A few things on my mind

newsday- “Yes, Jeff. You need four centers”

Welcome to the dog days, folks.  The time of year when hockey news is as dead as can be.  #HockeyInsiders are hanging out at their Ontario cabins and the closest thing to on-ice activities are various prospect camps.  This is all well and good if the Rangers weren’t two defensemen heavy and two centers light.

When Jeff Gorton started to re-make the defense this offseason, it was really inspired stuff.  He pulled the trigger on a Girardi buy-out, convinced Kevin Shattenkirk to take a sweetheart deal to come home and recognized how effective Brendan Smith was down the stretch in stabilizing a weak back end.  He had courted some Shattenkirk insurance in Alexei Bereglazov and Neal Poink.  The Rangers’ defensive depth this offseason looks an awful lot like their forward depth last offseason.

Moving up the ice, the Mika Zibanejad contract was a nice piece of business, parlaying a fluke injury into a discounted long-term deal.  Zibanejad’s upside remains tantalizing and the Rangers will be the beneficiaries of his prime seasons.  Make no mistake, though, The Rangers’ forward depth took a massive hit with the loss of Derek Stepan and Oscar Lindberg.  I am as bullish as anyone on JT Miller’s talent, but penciling him in the 3C with only David Desharnais as insurance is a risky move for a would-be contender.

We have been assuming since the beginning of July that a trade is coming to balance out the front and back ends.  So far, we haven’t re-signed Tanner Glass (although until he officially signs elsewhere, I’m going to be concerned), but what if the front office is really counting on Lias Andersson to make the team on opening night and will just mitigate Bereglazov’s KHL out clause by making him the seventh or even eighth defensemen?

That would give us a defensive alignment, hypothetically, of course, of:





Until Jesper Fast returns, the Rangers could carry the eight defensemen, but once his injury is up, something has to give.  The current state of the roster imbalance does raise several questions: is Gorton holding out for a significant return for Holden? Is he prepared to lose Bereglazov to the KHL now that Shattenkirk, Smith and DeAngelo are in the fold? Is Gorton comfortable with AV potentially utilizing a Staal-Holden pair in the top 4, even when better options are available?

Similar questions are raised on the forward end: is Gorton comfortable with the depth options behind Desharnais in the event of an injury?  Is he comfortable with Desharnais in a top 9 role? If JT Miller ends up in AV’s doghouse for perceived poor defensive play, what is the plan? What is Kevin Hayes struggles with difficult defensive deployment?

I only ask these questions because there should be some fairly clear contingency plans at this level for a team who considers itself a Stanley Cup contender, and moreso because significant trades are rarely completed at this stage of the offseason.  Last year, as a fan base, we understood that you couldn’t completely remake a roster in one offseason and applauded Gorton’s work with the forward corps.  With Lundqvist another year older and fairly straightforward remaining business to attend to (lose a defenseman, bring in a center), the imbalance becomes a bit more frustrating.  It makes one wonder how the roster, as currently constructed, would fair over an full season and into the playoffs.

If you had asked me during this past season how high my confidence level would be if we more or less remade the entire blue line in the offseason, I would have said “very”, however the loose ends we are confronted with in late July have me feeling like there is still more work to be done.  What do you think?

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  • The contingency plan should be to promote from within. Fogarty would work as a checking center.

    Larry Brooks’ article the other day stating that the Rangers can’t go for Bozak without losing Staal was wrong: if they got Bozak for Holden + whatever, the team can go with 12F(including Fast)/6D for cap compliance(Berezgalov & Espo are waiver exempt), then when Fast goes on LTIR you can call up your full compliment. The team wouldn’t be banking cap credits(which is not S.O.P.) so that has to be accounted for. The other option would be for Toronto to retain something like $50 grand to make the numbers pencil out easier.

      • And you know this how? Is he too old? His development curve isn’t optimal for a 4th liner?

        He has height/weight/skating ability will be a blind squirrel finding an acorn when it comes to goals, but so is Nieves(but without the concussions)and is more than competent defensively. When you need to put somebody in a shut down role and the skating is equivalent, do you want a runt like Desharnais or Fogarty?

        • I’ll take the small guy who’s had a 60-pt season at the NHL level over a middling college player whose debut AHL season was merely ok. Not to mention Desharnais can still play…injuries wrecked his season last year.

  • Good points. My biggest concern is the rob Peter pay Paul Ranger method struck again. See Nash trade which gutted our depth & and was not replaced until Brassard trade.

