OffseasonState of the Rangers

5 Things to Watch™ for the 2018-2019 Season

For the first time since Lockout II, we as Rangers’ fans embark on a season in which we have no realistic expectation of contention.  Last year, many of us could see leaks in the ship, but there was still talent in the lineup and a generational goaltender to keep our delusions intact.  Twelve months, an open letter to fans and a massive roster shake up later, we know that our beloved Blueshirts are rebuilding.

This is a transitional year in more ways than one.  While the team did a nice job in turning veterans into young assets and re-loading through the Draft, many of the organizations’ tippy top prospects aren’t ready for the bigs, just yet.  A couple are over in Russia and a few are in the NCAA/Junior ranks for the 2018-2019 season. As we wade into this unfamiliar territory where we know the team isn’t going to contend, but we aren’t really watching the full potential of the future either, I’ve been thinking about what are productive takeaways to be watching for next season.

If you are in this same boat, fear not.  Here are my 5 Things to Watch™ for the 2018/2019 season:

1. Keeping tabs on the European prospects

Some of the Rangers most exciting prospects will be playing in the KHL next season: Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shestyorkin and Yegor Rykov.  Nils Lundkvist will be playing in the SHL in Sweden.  All four of these players will be taking very important steps this season as they inch towards their North American debuts, presumably next year.  Their development against men in professional leagues across the pond will inform their readiness to contribute for the Rangers.

2. Training Camp Battles

With training camp right around the corner, we will have actual hockey again.  There will be some very interesting storylines to follow, most notably Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil.  The general consensus is these O.G. rebuild prospects are ready to make the jump to full-time NHL duty, with Chytil having the upside of a true star.

In addition to the development steps for the organization’s top two prospects, the defensive battles between prospects Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, Tony DeAngelo, Sean Day, et al., and veteran or lower upside players like Brendan Smith, Rob O’Gara, John Gilmour, etc., which leads me directly to my next point…

3. Learning David Quinn’s preferences

This one extends beyond training camp, as well.  Training camp will give us our first insights as to what types of players the new head coach values and what he feels like he has in both the kids and the vets.  His real test, though will come from trying to get the most out of a mediocre roster.  Pat has done a great job of breaking down Quinn’s systems preferences in the NCAA ranks, but we have yet to discover his philosophy for success at the NHL level.  The types of coverages he employs and lineup decisions/deployment philosophies will be very important to the initial impression he makes on the fanbase, but long-term his ability to foster an accountable and winning environment for young players will really be the touchstone of his tenure as head coach.

4. Deadline Assets

The Rangers only have two rental players of note, but they should both carry significant value at the deadline in Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello.  I could see the organization looking to keep Zuccarello around, as he is not only a fan favorite, but shown tremendous loyalty to the organization and does not seem to be seeking top term/dollar.  Hayes is (probably) as good as gone, as he is on a one-year contract with UFA status looming.  His trade could be the final piece of the “strip the roster down” reload.

On the other hand, depending on how the season goes, there are non-rental players that could help the organization continue to add assets; most notably Chris Kreider and Kevin Shattenkirk.  Then there are your “were supposed to be traded, but weren’t players” in Vlad Namestnikov and Ryan Spooner that could be on the block come March.  Either way, it could be a very exciting deadline if the Rangers continue to be in a selling position.

5. Veteran Buy-In

Now this one may not be as fun to watch, but several Rangers veterans have indicated that they are here for the rebuild, most notably Henrik Lundqvist.  By signing his six-year extension, Brady Skjei has signaled this, as well.  Core forwards like Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Jesper Fast will be looked at to help guide these young players.

A reasonable question for these guys to be accountable for, both to the fans/organization and themselves, is whether this is the environment they want to continue their careers in. On one hand, it is an exciting time with so many talented young players looking to help establish the core of the next contender, but there are also many frustrating days ahead.  For the younger guys on this list, it should be easier to see this thing through.

