Addressing the 2C hole with frugal investments

As we wait for the Rangers to retool the rest of the roster, we know that there is a clear hole at 2C. Mika Zibanejad is entrenched as the 1C. Filip Chytil may be the 2C of the future, but the 19-year-old hasn’t adjusted to the NHL game completely just yet. His flashes of brilliance are there, and he could very well be the 2C in the near future, but handing it to him now would be misguided. Lias Andersson probably slots in as the 3C in an ideal scenario, especially since the 20-year-old showed improvements in the latter half of the season. Brett Howden’s future is probably on the wing. So there’s a clear need.

The Rangers lack one of a 2nd or 3rd round pick in 2020 in the Adam Fox deal, and since the pick is unclear, they can’t use either for RFA compensation. That leaves the four 1st round pick compensation, which puts them in the running for someone like Brayden Point, but let’s be real. There hasn’t been an offer sheet since…Dustin Penner? Something like that. They aren’t going to happen. So the path is trade or UFA.

The Rangers would be looking for a guy that fits a few criteria:

  • Can play the 2C role competently.
  • Is a good locker room presence and will grow the prospects.
  • Is likely looking for some kind of short term deal.

Believe it or not, there are some decent options out there.

Jason Spezza

Spezza is unlikely to be re-signed by Dallas, as the Stars look to get younger from the 36 year old center. Spezza is not what he used to be, and that is painfully obvious. But he is also a guy that is has held locker room leadership positions before and is going to get a short term deal (Evolving Wild has him at basically 50% to get a one year deal around $2 million). That’s two of the three criteria right off the bat.

The concern is his ability to be a 2C. Spezza has declined rapidly since the 2015-2016 season where he put up 33 goals and 63 points. He cracked 50 points the following year, but hasn’t cracked 30 points or even 10 goals in each of the past two seasons. He hasn’t been atrocious away from the puck, sporting a 47.97 xGF%. There is also room to believe he can rebound, since his GF% was an even 42.00, well below his xGF%. That implies he was relatively unlucky while on the ice. The team shot just 5.68% with him on the ice, well below league average, so there is some weight to this argument.

If the Rangers are looking to get a short term center, Spezza is a solid option. Put him at pivot with Pavel Buchnevich and Vitali Kravtsov, and you may have something cooking for your second line.

Marcus Johansson

Johansson probably is option #2 here, and he is a guy who can definitely fit the bill as a 2C in the short term. The NHL is a fickle beast, and a center that has been traded twice in three years usually comes with some kind of bad publicity. It’s completely silly, of course, but that’s how the NHL is nowadays. But that doesn’t take away from Johansson’s stats, putting up 12-15-27 in 48 games with the Devils this year before being traded to Boston. He also put up 11 points in the playoffs for the Bruins.

The concern with Johansson is his contract. EW’s contract predictor has him at about an 18% chance to sign a one year deal, which isn’t that high. He’s probably going to get one of those weird four year deals. The weird thing is that they have him projected as just a $1.6 million cap hit if he goes with the one-year deal but up to $3 million if he gets two years and $4.5 million if he signs for longer. If he doesn’t get one of those longer term deals, he might take a show-me deal with the Rangers. A guy who was traded away from a Stanley Cup winning team playing with a chip on his shoulder can benefit the Rangers.

It is worth noting, though, that Johansson on a three year deal puts him as eligible for the expansion draft. At 28 years old, three years and expansion draft fodder looks mighty appealing.

Valterri Filpulla

Filpulla is far and away the #3 on this list, well behind Spezza and Johansson. Don’t be fooled by his “sexy” numbers of 17-14-31 in 72 games with the Isles, he was a 44.46 xGF% with a whopping 60.71 GF%, so he got extremely lucky all season. Then again, every single Islander forward was propped up in some part due to exceptional goaltending.

I’m unsure how he is as a locker room leader, but at least he will be looking for a short-term deal and will come cheap. He’s also most likely to get a one year deal at around $1.5 million, and even his two-year deal projection is manageable at $3 million.

If it were me, I’d prefer Spezza on a one year deal over the other two. He represents a short term commitment without breaking the bank. Johansson’s expansion draft eligibility certainly has me intrigued though. However stay away from Filpulla.

