandon Davidson. In an extremely weak free agent crop with most of the available centers already scooped up, Desharnais was one of the better options. But don’t kid yourself – this is a bargain bin flyer and nothing more. Desharnais will be 31 when the season starts and has little left in the tank. He has drawn highly favorable offensive zone starts throughout his career, which might be hard to come by in New York. Desharnais should still chip in some supporting offense, but he still leaves the Blueshirts one-dimensional down the middle and lacking a pivot that can handle tough assignments.

– It looks increasingly likely that J.T. Miller will be moved back to center. He’s a better option than anything else that’s realistic at this point, but Miller presents the same problem as Desharnais and Kevin Hayes. None of them are aces in their own end, leaving a whole lot of pressure on Mika Zibanejad. An improved defense will mask this deficiency, but it’s going to be a problem nonetheless. Perhaps Boo Nieves or Lias Andersson can steal a job at training camp, but asking them to anchor a checking unit as a rookie would be unfair.

– I love the Andersson and Filip Chytil hype trains. It has been a long time since Rangers fans have had these types of prospects to throw their hopes behind. Even Pavel Buchnevich was a late third-round pick. Andersson and Chytil only added fuel to the fire with their performances at development camp. I do think Andersson has an outside shot at making the big club, but I think it’s more likely Rangers fans revolt when he’s one of the final cuts.

– The Kevin Shattenkirk signing threw a real wrench into the Blueshirts’ outlook on defense. With Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith locks for the top four, it’s tricky to figure out how high-priced veterans Marc Staal and Nick Holden, trade acquisition Anthony DeAngelo, and rookies Alexei Bereglazov, Neal Pionk and Ryan Graves fit into the puzzle. Many believe that DeAngelo will be in a real battle for playing time, but I don’t see it. The 21-year-old became a regular for Arizona last season and clearly impressed New York enough that the Rangers built a significant trade package around him. DeAngelo has nothing left to prove in the minors – he’s ready to be an offensive weapon in the NHL right now. Shipping out Holden to alleviate some of the logjam makes a ton of sense, but if not I think it’s him that sits in the press box to start the season, not DeAngelo.

– Smith and Shattenkirk are now both under contract through 2020-2021, with Skjei almost certainly a defensive pillar by that point, too. So where do Bereglazov, Pionk, Graves and Sean Day fit in going forward? Notice I didn’t mention McDonagh in those future plans. With the captain slated to be a UFA in 2019 and having just turned 30, I don’t think it’s necessarily an automatic he returns to the Blueshirts at the conclusion of his current deal. New York will have a lot of money tied up in Smith, Shatty and Skjei – not to mention Marc Staal, if he’s somehow not gone by then. Committing a $6 million or more annual salary to McDonagh seems like it might be tricky.

– The dust is finally settling after a crazy few weeks in hockey. The biggest loser around the league looks like the Capitals, who said goodbye to Shattenkirk, Nate Schmidt, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson. That’s a lot of key depth stripped away from a contender. Meanwhile the Devils are finally starting to put something together. After adding Taylor Hall last summer, New Jersey brought in Johansson, No. 1 pick Nico Hischier, free agent Brian Boyle and poached Mirco Mueller from the Sharks. The Devils are sorely lacking defense, but there’s definitely momentum building in Newark.

– The one guy I keep forgetting is Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen would be a great third-line winger that would bump Matt Puempel out of the lineup and give New York the makings of a killer fourth line with Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast.

Question time:
1) How do you envision the defense heading into the 2019-2020 season?
2) Are you content with Desharnais as the 3C?
3) Who are your big winners and losers of the offseason thus far?

"Musings: Desharnais, Jokinen and the future of the defense", 3 out of 5 based on 9 ratings.
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  1. i like what Jeff Gorton has done with this team first signing the backup goalie for Henrik in Pavelec and then going out and getting Shattenkirk which will solidify the back line and now landing Desharnais from Edmonton for the fourth line center now resign Jaesper and Mika and this team will look like a contender for sure

  2. I wouldn’t be able to put positions on the table till training camp , but we have the assets to put a solid six together. With hopefuls pushing up maybe Holden doesn’t cut the mustard , or the kids might not be ready. But I like going back to having dman depth.

    Desharnais is like dom Moore without the timely goals or face off skills. But a better setup man. Maybe he pans out maybe he doesn’t. But I love a reclamation project.

    Caps lost out. Devils made the biggest jump, but when you suck a small improvement can be a jump. But in terms of sheer signings , we won. Hello shatty

  3. I do not think Gorton is done. Too many 6th defense man and not enough 13th forwards. I still look for another move. Desharnais is an inexpensive insurance policy. JT will be a winger by game 10.

    Holden or Staal needs to be part of a deal. Let some kids be our 3rd pair. AV will have his toughest year ever.

