Friday thoughts: Playoffs, cap space, rookies

News is slow right now as we wait for the last two dominoes to fall for the Rangers, those being the contracts of Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo. Ideally the Chris Kreider situation is handled before the start of the season as well. But until then, we wait.

1. There is a lot of talk about the Rangers making the playoffs this year. This is something I’ve discussed before, and while they could be a dark horse pick, I just don’t see it. This club would need to make up 20+ points in the standings for that to be a reality, and there are too many question marks. There are a bunch of rookies and second year pros that will need to exceed expectations for this to happen, and that doesn’t include the train wreck that is the left side of the defense. This team will be better, and be much more fun to watch, but I don’t see them sneaking into the playoffs just yet.

2. Cap space is a concern right now. They will need about $3 million for both Lemieux and DeAngelo, and have about $3 million ($1 million now + $2 million when they demote Brendan Smith/Matt Beleskey) now, so they are right there. Demote 2 more forwards to get to 13F and add a D to get to 7D and it’s less than $1 million in cap space. The name of the cap is banking cap space, and the Rangers have just 3 games in the first 2 weeks of the season. They can, in theory, run a 20 man roster and bank as much as possible early on to give them breathing room. Injuries derail this, but if they get through camp and October unscathed, this probably should fix itself with some savvy maneuvering.

3. As of right now, the Rangers are slated to have six rookies or second year pros in the lineup, seven if you include Tony DeAngelo (132 NHL games) in that category. This brings me back to point #1 – this is a rebuilding year for the Rangers. Yes, the kids are skilled, but they are kids. They will have growing pains. Expectations are high and perhaps they shouldn’t be. These kids need time to grow – none of them are Connor McDavid.

4. The goalie situation is certainly going to be interesting to watch. Henrik Lundqvist, by all stats (including #facnystats) shown, had a down year. He’s 37 years old, it’s expected. He was closer to a 50/50 split with Alex Georgiev last season, and it wouldn’t shock me to see that shift more towards a true split, or even 55/45 for Georgiev. It’s not a huge story to watch given the other kids and talent, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

5. Something to also keep an eye on is the defensive zone system and its effectiveness as the blue line starts to get better. The RD has been completely overhauled. LD is still a giant question mark, and likely depends on how much ice time Marc Staal doesn’t get. Overall defensive progress is going to be highly scrutinized, and if they still can’t get it right, then the ax should fall on Lindy Ruff. It’s long overdue at this point.

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  • Panarin, Karaftsov and Kakko could all make the top 6, providing 2 dangerous lines instead of one. That should add additional scoring that will help up improve our upfront scoring. Pushing guys like Lemiuex, Howden and Lias down to the bottom 6 will allow them to get more sheltered minutes against 3rd line opposition. Good for growth.

    The subtraction of Pionk and Shatty combined with the addition of Trouba should provide some good positive minutes. While the Lindy Ruff “system” is still in place, the players in the system should be improved.

    I think that all of this is good for about 12 – 15 additional points in the standings – provided that our goalie play improves. Can Hank be the 2015/16 Hank? Which Georgi shows up – the 5 goals a game Georgi or the one who pretty much blanked Toronto?

    Will the Krieder season weigh on the team or will CK seize the opportunity to turn this year into a monster payday in the future?

    Are we a playoff team? Lots of things need to go right. K&K need to have breakout rookie years and our second year players all need to improve. All the kids need to learn, grow and mature. I am hopeful of competing for a wild card all the way until the last game of the season.

  • This is the final year of the rebuild, but year 1 of back to competitiveness. I look for the team to be better than last year and to compete for a playoff spot. Big year for DQ to prove he is no longer a college coach but a true NHL coach.

  • Oh yea that’s right Ruff is the reason our defense sucks! I’m sorry I keep forgetting it’s not the players fault. I’m so glad you keep reminding me how Ruff ruined this team all by himself. Typical of this generation, nothing is their fault it’s the other guy not me!

  • 2. In my opinion, the interesting cap space issue is DeAngelo. My quick armchair roster involves starting from the cap friendly 22, signing ADA and Lemieux and sending down Beleskey and Andersson (That leaves Kravtsov off the roster). Assuming the Rangers sign both RFAs to their qualifying offers (which they likely can do), they are left with over $1M in cap space. Sending down Nieves, McKegg, or Howden (taking advantage of Smith’s flexibility and going to 21) adds another 700K+.

    The question is do they want to bank those savings or use them. For Lemieux, a salary around $1M is about right and there is no reason to go noticeably above the qualifying offer. I don’t see much reason to do that for ADA on a one year contract. However, with the looming cap issues next year, it might be good to tie ADA down on a two year contract. If that could be done for $1.5-1.7M per, that would be wise I think. Perhaps even $2M is a good move.

    The cap impediment in 2020-2021 is raises for Kreider, Fast, DeAngelo and Georgiev. Fast at least should not get a big one and a two year contract for ADA, especially combined with extensions for Georgiev and Kreider, would tie everything up with a ribbon.

