Musings: Neal Pionk, Danis Zaripov and Lundqvist’s legacy

Neal Pionk registered 51 points in 82 college games

– The buzz is building around rookie Neal Pionk. On Monday Gordie Clark gushed about Pionk’s offensive abilities and said he thought Pionk might “shine” when given the chance to play with legit NHLers at camp. And last week prospect guru Corey Pronman chose Pionk as his young player to watch at camp for the Blueshirts in a piece for The Athletic:

There is always a bit of hesitance on my part projecting old college free agents to the NHL, and in Pionk’s case I don’t get overly excited over a 22-year-old defenseman without a history of high-level performance. However, I’ve talked to scouts that watched him in college who feel he could be as good as Troy Stecher was for Vancouver this past season (which was quite good) and potentially provide that kind of offensive spark to the Rangers. I want to see it first before feeling as confident, so I’m looking for him to blow doors down at camp.

Pionk’s path to the pros is pretty murky right now given the glut of defensemen, but he may be heard from later in the season.

– One domino many have been waiting on is Nick Holden – who appears to have lost his job in the top six. But while the Blueshirts might like to deal Holden and rid themselves of his cap hit, that’s a lot easier said than done. The Vegas Knights are in a similar spot with way too many veteran defensemen and nowhere to unload them. Maybe the demand will change if a few teams realize their youngsters aren’t ready for the leap once camps get underway, or injuries strike during the season. But for now, it seems like Holden will begin the season in the press box, or in an awkward rotation with Alexei Bereglazov and/or Anthony DeAngelo.

– The roll-of-the-dice options at center continue to dwindle with Daniel Winnik the latest depth pivot to ink a PTO with the Wild. It’s not that Winnik, John Mitchell, Jay McClement or any of the other scrap heap centers that were available this summer were the obvious answers to New York’s prayers, but they are bodies with NHL experience that could lift some of the pressure off Lias Andersson.

Right now the Blueshirts desperately need him to win a job out of camp – a lofty request for an 18-year-old in his draft year that’s brand new to North America and adjusting to a smaller playing surface. This isn’t a question of Andersson’s ability or future value, it’s about what’s reasonable to expect of a teenager. Like any rookie, Andersson is sure to experience growing pains. And that’s fine – but only if Andersson really proves he’s up for this both mentally and physically and Alain Vigneault is willing to live with his learning curve. If it’s not in the best interest of both Andersson’s long-term development and the 2017-2018 Rangers, than forcing him into the lineup would be a mistake. So I’m not advocating for bringing in another center to steal Andersson’s job – this is about having a security blanket so that if Andersson happens to be in over his head, New York can make the smart decision for one of their most important assets.

– Speaking of reinforcements – what’s going on with Danis Zaripov? For someone that’s been as productive as he has to be available this late in the summer is pretty rare, and yet there’s been mostly silence on his courtship after the initial rumor flurry. Zaripov wouldn’t solve New York’s woes at center, but he’d certainly give them more offensive depth down the wings – which wouldn’t hurt with Jesper Fast ailing and Matt Puempel currently looking likely to dress on opening night.

– That leads to the other appealing option – at least to fans – Jaromir Jagr. While No. 68 is a legend and beloved by the hockey world, I’m not really surprised he doesn’t seem to be on New York’s radar. As strong as he still is with the puck, Jagr just can’t skate at the pace the Rangers want to play. To me, that was Derek Stepan’s biggest issue – despite everything else he brought to the table. The Blueshirts want to play quick, move the puck up ice and kill teams in transition. That’s just not Jagr’s game in 2017.

– Depending on his health and workload, Henrik Lundqvist should move into seventh place on the all-time wins this season, and in good position to leapfrog Terry Sawchuk and Curtis Joseph next year. Roberto Luongo is going to be tough to catch as long as he’s active, but it seems like a timeshare will slow his pace dramatically. Ed Belfour might take a bit more time, but is also catchable. The only two guys that are really out of reach are Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. But getting 79 more wins to lock himself into third behind that duo before his career ends seems achievable for The King. The Cup will always loom, but if Hank is able to secure his spot among those legends on the wins list, it should really help his legacy. And yes, I know wins are a little different now given the revised overtime formats – but history pays little mind to these types of details.

Question time:
1) What do you think Pionk would have to do to make the team?
2) What would you be offering, if anything, to Zaripov?
3) Where do you think Lundqvist will finish on the wins list?