    If the Rangers had ANY inkling they were going to trade Stepan, they needed to make sure they didn’t lose Lindbergh as well. Oscar was never the second coming but was stable and would have limited the variable of needing TWO centers. Tossing VGK something to protect Oscar would have been worth it.

      • With his injury status they may not have taken Fast; they may have gone Raanta.

        Staal or Holden must go. We can’t have traded loads center depth AND Raanta for a Dman (supposedly one we really wanted) who will never play. Makes it a very very bad trade indeed.

          • Great!!! Addition by subtraction. Miller has outperformed him every year since he got here and thats playing 2-3rd line minutes and very little PP time compared to stepan.
            I hated losing lindberg, he also outperformed stepan in the playoffs!!
            The only concern to me is our underachieving coach!

          • What exactly is your definition of “outperform”? Clearly it doesn’t mean score more points than.

          • Swing a miss. This year was the only year that Miller “outperformed” Stepan in points/60 and it was by 0.31 points.

            That’s a far cry from outperforming Stepan “every year since he has been here”.

            Would you like do play for double jeopardy where the scores can really get interesting?

          • Sorry Reen, Stepan’s pts per 60 are better or at least as good as Bergeron and Kopitar, 2 guys who are casually considered “better” than Stepan.

            And he’s been better than Miller, and I love Miller, but facts are facts.

          • Last I checked, most recent history is a better predictor of next year than going back beyond that.

            That Miller still outdid Step @ P60 while the current coach decided to bury his usage speaks volumes. Obviously YMMV.

          • So now we are talking about a predictor for the next season?

            What happened to the actual discussion at hand? Ya know, how this whole thing started, where Rich said Miller has outperformed Stepan since “the day he got here”?

            I guess you concede that argument and want to deflect to another topic like a predictor for the future??

          • Reen, Miller did outperform Stepan, very slightly in 2016-17, based on pts per 60, no question, but as of this past season Stepan was the more valuable Ranger. Again, I love Miller also.

            And I do agree with the Stepan trade BTW. They needed the cap space and the Rangers are banking on a Stepan decline, which is to be determined.

            The Rangers are also betting on Zib and Hayes (and eventually Andersson to a certain extent).

            But not giving Stepan his due is just wrong. The average fan would say “Bergeron and Kopitar” are much better centers, but the stats do not support those statements. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have.

            That being said, I think that Bergeron is one of the most underrated players in the league and Kopitar is one of the most overpaid. That contract is killing and will kill the Kings, big time.

          • I do not need stats to see how good or bad a player is……If you go just by stats McIlrath was statistically the 2nd best rangers defense man 2 years ago……….
            That being said if you remove stepans PP numbers he is a very ordinary 13 goal – 37 point player who get top minutes and produces little…..
            And the past 2 years his defense has been horrendous……his fear of contact, keeps him away from covering his assignments……he cost us 3 goals in this years playoffs!!!!!!! And thats with 2 excellent wings! He will flop miserably in arizona……

          • As a “hater” since 2012 while knowing he won’t ever touch 60 points back then,I have to say pretty good. If I told you during then that Stepan would be traded before he would reach 28 years old then I bet you would never agree with me. Add to the fact that I think the fans and Larry look over Hayes game who obviously helped Step get the boot and I feel like a million bucks. Stepan is going to crumble on the Yotes and won’t make it in a even bigger role against the competition out west.

    • I said it from before the Stepan trade, they better protect Lindberg, and not lose both. I would take Lindberg over Fast (who is good, but replaceable) any day because he is a center with an upswing. I realize Fasts injury played a part. Believe it or not, I would have rather lose Grabner who is more of a one dimensional player, despite his goal production which could be compensated for. Lindberg was improving with every game and was one of our best players in the playoffs. It was a mistake by the Ranger management to lose two centers and if not corrected, will be our Achilles heal this year like our bad defense was last year. Inconsistent Miller and Holden for Duchene, get it done.

      • You want to trade Holden back to the organization that traded him in the first place? Don’t know how likely that is, and money-wise it won’t match–Duchene earns more than those 2 combined ($6 million for Duchene, $4 mil for Miller & Holden). Otherwise I’d trade Miller & Holden for Duchene and a 3rd rounder in a heartbeat.

        • Why not? Coach Patrick Roy said we were taking his best defenseman. The two million dollar difference could be worked out somehow. 3rd rounder or even a second rounder, just get it done, it would fill a gaping hole in the lineup and he is young!