Given the Rangers’ commitment to staying on short term deals, I’d still lean Spezza here. But then again Jeff Gorton has inception’d his way into the minds of other GMs. So maybe there’s a Shattenkirk for Draisaitl trade coming.

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  • “The concern is his ability to be a 2C. Spezza has declined rapidly since the 2015-2016 season where he put up 33 goals and 63 points. He cracked 50 points the following year, but hasn’t cracked 30 points or even 10 goals in each of the past two seasons. He hasn’t been atrocious away from the puck”

    Why would anyone pay this guy $2 mil even for one year? Makes no sense to me when we have kids who can play the position, to bring in another dinosaur into our locker room. Let the kids grow, Chytle, Howden, Strome, Name, even the two new kids Kakko, and Kraves, can play the position. We aren’t going to be contenders this year, give the youngsters time to mature, what the heck is the hurry?

    Given all the choices, I’d pass on all, and play with the hand we were dealt with!!!!!!!!!

    On a side not, look at the rapid decline of Spezza, another example of signing old farts to long term deals, and watch them rot on the vine. Panarian anyone??????????????

  • Keep Namesnekov as the 2C. His ability to meld with the Russian kids cannot be overlooked. He is already under contract. Move Vesey out. Let Names work with Vitali Kraftsov on his wing along with Lemieux and you have a good #2 line. Kakko needs to learn the NHL. Let him be on the 3rd line for a while.

    When are these Rangers gonna make some moves? Still have an overpaid defense that is overcrowded. Still have too many middle 6 wingers. Come on Gorton, work the phones! Heard Krieder was close to going at the draft for the 16th overall pick, then someone backed out.

  • I think Dave makes an excellent point concerning Chytil. Last year he wasn’t ready. He’s learning, that’s what young kids should be doing, learning.
    I also understand the view point of bringing in an outsider as a short term stop gap option.
    However, if we’re looking for a short term fix at #2 C spot, why not look in house. Ryan Strome. He had a decent year after he arrived via trade. He’s 6’1″ and just under 200 pounds and a natural center.

    • Jerry

      As I pointed out, we have the tools in house, why bring in someone else who may, or may not work out, take a roster spot from one of the kids, who admittedly is over the hill, and thru the woods already. Strome, and or Name would work, under contract already, and could keep up with the youth. Can the above mentioned do the same?

      We aren’t going to be contenders this year, let me repeat that we aren’t going to be contenders this year. Let the kids develop into something wonderful, rather than put undue pressure on them. It’s counter productive when we have veterans in house who are more than qualified to do the job. I understand Dave has a job of trying to fill a column daily with different subjects, but in this case I think it’s a waste of time looking at these three choices!!!!!!!!!

    • This isn’t last year, it is this year! Everyone wants to pretend Chytil is a bust. Utterly, ridiculous nonsense!

  • Good morning all,

    I think Howden is our strongest faceoff center and he has put up huge offensive numbers in junior. He is only 21 years old and can grow into our 2nd line center. He and Chytil had almost identical numbers last year. They both were going through the rookie learning phase and will both take steps forward this year hopefully. I think Chytil should stay on the wing to let his offensive creativity flow. This season I think Strome will be more comfortable and has the ability to take another step forward and fill the 2C spot for the season. I think the best center on the market is Joe Pavelski. But extremely slim chance he leaves SJ and his price will be high and he doesnt fit the rebuild mold in the way we need. If this were 2 years further into the rebuild and we were a playoff contender he would be perfect fit. The best short term stop gap for a year or two would be Brian Boyle. Veteran, knows NY, can play 4th line center and PK and has faced adversity and would be a great mentor.

    If we don’t get Panarin what do you think of making a run at Anders Lee and Michael Ferland? Both are big, heavy players that skate and score. Imagine Kreider with Zib and Lee. That would be a great first line. I think Lee is a bit old for our team and will get a longer term and higher AAv than what I would like but that line would be good together.

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing how the rookie camp scrimmages go over the next couple of days and then free agency next week. Summer is going quickly and Hockey season is right around the corner. LGR!!

    Enjoy the day and if I don’t post before then have a Happy, Healthy 4th of July weekend everyone.

    • Good post Mess. I would be 100% in favor of bringing back Brian Boyle. He checks every box required of a vet on a young team. Every single box, on and off the ice.
      Short term, at the right price, Ferland would provide some toughness and he can play the game.