For a guy like Lundqvist, however, with three years left on his deal and no de-aging technology readily available, he will need to really evaluate if playing your whole career with one organization is worth probably never getting that Stanley Cup.  I will confess that I get legitimately sad thinking about how a Hall of Fame talent like Lundqvist will probably never see this achievement.  If he decides that with the core group of guys he came up with now gone (Callahan, Dubinsky, McDonagh, etc.) that he wants to chase the dream in greener pastures, I think the organization should do their best to accommodate that.

Alternatively, I think that he would make a phenomenal mentor to guys like Georgiev and Shestyorkin when his time to fade to the background comes.  Either way, it will be interesting to watch.

So, what do you all think?   What will you be watching to keep yourselves sane during what will probably be a lost season?  Sound off in the comments below. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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  • Great job Justin, thank you.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’ll view the season from a bit of a different perspective. I will look at the upcoming season as a season of development and evaluation. If we stick to that philosophy, the season will have value anot not be “lost”.

    I don’t care what our record is this season as long as we have effort game in and game out. I want to see a tenacious team. Let this young team grow together, and develop comradery. Evaluate not only talent but the character of these young guys. Let Quinn do the most important job he was hired to do, develop young players.

    Stick to the rebuild JG!

  • I agree with Jerry, this coming year is about letting the kids play and let them gain valuable experience because this is about winning the following year, 2019-20.

    Guys like Zuc, Staal, Smith, McLeod, and Holland, if he is even here, should all be gone at the trade deadline or after the season is over.

    Hayes? Who knows what the Rangers are thinking, other than they have a year to see what Kevin is going to do. I personally don’t want him here at $6M per as I think that they can find better use for that cap space next year.

    Then players like Hajek, Howden, Lindgren, Rykov, and Kratsov will be the next wave of young players to come in and get valuable minutes.

    Hank is a mainstay, get used to it.

    • I know you didn’t want to see Hayes make more than Kreider does. He’s already going to do it in one season so I’m going to go in the limb and say that he would get 6+ from the Rangers. He just needs to show what he could do on his prove it contract. I could see him getting setup to put up some major points under Quinn.

      I think Howden is apart of the wave right now right out of camp. He’s extremely fast for his size and seems like a better skater than someone like Lias. I would think the same fate for Hajek if he has a good camp and first couple of games. JG made it public that he could make the team if he doesn’t drown with the overwhelming pressure of the everyday grind of the NHL. Kratsov should be a Ranger or the very worst in the AHL soon but his team over sea would be causing legal problems for him. They’re jealous that he wants to dip on them to live in the big city and play hockey.

      • I don’t want Hayes making more than Kreider – Yes.
        I don’t to pay Hayes $6M per – Yes.
        Will I change my mind if Hayes scores 60 pts this year? – No

        I think that Hajek is the first call up and Howden at the trade deadline.

        Krav comes over after his KHL season but do the Rangers burn an ELC year?

        • Surely the Rangers don’t burn an ELC year UNLESS they are going to the playoffs and Krav looks like a real plus.

          I think handicapping the defense is not easy. I think one young defenseman is going to stand out his first 20-25 games at Hartford and force the Rangers’ hand – maybe Hajek, maybe someone else.

          • Supposedly Rykov is the real deal and may be here the following year.

            I think Hajek is here mid year.

  • this will be a season where you will have the kids and vetrans leading this team I expect a bounceback performance from Hank and there will be growing pains

  • The European prospects are going to be interesting to watch. KHL and SHL now have apps so you can get better coverage over here of those leagues. And if anyone cares SKA opens Sep 1 and Traktor Sep 2.

    Training camp should hopefully up the compete level for the team. Last years effort was horrible. I think better effort is a better result. Have a hard time seeing us back into the play offs but anything is possible. It will be fun to watch.

    New coach, breath of fresh air for those who remained after last season and the fans.

