The biggest holes on the Rangers heading into the offseason

For the Rangers, the offseason is in full swing. They’ve already made significant moves, trading for and then signing Adam Fox, followed by signing top prospects Igor Shestyorkin and Vitali Kravtsov. While it is expected that Shestyorkin will get the majority of the starts in the AHL while adjusting to the North American game, both Fox and Kravstov fill immediate roster needs and have the potential to crack the roster outright.

Fox and Kravtsov fill holes, but only if they come as advertised and have no growing pains. Suffice it to say, that isn’t going to happen. Both will have to adjust and both will have to grow. If the Rangers are truly to compete next year, or at least be fun, they are going to need to fill some of the holes on the roster.

The second line center

The most glaring hole is the second line center. If Mika Zibanejad is entrenched as the 1C –and assuming the Devils take Jack Hughes– then the Rangers are without a guaranteed 2C option. Filip Chytil, if he remains at center, is the likely candidate, but he’s going on his second pro year and is certainly no guarantee. If growth and easing a player into the lineup is important, I can see him getting either 2LW minutes or 3C minutes. Ditto Lias Andersson, although he comes with less offensive upside than Chytil.

Aside from those two, the options aren’t pretty. Ryan Strome’s 20% shooting rate is likely going to plummet next season, and while he is a nice complementary player, I can’t imagine him succeeding in a 2C role. Expecting him to survive in that role is comparable to expecting David Desharnais to survive as a 3C.

Brett Howden struggled so much to the point of being the worst statistical forward on the team. He needs sheltered minutes to get adjusted and work on his game away from the puck. The 2C role doesn’t do that for him.

Those are the in house options for the 2C spot, and Chytil is clearly the best choice of that group. If the goal is trial by fire, and also to give him legitimate linemates, then it might work.

The fourth line center

If you’re assuming Chytil is the 2C and Andersson is the 3C, then you’re getting Strome on the wing. That leaves your 4C options as Howden or Boo Nieves. both struggled mightily, as we mentioned in their report cards. Neither is a good option for center, and there’s a very good case, at least for Howden, to shift to the wing.

Unless Connor Brickley is a real option, then the only other options are Vinni Lettieri (RFA) and Gabriel Fontaine. Fontaine seems like he could crack the roster after a relatively decent year in Hartford.

Perhaps Nieves is given the 4C role in his contract year, as a “show me” start to the season. The fourth line doesn’t get that much playing time, and ideally you don’t waste Howden there the whole year.

The entire blue line

Keep Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo, and Libor Hajek. As Rob noted, find a way to get rid of Marc Staal and Brendan Smith, with the former being the bigger priority. I’m good with keeping Kevin Shattenkirk, but if there’s a good deal to be made then I have no problem with it. Like it or not, Neal Pionk is staying.

That blue line instills no fear into anyone, even when you add Fox to it. Ryan Lindgren had skating issues when he was up for his quick stint. That’s….about it for in house options. Maybe Joey Keane cracks the roster? Highly unlikely.

Free agency, outside of Erik Karlsson, isn’t a great option either. This is a tougher area to fix.

Bonus: Backup goalie

If the Rangers get a good deal for Alex Georgiev and send him packing at the draft, then they will need a backup goalie. Shesty is not going to be the backup right away, as it’s more important to get him consistent time in the AHL. Backups are a dime a dozen though, and Benoit Allaire can find anyone and make them passable.

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  • Yes we have issues, but they can be worked around easy enough.


    Vesey, Neives extras


    Staal, Pionk extras

    This assumes that no other moves will be made, and that no trades, and or UFA signings made.

    The names on the third, and fourth line can be shuffled around, because both Name, and Strome are versatile and can wing or center. Bottom line we can make it work with the listed players, and we all know that there will be plenty of other moves made within the next two months!!!!!! Jake Trouba anyone??????

    As I see it, we have to get rid of Shatty, Pionk, Vesey, and see what kind of returns they can get us. Smith, again can play both sides on defense, and fill in at wing in case of an emergency, so I keep him, he’s cheap enough. This organization has been in tighter spots in their history…………………….

  • Quinn all but said that Chytil would play sporadically at center next season… the 2C is a problem if we get Panarin.

    With this team’s present talent I can’t understand why Names is not in this conversation, he was jerked around in the first half of the season without set line mates, before pulling it together the second half a little. He was definitely more visible and active.

    He is a smart, responsible 2 way player with very reasonable skills that was drafted as a center. He is an excellent complimentary player that is defensively astute as he’s shown in TB.