  • No NO NO ….Those guys all suck, are 3Cs at best. We have enough players and candidates for the 2C, let the games begin.

    Dave, you must have been bored today …. very. 😉

  • People need to stop and get real, we don’t need to sign anyone. I see a lot of names thrown around, most of them bad … or some guy who had a career year, or someone who is fading. or someone who is mediocre, etc. We don’t need more vets — and if we did I would suggest Justin Williams, 2 years at $3-4M per …. but we don’t.

    You get the right player, you don’t settle this year or ever — those days are gone.

    • This whole team is young. Get me a good centerman, but not any of the ones you named. Use what we have to learn how to be a center in this league. Chytil and Howden and Andersson need to learn the position. Let them learn more this year at center. We are not world beaters so please teach the kids what a center in this league needs to be.

      • Any good centerman as you suggest is going to want a multi-year deal with a NTC and cost a pretty penny. That just doesn’t fit in with what you’re doing. At worst we can always try Namestnikov or Strome at that spot as a stop gap measure while Chytil or Howden or Andersson find their game …. but I say give Chytil a chance or even Kravtsov if he likes playing center.

    • Justin Williams – yeah – I’m in on that.

      And if we are talking frugality at center – it’s Brain Boyle for me. He’s not a 2C so the youngsters are going to put their big boy pants on and perform.

  • Kravtsov played Center in the World Juniors last December and you know what? he looked pretty good. I’d be fine giving him a shot as well. He’s certainly got the skill set. I would be opposed in general to bringing in any free agents. We need to figure out what we are going to do with Namestnikov, Strome, Vesey, Smith and Shattenkirk before we go bringing in anyone else. If we want center help we should seek it through a trade. Preferably with a team in cap hell.

  • Why do some people insist on or always favor bringing in some grizzly trusted vetrin ? It almost never works despite how the media portrays it and all it does is wasted valuable cap space and holds down kids from having a chance to play. Lets allow Howden to take the 2nd C spot with what surly will be good wingers who have talent and go from there. There are enough players on the roster who have C experience . You can always slot them over there if Howden doesn’t play well enough.

  • I have to disagree regarding any pressing need to do this, and with the suggested players. I’d rather Namestnikov and Strome fill the role if Chytil needs more time this year to grow into it.

    • …. anyway, Chytil won’t grow into the role playing as a 3rd line center, that’s not his game. He needs to be given the first crack at the job.

  • I think this team needs one of Sam Bennett, Pat Maroon, Michael Ferland, Josh Anderson or Jujhar Khaira. Maroon being UFA but also the oldest and shouldn’t cost more than 2.25-2.50 per year, Ferland would be expensive. Bennett & Anderson offer a lot of grit and skill but will cost good assets in return. Khaira is more grit than anything else and could be had for a 3rd or 4th and C prospect.

    We will be very young and very skilled…you do not want to feed them to the lions.

  • Excellent post Dave. Depending on cost and cap considerations, I would love Spezza. He is not the offensive force that he once was, but he was certainly a quality player throughout the playoffs. And he plays like a winner, has the kind of attitude that will be a positive influence on the younger players.

    I think the commenters here want to see the kids play because it is fun to watch the future unfold and frankly refuse to see what it takes to develop a good hockey player. They have Kakko, Kravtsov, Chityl, Andersson, Howden, Fox, Hajek, DeAngelo, Rykov all pencilled into the lineup. There is a nearly 100% chance that one or more of those players do not belong in the NHL. Hypothetically, let’s say seven are ready but Rykov and Andersson are not – a pretty optimistic assumption. Two guys who should be focused on development down in Hartford are instead thrown in the deep water, the Edmonton method. Meanwhile the other seven guys are being shown that the Rangers are about development and not about winning. My impression of Filip Chityl was that he has a lot of talent but just doesn’t show up for a lot of his shifts. If you are going to reach such a player, you do it by surrounding him with a team that is committed to winning – and part of the commitment to winning is dressing 18 real hockey players.