    Deadline assets will be very interesting. I was reading some commentary the other day that with the talent level in next years draft most teams will be loathe to move 1st rounders. I don’t blame them. I actually think they throw us a curve ball and trade Zib over Hayes then sign Hayes. Zucc is a tough one. But I have to say they will trade him. If they go after Panarin and/or Seguin next year will it make sense to resign Zucc for 3 years? Probably not. Will he take a shorter term deal? Probably. He’s been very team friendly with all his deals. I could also see them trade Kreider, but I think Shattenkirk stays. He’s got a great relationship with Quinn. However; he is going to need to step up in the leadership department. My wish is Smith comes back and play great and we can move him at the deadline.

    • Shatty definitely stays, he’s apart of the Quinn tribe, probably the leader of that lol.

      “Curve ball and trade Zib over Hayes”. I saw this the minute Quinn got hired but it was also in the back of my head since day 1. I think certain fans got the wrong impression of trading him. Just because teams came calling for him didn’t mean JG was going to trade him. If anything it probably made them want to keep him even more knowing he’s a hot commodity to have. Kreider is a interesting case but imo he could be traded due to one telling sign. He’s actually been on the trade block before like last year. That’s how Stepan and JT started out before getting traded. JG denied it and than comes out after the trade went down to say how he’s been secretly shopping them. In Stepan’ s case he knew directly what was happening before it happened since 2016 (his words).

      It sounds like Quinn will get to shape this roster from JG’ s words and obvious ties with the management. Shatty having good on ice ties with him and Hayes knowing him since he was a kid due to family etc will set those two up for good productive seasons.

      • That’s a good point regarding Kreider. Here’s what I think. He’s got a year left after this season then he’s a UFA. (20-21) If they acquire Panarim or Seguin, I think they will make a push for either or, and Buch, Chytil and Kravtsov are in the top 6 in (19-20) there’s 1 or 2 spot’s left. For now you have Zib too. so maybe there’s 1 opening in the top 6. Kreider is going to be 30 at the end of his contract. Do they want to give him a long term deal at 30? Based on how they handled McDonagh, Miller and Stepan, I think no. If they trade him it’s going to be a hockey deal. He’s a solid player and brings a lot to the table, but he is not elite talent.
        He also has a year left after this season at a reasonable cap hit so he would have good value.

        • I always I thought that his status and age were unspoken things. That’s why I added the connection of him being on the block before as another reason that we might see him go. I totally agree about how his age and established performance which could be related to why he won’t last long with the NYR. I think any of the Cali teams would pay in gold to get him. He might look semi elite next to Kopitar, Getzlaf or Coture and the Sharks who are all in a win now mode right now. If Panarin or Stone could be had with Kreids with a couple of less shiny assets than you do it.

          When Panarin gets brought up here, my reaction was also wondering how does he fit with Kreider and Buch on the top line and the PP? It’s refreshing to see someone who doesn’t put KBZ line above actual top line talent. I think what Hayes showed in the last two consistent months on the PP is a beast mode infront of the net and a better slot man than Kreids. People can miss the net and he would still cash in off the rebounds from the back boards or glass. He had better hands to deflect pucks in and can work in tight space like behind the net and he’s also better at entering the zone with the puck. I could see him replacing Kreids on the PP and Panarin doing the same to Zucc. This is why I want to see Zib stay as a scoring winger. Hayes would rack up so many main assits and help Zib’ s 5v5 production go up. I think those two could work out well together.

          • KBZ is definitely our best line. And they are very talented, but they would be a 2nd line on most competing teams; Pittsburgh, Nashville, Winnipeg, Tampa, etc. I am not knocking these guys but we need a more elite first line if we want to win the cup.

            Our top 3 centers of the future look to be Chytil, Andersson and Howden. If we end up winning the Jack Hughes sweepstakes that changes.(not expecting that but anything is possible) One of them can be moved to the wing too, but that should be based on best usage. A few years down the road I won’t be surprised if Zib and Hayes are both moved. It’s the nature of managing the cap and your assets. You can’t let talent walk for nothing, but you have to think long and hard about signing 30 year old’s to 6 to 8 year deals for big bucks. If you’re not thinking you can compete right now and you don’t think these players will be a fit 4 years into an 8 year deal then you need to move that assets when the have good value.

