Musings

7 thoughts from 7 days: When does the Rangers competition window open?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been piggybacking off Elliotte Friedman and our own Brandon Cohen. This is a weekly thought post on Wednesdays going into detail about how the last week has played out. I’d usually do these ad-hoc, but I like the idea of a mid-week thoughts post. This week, let’s talk about when the Rangers competition window truly opens.

1. By standing pat at the deadline, the Rangers sent a message to their team. That message was ownership and the top guys in the organization believe in the group they’ve assembled. They believe in the players on the roster. That’s a big message to send to such a young team, and it is the right message to send. Even without COVID, this was unlikely to be a true competition year, but it would be seen as an improvement on the 2019-2020 season. While there will be some doubters, it has been better. Folks remember that February run in 2020, but often forget the Rangers were a historically bad defensive team until then. This year the defense has figured it out for the most part. The offense is too skilled to struggle like this forever. Defense is the tough part. Offense will come.

2. Another reason why this season was always a transition year: Buyouts. The Rangers have $13 million in buyout cap hits this season, really wasting their ability to add a significant piece in the offseason. Next season, with Tony DeAngelo’s buyout, it will be around $4.4 million. The following season about $3.3 million. Then nothing. This matters as the Rangers look to lock up their long term pieces and add role players to address holes in the roster. It’s why on this 12+ year old site we’ve been preaching next season. The core pieces are there, and they are the skill pieces. The only adds, if any, are at the bottom of the roster. That is what separates this team from teams of Rangers past.

3. Next season is another big step forward in development. It will be year two for Vitali Kravtsov, Alexis Lafeniere and K’Andre Miller, and year three for Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, and Ryan Lindgren. We saw the huge steps forward for the sophomore trio this year, and there’s plenty of reason to believe the freshman trio will take those steps forward as well. Add in newly signed Zac Jones, and left defense is no longer an area that needs addressing. Morgan Barron over Brett Howden goes a long way too. So now you’re looking at maybe a center upgrade in the top-nine, and some role players for injury depth? This is how you form a team. The core guys are the skill guys, and most of them have high end skill. You have top-six projected players on the third line and third pair. That’s incredible depth. That’s the big reason why the Rangers competition window opens as soon as it does.

4. You can’t have one of these discussions without mentioning Igor Shesterkin. The kid is everything that was advertised, and then some. Calm and collected in net, he reminds me of Henrik Lundqvist in net. The moves aren’t desperation, he has a great push off, and he tracks the puck well. The best thing you can say about a goalie is that he never seems lost on a play, and we can say that about Shesterkin. The Rangers would be wise to lock him into a long term deal this offseason, and perhaps that Thatcher Demko contract is what he might get. Get him locked up long term, he’s the most important piece to keep this offseason. All due respect to Lindgren and Pavel Buchnevich.

5. Cap management is another reason why the Rangers have their window to compete starting next year. In addition to locking up Shesterkin and Lindgren, the key is the Rangers have the space to lock up Buchnevich to a decent contract and not miss a beat. The first true concern comes in 2022-2023 when both Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome are free agents. We won’t have a clearer picture of that situation until this offseason plays out. We do know that Strome wasn’t a part of long term plans as recently as December. This season may have changed that. Or perhaps the Rangers try to capitalize on his success by upgrading from him. Regardless, the Rangers have a trio of top-nine centers to go with their young depth, which is a big factor in their competition window.

6. The kids coming next year are also very skilled, adding to that depth. We’ve spoken about Zac Jones already, but it’s also Nils Lundkvist and probably Morgan Barron. That solidifies the bottom pair and 4C role, assuming Barron continues at center. Outside of a big splash at center, what significant moves do the Rangers really need to make? Everything is coming from development and growth internally. This doesn’t even account for Braden Schneider, Matthew Robertson, Hunter Skinner, and Tarmo Reunanen in Hartford next season. If there’s an injury on the back end, they have a skilled kid who might be able to step right in. Skilled depth up front might be a big of an issue, but that’s mostly because the 2019 and 2020 drafted forwards aren’t signed yet. There’s plenty of skill there too.

7. One last piece: The Rangers navigated the expansion draft perfectly. They aren’t going to lose a player of significance. On defense it’s Libor Hajek being exposed. Seattle will pass. Up front it will be two of Howden, Colin Blackwell, and Julien Gauthier. I’d venture a guess the Rangers protect Blackwell and lose Gauthier. Given how Kravtsov has looked, Gauthier is already the odd-man out. It’s odd that a kid with as high a ceiling as Gauthier isn’t viewed as a big loss, but that’s the reality of the situation. He won’t be a big loss. That’s not a waste by the Rangers. If anything, it’s a good problem to have.

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  • 1. I’m not so sure Libor is passed in the expansion draft.

    2. Your wonderful review of the future left out a key player — Chytil. He was quietly developing really nicely and then got injured. His primary assist last night to #10 was beautiful. He’s also extremely active on the ice.

    • #2 That was my first thought. Chytil: “What am I, chopped liver?” 21 years old and he’s scoring at a 47 point pace playing on a 3rd line with a 19 and a 20 year old and virtually no PP time. Hello???

        • Hey Dave, I like Strome … until I don’t. They need to make a decision this summer on both Strome and a guy like Blackwell. Really hate it when guys are on their last year of a contract, it handcuffs you when the trade deadline rolls around and you’re competing hard to win a playoff spot. Do you keep the player? can you afford to trade him at that moment? etc. Hate it. If they’re going to continue with these two try extending them for another year or two (two in the case of Strome). I don’t think it happens, but I would look into it. Otherwise decide that Chytil is ready, trade Strome and open up the PP and a spot next to Panarin — and before you do that, sign Chytil to a long term deal, he shouldn’t break the bank at all.