    The greatest single motivating factor toward improvement is the goal of making it to the NHL. Everyone here seems to want to take that goal off the table by giving talented kids a free pass. If Tortorella had embraced Zuccarello’s talents sooner, he would have been a full time Ranger earlier – BUT he would never have been as good a player as he was forced to become. The Rangers will win the Cup because Kravtsov and/or Chityl become stars, not because they become competent NHLers.

    The response to the argument that it is easier to learn in NY than in Hartford should not be to call the kids up; it should be to fix Hartford (and that is JD’s plan). Guys like Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer learned how to play good hockey in Hartford. Pavel Buchnevich, who skipped Hartford, was not the player as a 23 yr old third year Ranger that Dubinsky was as a 21 yr old rookie with a year at Hartford under his belt.

  • Why would a mostly washed up 35 year old Spezza be our best option? Even given Strome’s over the top shooting % last season he almost certainly can score at the rate that Spezza can, and we already have him.

    The last thing the Rangers need is to sign an over the hill veteran. We have a few too many already, why add to that category, even if for just one year. .And those type signings rarely are successful. And to what end anyway – if Spezza magically plays like a couple of years prior is that going to propel the Rangers to a Cup run – don’t think so.

    I know it’s hard to come up with topics at this point but this musing doesn’t bode well for the dog days of August.

    • yea I agree, y’all might be sensing from my comments it is about time for me to take my summer siesta here (I know, I know). I just can’t…just can’t any more

  • Unquestionble fact: If the Rangers sign Spezza, he will change the way each and every Ranger views hockey, both from his club house presence and his play on the ice. No doubt a smaller effect on veterans like Zibanejad and a greater effect on kids like Kravtsov and Kakko.

    I don’t know how large his effect will be – or how positive – I just know that there will be one. So it is simply untrue that signing a player to a one year contract this year has no bearing on the 2023 SC prospects. Sidney Crosby was always going to be a great player, but I think his trajectory had to have been influenced by playing with Mario Lemieux as a rookie.

    What I think Jason Spezza is is a good two way player with a good sense of what it means to be a star (which he no longer is). I think he will make the Rangers better on the ice, provide needed depth, and help the young players understand the game. I don’t know him personally so I could be dead wrong (he may not be the human being I think he is). He also may be too expensive. I just believe the player I think Spezza is would help the Rangers.

  • Unquestionable fact??? Ray – I presume you realize that Spezza’s production fell off the cliff 2 years ago and he has had 2 atrocious years in a row @ 33 and 34 years old. Most forwards age badly and rarely are productive by the time they are 35. Spezza might be a candidate for retirement unless he can find someone in the league that has your viewpoint. Should we make a run at Cory Perry also? While very young we do have enough veteran leadership – the King, Staal and Shatty (assuming they will still be around).

    • The unquestionable fact was the first paragraph if that was not clear. It does not matter at what level he plays; he will have an effect on the guys around him. Hypothetically, if he is an old guy who can’t hack it any more and is unable to come to grips with the fact and blames everyone else, his effect would likely be negative. But that is still an effect. My third paragraph is opinion, not fact – which I hope was clear.

      What I saw in the playoffs (and I watched almost all Dallas games because of Zuc) was a hard-working fourth line center who got limited offensive opportunities. Is he worth the amount on his last contract? Not even close. But my naive impression was a guy whose work ethic was strong and who still played at a level that would (sadly) make him one of the better Ranger forwards.

      As a group, I do not like the Ranger forwards. yes, there are some very good ones like Zib and a few respectable ones, but there are too many who are either talented with what seems to be a poor work ethic or hard workers who really don’t have NHL talent. If adding a veteran who is an upgrade on Nieves is cap harmless and a positive influence, you do it. Because right now, the Rangers do not have twelve better forwards than Boo – not even close.

      • Fast, Zib, Namestnikov, Kreider – 4 veterans who work their tail off … good enough for me. If you really want another vet, sign Justin Williams, he’s a winner and a consummate professional. What has Spezza ever won? Spezza is actually a guy who came in with a lot of talent and never really lived up to it. Terrible choice, totally unnecessary.

        • “Spezza is actually a guy who came in with a lot of talent and never really lived up to it. ”

          You’re kidding, right? Jason Spezza averaged nearly 1.1 points per games over a seven year period. Sure, he wasn’t Crosby or Ovechkin or McDavid. But he was only a number 2 pick in the draft after all. Comparing him to the forwards chosen #2 after him (and #2 is usually a forward), Malkin was a little better at his peak and had far more staying power. The rest – Eric Staal and Rick Nash among the best – did not come close. And more recent guys like Eichel and Laine have yet to have even one season at that scoring level. If Kakko can match Spezza, the Rangers will have done very well indeed.