  • why are so many negative articles or statements for the upcoming season being made ? anybody remember Las Vegas ? let’s be a bit more positive about next season there are a lot of good things and unknowns to look forward to and you just never know. when changes come about like they have, you still have have a good attitude to let the players and staff know that you are still behind them and expect them to do well. so let’s just think positive and wins !!!! LGR’S

    • Love ya mom, That’s what I’m talking about.

      Justin, nice article, but a little too early to throw in the towel for me.

      Call me an idiot if you wish, but I’m rooting for a CUP this year!
      That’s how I see life, CUP half full!

      I love life!

  • Based on all of the points above, which are very well articulated. I can say with complete honesty I am more excited for this upcoming, most likely losing season, than I have been for the past two with AV at the helm.

    We have no idea what to expect, get to watch talented young kids (hopefully) progress, and with no expectations for this team, it’s going to be fun to watch hockey again.

    Sure it’ll be sad watching the kids struggle, and Quinn will make mistakes. But I’d sure as hell rather watch that night in and night out than watch a complacent coach chew his gum behind the bench, with aging vets with no future with the team every night.

    All in all, it’s going to be a long ride, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and remind people why they love this team so much. Winning is nice, losing makes you hungrier.

  • Regarding Hayes and Zibanejad: I think you see Zibanejad sticking all year. His injury history has reduced his market value, and the Rangers have him on an affordable contract. If he has a good season, he is sticking around unless a very good offer comes around. Hayes I think might be on a ‘show me’ contract. If he performs well, they might get a deal done. I think he is someone who breaks out and has a great year, so, they may have to pay to keep him. If he breaks out, he will be worth it.

    Then you’d have Zib, Hayes, Chytil and Andersson down the middle if the kids are alright. I think that is what the Rangers would like to see happen. Time will tell.

    They keep Kreider for now at least. Zucc might go, but they don’t exactly have a plethora of wings. Buchnevich should also have a break out year I believe. Shatty stays and Skjei too. The rest of the kid defense men fight for spots.

    Exciting times.

  • Just throwing this out there. Within 2 weeks, the NYR will name their Travers City tournament roster. With the glut of young talent we currently have, this would be a good showcase to see if the future is bright or not. I think, if our kids are as good as they are thought to be, we should do very well in the tourny.

    I would like to see Brett Howden on that team, and see him dominate. On the backline, not sure who will be there, but with all the “D” we have, they should shine as well.

  • It will be interesting watching Brendan Smith. He should be hungry in camp, trying to claw his way back to the NHL. It would be nice to see him in shape and playing at his best.

  • I think the veteran buy-in question is wide open and depends mostly on one guy – David Quinn. Except for the very old (Lundqvist, McLeod), if the players buy into Quinn’s vision and way of managing the team, they are going to want to be a part of it. If they don’t buy in, they will be trouble. This is one of the reasons coaching is hard. You don’t simply “let the kids play”. You give playing time to the right players (and no, I don’t know exactly what that means).

    As for #2, I think it is more than just training camp battles. The development of players like Hajek and Day is not simply handled in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see what kind of vision the Rangers have for Hartford — and how seriously they look to getting LH defensemen comfortable on the right side. RH defensemen are like gold. IMO, the third best true RH defenseman the Rangers have is Kampfer and, if true, that is a horrid state of affairs. [Some would even put him second, ahead of Pionk, but most would list him fourth, after ADA.]

    As fans (and I am also guilty), we judge RH and LH defensemen by the same metrics, but that’s wrong. Down the stretch and in the playoffs, Dan Girardi was more valuable to TB than Ryan McDonagh. And before you laugh at that, look at their third pair with Sergachev on the left and the ridiculous Coburn on the right.