    5. LD should be a lot better this year. With a thin forward corps, poor RD, and Lundqvist in goal, the linchpin of the Rangers was LD and that should change. But the true LD question is the future. Is Skjei really top four on a Cup contender? Is Hajek really an NHL defenseman? And how will Rykov et al develop?

    I agree that the more Staal plays, the worse LD will be, but I don’t agree on cause and effect. Staal will be second pair if DQ doesn’t trust Hajek and will be first pair if he is also disappointed in Skjei. You may disagree with the reasoning behind giving Marc ice time and you may even be right, but please understand that there is a rational thought process involved on the other side.

  • I don’t expect to see Brendan Smith in Hartford. Carrying Lindgren for example instead of Smith saves only $150K in cap space. One can more than make that up by going to a 21 man roster, using Smith as both 13th forward and 7th defenseman.

  • I don’t think they’re sending down Smith with Belesky, more like Belesky and someone like Mckegg — Smith is too versatile and provides an element of toughness.

    The LD may not be so bad if Skjei improves playing with Trouba and if Hajek gets some playing time. The issue is Marc Staal but he can be minimized by playing less minutes and in the bottom pairing.

    18-20 points can be made up — we played a ton of 1 goal games and had a terrible record in OT — a guy like Panarin alone can swing you 8-10 points over the course of 82 games. It just comes down to the impact Kakko and Kravtsov can have and whether Hank can up his game to a respectable level. If things break right this team can easily compete — it’s not like the Pens, Columbus, the Islanders, etc. improved (the reverse is true).

    • 18-20 points can be made up but it is not as easy as you suggest. The departures of Hayes, Zuccarello, and even Vesey hurt the team. The Rangers need to make p for what they lost PLUS add 18-20 points. And I think it was clear from the worlds that it is unreasonably optimistic to expect Hank to play at last year’s level. If Lundqvist plays fifty games, the Rangers cannot make the playoffs – it really is that simple.

      I expect the Rangers to start slow. However, if by midseason, Kakko, Chityl, Kravtsov emerge as the players we think they may one day be, if Hajek, Fox, DeAngelo are for real, and if the goal tending is good, the Rangers may squeak into the playoffs with the kind of momentum the Blues had this year.

      • Ugh, you like to argue just to argue? Nowhere did I suggest it was EASY … Vesey is though rather EASILY replaced, he was so erratic and a metrics disaster —- not to suggest he’s a bad player, he could score 20-25 goals in Buffalo. Panarin and Trouba can replace Zucc and Hayes (137 points to about 115) … then it is only logical to expect improvement for Chytil, Howden and Andersson … add on two really good rookies like Kravtsov and Kakko, the latter who could easily produce 50-60 points — yeah I said that. lol Just looking at numbers our offense has probably improved — and clearly ON PAPER the defense is better on the Right Side … the Left may just be better based on the right side, plus we may have Hajek all year and he’s an improvement. Again though, we need Hank to be better and Georgiev to maintain the level of play he exhibited down the stretch.

        No, not easy and not a given … but certainly doable as I suggested.

    • At this point I’m expecting the Rangers to start the year with a 21 man roster and about $1.335mm in cap space that will have a daily cap accumulation of $7,256. By the trade deadline they’ll have $2.35mm in space to cover bonuses for Kakko and others on their ELCs(they need up to $5mm, would add another $300k after deadline.) This is with Hajek on the team, Smith on the roster as a utility guy and Beleskey, Kravtsov & McKegg in the minors.

      At some point players with a year to UFA will get moved out (or extended) and hopefully it’s done sooner rather than later in the season. For me, that means Namestnikov(replaced by Kravtsov)for sure, possibly Fast(replaced by Boo/Fogarty)as well.

      They need to do these things because if Kakko and company hit their bonuses and those become overages on next year’s budget, what cap room flexibility they would have next year quickly goes away.

      They need to get Georgiev, Kreider & Strome done(probably Lemieux & ADA again) and have $17mm to do it(and would be tight.) If the $17mm turns to $14mm, gonna be tough to get the 1st three done, let alone the rest.

  • Part of us making the playoffs will also require a team or 2 to under perform. I have a hard time seeing us make the play offs but stranger things have happened. Looking at next years draft it’s OK if we miss the play offs. There lots of shinny new toys to watch this year and that will make the season, if nothing else, entertaining. Agree the left side D is problematic,but I think with Hajek, Rykov and Lindgren we will see a positive surprise from one of these three. Miller is hopefully only a year away. And then things will really start looking up. This is still a rebuilding year.

    • The basic question, as far as making the playoffs is concerned, is what team in the Metro is a team that we can’t beat with regularity? Other than the Caps?

  • Talking about the playoffs in regards to a team who may have some 18 , 19, 20 and 21 year-olds on the wings, at center and on defense has to be pretty speculative. Sure it is possible but we will need to see who is on the big club out of camp and it is definitely a bit of a long shot. I don’t doubt that they will be competitive in most games and might surprise some people.

    The biggest concern for management should be to make sure that their prized young players, Kakko and Kravstov, Adam Fox and others, are physically strong enough to withstand the rigors of NHL play. We might recall how Buchevnich needed to beef up and mature physically after suffering injuries when he first joined the team. Some time in the AHL for some of them is possible.