          • Patrick Roy isn’t the coach of the Avalanche. And the money doesn’t work in your proposed trade. Draft picks don’t make up for $2million in salary difference in a capped league.

      • With JT moving to the pivot position and Fast not starting the season (no guarantee that Fast will bounce back from his hip surgery), the Rangers also need to fill some openings on the wings. As it stands right now, New York will start the season with only 10 forwards that are proven NHL caliber. Not nearly enough depth to grind it out in the highly competitive Metro Division.

        • No thumbs down needed on this post. It’s all true. The depth is really lacking. Like, dangerously lacking. It’s a big concern, but I do have faith that it will be rectified – if not before the season, then during the season.

          • I do think that the Metro is probably the tougher division but the competition is set by Pitts and then NYR. Teams like Philly and CBJ have to rely on there top lines and top pairs with shaky goaltending and depth. I don’t see the depth lacking as long as Buch and especially Vesey link up with DD on the 3rd. Vesey should not see any PP time, he’s our depth guy who needs to touch north of 30 points with limited special team play.

  • The center issue is tricky. On the one hand we really need a top 6 center. But on the other hand we don’t necessarily need someone on a deal for more than a year or 2 at most if we think Andersson and Chytil will make the NHL in the next 2 to 3 seasons. If lucky Andersson makes it next year and Chytil the year after. I know lucky, but these guys have some real talent. There is also Boo Nieves to consider. And if we see Andersson making the jump to the NHL ahead of Nieves, then we need to look to move Nieves. And the cap hits from Anderson and Chytil will help dilute the new contracts we will be passing out to Miller, Hayes, Vesey and Skeji next year. Losing Nash’s cap hit will probably just barely covering the raises for these guys new contracts Bozak is a fit in term and cap hit but the leafs don’t seem to interested in Holden. Not sure Lamoriello will work to well with The Rangers either. On the D. Holden needs to go to open up a space. I would like to see Staal moved, but realize it’s wishful thinking. I would like to see 2 young guys fill the bottom 2 spots on the D.
    Finally I like the way Gorton has been managing the teams decisions, with patience. I noticed on your report card his grades improved as he has advanced in his tenure and he has gotten away from doing Sather type deals. He’s done a good job walking the line between rebuilding and competing. We may not have all the answers we want on opening night. But sometimes you need to be patient to wait for the right situation. We still have time.

  • Say bye-bye to Staal and Holden, giving Bereglazov roster spot (and him and Buchnevich, je ne sais quoi); the defense is positioned with youth, speed, snarl, and scoring. The forwards, whatever freeing cap space from Staal, and the market brings in trading Holden, 1st rounder Andersson’s actual talent availability, Hayes stepping up, and then there’s Boo 6’3″ 219. Rangers are in the right direction, unless AV forces a U-turn.

  • Nashville seemed to do pretty well last year with a weak group down the middle. I am all for leveraging our defensemen to get a center….. but it doesn’t have to be done on day one. Would be interesting to see how we fare over the first month of the season before we find a trade partner.

    • In fairness, Ryan Johansen is a 60 pts-per-year center. Wouldn’t say Nashville was weak at center at all last year until injuries killed them in the playoffs. Fisher & Jarnkrok had decent years for the Preds last season too.

    • The saving grace is the improvement in the top 4 D men. The concern is the bottom pair because AV is a junky and the Staal-Holden pair is the drug that he needs.

      I would rather go with Bereg-DeAngelo/Pionk in the bottom pair because they could not F up any worse than the Staal-Holden pair can. Let the kids play and get their mistakes out of their system during 82 regular season games.

      I would be shocked if Bereg does ot get a roster spot resulting in him using his “going back to Russia” option if he doesn’t make the Rangers. I doubt very much that the Rangers let that happen.

      And DeAngelo not playing at all after being in the trade for Stepan? Not happening.

  • I agree with you on the forwards. The Rangers simply have too little depth and absolutely are going to add one or three more bodies. As a matter of perspective, last year the Rangers used twenty forwards (typical), 18 of whom were with the team at the start. This year, there are twelve obvious starters and Andersson. Nieves, Catenacci, Carey, Schneider have played in the NHL. No one else looks remotely close and I doubt we’ll see all of that quartet.

    The defensive depth question is simply not clear. Serious question: Who is the best NHL defenseman NOW: (a) Pionk (b) Bereglazov (c) Kampfer (d) Graves ?

