Thoughts following the first day of NY Rangers free agency

The first day of free agency has come and gone, and the NY Rangers were much more active than anticipated. The Rangers signed six unrestricted free agents, and re-signed one restricted free agent. It made for an eventful, if underwhelming day. As per usual, I have some thoughts.

1. Five of the six UFAs signed were inked to two year contracts. This has obvious expansion draft implications. The “NHL” caliber expansion draft fodder is Keith Kinkaid, Anthony Betitto, and Kevin Rooney. All three were signed for two years for that particular reason. Of these three, only Kinkaid is destined for the AHL right off the bat. It is expected that both Rooney and Betitto are competing for 12/13F and 6/7D roles, respectively.

2. The Rangers didn’t commit any big money yesterday. They didn’t have the money, which was good, and they didn’t spend any money, which was better. They only added about $2.5 million of actual NHL cap hits in bottom of the roster players. We expected this, albeit not in the quantity in which they did.

3. The Colin Blackwell signing is a shrewd signing, and a guy I hope to see make the roster over Rooney. He has limited NHL experience, but the numbers suggest he could be better than expected. It’s unlikely he’s going to make any sustainable impact, but he’s more rounded than Rooney. He’s not a noted fighter though.

4. Let’s get to the elephant in the room. That’s Jack Johnson. Johnson is only signed for one year, and for the most part can be buried if need be. But let’s be very clear, Johnson is not a good defenseman. He’s arguably worse than Marc Staal, whom the Rangers just packaged a 2nd round pick to get rid of. Dumping Staal and a 2nd to just sign Johnson seems like an odd choice.

5. There are a lot of people who are saying the kids will play if they are better. Let’s remember that Johnson just finished a season in Pittsburgh, playing with Jacques Martin, where he averaged 17+ minutes a night. JD also has familiarity with him. They signed him to play big minutes and be a stopgap. Yes it’s a one year deal. Yes it’s cheap. But let’s not pretend that Johnson is going to either A) turn a corner, or B) get benched for a kid and/or if his play is predictably bad.

6. The argument that “the kids will play over him” only really works for Bitetto, who is just as bad. Let’s just agree on this already. Both Johnson and Bitetto have no history of being productive NHLers in recent years. Johnson is only here for one year, and Bitetto serves an expansion purpose. I get it. They are not here long term and they are cheap. Hopefully they don’t get big minutes. But they have a history here.

7. Signing both Bitetto and Johnson is an alarming red flag on how the Rangers *STILL* evaluate defensemen. This has been their Achilles heel for a decade now, and they still haven’t learned. Focusing on the players and the cheap contracts risks missing the forest for the trees. We are process people on this site, and this is bad process. Always look at the big picture. This big picture is not a good look.

8. There’s still more work to be done here. The offseason is still not done. Yesterday wasn’t the best for the Rangers. But this appeared to be, aside from Johnson, expansion draft prep. Let’s see what they do with their RFAs and in trades. Free agency was just one step for the Rangers.

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  • Underwhelming, but expected.

    Johnson was signed only because of Martin! ( hope only for 7D)
    Bitetto no idea why. Should be for expansion or Hartford
    Rooney and the others are just for camp purposes and Hartford.

    I’m surprised I didn’t hear more that they tried to make a run at Maroon. Or Simmonds for that matter.
    With that said maybe they are looking at Martin? Hope not!
    Or Even Clifford? Time will tell.

    Now maybe we can get to the job at hand sign the RFA’s and trades.

  • Think the Rangers restock some of the depth needs we had. Also a expansion draft coming up next year we have people that will be exposed with some of the signings. Nothing that was a factor at all to the roster except for Johnson, but at $1 million not much of a gamble.

  • I was grossly underwhelmed yesterday by the many moves. The one I was hoping for was Alexander Wennberg, who is signed by Florida. They are now very strong down the middle, Wennberg, Barkov, Lundell, not half bad folks.

