Note from Dave: Welcome back Justin. You wrote this post, emailed it to me, and then the site crashed. Was this your way of making a Vince McMahon entrance?
Greetings BSB community, I hope you all are enjoying your Labor Day weekend. After completing my self-imposed exile into the world of academia (again), I’m finally ready to jump back into writing full-time. The last time I contributed to the site was in January, which is absolutely nuts to me, but that means I missed pretty much the entire offseason. Fortunately for you (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), that means I get to take a deep dive into pretty much every offseason issue in this typically long-winded entry.
Before we get started, a couple housekeeping issues. First, in the past I have typically posted on Fridays, but I figure since I’ve been gone for a year or so, let’s switch things up. I’ll be posting on Mondays now, ready to get your week off to a solid Rangers-related start. Second, I’m really itching to get back to writing for enjoyment. For too many consecutive months I have been writing about things like “statutory construction” or “regulatory frameworks”. So, this is just a fair warning that, since I am off that leash here, things might get a little weird in the foreseeable future. Or snarky. Or manic. Or off-topic. Who’s to say?
Any who, back to the Rangers. Lots of ground to cover. I hope to get to dig into some of these topics in more depth, but for the sake of gracing you, our loyal readership with my objectively, unassailably correct takes, let’s take it rapid fire…
I’m ultimately a little torn on this particular move. It seems a foregone conclusion that he would have signed next season for nothing, but I appreciate the front office’s aggressiveness to improve the blueline. When some of the big prospects like K’Andre Miller or Nils Lundkvist are knocking on the door, it’s one extra year of NHL comfort and acclimation for Fox, who should be a big part of the future.
The cost may have been outside the comfort zone for some, but my biggest issue comes from a competitiveness perspective. The team really isn’t ready to properly contend this year, so it seems more like a PR move than one rooted in grounded expectations for beneficial results. Ultimately, it is still exciting and hopefully Fox will be a core part of what should be (eventually) a young and talented blue line for years to come.
Contracts for Young Russians
Back at the beginning of May, the Rangers agreed to contracts with some of their biggest Russian prospects in Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shesterkin (apparently, he is quasi-anglicizing now?) and Yegor Rykov. This is super exciting, obviously, as these three should be major prospects with huge implications on future star power. Nothing really to analyze here, just a necessary piece of business signaling the future is starting to arrive.
This one just seemed to see the stars align. Glen Sather steps down and all of a sudden JD is available. Match made in heaven, I suppose. Honestly, JD has cut his teeth in lower expectation organizations and by all objective measures has had success in the role. His drafting history is a bit spotty, but seemingly, most of the future talent is already in the organization.
Hockey team hires hockey man, news at 11. In all seriousness, it’s fine. Nice to have JD back with the organization. Now, if we could only get him to call a game once in a while…
It’s funny, we spent years around debating the relative merits of the Trouba acquisition, with most conclusions being the cost would simply be too high. Fast forward to June and Trouba was acquired for almost nothing, relatively speaking. Unloading Pionk was addition by subtraction and giving Winnipeg their own first rounder back seemed exceedingly light for a player of Trouba’s caliber. A+ on the trade.
The extension was a little heavy, especially because the situation was objectively good for Trouba to be in NYC long term. His fiancé is planning to practice medicine in the US and her options are outstanding in the tri-state area for employment. You could probably have waited him out for something in the generally predicted $7.5m range, but you are locking up a 25-year to a long-term deal, so I don’t think the $500k is that big a deal in the long run. This year however, it could make a huge difference (more on that later).
With Trouba in the fold, all attention turned to the Draft and the 99.9% chance the Rangers would draft Kakko with the #2 overall pick. Being Rangers fans, we have that little voice in the back of our heads telling us that picking the consensus franchise player would be a little too obvious for the Rangers; and while we knew that Kakko was the guy, there was that little twinge of doubt…
Much to do about nothing, I guess. Kakko is a Ranger and that is awesome. Couldn’t be more excited to watch him in a blue sweater. I don’t think its hyperbole to say he is their most hyped prospect ever. He has the potential to be a franchise scorer the Rangers haven’t had in a long time and should the rebuild be more Blackhawks than Oilers, Kakko will be right in the middle of it.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what happened in the rest of the Draft, Kakko is the measure of success.
Big two weeks for the Rangers, huh? Shortly after the Draft, the Rangers signed Artemi Panarin to a 7-year, $81.5 million contract. It’s a big commitment, no doubt, but legit top line wingers in their primes don’t hit the market very often. For the Rangers, it’s all about talent acquisition and even if it isn’t until year 2 or 3 of the deal that he is the big name on a contender, it’s still a good bit of business. Just a personal quirk of mine, but just fair warning that I absolutely refuse to call him the “breadman”. Sue me.
If the NHL salary cap wasn’t such a joke, we wouldn’t even bat an eye at this deal or Trouba’s when you are looking at locking up prime age players. Unfortunately, the salary cap is a joke and much hand-wringing will ensue.
Nice little bridge deal for Pavel Buchnevich. I like him a lot as a player, but I would love to see him put everything together a little more consistently. His talent is undeniable, but he needs to show he can be an impact player night in, night out. I think this deal allows him to do that without drawing fan ire for a big commitment at a higher salary and allows the organization to further assess his future role and value. I approve.
For all the solid moves the Rangers made his offseason, this one was the head scratcher. It may have been driven by left/right side depth circumstances but come on. Not only are you buying out a more productive player than either Smith or Staal, you are taking on a huge dead cap hit for next season.
Say what you want about Shattenkirk’s talent or production level, this was an epically short-sighted decision.
Knowing what we know now, that extra $500k on Trouba’s deal would have been a big step in locking up Tony DeAngelo
and Brendan Lemieux right now. Both seem destined to take something around their qualifying offers at this point. Not that either one was worth looking to lock up long-term at this point, but the specter of a holdout looms as the season approaches.
I doubt any team is lining up with an offer sheet, since apparently, we don’t do that unless it’s comically low, but the Rangers are in a bind at the moment. I honestly can’t believe there were no takers for Namestnikov or Strome this offseason. Would have been much cleaner than all this Kreider speculation…
Speaking of which, where the hell did this nonsense come from? Really? We should let Kreider walk over seeking $7m when he has the skill set that he does? I get that the Rangers are in a tough cap situation and will have talented young players to sign, but Kreider is a guy who adds a whole different dimension than any other forward currently and is still only 28. 55-point, 25-30 goal guys don’t grow on trees and Kreider does a lot of different things out there. I am 100% in favor of hanging on to him long-term.
Overall, I really like the things the team has done this offseason. They will definitely need steps forward from the likes of Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson to reach their capabilities, in addition to solid debuts from Fox, Kakko and Kravtsov. Unfortunately, I think they are a little behind where fans want them to be and definitely still have something of a mess on the blueline.
The future is bright though, and hopefully the team can build on this offseason and continue to add quality pieces to keep the rebuild moving in the right direction.
I think that’s pretty much everything I missed in my absence, but it feels good to be back. I look forward to writing again and sharing all things Rangers with all of you this season. Thanks for reading!