Since Justin usually gives his thoughts on a Friday, and he’s kinda sorta retired but not really retired, I think it’s time I gave some random thoughts. Plus it’s slow in Rangerland until the draft lottery. Bombs away!
1. Mika Zibanejad added his 30th of the season against Boston the other night, the first player since Rick Nash to do so. A right-handed center with speed, vision, and a howitzer from the off-wing on the powerplay, Zibanejad has been more than we ever could have hoped. If there is one trade to look at for Jeff Gorton, it’s this one. At least from a positive standpoint.
2. Brendan Lemieux was called a top-six winger by coach David Quinn before the Boston game, and it sent a lot of people into a tizzy. I see nothing wrong with the comment. As of right now, he’s in the discussion. The top six on the roster today are Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, and….who exactly? By production, Ryan Strome is in the discussion. If he’s in the discussion, then so is Lemieux. Ideally Lias Andersson makes his way into the discussion. But right now, yea Lemieux is probably a top-six forward on this team. In the future, you hope that enough talent is added that he’s a bottom-six guy. Sometimes, folks just need to relax and digest what someone says, instead of reacting to everything because it’s not something you expect.
3. The Rangers, at least up front, are likely going to look similar next year. The only free agents of note are Lemieux and Buchnevich. Vinni Lettieri is also restricted, but he’s not on the “keep” level as the first two. It’s really the 2020 offseason that we might see significant turnover. Kreider, Vlad Namesnikov, Strome (RFA), Jimmy Vesey, Jesper Fast, and Boo Nieves are all free agents. The Rangers won’t part ways with all six players, but we can assume at least some will be gone. That might be the next, and final, purge from the roster.
4. Speaking of purging the roster, we’ve mentioned before that the Rangers are not going to see a lot of turnover on the blue line right away. Maybe Kevin Shattenkirk is traded. But I don’t see Marc Staal being bought out or Brendan Smith being traded/bought out. Add in Brady Skjei, and that’s four already. Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo make six. Libor Hajek, assuming his first three games weren’t a fluke, make seven. That doesn’t include anyone in the AHL or Yegor Rykov. There’s again nothing wrong with having Shatty, Staal, or Smith playing while others are developing. It’s when the kids are ready, and these guys are still playing, that it becomes a problem. But right now? Nothing wrong with it, especially when some of them are helping the Rangers get a higher pick.
5. The Rangers have a whopping 16 players on the roster (injured or healthy)who are 25 years old or younger. It’s easier to list the players that are older: Kreider, Namestnikov, Fast, Brickley, Shatty, Staal, Smith, Claesson, Hank. This is what a rebuild looks like.
6. Henrik Lundqvist. Still an elite goaltender. Know how I know? Mike Milbury said he was slowing down. Remember folks, whatever Milbury says, the opposite is true.