          Not that I am adamant about Spezza. Justin Williams would be great if affordable. And I presume there are other reasonable options as well. Sather always found those guys. I just do not want to see the Rangers running Lias Andersson and Boo Nieves out there and pretending they are fielding a team. There is just no excuse for not fielding twelve actual forwards, something lost sight of two years back.

          I have a simple disagreement with people here. Most would rather play young guys who suck than old guys who don’t; I would rather play veterans who don’t suck than young guys who do. Of course, people misrepresent how good players are to justify their position on a case by case basis, but it really comes down to the contrast I gave. And I get it – it may be more fun to watch players improve than to watch them decline – and even random new blood can be more fun than decline.

  • The hell with an over-the-hill 2C. Figure out a way to keep Krieder and get Panarin and the 2C can be any of the kids and we will be fine. Just get me some more talent!

    Why no trades for Smith and Shatty. Wake up Gorton – you need to clean out the blueline. Get me a bonifide scoring threat and move some of the ancient defensemen!

    Buch – Zibby – Krieder
    Panarin – Names – Krafsov
    Chytil – Howden – Kakko
    Lemieux – Andersson – Fast

    Make it happen!


    Trouba – Skjei
    TonyD – Stall
    Fox – Hajek

    Smith as 7th

    C’mon that is not a bad lineup.

  • No to any free agent signing or trade that gets in way of any Ranger yute that is a viable option for that position. If Howden or Chytil cannot show they are a capable 2nd line center, after a true opportunity, slide in Names. If no Ranger LW is a viable option, and we can afford Panarin without great disruption to the team, then sign him.

  • And what would the goal of signing said free agents do?

    Take away time from the kids during a rebuild.

    We aren’t getting Panarin we aren’t getting any other FA

    The team you see is what you got. Chytil is the 2c

  • The only ‘unquestionable facts’ concerning Speeza is that he is old and pretty much near the end of his career, and he give a solid effort but has never been a great player. He is definitely not a 2C at this stage of his career so why he should be considered for that slot at all is beyond me.

    The Rangers have Namestnikov and Strome to slot in at 2C if Chytil or one of the other youngsters cannot handle full time center responsibilities. I see no big problem with that even though neither is truly a 2C because they are already on the roster.

    McQuaid was a character signing, as was McLeod. They were both sold off because they were less useful than their paychecks indicated. Speeza would be somewhat better but still a similar signing. I am not at all in favor of it. Fast, Strome, Kreider, Namestnikov, Staal and now even Brady Skjei are hard working veterans. I am not worried about the culture because of them and because the coach is all about hard work.

    Now, if they could sign a young and skilled center or winger with some NHL time to take a center spot at times, that would be entirely different.

    • In the short run, young is not a virtue. Age is neutral. Certainly, if one were to sign a player of Spezza’s age, one should expect some decline from last year. But one should not pick players by age when handing out short term contracts.

      Unlike you, I have a problem with the culture. If you play players who suck just because they are young and have potential, you are sending the message that players don’t have to strive for excellence.

      • Except for Pionk, I didn’t see that happen much Ray. They are playing young players to see if they can cut it or not and to give them experience. Sure Howden and others weren’t too good, but due to the Rangers’ situation it was the right time to let some kids play and suck if need be. They are not vying for the cup this coming season and certainly were not last season, so I don’t get your point at all. The kids strove for excellence but at this stage were not excellent. However, some improved because it was the right time in their maturation process (DeAngelo).

        • The right time for kids to play and suck if need be is when they are ten years old! (or in Edmonton)

          It wasn’t just Pionk. Among forwards who played in half or more of the games, Lias Andersson was arguably the worst forward in the NHL — and he sucked in the AHL as well. Lettieri was certainly awful. And even non-kids like McLeod and Brickley were only playing because the Rangers did not have enough forwards.