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  • 1: Feed week old eggs Benedict to everybody on the right side of the D. Pionk will get steamrolled against the Isles/Flyers in preseason.

    2: PTO 1 yr, $1.125mm (whatever you can stash in the minors)

    3: will finish 3rd

  • Not sure why everyone thinks Holden’s days are numbered. Until his contract is moved, I still believe he makes the team and is in the rotation for 6th D.

    Pionk or DeAngelo? See who shines in pre-season

    Zaripov? Nah, I’ll pass

    I couldn’t care if Hank finishes 7th or first if he doesn’t have his name on the Cup as a Ranger.

  • Zaripov should be avoided at all costs. He’s literally the last thing this team needs–he’s old, takes illegal drugs, and would need adjusting to a new country and league at age 36. That’s three big strikes against him.

    Pionk will be in the top 8 for NYR’s defense this year. Can’t wait to see him in NYR action, same for DeAngelo and Shattenkirk. This defense (especially if Staal & Holden are buried/traded like they should be) will be the best defense the Rangers have iced since the early 90s. There’s an incredible amount of mobility & passing skill at hand right now, Gorton has put together a truly state-of-the-art roster on D this year.

    • “takes illegal drugs”

      You mean Sudafed?

      That’s what he got ‘caught’ with. Hence the NHL’s ambivalence.

      Anyways, I don’t know what to make of Pionk. Seems like he’ll be a victim of the logjam, for this year at the minimum.

      • When your contract is suspended by the KHL, that means you’ve been caught doing something flagrant….and if you believe sudafed was all he was taking then you’re as naïve as you are snide. Blood doping in Russian hockey is a legit concern.

        • No, it means he violated the IIHF’s ban on…. Sudafed.

          Pseudophenedrine, to be more exact.

          Was he taking other crap? Possibly, but that is all he tested positive for.

          However….if it were such a concern, the NHL wouldn’t let him within ten feet of an arena without a ticket.

          That logic cuts both ways, you know…

          • Ask Alexei Cherepanov to explain how rigorous the KHL is in terms of player care, he was either blood doping or playing with a heart condition that should have led team doctors to prevent him from playing hockey at all–depending on who you believe, of course. And that league’s standard of conduct is nonexistent compared to the NHL, just ask Nik Zherdev about how hard it is to do something egregious enough to have a KHL contract terminated.

          • They terminated his contract because the IIHF essentially forced them to.

            I’m not defending the KHL or their lax standards.

            I’m saying that the reasoning behind Zaripov’s contract being torn up is much less about what he did & more about the IIHF flexing its muscles in a pissing contest.

          • Oh ok. You’re going to engage in a lengthy argument with me where my point is rooted in fact–namely that the KHL is shady compared to the NHL (whether the subject is drug use, transportation, honoring contracts, or medical care for players, and that it would really require flagrant misconduct to be kicked out of the KHL)–and then arrive at a conclusion rooted in baseless speculation. Got it.

          • No, you have no argument, other than a ridiculous strawman (which you’re apparently quite fond of). This has nothing to do with the KHL or their standards.

            He tested positive for Pseudophenedrine.

            In the IIHF (which the KHL is a part of), that’s a no-no. It’s banned there.

            The NHL doesn’t care about it. It’s not banned here.

            … What’s so difficult to understand about that?

          • Nothing cooler than being willfully naïve, or using cool terms like “straw man”. I love that stuff, it’s not an Internet cliché at all!

            Here’s the problem with your snarky attempts at refuting my post–you are ignoring the fact that Sudafed can be abused to produce highs similar to speed. (Not to mention that pseudoephedrine is used in the production of methamphetamine.) And Zaripov also tested positive for diuretics, which are used as masking agents for steroids. This is a 36-year old athlete with clear indications of steroid use. Steroids are illegal in the NHL, and in the US without a prescription. So therefore Zaripov uses….wait for it….illegal drugs. Does that make it clear enough for you? Not a straw man to be found, but maybe you can now use the phrase “ad hominem”…..

          • “Nothing cooler than being willfully naïve, or using cool terms like “straw man”. I love that stuff, it’s not an Internet cliché at all!”

            You’re a much better troll when you don’t try so hard.

            Future tip – don’t upvote your own arguments so quickly in succession.

            Makes it too obvious.

