Addressing the Rangers’ 2C concern

As the offseason progresses, the Rangers and Jeff Gorton are on the record that they are going to use their assets to accelerate the rebuild. While we are unsure what exactly that means, we do know that they are sticking to their words with the acquisition of Adam Fox. With that move, they sold off two picks for a defenseman that was more than likely to sign with them next summer (2020). They accelerating that aspect, and if that is any indication of the future, more is to come.

Aside from the obvious issues on the blue line, one of the major areas that needs to be addressed if the Rangers are to make the playoffs next year — and let’s be real, that is the overall goal of the front office — is the 2C spot. With Mika Zibanejad fully entrenched as the 1C, and some combination of Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Ryan Strome, and Boo Nieves likely to fill out the 3C and 4C roles, 2C is the clear hole.

Center depth is critical for any contending team. The Blueshirts’ 2017-2018 season, when they misfired on Andersson being NHL ready for a 3C role, was derailed before it even started. It’s amazing what David Desharnais as your 3C does for your playoff chances. The same concept applies here. The Blueshirts need to address that depth to truly contend.

The best in-house option is Chytil, who had a decent-but-not-great-or-bad rookie season. He excelled at getting shots from in front while also playing relatively stable defensive hockey. With the flashes of brilliance we saw, perhaps the right wingers (Vitali Kravtsov, Kappo Kaako, perhaps?) can accelerate his growth and potential.

Chytil is an option, but the Blueshirts will need a backup option. The UFA options are a little scarce. There are only four UFA centers that scored 50 points last season: Matt Duchene, Kevin Hayes, Brock Nelson, and Joe Thornton. Duchene is obviously the most enticing, but will be the most expensive. Hayes likely isn’t happening, or at least that’s what I’m thinking. Thornton is 39 years old. That leaves…Brock Nelson. Is it worth committing six years and $36 million to Brock Nelson?

The trade market is likely the best bet here. The Penguins need cap space, and while there’s always a chance Evgeni Malkin winds up on the block, the realistic realm has the Blueshirts targeting someone like Nick Bjugstad and his $4.1 million cap hit for two more years. I only mention Bjugstad as a type of player, and not specifically Bjugstad himself. The Blueshirts will be targeting middle-salary players on cash-strapped reams. Perhaps a player that underperformed last season as well. (I don’t like Bjugstad as an option.)

Of course the Blueshirts could target stupid teams like Edmonton. Maybe the Oilers relieve their cap issues by sending Ryan Nugent-Hopkins packing for…Neal Pionk? I’d say it’s unrealistic, but, you know, Hall for Larsson.

Columbus is an interesting trading partner here. They have two draft picks this year, three major UFAs in Artemi Panarin, Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, one big time RFA in Zach Werenski, and not much cap space to get all of them back next year. If keeping Duchene is what they truly want, then they may need to clear cap space in the form of Alex Wennberg (24 years old, $3.9 million cap hit for four more years) or Boone Jenner (25, $3.75 million for three more years), although the latter is highly unlikely. Wennberg would be a tremendous gamble though.

Ditto Toronto on the interesting trade partner front. They are desperately cash strapped, needing to sign Mitch Marner with minimal cap space. Nazem Kadri and his $4.5 million salary seems like a luxury as their 3C behind Auston Matthews and John Tavares. Kyle Dubas isn’t dumb, so that’s a risk for the Rangers, although I do like Kadri as a legitimate option.

Depending on how the Rangers view some of their prospects, a trade for a legitimate center might be their best bet to fill their 2C hole. Committing big time money to someone like Brock Nelson instead of better options like Erik Karlsson or Panarin or Duchene seems ill advised, and the Blueshirts have prospects and picks to burn to make it happen. Only Gorton knows what his plans are, though.

Of course the Devils could make life easy for the Blueshirts and pass on Jack Hughes for Kakko. In which case, hello 2C Jack Hughes.

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  • this exact question, is why the devils should take hughes even if kakko scores a zillion goals in the next 2 weeks. finding centers is so elusive in this league, let alone zone entry machines.

      • Today’s game will be interesting to say the least. You hope Hughes finishes the tourney better than he starts it, but I’d be hard pressed to sign him to an ELC on July 1 unless I think I can lock him in long term before he fills out/takes off.

        He’ll figure it out, it’s just an issue of how quickly he does it.

        • Hughes has done nothing to keep him getting picked #1. So if we get him, 2C solved.

          We can’t lose either way, the pick is idiot proof.

          • You keep on writing that, but the fact is that Kakko has been killing it since WJC as an underager and hasn’t stopped against men.