    I kind of doubt that Brendan Smith gets a trip to Hartford. They will find him useful on D and even as an occasional forward. Look for some young players to at least begin the year in Hartford.

    That all being said, who could not look at the upcoming season with nothing but great anticipation. We are likely to see some of their newest young players and also see some of the returning youngsters mature while also watching Panarin and Trouba play. It should be a lot of fun

    • Ty for bringing some reality to this blog. Making the jump to the NHL is a process. Expecting a young hockey player to make that leap with little or no pro experience is fantasy.

      • Kakko is no regular young guy and we’ve see some rookies come in and score 60+ points — to pencil him in for about 50 isn’t farfetched or unrealistic … I think there might be more adjustment for Kravtsov, but there’s also less pressure on him, so who knows.

        • You have to forgive Bloomer, we have never seen a player like this come through here. Ever. And that includes Leetch.

    • The kids that played in KHL, played with and against men, with a level of hockey only second to the NHL. I know the ice surface is smaller. But, if they are not ready for the NHL, they shouldn’t be far far behind as the college and minor league players.

  • 1) I think that they not only make the playoffs, but they will be a “tough out”. Quinn has a year under his belt which benefits everyone and there is some major talent being added to this roster. I agree that it is best to keep the expectations low but if they all of a sudden jell, they could make things interesting.

    2) Not sure I automatically ticket Smith for a trip to Hartford. He is unique in that they could bury him in Hartford but his position flexibility gives the team the option of carrying only one extra body if they choose to. That could come in handy in banking cap space department.

    3) See #1

    4) To me the goalie situation IS certainly going to be interesting to watch (I am surprised we have not had an off-season article devoted just to this subject as of yet). To me what is going to make it interesting though is this guy named Igor. No doubt Georgiev played outstanding last year but I certainly would not overlook what Igor might bring to the table (crease?) once camp begins. My stance is that the Hartford Shuttle (or is it Shuffle?) gets utilized in a way that maximizes the opportunity for Geogie and Igor to both play as many games as possible in either NY to Hartford. The path to the playoffs runs right through the King and his Court. It WILL be interesting.

    5) LD is still a giant question mark – true but at least there may be some better answers to choose from – Rykov, Hajek, Lindgren, etc. Ruff’s continued employment baffles me.

  • Thanks Dave, another great article.

    1. I do not think we make the playoffs. We’ll be better, but not playoff bound just yet. 2020/201, we will not only make the playoffs, but we’ll make some noise! This year, I’m fine with us playing hard every game, consistently. I can live with mistakes caused by inexperience, as long as I see effort every shift, every game. Let DQ teach our young team. Let this team grow and mature together. Let them stick up for one another and become a cohesive unit instead of a bunch of individuals. I for one thing JG has done a masterful job of bringing in talent, albeit YOUNG talent. Now it’s DQ’s job to teach them the system he invisions to make us a contender for years and years to come.

    2. This Cap situation was avoidable, and now it’s up to management to fix it. I was not a fan of buy-outs, but a buy-out is preferable to being forced to add a “sweetener” (prospect and/or draft pick) to move a player via trade.

    3. Exactly, the kids need time to grow, adjust to the pro game and in some cases mature. I am far more patient then some. I refuse to give up on a 20 year old kid, just because he wasn’t McDavid in his rookie year.

    4. No hedging for me Georgiev will out play Hank. Period.

    5.The D overall will be better, I’m talking the defensive side of the redline. Pionk and Shattenkirk gone, which is addition by subtraction.

  • “This club would need to make up 20+ points in the standings for that to be a reality.”

    As compared to the points the Blues had to make up from January to March, to win the Cup?

  • #1. They make the playoffs, as long as injuries are not significant nor an issue.
    #2. Smith and Beleskey get demoted, one of Names or Strome gets traded.
    #3. Not a rebuilding year, they play to make the playoffs this year.
    #4. Hank gets 60% of the starts, Georgie 40%, and Shesty starts in Hartford.
    #5. The best defense will be a better offense. The forwards will have the puck more and the better skating D men will have to lead the play out of the D zone. It will have to be that way because Staal and Ruff are 2 substantial liabilities to overcome.

  • As far as Staal is concerned if you ask Carpieniello or Brooks Staal is more than fine, in fact Carp was all for the Shattenkirk buyout. Their contention (which I don’t buy) is Staal was paired with an anchor, Pionk and to a lesser degree ADA, so now he is primed for a competent showing especially in a more sheltered role.

    Obviously these guys are old school, non-analytics reporters. The right side D has been upgraded it would be nice if there was some validity to their belief in Staal. Maybe… doubtful … but maybe.

  • At this point in Hanks wonderful career, it may serve the team better and Hank also, if he acted as more of a back-up to Georgiev, not 50-50. It also depends if Georgiev could handle that full time work load, 75% of the games. Sad to say, that’s just reality. We all love Hank, but its time to move on. Getting old isn’t fun. After he has adjusted, and Allair gets his hands on him, Igor Shesterkin may come up like a whirlwind and has the potential to be truly dominant. I would hope if that is the case, somehow, Georgiev would still be a Ranger goalie. He has proven his worth already.

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