    As stated, these moves are cheap, made to fill in the Packs roster, upcoming draft, and stop gap in Johnson’s case. Miller will need a little time, ala Mac Truck, before he takes over the 1-LD position, moving Johnson to the pine forest.

    I still believe that there is a trade pending, more than likely for the defense, rather than center. Maybe management has seen enough of Chytil, and are going to give the kid a shot at the 2-C position??????

    Think about this, if the organization goes with the current roster, and makes a trade at the deadline to toughen up, we get the players more experience playing as a group, and go into the PO’s to see what damage we can do. The following year, we make a huge push to get into the PO’s, and do some big time damage.

    It’s still up in the air, will be until all the RFA’s are signed, and trades completed. LGR!!!!!!!!

  • Something just came to me, Mikko Koivu still has some decent stats, and probably can be had cheap, for one year. The guy is big, some 6’3″, and probably over 220 (?), solid face off guy, who plays a wonderful 200 foot game. As a former captain, he has leadership qualities, and more than likely is a good locker room guy. He could mentor Kakko, show the kids what a great work ethic looks like, and still be productive as a 3C. He would make a fall back player at 2C if Chytil struggles. Just thinking out loud??????????????

        • I mean if he’s on the cheap side ($2-2.5M) there’s not much downside with Koivu — a character guy, a Finn, defensively strong and good on faceoffs (53-54%).

          • tanto

            All true, but more importantly he is very good face off guy as well.

            Responding to your other post, all along I was holding out for my man Lundell, and or trade for a guy like Barkov, but both didn’t work out as hoped. Let’s see what, if anything, happens next week…………….Or on the other hand, it could be old age????????

          • Would have loved Lundell as well but I suspect the cost to move down that much might have seemed prohibitive. 22 to 12 is qualitatively different than 22 TO 19, like our #22 and next year’s 1st or a rostered player they didn’t want to move.

            Re: Barkov … like Eichel, it’s a pipe dream. You do the due diligence on it, but Florida is mediocre as is, trading Barkov would be a huge step back for them. Would kill any chance they might have of competing for a couple of years.

            I know we all want next year to be THE year, but I still think it’s the year after the expansion draft that will prove to be OUR time. Aside from being another year of maturation, the cap will still be flat and some other teams will be hit harder by the expansion draft than us. We really need to just stay the course and keep an eye out for a 2C trade that makes real sense.

  • Hot off the press, this from the Forever Blueshirts web site:

    “Ryan Strome not on Rangers website:
    The Rangers are showing a 23 man roster currently on their website after making 8 signings. At forward, recently qualified Phil Di Giuseppe and Brendan Lemieux are there. Further perplexing is the inclusion of newly signed Kevin Rooney, who also is given the #16”.

    Something is coming down sooner, rather than later folks!!!!!!!

    • Jack Johnson isn’t there either. Weird that they include Rooney. Maybe Strome and something else to TB for Johnson(with TB retaining some of the salary?)

      • mickeydee

        Could be, but they are tight with cap space? Isn’t Johnson getting in the neighborhood of $6 mil per year? They would be hard pressed to give Strome a raise from $3+, and retain half of Johnson’s cap , doesn’t sound right to me!!!!!!

      • TJ cleared waivers. His contract is so bad it going to require a sweetener … besides, aside from the bad cap hit the term is onerous.

  • Everyone love loved Martin when he was hired. Some even said or were hoping for DQ to get canned so that Martin, failure in so many places before as head coach would take over. Johnson who is useless and a terrible signing is probably all Martin. How you guys who praised Martin feeling today?

    None of these plugs will stop a kid from playing if they deserve to play. DQ has a history of playing kids who show they belong. So I am not worried about it too much

    The better move in my view would have been signing Wennberg for 2.2 like FLA did. Wennberg is depth and might have even revived his career much like Strome did. Let’s see what happens.