    His xGF was slightly ahead of his xGA while virtually playing with scrubs throughput the season, which is probably the reason his Corsi plummeted below his career average of over 50%. He also had a limited number of OZ starts which didn’t help. If Panarin gets here Names is no-brainer as the 2C, maybe with Kakko on the other wing. IMO he should get the chance.

    • Edit: his xGF/60 was slightly ahead of his xGA/60 per Rob’s chart yesterday (net). Which I think is even better news.

    • Kravtsov played Center in the World Juniors last December and he actually looked pretty good there. So don’t rule that out either.

  • Cat

    I have to agree with you on Name, who is versatile and can do more than people give him credit for. I don’t see the Breadman coming here, but I can see maybe where they go after maybe Matt Duchene and sign him to a short 3-4 year contract?????? In so doing this gives the kids plenty of time to develop, and grow as players, and men!!!!!!!!

  • Chytil, Anderson and Howden as centers 2 thru 4 makes sense from a develop perspective. However it likely means, at least for the upcoming season, that our center play will be shaky. Center is Chytil’s natural position so its important to find out if he can play it in the NHL. but its far from certain that he can play it well defensively, especially in the short term.

    Similarly the D-core looks like its in for another tough season – whether we try to stick with the over-the-hill veterans or force feed the prospects.

    Agree with Baron – the the season is shaping up as another evaluation period – figuring out what we have and where the prospects are heading.

  • Look for us to make a deal or two before next season starts. Putting Kakko and Kraftsov in the mix on the 3rd line with Names looks like a good option to me. Yes, the 2C is a problem, but I feel that if you look at pre-injury Howden, he was a different player. Put Panarinn and Vesey or Chytil on that line, and you might get some punch out of it.

    This is all supposition. I think Hayes is not going to get the money he thinks and he will return. I do think Krieder gets moved at the trade deadline, opening up a spot on the top line. The biggest necessary change, as we all know needs to come on the blueline. We need a real defensive coach who employs a system that adjusts to our talent level. Either way, the team we go into the season with will look different than we imagine. We will all have high expectations, but the real games will tell us who we are and how ready we are for this next season.

    Gorton my jumpstart the rebuild with another acquisition that will leave us all in awe. Trouba and a rookie in addition to Fox may make us much better on the blueline. Panarin and another gritty scorer may make us 3 lines deep. Who knows.

    • Agree that there are deals coming but I think Gorton is not making deals for next year but for the years ahead. And I agree that Hayes will not get the big deal he wants and would like to come back but I’m not sure JG sees him as a great fit if he wants to play Chytil, Anderson and Howden at center. And Strome is really a center also. That said Hayes would be the far superior 2C, at least for the next year or 3; and ultimately he may be a better 2 way center than any of the center prospects.

      I don’t see them trading Kreider, unless they need to in a Trouba deal. Rangers need to be bigger and faster; and noone on the roster is bigger and faster than Kreider. That is one take away for me from the current playoffs. The teams left, for the most part (excl. Canes) are much tougher, skilled and faster than the Rangers.

      Everyone agrees that a new defensive coach is warranted but let’s not kid ourselves that a new coach is a panacea and we will suddenly have a good D. It is shaping up as mediocre at best (perhaps a bit better if they can get Trouba).

      • Agreed.

        I just think there are a few other options (like Ryan Dzingel) that are FA’s and under 28. We could bring him and Panarin in if we move someone like Smith’s salary. Put a Panarin and Dzingel on the 2nd line with Chytil and you have a great first 2 lines. Add the two “K’s” with Strome or Names and you could have another scoring line. Of course these are my wish list players, and they might not be able to afford them all. None of these moves help the defense, so I hope some kids can play and the oldsters get moved from the blueline

  • We’re not competing for the Cup, so why should we worry??? There’s no reason to go out and try to fill holes with trades or free agent signings, if so then you’re assuming that all these players won’t show any improvement and will instead play like they did last year. I expect Chytil, Andersson, Howden, Hajek, Lindgren, etc. to all up their game —- there’s no guarantee here that they all will, but that should be the assumption going in. I expect Kakko and Kravtsov to provide some support, if not more —- again, no guarantees but that should be the assumption moving forward.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with the lineup we can put forward aside from the possibility that the 2nd line might be a little weak … or might play sporadically well. The same to some degree might be said about the 3rd and 4th lines, but these are the growing pains of a rebuild.