    If the answer is (c) — and I suspect it is — the Rangers don’t have a defense glut. What they more likely have is a bright future. Honestly, I don’t have a clue about Bereglazov, but examples like Gilroy and Bodie demonstrate that hot shot undrafted college defensemen don’t just waltz in the NHL as stars. And the fact that Graves wasn’t even called up in April tells us where he is on the depth chart for this season.

    Of course, the Rangers need none of the four if they round out the roster with Staal, Holden, and DeAngelo, all of whom are better than Kampfer. However, DeAngelo has a bad attitude and is weak in his own end. He strongly needs proper coaching and if such a player holds all the cards, he is not likely to listen. NYR at least need the option of sending him to Hartford.

    Methinks it is less about getting the best price for Holden and more about deciding whether or not the Rangers need him.

    • Actually, of those four, it’s probably Berezgalov, but either way, it’s a moot point. We’re talking about the 8th & 9th defenders here.

      They have a tremendous defensive glut, in particular for the last two spots….. McD/Shatty, Skjei/Smith, & DeAngelo (they’re not putting him in Hartford unless they have to) are the locks. You can include Staal in there as well. So that’s 5 – 6 defensemen right there.

      Berezgalov having a KHL out-clause also warrants mention, as I don’t see him getting plopped in Hartford unless management thinks he’s not an NHLer (& cuts bait).

      That being said, I think the most likely final pairings will feature the predictable plus Staal/DeAngelo with Berezgalov rotating as the 7D. I just don’t see where you think Holden is fitting in on this, or why you would even want him to.

      Hell, with the exception of shot suppression, DeAngelo is already better than Holden!

      • The only reason Berezgalov or D’Angelo would have to go to Hartford is for CBA accounting purposes. Once Fast hits LTIR, then they have enough dough to make even adding Bozak.

    • Raymond, in hard cap leagues every team has weaknesses, even the Pens. The trick is to compensate for weaknesses and try to over come them.

      The Pens’ D is not great by any means, but their forwards have the puck all the time so it doesn’t matter. And Murray isn’t great either. But their back end “is just good enough” to win a Cup, with the forwards they have.

      The Rangers’ forward depth took a hit, no question. But the team also went from one of the worst top 4 D men to one of the best (on paper). That counts for a lot. And please do not underestimate how the improvement on the back end will help the Ranger forwards, as getting out of their own zone, resulting in more transition opportunities on offense will make the forwards better in itself.

      The opinions on DeAngelo are pretty funny quite honestly. The kid may have made some mistakes but please point out to me any young kid (including you and me) that hasn’t? His have just gotten media play and yours and mine have not. Not to mention, has anyone here met the kid to be able to give a first hand opinion?

      The kid has outstanding tools and could be a stud. The few games he played on a really bad team prove that. The trick is to have our beloved coach “tolerate” his learning process. Not only DeAngelo’s, but Pionk’s and Bereg’s as well. Maybe even Graves too.

      It’s mind boggling to me that AV tolerates Staal-Holden losing playoff games, resulting in losing playoff series for us, but pulls a young player when they make a bad play. How stupid is that? And this is why AV has not won a Cup.

      So in summary, let’s say that this is our team, and Desharnais (unfortunately) is our 3rd line C. I think that our D is so improved and so much better that the Rangers can make some noise this year. Would I prefer a Bozak added? Of course, but it’s not guaranteed. And not buying out Staal is a huge mistake IMO. Forget the bullshit about “dead cap space” because his almost $6M per is dead cap space AND he’s on the ice losing games for us, if not playoff series. Not acceptable. Buy him out, even if the cap space is not used for another top 9 center.

      • All kids make mistakes. All kids don’t make big mistakes. And 21 is not really a kid. Maybe he will someone make a huge turn, but for now I am hoping he is a total washout so I can continue to root for the Rangers.

        Assessing defensemen is hard. I won’t say I know how to do it. It is clear that the right answer is somewhere between what you think and what AV thinks. You are too quick to trust guys who can move the puck and AV is too slow. It should be sobering though that Yandle signed a big contract with Florida. Florida went from first place to out of the playoffs while the Rangers did a little better.

        • Let me be clear, I am not trusting anyone until they play. People here, including you, are CONDEMNING him before he’s played one shift as a NY Ranger.

          I don’t condone name calling or any kind of slurs. Not at all. But to make the judgement that this kid is a criminal is short sighted. Let him earn our trust or distrust during his time here as a Ranger. That’s all I’m saying.

          He may turn out to be a bad seed, but let him show us before we label him “guilty.”