            I hope and expect Hughes to go #1, but it isn’t recency bias when it’s months of Kakko doing great stuff.

          • Getting Hughes isn’t a loss for the Rangers. I don’t know why people make it seem like if the Rangers don’t draft Kakko its bad that they got Hughes. Both players will be good. Its a win win situation for the Rangers.

          • I’ll put it this way: which player is going to get me the most points by the time he hits age 28?

            If Kakko gets me 60 points/yr over 10 seasons, will Hughes get me 75 over 8?

          • I didn’t say that Hughes is outplaying him because he’s not, I’m saying that Hughes’ play has been fine too, he just hasn’t been scoring.

  • Names is also another option, if he’s still here, until Chytil is ready for regular 2C duty.

    I do believe that Duchene will be “Plan B” if Panarin does not come here. But the Panthers will focus on “Bob” as their scoring is not the problem.

    • I’ve been banging the Namestikov at center drum now for a while now as a 1 year place-holder for Chytil. However, trade Names, then trade with Toronto and we take on Marleau’s contract and he’s our 2C for 1 season, we also get RFA Kasperi Kapanen for doing them that favor. In return, they get one of our two second rounders ((Tampa) and maybe a lower level prospect (Keane or Barron) or not.

      • Names has proven that he can play with talented players. It’s an option, but he should be traded, I agree.

    • Agreed. Namestnikov is a nice player to have. He can play all three forward positions and can play in the top six if necessary. That’s the type of 3rd line players you want.

  • I agree with your thoughts on this issue, but before we start anything we need to set a reasonable expectation. This is going to be a very young and inexperienced team. As a generalization. Possibly 4 to 6 rookies will be on this team. And they will have a lot of talent, but it’s going to take time to gel. Let’s hope the play offs are in the cards for next year, but there are still lots of things that will need to break our way. So agree a stop gap is definitely better than a long term deal like Brock Nelson. It’s one thing to accelerate the future and another to bog it down.

  • EDM has been trying to deal RNH for 3 years with no takers. Why is that?

    The scuttlebutt is that he parties a little too hard. Not like Don Murdoch partying, but FUBAR drunk. Take it with a grain of salt, but on a Western Canada roadie I heard multiple tales of blottoness in all 3 cities.

    • For next year, CBJ have $28m in space, at the PRESENT cap #. They will be just fine $ wise, just remains to be seen if guys want to re-sign.

    • Fascinating bit of info… I never heard that one…So if he comes here you will find him in the steakhouse bar downstairs between periods? If thats the case trade for him today! Character guy lol

  • If the Devils take Kakko, 2C is solved.

    If the Devils take Hughes, you go Kakko-Chytil-Kravtsov or maybe swap Kreider off the 1st line to mentor Kravtsov on & off ice.

  • Our 2C will be defined by his wingers. Give a capable 2C Panarin and Kraftsov, and we should be okay. I would rather see a playmaker/passer like Names in that role that Chytil who wants the puck on his stick contrantly.

  • First of all we have so many options to work with, Name, Strome, Chytil, Krastov, Kakko, and or Duchene as a UFA, I’m not so worried as some may be. I would stay as far away from Igor Malkin as I can, starting to show a decline, would cost a fortune to get, and cap hit is out of this world………

    Hughes would fill in nicely, but I have a funny feeling if Chytil is our #2 center, with quality wings at his side, he will prove to be a very, very good #2 center. If they sign Panarin, then we are loaded with quality forwards.


    That is a nice set of skilled forwards, with the flexibility to move several players around, and not give up any quality.

    Our biggest issue is still the defense, and unless we get Trouba, we still have to address that problem. JG will do what has to be done, he is a smart GM!!!!!!!!!

  • In my opinion I wouldn’t pay out for any of the UFAs simply because we have two more years to really work through a lot of the garbage contracts that our FO gave out in the past (just look at the amount of cap committed to Staal, Skjei, Smith).

    My personal preference is to slot Chytil into the 2C and let him grow (his production compared to other similar players at their age is actually really good). Keeping Strome and plugging him there would hinder Chytil’s development (also Strome is horrible and I am fearing the Rangers extending him this off-season). The other wildcard as mentioned is whether Kakko comes or Hughes. One interesting wrinkle here is that Krav started off his career as a Center, and also played center in Russia this past year. There is an argument here in my view that if they do get Kakko and Panarin comes here, it would actually make sense to do Zib/Chytil/Krav/Boo and then move Lias and Howden to the wing (neither has shown they could hack it there).