    On defense the right side looks upgraded. ADA should be in full time, Fox is a great upgrade over anyone previously used as a 3rd pairing d’man and could easily find himself getting 2nd pairing minutes, Shattenkirk should be healthy for the first time and will have something to prove (if he isn’t traded) … otherwise Pionk gets sheltered minutes where he belongs, on the 3rd pairing. Any improvement on the left side will have to come from Skjei playing like he did in the 2nd half of the season and Hajek getting playing time.

    This is all to say one thing, move forward with what we have and live with it. We can’t be making moves out of fear or a desperate and ill conceived need to be competitive enough to make the playoffs. Another year of rebuild and maturation is just fine and will lead to long term success. Patience … and Go Dallas!

    • If you don’t care about winning, you breed a losing culture. It really is that simple. The Rangers should not make short term moves that compromise the rebuild, but they should make moves that don’t. You should not be forced to play young stiffs – it is not good for morale, it is not good for the real players, and it is not good for the stiffs. That Lias Andersson, who probably belonged in Maine, played in the NHL was a disgrace. Perhaps he will be a bottom six player someday, but not this year.

      Key point: make sure you develop the important players properly. Limiting the opportunities of a future third pair defenseman or fourth line forward is not a big deal.

      • I advocate winning, with what we have. At the same time I won’t fret over not making the playoffs. If Quinn coaches smartly they can be a better than .500 club — without having to go out and grab expensive UFAs or making desperate trades for guys like Trouba. No they won’t compete for the Cup next season, but that’s OK. One more solid year of development couple with a good 2020 draft will almost guarantee future success for the next decade. That should be the goal. Accelerate the rebuild wisely if you can, but don’t rush it.

        • I’m not talking about Trouba. You can acquire two kinds of people. — guys like Panarin, Karlsson, Trouba on one hand or guys like Benoit Pouliot or Brandon Pirri on the other. Acquisitions of players in Box 1 should be carefully made with an eye primarily on the long term. You simply don’t grab Karlsson to win next year. If you sign Karlsson, you do it (if indeed you do it) because it positions you well for the next 5-7 years. However, you sign players in Box 2 to short term contracts so that you will not be forced to play clowns. These signings do not compromise the long term plan. Last year, Quinn decided that Andersson would be better served playing in Hartford and then called him up because there were insufficient other options in NY. We saw many guys who didn’t belong in NY – McLeod, Brickley, and a number of kids.

          • We don’t play clowns …

            and I see no need to sign cheap “Box 2” UFAs unless you believe they could have a future with the club, otherwise you’re just throwing up unnecessary roadblocks. This isn’t 2013-14, etc., we don’t need to add possible depth to the team in order to better compete for the SC. That was a different era in the team’s development with different needs.

  • I imagine that the pressure the Rangers’ front office feels from the fan base to get the rebuild over with to be fairly intense. Because of the moves he’s made thus far, Gorton does have some flexibility and could pull off some trades or UFA signings. I won’t rule that out. He also might opt to go the slower route. I did notice that he emphasized that the deadline deals he made last season acquiring picks and shedding contracts gave the Rangers flexibility.

    So, at this point it might be hard to predict what Gorton will do.

  • Most of the teams currently competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs were NOT strong bets to compete for the Cup. You need some luck, some strong forwards, a stifling defense and a hot goalie. I am of the mindset that while our current talent level falls below the Sharks or Canes, with a good draft and smart signings, we could be in next years ;playoffs. Once you get in, anything can happen.

    • You keep making that point and it is true we could get lucky and get in the playoffs like the Islanders this year and the Devils the year before but to what end. IMHO hindering the rebuild to take a shot at glory is fools gold. Most of the prospects that most of the fan base are dying to see play are going to be objectively bad hockey players next year – like Chytil was this year. They will show their potential but have terrible advanced stats because that is how these things work. They learn to play at the highest level by making mistakes and getting acclimated to the world’s greatest league and improve year after year. They are confronted with having to learn how to play when they are not better than everyone else anymore.

      I think that was the point of the Gorton/Sather letter. To let the fan base know that the group that had competed for so many years had run out of time and it was time to build for the future. And that there will be some pain while the process unfolds. Of course many are looking for immediate gratification – that is how most of us are wired.

      I think the team will be better served, for the upcoming season, by staying the course, evaluating the many prospects, and letting the bad contracts work towards there conclusion. There will always be an attractive UFA to consider when the time is right.

  • It makes no difference whether the Rangers get Hughes or Kakko, because either would spell Krieder for Trouba. Which is better for the Rangers, Hughes as their #1 center, or Kakko who replaces Krieder? Krieder gor traded once the Rangers got the number 2 position in the draft.

