State of the Rangers

Kakko is a game changer, but not a savior – Work still needs to be done

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Rangers are picking 2nd overall in this year’s draft, and are likely going to be selecting Kaapo Kakko out of Finland. Kakko is the real deal. He’s an elite level talent that is a franchise changing player. He single-handedly changes the course of the rebuild, especially when you consider the complementary pieces around him. However he is not a Connor McDavid. He is not a Sidney Crosby. He is not an Alex Ovechkin. He is not a generational talent. He cannot make the Rangers a Stanley Cup contender on his own.

As it stands today, the Rangers have a top six consisting of Kappo (or Jack Hughes, if the Devils have the guts to pass on him), Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, and possibly Vitali Kravtsov. That’s good. That’s young. That is supremely talented. But it’s not enough. That’s two rookies and a second year player on the top-six. It might be great, but it’s no guarantee to turn things around. The Rangers need another forward that can be a sure fire top-six guy. This way if one of Kappo, Kravtsov, or Chytil falter, then can be given sheltered third line minutes. That is step one in free agency, and that’s why the Rangers are expected to go big on Artemi Panarin.

The elephant in the room, though, is the blue line. Lindy Ruff has to go, we’ve covered this. That is step two in this rebuild. Ruff’s tenure with the Rangers has produced nothing but failure after failure. And it’s not a unique situation to the Rangers, as he’s never had good defensive teams wherever he’s gone. That should be an easy one, although David Quinn is on the record saying he expects his coaches to return.

Step three is figuring out what to do with the actual players. Brendan Smith is basically a winger now. Marc Staal has been dead weight for a while. Neal Pionk is not good. There are rumors around Kevin Shattenkirk’s future in New York. Perhaps the Rangers move on from Shattenkirk. Perhaps the Rangers finally bite the bullet and buy out Staal. That still leaves Smith, if he’s on the blue line still, and Pionk getting big minutes. The Blueshirts need bodies. The easy answer here is Erik Karlsson, but can the Rangers afford both him and Panarin? It’s doable, but it gets tricky. Even then, the blue line is a major question mark of Karlsson, Skjei, Hajek, DeAngelo, Pionk, and Smith? Yegor Rykov? It’s a step in the right direction, and Karlsson instantly makes the blue line better. Is that enough with Henrik Lundqvist still posting above average GSAA numbers? Can Lundqvist continue that pace at 38 years old?

The rebuild is probably over and the Rangers are probably going to try to compete next year. That’s how much Kappo changes things for the Rangers. But that doesn’t mean they can sit back, let Kappo run wild, and expect things to magically turn around. Kappo doesn’t turn this team from a 26 regulation/OT win team (dead last in the NHL) with 14 loser points (tied for first in the NHL) into a playoff team, leapfrogging at least four teams in the process. There is still work to be done here.

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  • Agree on your points, but on the D we would be better suited to chase Adam Fox than an often injured Erik Karlsson. Aside from age gap, salary gap and injury gap there will be another issue and that’s signing Chytil, Kravtsov, Kappo and others when their ELCs are done. Look at the Leafs. Bet they wished Marleau had signed elsewhere. Think about a 7 year deal for Karlsson at a big number at this point in his career. That we be a huge mistake.

  • I don’t know how many times I said stay the hell away from Karlsson, the guy can’t defend to save his friggin life. What is the infatuation with this guy who is soft, weak, frail, and not to repeat myself, but here it comes, sucks at defending????

    We have a boat load of assets, good young talent, why not develop Hajek, Lindgren, Rykov? Why not trade for a real shut down defenseman, Troumba anyone? There are teams in need of forwards, who have good d-men, make a trade.

    As for the Breadman, are you sure we need him, at $10-11 million per, for seven years? Five minutes after he signs, we will have buyers remorse, Girardi, and Staal anyone. I put out a list of the horrible free agent signings who never worked out, ala Boyle, Redden, Gomez, etc., it just doesn’t work.

    If we are to dive into the free agent market again, why not wait for another year, or two, when the team will be a legit contender, and not waste the huge amount of money for a player who may never deliver the output you believe he will. More importantly, we handcuff ourselves and place us in a cap hell, just when the kids are ready to go for the cup.

    Please stay as far as possible away from both Panarin, and Karlesson, and continue on the path we are on. The future is bright, why place a huge black cloud over the team with two horrible contracts, it’s just not worth it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Here is another thought, why not try to resign Zucc to a four year contract, at a much lower price than what Panarin would demand? We know what he brings, heart, and love of this organization, that a gun for hire who is out just for the money doesn’t. Zucc also is a proven commodity, gives 100+%, especially during the PO’s, that really can’t be said of Panarin.

      Just food for thought!!!!!!!!!!

      • Agreed! He has a great hockey sense, is an excellent passer, sets a great example, brought the best out of just about any linemates he’s ever had, can be counted on during the playoffs, and has great love for New York! He is essentially the Marty St. Louis of the New York Rangers. He should be brought in until the kids are ready and to help them get that way!

  • Nothing will change if the coach thinks putting Kappo on the fourth line with some checkers will make him better.

    • Very simply put, I trust Quinn’s opinion on how to develop players more than I trust yours. A LOT more, in fact.

      • What kind of silly comment is that. I’ve never showed you my coaching abilities. If you look at simple math and how the coach prevailed in losing I would be questioning his abilities not mine.

  • I love the problems we have baby! Not even year 2 of Quinn and people are already questioning his coaching…
    HA, laughable.