          I don’t believe experience in the NHL is that important. Experience being a good player and experience winning are important. The team I would like to see is nine capable and determined veteran forwards (and that does not mean Cody McLeod or Tanner Glass) along with Buchnevich, Chityl, and Kakko. Buch and Chityl would have to bust their tails to keep up rather than be de facto stars because the rest of the team is so bad. And for Kakko, the NHL becomes about winning, not scoring, from day one.

          Letting players who don’t belong in the NHL play in the NHL neither advances their ability nor sets a good precedent for the true prospects.

          I was one of very few here who did not expect the 20172018 Rangers to make the playoffs — and my reasoning was that they did not have enough real forwards. Gorton planned on handing a spot to Andersson and provided no competition. Instead of signing three veteran forwards, he signed only Desharnais. Again last year, he provided no competition for the kids up front and the team was even worse.

          • All I can say is that you are making judgments regarding players that were playing as if the Rangers had better prospects waiting in the wing or more talented vets sitting. They didn’t, Getting some mediocre forwards to play instead would accomplish absolutely nothing. Hartford was also not doing a good job developing players. They may as well develop the kids and let them compete with each other and against NHL competition. We are not going to agree about this.

          • They did not have more talented veterans sitting because they chose not to sign sufficiently many competent players, not because there is a worldwide shortage of forwards better than Andersson.

            “Getting some mediocre forwards to play instead would accomplish absolutely nothing”

            This statement is pure opinion and I don’t think it is based on anything. No, they would not have won the Cup with better players. But what the Rangers chose to do and what they chose to not do did affect the development of the prospects and the morale of the veterans. Maybe I am misguided, but I can’t help believe that playing guys like Lettieri and Andersson sends a message to everyone else – a message that we are not committed to winning and a message that not good is good enough. And such messages undermine what else Quinn is selling.

            Without question, the Rangers are trying to develop their prospects. They can try to do that in NY, they can try in Hartford, they can try in Maine. Sending players down is not giving up on them. For each prospect, there is a best place and it is not the same for each. It is also true that it is an interlocking puzzle and sometimes one should consider what is best for B when placing A -especially if B is a grade A prospect and A is only a grade C prospect.

          • Spezza isn’t going to make these kids play better. He isn’t known to be much of a leader of at all and his game is finished. There is no need for a guy like Spezza on this team when you already have ZIBANEJAD, Kreider, Fast, Staal, Shattenkirk, Hank. How many more vets do you need to show the kids how to be pros.

          • Czech

            Spezza would have been a great acquisition 15 years ago. It’s time for him to move on, and please JG don’t even consider him at all!!!!!!!

      • Ray

        I just saw on E-bay a wheel chair for ice, this is a great invention for Jason. Sign up the relic already, Ray love old farts!!!!!!!! Maybe we ought to get another for the pylon who can’t skate but has longevity, Marc……….

  • Sign Kreider for a reasonable deal, I believe it could be done, and get your 2C in pre-season camp. It’s time to find a kid to play consistently. If it’s Chytil fine, Howden fine, Andersson fine, Kakko fine or anyone else who can win the job. However, please don’t sign any of these losers. It’s just not necessary. We have veteran leadership, plenty, just nobody likes them. There are here for this year. Get used to it.

  • Dave, in the soon to be (already here?) dog days, you are not required to write an article everyday. I expect better from you! This was awful!

    Can you believe what this has spawned??

  • Panarin to contend or trade all the vets if they don’t sign him. Boom or bust.

    That’s where I stand.

    • Hey Tony, the problem I see is that Panarin’s price is going to be big up. Florida is interested and a couple of other clubs might be too. There has to be a limit to how much the Rangers will spend to land the guy. His cost is my concern regarding Panarin. That being said, he is a point a game player, no doubt about that.

      • Looking forward to next season with the roster we have today. 2C is open for debate but we have guys like Howden, Strome, Names that might fill the bill. Let’s close down the spending until Quinn gets a chance to see what he has. I’m surprised though that I don’t hear Anders Lee name more on the NHL boards. Brayden Point too – although that would be a monster $$$$. Very happy Ranger Fan…..

      • Hey Peter, you are 100% correct.

        Panarin WANTS to play here, but if he signs here then it will be for less than the highest offer. That will be his decision.

        Even if he and Bob go to the Panthers, FL is not winning anything. Watch for the Isles. I have said that they can afford both better than FL can.

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