  4. I agree with Sal, lets see one of our D prospects suit up. I am especially intrigued by Day., Smarts, size and a shot……………….

  5. 1)

    This is how I could see the current coach envisioning our D rotation:


    Desharnais won’t hack it, he did nothing in Edmonton after advance scouts figured him out. Won’t hurt our cap situation.


    Winners: 2017-18 Edmonton, Rangers. Getting McDavid for less than the max helps their cap situation. Same with Rangers losing Stepan’s NTC.

    Losers: 2018-19 Edmonton, Caps. But the Oilers situation is such a mess that they will be selling players for a quarter on the dollar.

    1. Reen,

      I agree that Shattenkirk is NOT a first pair D-man.
      But that said, in the interview I saw after he was signed and everything I read, he states forcefully that playing with McD is one of the main reasons he signed with the Rangers.
      So I see a very interesting internal development brewing. Where he wants to play vs where he should be playing.

      1. It’s not how I would deploy them, but the current coach. He has his valuation of D, does not want them skating puck out. He wants them making the stretch pass out, even if it just leads to a chip and chase. 2 out of 3 RD are the opposite of that.

        At what point does Gorton just drop the hammer?

        I would go the 1st day of camp:

        Holden 7 D Only playing Graves to see if he can hang with the big boys.

        See if Staal gets the hint and asks out. Otherwise, it’s 350 days until buyout.

        Gonna be hard for Pionk or Berezgalov to make much of an impression beyond prospect camp and Traverse City as implementing Shatty & D’Angelo into the D structure is gonna be the priority.

      2. Shattenkirk is better defensively than many are giving him credit for. In fact, as is often the case with narrative vs. advanced metrics, his best attribute on the current HERO chart is actually shot suppression – completely against the grain of what the eye test evaluation is according to some. While he isn’t a “lock down” or “stay at home defender”, he’s fine in his own end. Absolutely capable of handling the the first pair IMO, especially next to McD.

        Regardless, Dan Girardi hasn’t been a first pair d-man for quite some time, if he ever even truly was. Even if Shattenkirk was completely putrid in his own end, can’t drag McD down any more than he has been for years now.

        1. While working on a contract, Gorton and AV likely told Shattenkirk that he’d play with McDonagh.

          1. Entirely possible, but as illustrated by the contract value and term, Shatty REALLY wanted to be here. They may not have had to give him that guarantee. He may have mentioned playing with McD specifically because he has two eyes and as is such knows he’s instantly the second best defenseman on this team (which is in no way a slight to Skjei or Smith for example, just how I feel most would see it).

      3. McDonagh played with Girardi the past 3 years……..He must be thrilled to get a partner as good as Shattenkirk! McDonaghs defensive ability will take pressure off Shattenkirk on D and Shattys offensive ability will take pressure off of McDonagh to try and do everything. I think its a great fit!
        And that means we keep smith and sjkel tandem together, which had a great playoff run!
        Jerry, what makes him, NOT a first pair d man?
        Remember the best defense is a good offense!

  6. Kevin

    3-Staal/Holden- D’Angelo

    Not overjoyed with Desharnais, as our #3C

    As far as big winners/losers in the offseason. I still think it’s far too early to judge.

  7. DeSharnais bothers me, but I suppose that he may be insurance in case they do not opt to have Miller play center. Hard to tell if he’d be viable at 4C. I just believe him to be a rather large step down from Lindbergh as 4C. Admittedly, I could be selling him short.

    I think they brought Shatty to be 1RD. How that works out remains to be seen.

    Because I believe that moving Staal will be nearly impossible, I am hoping that DeAngelo is paired with him on the bottom pairing and that they deal Holden. However, AV was enamored with Holden last season. Maybe the playoffs changed that. Maybe if Holden plays his natural side instead he will improve. I don’t want to see the kid in the press box unless he needs a night off or a time out. He should also be on the second power play unit.

    I am holding out hope that Lias Andersson sticks with the big club.

    1. Andersson should be able to make the club. If he was on some team like Buffalo then they would have him in a high role that rushes his development but for over here his game is perfect to be on the 4th line. We just lost 1 regular PK’er through trade and the other one will be out for a bit so even though I think that Stepan and Fast are overrated on there there’s still a need to fill out the PK and test it with new blood. He’ll be set on the 4th with Grabner and could make instant impact on the PK, his hands and offense needs work so that’s why starting him out on the 4th is a good time right now.

  8. Thus far this off season, I can’t complain at the results so far. Like Peter above, I’d like to see Andersson make the team as maybe the 3rd line center, and move Desharnais to the fourth line. I still would like to see if we can’t get Mikhail Grigirenko as well. You can’t have enough good centers can you????????

