The fight for 13F

One of the battles that isn’t necessarily spoken about a lot is the battle for depth forward. The Rangers will likely carry 13 forwards when the season begins in earnest, not counting those first two weeks in October when they play twice. Using some common sense assumptions –none of Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, or Filip Chytil will be the 13F– we can narrow down the competition to really two players: Boo Nieves and Greg McKegg, with a dark horse being Vinni Lettieri.

Nieves is likely the front runner here. The former 2nd round pick has the longest history with the club and has also shown steady improvement over the years. He’s not going to wow you, he’s not going to be a bonafide and reliable 4C, but he’s someone who can fill a gap in the lineup in a pinch. The 25 year old, 26 in January, is what he is at this point. His career xGF% isn’t great, but that could be a product of the poor quality teams he’s been with. He’s not the best option, but for a rebuilding team he’s probably the front runner.

McKegg, signed likely as insurance in case Nieves, or others, can’t cut it, is your prototypical AAAA player. He’s been splitting time between the NHL and AHL for his entire career, topping out at 41 games with the Canes last season. His xGF splits are better than Nieves’, but again likely because Carolina has been solid in these categories for years (they finally added high end skill, which is what got them over the hump). I haven’t watched much of McKegg. xGF splits aside, he looks to be a Nieves clone, in the sense that they won’t wow you and won’t provide much offense. Just a warm body at a replacement level skill.

Lettieri, who turns 25 in February, is the interesting case here, since he is the opposite of McKegg and Nieves. Lettieri actually has significantly better offensive xGF splits than Nieves without really losing much defensively. (they both aren’t all that great). For Nieves to make the club out of camp, he’s going to have to highlight that he can score, where we know the other two can’t. It’s also going to be what David Quinn prefers. Nieves has the “reputation” of being better defensively, although he really isn’t.

McKegg seems to be the most balanced of the three here, and there’s clearly a reason why the Rangers targeted him for depth. Neither Nieves nor Lettieri can be considered kids or prospects anymore, so it’s not about growth. It’s about who is the right fit for the role and who plays the best in camp. While the focus likely isn’t going to be on these three, they will see NHL time at some point, so this is an important battle nonetheless.

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    • The only way McKegg, Boo, or Litteri make the opening night roster as 13th forward is: One or more of Kreider, Strome or Names are traded AND/OR one of Lias, Howden or Kravsov go to Hartford – or someone is injured.

  • I believe that Benny’s post above makes too much sense, and that if any of the three are here, it’s due to what was stated!!!!!! Given a choice of the three, Boo is my man as well…………..

  • It won’t be the guy in the picture. that’s for sure.

    I think it will be McKegg so Boo plays regularly in Hartford. Boo is an AHL lifer IMO, might as well play there to help that team.

  • 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 any overages will make that tough to do.

    • So if they wind up keeping both Smith and Kravtsov on the opening roster they will have less than a half million in cap space? I think if it came down to either one of them you’ll see Smith in Hartford. I don’t see this team not going all in on Krav especially after all the hype. If Kakko is here (he will be) then Kravtsov will be here too IMO.

      • Smith would be the one to stay up on a 21 man roster because he can be lay both up front and in back and having a 22 man roster with Rykov/Lindgren + Boo/McKegg would create even less cap space than burying Smith.

        • I just can’t see Krav not starting the year with the varsity,. Your roster does make some sense but i think another move is coming possibly a trade,. Kreider didn’t exactly get a strong endorsement from the fo,. But I feel something will go down sooner or later.

    • Rangers would have to add about a million dollars of potential bonuses and have all those players hit them to be in danger of overage. That’s just not enough of a risk to plan around it, unless kakko, kravtsov, and shesty are all bringing home award hardware.

      • Math must not be your strong suit. They have $1mm in cap room *now* on a 22 man roster before ADA & Lemieux sign. If they sign for the qualifying offer and send down McKegg & Boo, that gets $500k in cap room.

        There are already 5 players on the roster that are bonus eligible before you get to the 3 you mentioned. Kakko will likely make the roster out of camp, the other 2 will come up due to injury or deals.

        Any player hits their bonuses, you have zero headroom to work with to begin with unless you move players out during the season to account for the likely bonuses that they’re aware of.

        Multiple players hit, you are in overage city on top of the $6mm in dead cap room due to Shattenkirk’s buyout.

        They *have* to do the juggling act until they get players out or hurt.