  • We have very little true center talent. There is a responsibility that comes with being a center that our kids just have not shown. It looks like Strome or Names are the only 2 guys on this roster who understand 2-way hockey as a center. We can choose to let them learn the position, or trade for a 2C. I myself think we need defensive upgrades instead of acquiring that great 2C. Add a scoring winger and a first line defender and we will be more competitive than last year.

    • We have plenty of centers, but most of them are either too raw to play 2nd line without support or are bottom sixers.

  • This is starting to get boring. People, we’re not competing for the SC next year so stop trying to resolve every little issue you foresee with this team. A lot of the issues will be answered in the near future, IN HOUSE. Let guys like Chytil, Howden, Strome, Namestnikov, etc. fight it out … take a look at Kravtsov and if we are lucky enough to get Kakko, well he’s even a candidate (although he looks great on the wing).

    Kakko or bust!

    • From reading the blog and comments it seems Tanto that the Rangers will be competing for the cup next year! You and I must be wrong and missed it and the rebuild is over? Lord Stanley be praised! ?

      • The cup is ours for the taking! True for every team at the start of the 2019/20 season. Not sure we added enough talent yet to compete for the playoffs, but ask again around September. If Kraftsov and Kakko could be joined by Panarin and Trouba (even if we lose Krieder), we will be a better team. A playoff team? Who knows but we should be better than this past year.

        • I do expect the Rangers to be better in some areas in the coming season. We will see how ready Kakko and Kravtsov are to transition to the North American game. They are quite young and valuable to the club so I hope that they are careful with the kids. I think the blue line will be better. But even if they add a Trouba and a Panarin, they are relying on some very young players in Kakko, Kravtsov, Chytil, Andersson, Howden and Hajek.

      • Right … I mean we really don’t know quite yet how good all these young players are and where they might settle in the scheme of things. Before “adjusting” the team to win a SC I think we need more of a sample size to determine what we have and what we’ll need 2-3-4 years down the line.

    • I agree that one has to take the long view, but that may have implications for 2019-2020. It seems reasonable to pencil Zibanejad in as #1 center for 2019-2022. But it is reasonable to be concerned about who the #2 center will be during that period. While I agree that 2019-2020 is not critical, the Rangers certainly hope to seriously contend in 2020-2022 and so the issue needs to be addressed. The upside of waiting is that the options will become clearer; the downside is that there are options this year which will vanish next (options being transitory in nature).

      The first question is the likelihood of a good in house option. Honestly, that really seems to come down to Chityl. Will Chityl be a top six center? Or is it at least worth a year to find out? The second option seems to be Jack Hughes. We’ll know how that turns out pretty quickly. But if the Rangers don’t get Hughes and Chityl does not really look like a top six center, it seems reasonable to address the question now – BUT without desperation.

      I see a huge difference between forward and defense on the Rangers. On defense, you only need six guys and the Rangers have a wealth of maybes. At forward, the Rangers finished the season awful with a dearth of prospects. And you need twelve players. We have Kakko and Kravtsov coming in and we hope Chityl will take the next step, but there really are no other avenues for improvement without trades and UFAs.

    • “Let guys like Chytil, Howden, Strome, Namestnikov, etc. fight it out …”

      Other than Chytil, if those are the players that you want to bank on, then there will be no Cup for years, never mind next year.

      • The etc. was Kakko and Kravtsov … and yes, they may all end up as wingers and we may need a 2nd line center, but until the dust settles and we know what we have why go out and grab (overpay) for something we may not need.

  • Kreider looked like he did something to his left knee at the end of the 2nd. It bothered him quickly, got on his bike to get back, went back to the OZ, took down a 2nd time and favored that leg going to the bench.

  • I”ll be shocked if the Devils don’t take Kakko. He looks like a star in the making. Hughes is not ready. The Fins knocked him around quite a bit. I’ll take Kakko over Hughes in a heartbeat. I can’t wait for Hughes to grow!(as in time)

    • Ever since I saw the Kakko kid play, I’ve been saying the same thing. He has size, speed, hands, tenacity, heart, desire, grit, and strength. Did I forget anything? I just love his game, and pray that NJ goes the Hughes route!!!!!!!!!

      • Let’s the kids duke it out for the 2c spot. Strome and Whatshisnameoff can also play the pivot position if need be.

        As far as making an off season move, the Rangers should keep their power dry by building up some cap space and let the market come to them.

      • Walt,
        Devils will pick Hughes,…Trust me…..It’s a no-brainer for them. Hughes is the real deal and a centerman to boot…..Plus the Taylor Hall connection and American born……Hughes is Jersey bound with the consolation prize going to the Rangers. And that is one heck of a consolation prize….lol

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