    1. The only reason I say Mikhail Grigirenko, even though he signed with Moscow, the team released their entire roster and made them UFA, so there is still hope for him!!!!!!!!!!

      1. That was Dynamo Moscow, not CSKA.

        KHL camps started this week for the most part, Grigorenko could be doing it as a way to stay fresh instead of hanging by the telephone. All the tools, wouldn’t know what a toolbox was if you handed it to him.

        1. No need for him. We just drafted a 7th rounder who’s suppose to be a elite utility type player that has a strong 2 way and a excellent PK game. I bet JG lets Desharnais take the 3c and Andersson takes the 4c spot with Boo and Grabner. They drafted a better Fast this summer for this exact problem so I don’t think many more moves for bottom 6 centers are on the horizon.

  9. 2019-2020 is too far to look down the road. Could you envision two years ago that McD and Staal are the only holdovers on that D?

    As far as Desharnais, he’s a 4C and if he’s higher in the lineup (a la Fast last year) the Rangers are in trouble.

  10. Re: Jokinen: What is the fascination some have with bringing in 34 – 37 year old hockey players? Some even suggested Jagr, who might play until he is 62 or more while a painting of him ages in his attic. He has no real future except to decline. ‘Win now’ spurs bad ideas and worse decisions.

    1. You have to inject some veteran leadership into the lineup. Jagr would be a fine pickup for one year if he makes the people around him develop faster.

      1. Hey Mikeyy, it just seems to me that with Nash, McDonough, Zuccarello, Grabner, Smith and Hank, they have guys that should be able to provide that veteran leadership. Jagr is a wonder, but I’d rather not use roster spots for old timers anymore. I want to see the club develop young people who will be the basis of a club that will compete at a high level for another 5 years or more.

    2. Peter
      Thank You, For the GREAT line- ‘while a painting of him ages in his attic.’
      But he could help with the PP , and set example of work habits for many of our youngsters… a reasonable price of course.

  11. I don’t see how this move means that JT goes back to center. I think the smart move would be for Lias Andersson to compete hard for that 4c spot and Boo as well but this Desharnais pickup was for the 3c hole imo.

  12. Desharnais smells a lot like Gerbe to me….. except for there is a lot more room for him on this roster given our lack of center depth. And also he’s a bit better of a player. I would have preferred Burmistrov or some other low key signing who might be better served being deployed in the D zone. Given our lack of options, does D Moore become a candidate for a 1×1 contract? I believe he is still unsigned.

    I am not enamored by Zib – Hayes – Desharnais – Andersen.

    Really hoping DeAngelo/Graves/Bereglazov/Poink become our 5/6/7 defensemen but I just don’t see that being the case with Staal/Holden in the mix. Holden can and probably should be traded for an asset/cap relief. Though he’d be fine as a 3 d, we likely have better options. Not sure what to do with Staal though. Seems very unlikely he is moved before during or after training camp.

    1. If Miller can cut it at center, I like, Zibanejad, Hayes, Miller, Andersson better. Admittedly that puts a lot of pressure on all four centers to produce like they never have before. I guess they might be planning on DeSharnais as 3C or 4C. I am not happy with that prospect.

      1. Very well could be. I would say, though, that I think there’s a higher likelihood that Andersen sticks over Desharnais. Playing 2 years in the SHL means he’s played with men before so he may be further along than we think. Looking more and more like need was a big part of the formula for drafting him.

        1. For what it’s worth, Miller to center is more than mere fan conjecture.

          In an interview last week, Gorton said this is something that the organization is definitely considering.

    2. Desharnais as our third line pivot looks really frightening.

      I really wish they pursued someone more impactful, like Gagner or Grigorenko. Maybe they did, but couldn’t reach a deal. But DD is a real long shot at having much of a positive impact.

      1. Sam Gagner was not the answer for 3C. Gagner is a poor man’s Desharnais.

        Let’s not forget less than 12 months ago a 26 year old Gagner was basically out of the league. If the Jackets didn’t throw him a tryout last summer, he’d likely be in Europe right now instead of playing in the top 6 of one the least talented forward groups in the West.

  13. 1. Much improved. Let’s see if AV can resist being counterproductive with his deployment to what this defensive roster is capable of in theory. Won’t hold my breath. AV seems to not understand his own defensive system very well when it comes to pairings, sheltering, who should be the odd man out at 7D, and situational usage. His habit of wanting to create “balanced pairings” by often putting an anchor on lines rather than load the talent at the top a bit more and shelter the third pair still concerns me. I would not at all be surprised if he thinks Staal and Shattenkirk at 2D is the way to go, for example. While I understand that AV hasn’t had the best defensive groups to work with for a while now, he also hasn’t done himself a ton of favors with his decisions among the groups he has had to work with. With his systems and how they should work in theory, I’d normally think he’d be downright giddy about Shattenkirk…but who knows, after witnessing AV’s habits of deployment in recent years.