    • I think signing Panarin is a mistake as well. We are signing him because the organization believes that Kakko and Kravtsov will be really good immediately and that is just hard to know. Most of these kids hit the rookie wall by January because of the grind that is the NHL game. We may be a year or two too early for a guy like Panarin. The right move is to try and get either another top 10 pick by moving CK or a 2020 1st for him. I would also move Lias and a 2nd for Trouba who will definitely walk out of Winnipeg after the 2020 season. His wife is in medical school and can’t practice medicine in Canada, nor does she want to. I read a story that she may get a residency in Cornell medical center in Manhattan. I think that is the best use of Lias in my opinion.

    • Coaches with poor records should not be happy! The fans should not be happy too! Whats wrong with you?

  • I think both Kravstov and Kakko are players who have an excellent chance to develop into NHL stars. But, and it’s a big but, neither one has ever played an NHL game, although they’ve both played in men’s leagues, going after Panarin makes sense. Also, this team DESPERATELY needs to improve its defense. IMHO, we should be putting a full court press on Carolina to get the rights to Adam Fox, as well as seeing what it would take to get Edmonton’s 8th pick if Byram is still available. We have plenty of moveable pieces to make both happen.

  • Dave, I know the temptation to wamt the Ramgers go for Panarin and possibly Karlsson among fans is great. Who wants to sit through a rebuild? But, I am hesitant to favor the team spending the huge amount that it will take to land either. We are likely talking John Tavares money, $10 – $11 million for 7 years or so for Panarin. It would be a huge contract. Karlsson would be a little cheaper but still a lot of cash.

    Kakko and Kravtsov will eventually be wonderful wingers for the team. But to expect them to slide right into the lineup next season and immediately adjust and excel in the NHL is very optimistic (even for an optimist like myself!). It pretty likely that they are going to need at least a season or two to blossom. Panarin turns 28 early next year. That means he’d be 35 by the end of a 7 year deal and we’d be burning his 28 and 29 year old years on a rebuilding team. The Rangers are going to need to sign a few of their youngsters to deals in the next few years too, so they will need cap space. Is the timing right for acquiring Panarin? I tend to think not.

    I don’t like a deal for Karlsson because I am not sure that he is durable, will be costly and I think that the Rangers already have some kids that will do the kind of things he does well enough in the near future if not quite as proficiently.

    I am a hard pass on Karlsson and a pass on Panarin.

    • We do need at least one serious talent on D and I think Trouba is young enough and solid enough to sign to a long term deal. I think people are too concerned with Ruff. David Quinn was a stud defenseman and I totally have faith that he will get what he needs on D.

      Can never have enough offense though. How about this Mitch Marner kid from Toronto?! I admittedly don’t understand ‘team cap structures’ that well, but the Maple Leafs look to already have a huge payroll. Any chance this kid is ‘gettable’?

      Still can’t believe we got the 2nd Pick!!!

  • For a long time I’ve been a hard pass on Panarin; but I’ve come around, with a few caveats.

    1: Front load the deal, but only bonus the 1st 2 years. After that, the last 5 years are equal in pay, structured at a tax advantaged way for the player.
    2: No NMC/NTC

    If he kills it those first 2 years, they can decide to protect him. If he only sorta kills it, expose him for the expansion draft.

    As for Karlsson, still a hard pass. His career GF% at evens is 49.21(take out this past season and he’s at 48.7), which is behind Marc Staal(at all states, he’s 2 points better than everybody.) Age, injury history and expected salary is not getting the team value for money and doesn’t make your team better except on the power play. When Kakko is coming off his ELC and Karlsson is a stranded asset with 3 years to go, you’ll be hating it like nobody’s business.

    Jacob Trouba is younger, cheaper and better(GF% 51.67 vs 49.21 at evens, 90 vs 89.68 on the PP) version of Karlsson. He won’t come free, but the team has assets to work with.

    • Reen… 2 questions

      1. Would you rather have Kappo or Hughes?
      2. Assuming Winnipeg’s pick is around 20. Do you think Cole Caufield lasts til there?

      • 1: I’d rather get Hughes as he makes his linemates a *lot* better, but Kakko did that with Palve (his usual linemate) by a P60 of .2 (.5ppg)

        To compare, Auston Matthews raised his main linemate(Robert Nilsson) up .376ppg. Different leagues, but you get the idea.

        2: He should. size is an issue, but his H/W ratio is right for his frame, will be able to put on enough weight to be effective. Not sure it’s worth the risk if Winnipeg is a 16-17; after 20 I’d think about it if D like Broberg, Harley & Seider are off the board

        • A sample structure for Panarin (considering a $85mm cap next season) $17mm x2 years, $12.5mm, $8.5mm x4 years.

          If the cap is at $83mm, there’s a little compression of the numbers, but not that much.

          You could really sweeten the deal in year 3 with a sizable July 1 bonus, then swing a deal with Seattle on July 2. They won’t really be worried about the bonus, but it wouldn’t hurt, either.

          • Then he can go pound sand.

            It’s a business and no sense blowing up the business model for 1 player.

            I ran Kakko & Matthews numbers(of how they improved linemate’s play) through the NHLe machine and the numbers were almost equal: Kakko .24ppg, Matthews .236pp.

            That works out to an extra 19 points a season.

  • A lot more talent will be infused into the roster with the Russians coming. And don’t forget deandre. Not to mention the draft picks this year.

    Next years roster without the draft should look really good.

    And then there is the draft 5 players in the first two rounds. I mean what is there not to like.

    A 5 year rebuild in 3. Not too shabby.

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