– 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.
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?