    2. 3C…don’t see it. My feeling is he’s not gonna cut it there unless we have an unexpected Grabner-style bounce back scenario on our hands here – which I also can’t rule out by any means, to note. 4C seems more like it to me. The recent injury history concerns me more than his size, at face value. I’m not quite as doom-and-gloom about the C situation as some folks, but nonetheless, we likely are in for some adventures down the middle this upcoming season. I suspect Andersson is already able to play at a level higher than Desharnais currently, again unless a major bounce back scenario occurs. Despite Miller’s issues at C in a small sample, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he could do better there as well. Will just have to see how it all plays out.

    3. I don’t necessarily keep tabs on the rest of the league super thoroughly, but as others noted, the Devils on paper could be a lot better. I like what Gorton did with the exception of finding a home-run center solution, but that was frankly a long shot in the first place IMO and I wasn’t expecting it. I like that none of our direct competition in the Metro and/or East in general seemed to skyrocket past us with their moves. I like that we didn’t make any truly head-shaking moves or sit pat and do nothing. I’d say the Rangers are firmly in the win column, also.

    1. Egelstein

      Your first point was brilliant, let’s see how AV handles the defense this season????????????

  14. We are going to get a center from Edmonton. Most likely Ryan Nugent Hopkins or less likely will be offered a shot a Draisaitl when Edmonton figures out it can’t afford a 13.2 M contract and a 9M contract for two players on the same line. Remember that Gorton and Chirelli ae close. When Chirelli got the Boston job he sent Gorton in to be is advanced man and Gorton did the deal for Chara. The Rangers gave Edmonton it’s second best player for two 2’s when rumors are the Rangers were offered more from other teams (Florida). This is when that chip gets called in.

    1. When I did the PNW/Alberta roadie 2 years ago, I heard more unsolicited RNH stories that would have him fit in on the 79 Rangers, not the 17 version.

  15. By the way Montreal got hammered. If they did not have Price they would be the worst team in the Division. I think the GM gets fired before he end of the year.

  16. To clarify how Desharnais would affect the cap if sent to Hartford:

    CBA 11.12 Minimum Paragraph 1 Salary. No SPC shall provide:
    (a) for Paragraph 1 NHL Salary of less than the following:
    2017-18 – U.S. $650,000

    CBA 50.5

    (B) From the day following the last day of Training Camp until and including June 30 of each League Year, “Averaged Club Salary” for each Club shall be calculated as the sum of the following amounts:

    (B).6 For any Player on a One-Way NHL SPC who is Loaned to a club in another professional league, the Averaged Amount of such SPC less the sum of the Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary and $375,000 for that League Year (e.g., $900,000 in 2012-13) for the period during which such Player is Loaned to such professional league;

    So $650k + $375k means anything below $1.25mm does not count against the cap in 2017-18

    1. Quick question – wouldn’t it be anything below $975k (rather than the 1.25m figure you came up with)?

      1. League minimum AND $375k. Last year league min was $575k, next 2 years $650k. After that, $700k

        Not sure where you’re getting $975k from.

        1. Oh, sorry, we’re both bad at math, lol – I think you meant 1.025m.

          1. Just one of us is bad at math.

            My only mistake from a previous post was thinking the $375k was $350k.

            1. “So $650k + $375k means anything below $1.25mm does not count against the cap”

            2. errr….

              “So $650k + $375k means anything below $1.25mm…”

              I think you’re still mistaken there, as 650k + 375k would give you 1.025 million, not 1.250 million.

              Unless there’s something I’m missing here.

              Either way, if we waive him, it won’t affect the cap.

  17. Great article!

    1) How do you envision the defense heading into the 2019-2020 season?

    Great problem to have. Before our defense had holes and now we have a very deep defense and arguably the best top 4 D in the division, top 5 in the league.

    Here’s the projected pairings I envision:


    Watch for AV over use McDonagh and Staal again this year and not watch the later’s minutes. McDonagh should not be on the PP at all. He averaged 24 minutes last season because he didn’t have the talent on the other side.

    At this point in his career, Stall should be playing limited minutes like we were told Girardi would be but the thing is AV never sticks to what he says.

    2) Are you content with Desharnais as the 3C?

    Not thrilled. There were better options such as Grigorenko, Jokinen, etc…
    Hayes and Miller are better on the wing which is frustrating considering we acquired them for size and skill down the middle.

    We need a number 1C. Mika is still considered a top 6 but he’s way too inconsistent.

    Watch closely what happens with Tavares, he could very well end up being a Ranger next year if he doesn’t get an extension. Then we would really be cup contenders.

    3) Who are your big winners and losers of the off-season thus far?

    Biggest Winners:

    New York Rangers

    Biggest Losers:

    Washington Capitals

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