  • One big question which you have of course not mentioned Justin is when management (and fans) will begin to evaluate the situation in goal reasonably. I am not advocating for a change. I am however pointing out that evaluating the strengths of your team is a zero sum game and if you overvalue one player, you undervalue others.

    I am much older than you and have followed many sports exuberantly at times. I absolutely loved Arnold Palmer. I believed he was the best long after he stopped winning tournaments. He would make a run and I thought it was all falling into place. I was utterly stunned when he turned 50 and couldn’t win on the senior tour.


    So I am hardly one to be unable to understand the Lundqvist worship. He has been a true hero and continues to show flashes. And while his numbers over the last five years are not good, “magic stats” support his continued excellence.

    Maybe Lundqvist will get better under Quinn. Maybe he will play less and thrive in that role as Jacques Plante did. But if he doesn’t, I hope management understands what is going on and does not shift the blame to others.

    Incidentally, JFTR, I think the smart money is on Lundqvist being the best Ranger goalie this year. Georgiev was clearly better in the first half of 2018, but you have pointed out many times that being good for three months is not the same as being good for a career.

    Oh, and I think you sell former idol short. It is not at all clear which goalie who came up with the Rangers in the last forty years posted the best career numbers.

    • Raymond, he’s a top 3 Ranger of all time (Messier, Leetch and the King are my 3) and deserves tolerance.

      That being said, what are the Rangers winning next year? Nothing. 2019-20 is the season to win. King and Shesty will split that year.

      Henrik is a HOF lock and the best goalie of his era.

      • Tolerance is fine. And I agree the Rangers are going nowhere this year. And I agree that Henrik will be a HOFer, although he doesn’t quite measure up to Luongo by traditional stats. HOF is a weird metric though. Van Biesbrouck had a far superior career to Giacomin, but one played in an era of high scoring and the other when every goalie went to the Hall.

        My problem is twofold. First, we don’t know who will be better – Georgiev or Shestyerkin and we need to have an open mind. [We can do that by giving Georgiev 30 starts (unless he falls flat first) and Quinn should do that.]. Second, we need to evaluate all personnel fairly.

        My assessment is that in recent years, the Rangers have configured their defense in such a way as to maximize Hank’s vision. They intentionally gave up more shots in good locations as a tradeoff to insure that Hank could see everything. Maybe a good trade, maybe not, but when you start saying the defense sucks, there is a problem.

        But I would not show Hank the door. He deserves respect as you say. Plus, there is maybe a 75% chance Georgiev turns into a pumpkin – and if he doesn’t, he can get plenty of action as a well used backup.

        • I really believe that the Rangers go for it in 2019-20, unless all the kids bomb net year.

          They will be able to afford 2 top paid players. I hope one is Panarin and the other is Trouba or another high quality D man.

  • team:

    buch – zib – zucc
    kreider – chytil- vesey
    spooner – hayes – names
    anderson- howden – fast

    press box: Beleskey, McLeod

    ‘D’ (7 of list of 8)

    early trades: Lettieri, Nieves, O’Gara
    deadline trade: Zucc or Names if Kravtsov
    plays NHL without AHL
    wild card: DeAngelo

    following year: Smith, Staal gone

  • have a feeling they will re-up zucc. and that will be the sign that this “rebuild” is nonsense. don’t wanna hear crying from this site and others that kravtsov and/or buch need more icetime. org needs to learn when to move on.

    • Zuc may be re-signed for less, but if he fetches back valuable assets then they should trade him at the trade deadline and sign him back.

    • Silly, you can’t play JUST prospects … a few well chosen vets will always be necessary. If that happens to be Zucc, so be it —- the Ranger staff and Management know better (at least better than you). If the kids prove to play better than the few vets we will have, then their ice time should reflect that under Quinn … but the idea that we should apply some blanket rule against all vets because we’re in a rebuild is lazy thinking.

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