          • Way to ignore the issue at hand, now that you’ve been proven wrong. Anything to say about how diuretics are used to mask steroid use? Anything at all to say about abusing sudafed for a speed high? I thought not…

            Forgot to mention how cool your block quoting technique is as well.

          • “Way to ignore the issue at hand, now that you’ve been proven wrong.”

            Lol, not really.

            You claim I’m naive, yet fail to acknowledge that the NHL has historically given as much of a damn as the KHL in regards to the health of their players.

            Of course they all know about the diuretics, and can figure out what it means.

            They can read a report too, you know.

            No explicitly positive test? No f**** given.

            The interest in signing him alone should signify that.

            But you’re more interested in trolling than having an actual discussion, so I don’t know what’s left to say.

          • What? You attacked my argument, claiming that the contract termination of Zaripov in the KHL was based on a simple use of sudafed–and that there was nothing illegal in his usage of the drug. In fact you stated the absurdity that it was the IIHF looking to flex its muscles, so they stepped in to punish Zaripov, implying that the NHL didn’t care. You’ve repeatedly ignored the fact that this drug (like Adderall or Ritalin) has been deliberately taken by athletes, in sports like football and hockey. Looks like GMs in the NHL notice these things too, and that’d explain why he hasn’t signed with anyone yet. Lastly, you stepped up to criticize me first–I’m merely responding in kind to you. If anybody is trolling here, it’s you.

          • “You attacked my argument, claiming that the contract termination of Zaripov in the KHL was based on a simple use of sudafed–and that there was nothing illegal in his usage of the drug.”

            Yes, I did. Because that is what happened, and the ‘nothing illegal in his usage of the drug’ bit makes no sense.

            Per the IIHF (which, again, the KHL is a part of), merely testing positive for pseudophenedrine is ‘illegal’.

            Whether or not he was literally taking Sudafed (his claim) or doing what Reenavipul said, it’s irrelevant to why his contract was torn up.

            On to your next “point”

            “and that there was nothing illegal in his usage of the drug. In fact you stated the absurdity that it was the IIHF looking to flex its muscles, so they stepped in to punish Zaripov, implying that the NHL didn’t care.”

            I’m afraid you don’t understand how the IIHF works. It doesn’t matter why he took it, nor how much he took. He tested positive (for pseudophenedrine) – wham, 2 year ban & contract torn up. It’s really that simple, sadly.

            And…. Of course the NHL doesn’t care about what Zaripov did – they don’t care about the IIHF’s rules. They don’t care about what he was banned for, because it’s not banned nearly as strictly here.

            Hell, like Reena said, they even used to encourage players to take some of these mild stimulants….

            [And they sure as hell don’t care about other drugs for which he has no positive test for (even if they should).]


            “You’ve repeatedly ignored the fact that this drug (like Adderall or Ritalin) has been deliberately taken by athletes, in sports like football and hockey. Looks like GMs in the NHL notice these things too, and that’d explain why he hasn’t signed with anyone yet.”

            Yes, because it’s not relevant.

            The initial argument we had wasn’t over “whether or not he gained an advantage by taking drugs”.

            It wasn’t “why GMs haven’t & shouldn’t sign him”.

            It was “why his KHL contract was nullified”.

            For which there is a simple answer – he tested positive for pseudophenedrine.

            No one’s arguing about (the previous two) but you, and it’s an argument of your own construction which you’ve falsely accused me of making. I’m denying that stimulants don’t obviously affect performance?

            Hence the strawman comment.

          • Seriously, go troll somebody else, man–you argue so disingenuously that it’s ridiculous. My entire argument has been that Zaripov is a 36-year old steroid user who was caught in the Wild West League of pro hockey. And neither the Rangers nor any other rational-minded NHL team should sign this guy, he’s either going to test positive for something else that’s illegal or his performance will drop off a cliff without his use of performance enhancing drugs.

            Done with you, you are a tiresome individual.

          • Aww, no need to act so dejected Mancunian – for such a blatant troll, you did quite well today.

            You got me to ramble on about an irrelevant Russian hockey player (who probably won’t even come over) for a bit longer than I normally would have on my own.

            Just remember, next time, you gotta be more subtle with your trollolery.

            The rapid voting thing is what did you in; you made it painfully obvious that you actually care about what I say and what people think about you on the internet.