          I agree with you on assessing D men. We don’t know. I don’t know. But it does sound like he has the tools to be very good with how the game is play these days. He did fairly well in 39 games last year and obviously the Rangers targeted him. Hopefully he changes minds for what he does on the ice and off of it. But let’s give him that chance first. Agreed?

          • Come on. People still condemn Nazi concentration camp guards for things they did more than seventy years ago. I know three very bad things about DeAngelo, not many people I can say that about. He doesn’t get a clean slate in my book. Sorry.

            And no, he did not do well in Arizona. Typically, guys who play third pair defense on teams like the Coyotes don’t belong in the NHL. All good defensemen are good in their own end. I will grant you that there is a huge difference between Steven Kampfer and DeAngelo, though it is not clear who is better. Kampfer is the best defenseman he can be whereas DeAngelo clearly is not near his ceiling.

          • I don’t know what you know about DeAngelo so I cannot comment but I will assume that you are correct because you would not say that otherwise, and I believe you.

            OEL has a terrible +/-, you would not take him on your team? He’s a top 20 NHL player playing on a terrible team. If DeAngelo is being compared to Kampfer by the end of this year then the Stepan trade was a bust. I don’t believe that that will be the case.

            Odell Beckham sounds like a real jerk at times, but boy oh boy am I glad he’s on the Giants. The point being that these athletes don’t always act the way we want them to, that’s life. Again, I in no way condone or agree with slurs or any kind of insulting talk or actions, but they happen and hopefully the Rangers will “fix” this issue with DeAngelo.

  • “We have been assuming since the beginning of July that a trade is coming to balance out the front and back ends.”

    I think it’s entirely possible that Gorton was as well, but some manner of rug got pulled out from underneath him, one way or another. It just does not make complete sense to me that even if they like Andersson a ton, they have no desire to have contingency plans other than moving Miller over to C if Andersson can’t hang. There really should be some fairly clear contingency plans; I agree with that statement in the article fully. If wait and see is what they have had for a contingency plan all along, that just doesn’t seem to align with how thorough Gorton has been the past few years in general.

    It is possible they are still working on a trade that seems to be a good bet, but is just taking much longer than expected to hammer out. That does seem rather unlikely, though. If that is not the case, this all does seem a bit odd to me. Just doesn’t seem to really fit Gorton’s MO.

    • If Staal is here on Monday then either Gorton has found a potential sucker for a trade or we are going with what we have center wise.

      And if the latter is the case and it’s a good bet that Miller gets shifted to center then Jagr needs to be signed to give Miller a scoring winger.

  • Finally the Rangers organization now has a true enforcer tough guy who was signed by the Hartford Wolfpack 6 foot three 225 lb 29-year-old Eric Selleck. Let us hope that Gordon will invite him to training camp

  • Been saying this for a while now. Gorton has made some good moves, but his biggest mistake was not using a 2nd/3rd pick to get Vegas to take Grabner or even Holden. Once the parameters of the Stepan trade were set, he could not afford to lose Lindberg as well.

    • It’s pretty clear that Gorton is not going to give up picks like handing out candy, like the Rangers used to do, so he probably did not want to do so for a 3/4 C like Lindberg.

      I like Lindberg a lot. I think he can get 40 pts for the Knights. Is that worth a 2nd or 3rd? It’s close but maybe LV did not want the picks and wanted Lindberg more. It’s easy to say “Gorton should have…” Maybe he tried and LV said “no.” You know?

      It was laughable to hear fans’ projections of who LV would take from the Rangers. Raanta? Fleury, a much more recognizable name that can put fannies in seats, was going to be picked. It was pre-arranged already. To me, Lindberg was the obvious choice. Slotted in for the 3C position with some potential and still an RFA with room to get better.

      People saying that Oscar had his shot and is old for a young player is wrong, IMO. He was never given a real shot here and proved in the playoffs what he could be and that was with very limited minutes.

        • Oscar? It’s possible, I think he has that level of skill. We do know that he will get his chance to prove it, that’s for sure.

  • Buying out Staal right now would be a mistake. Like Girardi, Staal is still a very serviceable defenceman. If the Rangers want to make room for their blueline prospects (none which have proven yet that their are NHL caliber) , Holden should be the first to get moved.

  • You all forgot about Sean Day. He is the third person ever to play Junior
    early on the special deal. I think the other 2 were Crosby and McDavid.
    He could very easily make the team this year.

    • I certainly have not forgotten about him as I have mentioned him several times as a possible mid season call up. I don’t think that he will make the team out of camp. He needs time at Hartford.

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