        • It’s amazing how that lousy Shatty contract comes back to bite you in the rear end time, and again!!!!!!! Reen, you’ve given us plenty to think about, so complicated with the cap issue!!!!!!!!!!!

          • They did the buyout because they built enough cap space.

            They just have to do a little juggling early until some other team picks up an injury or builds up enough cap credits to take on some of the bigger salaries.

            Better to do that sooner rather than have to do a lot of it later. Gorton routinely has done this since coming on board. The question would be why he *doesn’t* do it this season.

        • Beleskey and Smith get demoted and one of Names or Strome gets traded, ADA and Lemieux get $3M combined, it’s not an issue.

          And CK can be extended for $7M per for net year.

          • I read the JD article and he said he expects Kreider to be at camp. But if you read between the lines of that article I’m not so sure. Either way I don’t see an extension for him, there was too much intimated skepticism for me to think so. I think he’s a goner If not now then at the deadline.

          • It’s term, not cap hit. If CK insists on 7 years, he won’t be here.

            It really is that simple.

          • Kreider should *want* a deal that gets him another bite at the Apple before he turns 35.

            Plenty of fools will give him a 3 year deal at 34 than they will a 2 year deal at 35(or 36.)

          • The way I look at this is, and this is a big assumption, is that CK retiring a Ranger gives him a job for life at MSG. The Rangers love career long Ranger players.

            So if he gets 5 years for $7M per from the Rangers and gets a job after that, I would think that he wold be set for life. So no reason to squeeze every $ out of this next contract, if it’s with the Rangers.

          • I think that way, you think that way … but players rarely think that way. He probably figures he can do better otherwise, forgetting that it’s a badge of honor to be able to say I played my whole career in the greatest city on earth and with the exception of a couple of lean years, on teams that always competed for the SC (Ok, I’m a little prejudiced about NY of course, but the player should be as well).

          • Very true tanto, and then there is the NHL Players’ Association that gets annoyed every time an under fair market value contract is given out.

            BUT, 10+ years of playing, and 40+ years of the rest of their lives.

        • How do you figure? Performance bonus cushion is issue unless somehow you have bonuses that exceed that figure.

          • Oh i just reread your original comment, your talking about about the season after next, 2020-2021. Sure, in the unlikely even there are lots of bonuses then overages could come up. Apparently reading comprehension is not my strong suit either.

        • Re,

          That’s not how the bonuses work (are applied). NHL teams are allowed a certain percentage of there Salaries to be allocated to bonus. It’s comes to somewhere between $5-6mil. It’s only when the bonus exceeds that amount that they get applied as salaries to the following season. Another words you get $81mil for base salaries and $5-6mil for bonuses. Bonuses aren’t an issue.

          • The number is $6.11mm (7.5% of cap)this year

            If Shestyorkin & Kravtsov start getting minutes, bonus pool is over $8mm

  • I think Di Guiseppe and possibly even O’Regan (played for Quinn at BU) will get more consideration than Lettieri. I do think however that the Rangers will give serious consideration to the 21 man roster.

    Di Giuseppe is an interesting signing. He was likely more talented than either Andersson or Howden and is still young, but appears to have fizzled and Carolina gave up on him. Odds are the Rangers won’t turn him around, but maybe with new coaches and a change of scenery?

  • I think we should be talking about the Rangers being rated the #1 Prospect pool in the NHL, not the 13th Forward … especially in light of all the criticism heaped on Gordie C.

      • You’re suggesting that the head scout that oversaw our prospect pool ranking going from the late 20’s to #1 in just 3 drafts should have to retire?

        • Honestly, and this is my opinion, Gordie was Sather’s guy and Glenn gave him free reign on the draft. Sather totally delegated to Clark when it came to the draft.

          Sather has not been in charge for a couple of years, so I really doubt that Clark had the same influence the past couple of drafts, especially with JD in the fold this year.

          Clark has been here almost 20 years, it’s enough already. I have complete faith in the Rangers’ scouts, GM, and President, as they are now.

          • You shouldn’t doubt it, Gordie is best friends with JG — he may not be the best scout out there, but he works with what he’s given … and until the last 3 years he wasn’t given much in the way of top draft choices.

    • Completely agree with this Tanto. The three players being discussed for 13th (more like 15th as it stands now) have bern passed on the depth chart by our recently accumulated young talent, which is a very good thing.

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