    • Yep, that was my only disappointment from yesterday … especially at that $ amount or say even $2.5M …. but I think they’ll be looking for either a trade or signing someone like Koivu who can slot into the 3C role. I’m sure (???) they have a plan, they almost always do.

  • Bloggers need to be fans or bloggers. Pick a lane and stay in that lane. I’ve always been mesmerized at how bloggers think they are GM’s when they are nothing but Monday morning quarterbacks. Johnson was asked to be a top 4 dman all year last year so looking at those numbers and speculating is foolish fodder. Does any reasonable fan think that management is going to put the team in a place to fail because JD & JM know Johnson? Speculation is fun but when it borders on stupidity it shows a lack of knowledge and more importantly it shows why your fandom supercedes your ability to look at moves objectively. The naivety that someone sitting in their home playing Xbox and writing a blog about the NYR is somehow more knowledgeable than the paid scouting or management borders on ignorance.

    • Without hockey fans, hockey would just be a bunch of guys skating on a frozen pond hitting a disc around with sticks.
      Hockey fans know when they see a crappy player or when their team is playing like crap. Just because a scout or GM is paid, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at what they do.
      There is a lot of patronage appointments in the world of sports. Not always does the most qualified person get the job. Fans pay their freight, they have a right to their opinions.

    • Let’s see if he’s used appropriately or not. If the plan is to play him up the lineup, we’ll that’s a big fat front office fail. If the assessment is in fact a serviceable 3rd pair player if played with the right partner (do we even have the right partner?) whatever that means, and he can still throw a check and block a shot, okay. It just seems way too early to get all frantic about this 1 year 1M contract.

      One way or another its nice to have found the next seasons whipping boy before training camp even starts

  • “Dumping Staal and a 2nd to just sign Johnson seems like an odd choice.:

    Um why? One guy carried a cap hit 5 times as great as the other.

  • Dave, I’m curious what defenseman signed so far do you think the rangers should have signed instead at the prices they signed for? To me the menu is pretty thin, but would love your take. Or do the rangers go into camp planning needing at least one the kids to step into the lineup?

    • Slater Koekkoek is a left handed 26 year old defence men I was hoping the Rangers would pursue. I was impressed with his play in the bubble playoffs and after bouncing around from team to team the former 1st round draft pick really started to round out and become a solid blue liner. And yes his price point would of been similar to JJ.

    • How about Mark Borowiecki @ $2M per for 2 years? Yes it’s more than JJ, but he’s definitely better at this stage — and you can expose him in the expansion draft.

      • Yep Borowiecki works too Tanto. If the Rangers lose a serviceable defenseman at the expansion draft so be it. They will have lots of young talented dmen to fill the roster.

  • Hartford is now stocked?

    I would like to hear the explanation for the Jack Johnson signing. Even with the low contract amount.

  • First off, when what happens surprises you, you should take that as a learning opportunity. The Rangers addressed most of their actual needs. On defense, what the Rangers needed was NHL caliber left defensemen to hold down the fort until the kids arrive. We can argue about the choices, but what the Rangers absolutely needed were low cost experienced NHL left defensemen. And they also need depth at forward and bottom six centers.

    Kevin Rooney was on the ice ES for nearly 8 games in icetime and for only ten goals. No Ranger came close to that – and IIRC, the Devils weren’t that good.

    As for defense, Dave, you have no idea how to evaluate play. I do fear the Rangers are signing the Jack Johnson of yesterday and not the Jack Johnson of today – signing the player JD remembers. (Martin should know though) But what the Rangers needed are low cost low impact defensemen and that is what they signed.

  • We will see how JJ works out. He is just a stop gap until the young defensemen in Hartford are ready for the big show.

    • What’s all the hoopla about the signing of a 6-7th d-man. It’s a low cost, low reward, low expectations signing, and if he plays better than he did last season, that’s nothing more than icing on the cake. People, it’s only for one season!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Now let’s sign him to an extension for 8 years @ $6 mil per……..LOL

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