  • Get Trouba and Panarin or Skinner…kappo or Hughes coming along with Kravstov …..Hajek Lindgren in …Shattenkirk Pionk goodbye …playoffs next season

  • Check out Gorton interview with Bill Pidto…telling phrase in there “we are trying to trade people”

  • Why is it that Shestyorkin, who was better than Koskinen in the KHL, isn’t expected to be ready for the NHL, but Andersson, who wasn’t ready for Hartford last year, is safely penciled in a a 3 center? Of course, this is all just wishful thinking. We wish that Lundqvist won’t be the #3 goalie and we wish that Andersson will succeed because a good center is a plus and a good goalie is a minus.

    And we won’t get a good deal for Georgiev because you don’t get good returns for goalies – we know this.

    • Hope so but the options are pretty limited. 2 years left @ ~ 8.5 per. And the fans would not be happy if he was mistreated. He is the greatest Ranger ever and almost led them to the Cup single-handedly. But now he really doesn’t fit so well. AWKWARD!

      FO may able to massage next year with Georgi and Shetsy splitting between Hartford and NY. Playing more and reducing Hank’s load. Don’t see how year 2 can work though.

      • By year 2 you have more answers. If Shestyorkin did well in AHL and during his time in NHL, you can move Georgi. If not you keep him. If neither are playing well before the end on Henrik’s contract, well they have a big problem then. But that is hard to imagine, so I think there will be a capable goaltender for Hank to pass the torch too.

        • Yup – there might be 2 very capable young goalies to pass the torch to. And only one needs to be protected in the 2021 expansion draft. So what do we do with Hank in year 2 under this scenario. The league is trending back somewhat towards tandem goalies splitting the load.

  • Kakko and Kravtsov are 18 and 19. Chytil is 19. Andersson is 20, Howden and Hajek are 21. DeAngelo and Pionk are 23. This is a young group.

    To expect that both Kakko and Kravtsov are going to step right into roles on the big club is a rather big leap of faith. It might happen, but no one should be surprised if both of those young players spend substantial time in the AHL next season. Same with Igor Shestyorkin.

    Lias Andersson might make a leap in his progress and center a line for the Rangers next season, or he might not. Same goes with Howden and Chytil. Tony D. made that leap and if he continues to improve he is likely staying a while as a defenseman. Pionk may or may not stick around. Hajek might too but his audition was a short one.

    The point is that the Rangers have a lot of young people who are still developing on their roster. Gorton might make some trades because he has flexibility. I just hope there isn’t a deep dive into the UFA market because I believe it would be at least a season too early. As I said above, Gorton is probably feeling some pressure and he does have flexibility. I just believe that it would be too early to spend on pricey players. I’d like them to stay the course and develop a team that will be solid throughout the lineup for years to come. I can be patient.

  • The biggest and most long lasting hole is about to be filled by John Davidson.

    We can all complain about deployment, coaching errors, bad roster moves, etc., but the whole direction of a franchise starts at the top. Having Sather as President, is like having Dolan as President of the Rangers. It produced decent results but the bottom line is a GM does not get to keep his job for so long without winning a Cup. That’s Dolan’s mantra, employ the guys you love.

    Bringing in JD, an accomplished hockey guy to lead the franchise will reach and produce good results all throughout the organization, including Hartford. JD will be the guy to guide Gorton and give impactful input as to how to mold the team.

    Once JD is hired, the rest of the smaller holes will get fixed, in time. Can’t wait until he gets here.

      • I agree 100%. I would think that JD taking the job, if this does happen, that it means that JD is free reign and control over everything.

        And more to your point, with a possible 3 first round picks this year, the Rangers have to get it right, unlike what the Giants did.

    • You and me both, my friend. I have met JD and he really is an impressive and respectful person. And others respect him back. Hartford needs to be fixed before we start changing GM’s. All these picks and prospects but we still can’t seem to develop talent still. That is the house that needs to be cleaned.

      • Hey pal!! Hope all is well!!

        Yep, agreed, JD has the history and the presence to take control of the Rangers, away from Dolan’s stupidity. We will have the right hockey guy running the team at he right time.

        • Trouba Bro, very good chance Trouba will be wearing #8 at the Garden next year, Gorton will be very active in June and July. Regardless if Trouba is a need or not based of cap space and the log jam, this is the player Gorton and his staff have had an eye on and fills a big need on the top blueline and is still young.

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