Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Rangers have an issue on defense that needs to be rectified.
Shocked? I know.
Despite the lack of quality in players on the blue line, the Rangers actually now have a bit of a logjam as they head into the offseason. Including RFAs, the Rangers have a whopping nine defensemen under contract at the NHL level: Kevin Shatenkirk, Marc Staal, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, Fredrik Claesson (RFA), Tony DeAngelo (RFA), and Neal Pionk (RFA). They also have at least two AHL defensemen in Yegor Rykov and Ryan Lindgren that may compete for a spot. And that’s just at the NHL level.
At the AHL level the Rangers have, in addition to Rykov and Lindgren, Tarmo Reunanen, Joey Keane, Brandon Crawley, Sean Day, Darren Raddysh, Julius Bergman (RFA), and Chris Bigras (RFA). Worth noting that John Gilmour and Rob O’Gara are both UFAs (Group 6), and I’m assuming they leave. They aren’t included in this group.
All in all, that’s a total of 18 defensemen under contract or RFAs that the Rangers have on the blue line. It is certainly not a bad problem to have, but it begs the question about who will actually be with the organization next year. As it stands today, at least two guys on this list would need to spend the entire year in the ECHL.
Let’s break this down into two categories: Definitely staying and definitely leaving. By definition, anyone not in these two categories is a big pile of “who knows?”.
The guys who are definitely staying are the ones you think. That would include Skjei, Hajek, Fox, Reunanen, Keane Rykov, and Lindgren. Skjei is the next face of the blue line, and the rest are rookies that are held in high esteem by the organization. I’m going to reach and include Day here as well.
Let’s also add Staal to the list, since the Rangers won’t be able to shed that contract.
Bergman has already signed to play with Frolunda in Sweden next year. He’s not coming back. Claesson is gone too. I can’t imagine the Rangers are going to qualify him with this many bodies on the blue line.
All signs are pointing to Shattenkirk being traded, or worse, bought out. I think it’s safe to put him in this category. Man, what a disappointment for player, team, and fans. It didn’t work out, but I will still defend that signing until the day I die.
So that leaves 15 players, barring any trades to make actual improvements. If the Rangers are in on Jacob Trouba, I think it is a fair assumption that one of DeAngelo or Pionk are included in that deal. Either way, that doesn’t change the number of defensemen. There are certainly worse problems to have, especially when it’s Brendan Smith as the 7D in the NHL, as opposed to a kid that actually needs to play.
So who do you think will still be here when the season starts?"Who from the blue line logjam will survive the offseason?",