          • I didn’t get you to do anything, you’re so egotistical that you can’t let this go. The fact that you keep referring to false up votes seems like projection to me. Would be pretty typical for your behavior on this site, you lack any real insight yourself and must content yourself to starting up with other commenters. You came steaming in on my comment, refused to acknowledge the ample possibilities implied by Zaripov’s terminated KHL contract, and you continue with your corny block-quote, repetitive trolling. You’re as boring and childish as your trollish devotion to getting the last word in.

        • Until the NHL went to the olympics and started having to be WADA compliant, locker rooms had bowls of sudafed that were treated like candy.

          • You mean all that sudafed was used to provide a competitive advantage instead of protecting players from sinus infections? I’M SHOCKED.

      • I’d think ambivalence on the part of the NHL indicates pretty strongly that teams don’t believe it was just sudafed with this guy.

  • 1.Pionk will be in Hartford for the season learning the defensive side,will be a top 6 next year.DeAngelo and Pionk are basically the same type of D. DeAngelo will be here to validate the Stepan trade.
    2.Zaripov let him stay in Europe, no use here.. Something will shake out in pre season for a Center via a trade or Waiver..
    3.Lundquist 33 wins.

  • 1. Unfortunately Pionk only makes the team if they move Holden and Staal…that’s a tall order.
    2. Zaripov-not too interested. If we pursue him a 1 year deal around $1mill, but I would not chase him. If he was a center maybe a different story.
    3. Hank will finish 3rd overall

      • and Smith is Left handed and plays both sides and Skjei is a lefty and also can play both sides. if you get rid of Staal and Holden, Then Pionk, Bereglazov and DeAngelo become your bottom 2 plus an extra(Pionk). DeAngleo and Bereglazov will both most likely be ahead of Pionk because DeAngleo was the center piece in the Stepan trade and Bereglazov has an out clause if he does not make the big team. If Staal and Holden are still around we are not going to carry 9 D men. We probably won’t carry 8 either. So if you trade Holden we have 8 D men including the 3 I mentioned. You Move Staal and we now have 7.

        McD Shatt
        Skeji Smith
        Bere De Angelo
        With this group you have lots of options in the regular season
        Mc D Shat
        Skeji Pionk
        Smith De Angelo

        McD Sha
        Sjeki De Angelo
        Smith Pionk

        Mc D Shat
        Skeji Smith
        Bere Pionk
        De Angelo(extra)

        plenty of options to mix and match. But you need to open the roster spots.

          • I am not real sure how that is realistic or relevant? Sorry for trying to have reasonable conversation.

          • You’re the one trying to move a player with a NMC and another one in an environment where Vegas is going to have to move or waive multiple defenders,

            You were saying something about realistic or relevant?

          • try reading what I wrote. “Unfortunately Pionk only makes the team if they move Holden and Staal…that’s a tall order.” I am making the point without moving both Pionk probably does not make the team. and the term…”that’s a tall order” means highly unlikely. I don’t see anywhere that I said we could move Staal or Holden…just that we need to in order for Pionk to make the team.

  • “1) What do you think Pionk would have to do to make the team?”

    Stay healthy and the injury bug bites the blueline. I think he’s starting the season in Hartford. There is no reason to keep him up and have him watch in the press box. He’d have to be clearly better than DeAngelo and Holden to make the team in my opinion. Pronman compares him to Stecher, which is nice. But the Rangers are a playoff team and the Canucks haven’t been the past two seasons.

    “2) What would you be offering, if anything, to Zaripov?”

    Nothing. He is 36 years old turning 37 late in the season. He has never played in North America, so he needs to adjust to the smaller rink just as Andersson does. There are enough questions in my mind to pass on him.

    I’m fine with the roster as it is now. I think the Rangers are a playoff team and are playing the season more for the playoff position rather than trying to make the playoffs. Play the kids early. If the D is as good as some people think, the Rangers can always trade a D for a F if the kids struggle.

    “3) Where do you think Lundqvist will finish on the wins list?”


  • 1) I don’t think Pionk makes the team out of camp, especially if they still have Holden when the season starts-which seems likely. I don’t see him beating DeAngelo for a slot..

    2) Zap the Zapirov talk. If anyone has watched Andersson, the kid seem pressure resistant and determined. Yeah, it is pressure on an 18 year-old, but the kid says he intends to make the team out of camp. I believe him. We don’t need a 37 year-old taking up roster space. 3C will be Andersson. If a cheap and not ancient center comes along to use as insurance, then fine. But Zapirov? No way.

    3) This year us pivitol for The King. If he stays healthy all year he’ll grab a bunch of wins. If he has injury problems again then his career totals will suffer and his trajectory in coming years decline. I think that he will have a healthy year, but, Father Time is stalking him.

  • Just a question, whatchappens if lindberg doesn’t make vegas somehow? Do the rangers have first rights, is he waiver eligible but then according to normal rules?

    According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the New York Rangers have signed former Blackhawks center Andrew Desjardins to a Professional Tryout Contract.

  • Pionk if cut will be the last cut. That’s how poised he was in the games I saw him in. He can outlet pass, play his position well but for sure he still needs to work on that. I See him being on the number 1 D in Hartford

    Bereglazov won’t make the team. He needs a miracle in my opinion to make it to the Rangers and frankly Graves needs to be the one with top dibs, not Bereglazov just because he has a KHL out clause.

    Gettinger will get a long look too and yes he will go to Hartford, I guarantee you will see him in the bottom 6 next year.

    We need a center and I think we got him in Andrew Dejsardins

    Rangers biggest holes are lack of right handed forwards, this will cause issues sooner rather than later and a true 1 C / 2 C. These issues are much bigger than people will actually give credit to and could be the difference that could make us and or turn us into playoff pretenders. We won’t be winning the cup. Not even 25% chance, and 35% chance we don’t make the playoffs.

    1) Pionk will make the team if DeAngelo falters or gets hurt
    2) ELC contract?
    3) I don’t think Lundqvist will have any issues getting 25-30 wins…so wherever that places him.

    • We need a center and I think we got him in Andrew Dejsardins”

      How is a guy who put up 1 assist in 34 games last year going to help anything?

      I agree we need a center, but we need to do better than that. He might be a good depth option – but that’s it.

  • DesJardins is a fourth line center at best. He doesn’t produce points. At least he is younger than Zapirov ?

  • Why the panic with the center position? There is ample reason to believe that JT Miller who has gotten better every season since he got here and is still young and improving will put up 50 points at center. If zib and hayes stay healthy they should put up similar numbers. All our 4th line center has to do is play defense and forecheck. The rookie or desjardins should be fine. My concern is at wing.

    • Whether JT plays center or not, I agree that they will be fine. They’ve got DeSharnais and Andersson to put in at the 3C and 4C slots if Miller stays on the wing. They’ve got Boo Nieves as insurance. I don’t see the need to bring in an old guy to play center. No panic moves are necessary.

      If Miller plays center, why not make a bold move and bring up Gettinger? I’d rather see that than bring in the great, but now slow Jagr.

    • Because Rich, in AV’s system, centers are technically supposed to be of the play-making variety. Miller is more of a shoot-first kind of guy…. sort of like Ryan Johansen-lite, if you will.

      Could it work?

      Possibly, but even then, it’s like you said, we would still need another quality top nine forward of some type.

      (That’s where Zaripov or Jagr could come in…. they’d be great fits for this plan with 1 year deals.)

  • 1. Echoing the comments of others, but also my general opinion: injuries, and/or DeAngelo and Bereglazov looking pretty bad in comparison in camp, are the only avenues I see for him right this moment. Although, that does seem to be quite high praise from Clark, so maybe the front office and coaching staff favor Pionk more than we would have assumed. I am also curious how they see the risk of losing Bereglazov to the KHL, internally. Sounds like he didn’t look great at all in the tourney. All in all though, I still see DeAngelo in his way – regardless of how the team feels about risking Bereglazov going to the KHL.

    2. Nothing, unless Desharnais or Andersson get injured in the preseason and he is still out there. Probably wouldn’t be my first choice, personally, even in that scenario. Also, the PTO to Desjardins would seem to close the door further.

    3. 3rd, both a hope and a projection. If he doesn’t make 3rd, I cringe at the thought of what might cause that, namely a very bad injury. We all know Hank isn’t in his prime anymore, but he should have a whole lot of wins left in him barring injury.

  • 1. Gordie talking up Pionk pretty good, I think he makes the team. Holden traded, Berezgalov sent back to Russia (I originally thought he would stay and make the roster), and Staal either gets traded or he’s in street clothes.

    2. Pass.

    3. Top 5. And in the HOF, where he belongs. And yet, some think he’s the 2nd best Ranger goalie year to year.

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