    • Funny you mentioned Chytil, I was thinking this morning with the amount of cap space we have it would make a lot of sense to try and get him signed on a longer term deal.

    • Agree with your comment on Libor. For some reason, this writer is always down on him. Maybe the fancy stats say otherwise but, from my perspective, he’s developing into a pretty solid 3rd pair defenseman. He has the skill set, just needs to continue gaining confidence. Unfortunately for him, there’s a lot of D talent in the pipeline on this team.

      • Many malign how we draft, but Libor is going to be the 3rd best option as the 3LD behind Robertson and Jones.

        • Wouldn’t that make him the 5th best option at LD, given Lindgren and Miller?

          And when 2 kids who haven’t played in the NHL are ahead of him on your depth chart, I think that says all you need to hear about him.

          • That said, I’m “ok” with him … just think there’s better in the pipeline right now … and yes, the 5th best option for all LDs, but I said the 3rd best option for the 3LD … so yeah, same thing — he’ll never be in the conversation as a 2 or 1LD, but Robertson and Jones, from a skill standpoint could be looked at for the 2LD spot — just probably not on this team in the near future.

      • It is hard to evaluate defensemen because so much is dependent on who they play against. Hajek-Smith are putting up much better numbers this year than Staal-Pionk did two years ago. You know why. Staal-Pionk was the top defensive pair on the depth chart; they got the toughest assignments (which to be fair none of the Ranger pairs could handle). Hajek-Smith are a sheltered third pair, protected from the best performers.

      • Other than one thing, I like Libor: Last game, Devs’ Miles Wood manhandled him after a whistle. Hajek looked deer-in-the-headlights. Wood skated off laughing. Not a good sign in a team that lacks grit.

    • last game assist of Fill is rather example, how Laf and Kakko should play watching Breadman. He made himself opened, and Fill didn’t have any problems to find him, that’s why Strome is so overappreciated, when you have partner who is always open and ready you shouldn’t be that good at all

      • Eugene,

        comparing apples with oranges could get you a banana. But agree with you about Strome. However, he has shown great leadership value in the locker room. Don’t take it from me. Read what McDavid said when Strome got traded. Rangers with all their talent do not have many leaders

        • RFF, yeah I think you can pretty much replace the points … but the leadership would be tougher at this early stage (Chytil).

          • Right. Exactly my point. I just do not know if this should get him paid $7 million. Another problem I do not see him as a strong second strong center. We cannot continue ignoring faceoffs.

          • $7M? Not in my lifetime. I would trade him and replace him with Phil … then go out and get a high quality 3C or a real good Center prospect. He’s a great guy, great in the locker room, but $7M? Hell, I would even have trouble paying Pavel that type of money and I have a mad hockey man crush on Happy.

          • Right. But if you take his numbers, his leadership skills and perceived position that he is a center, I am sure that what open market will dictate. 6-7 mils.

            Just curious who Pavel is? Datsuk? I would certainly have paid him as much as I could afford. One of the most spectacular player ever. But if it is Buchnevich he will not command nearly as much being a wing and not having spectacular numbers

          • I can’t bring myself to commit to Strome for many more years and at $7M. He’ll be 29 by the time his next contract kicks in … a little on the old side for my taste, I reserve those types of deals for players with whom I feel comfortable that they won’t see a serious diminishment of skills or physical prowess, especially in the second half of a longer term contract. It isn’t just the money, it’s the term as well that concerns me.

          • Agree with you on that. But for some reason you had a different view on Kreider. I think this situations are very comparable in terms of age, team value, age, contract. At least I see them the same.

        • Did you see Fill father? They could hire him for leadership 😂😂😂😂😂 anyway post never was about leadership…

          • Not sure what you mean. But my post was comparing wings with centers. Surely when you have centers playing with wings such as Panarin or Kucherov or Datsuk that brings a lot of advantages. They are playing centers in the wing position. Surely Strome numbers benefiting from playing with 10.

            The point of leadership should not be ignored either, They could hire anyone whoever could help them. But doubt Chytil father qualify for the locker room presence

  • My thoughts align. We are well-positioned to contend next year, but I still can see us acquiring another center. To me, you have to really believe Chytil is doing a fine job as a 3C, but I do not. He is more of a 4C, so either get a real 2C type and move Chytil to wing or move Chytil to the 4th line center. I suspect Gorton will use his Cap space and glut of young defensemen to make a deal. We need to roll 3 solid offensive lines.

    We did see Chytil look better on a line with Panarin, but almost any halfway decent center looks better next to Panarin.

        • He’s 21 and you want him to put up STAR numbers on the 3rd line playing with a rookie and a 2nd year guy with virtually no PP time? You’re either high as a kite or naturally delusional.

          • Neither, just not wearing rose colored glasses. I give guys 2 seasons to prove themselves. Chytil, in his second season is not showing that he will be a prolific scorer in this league. We need that.

            Kakko on the other hand is showing that he can be a force.

            He has value, but as a 4C. Or, if you wish, put him on with Panarin and watch his poiints go up.

          • You give 2 years, they don’t give a shite. What type of silly narrowminded rigid nonsense is this?

          • So you completely ignore aging curves, growth projections, basic science: got it.

        • Brace yourself. 16 points in 28 games does not seem like much. Well it is. Among centers with 20+ games this season, his even strength points per game (.571) ranks 23rd in the league, ahead of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome – a smidge behind Evgeni Malkin.

          And this is with a streak of poor games when not fully recovered from his injury.

          • So we should not have any issues to trade him for Stamkos, Point or Malkin straight up? Sign me in

          • Honestly, I don’t. I do not consider him as a good center. We drafted him as one. That does not mean he is a center. He is a good player on the wing. Most likely third line winger. Haynes was drafted as a wing. Made quite a good center. Certainly not for the price Phills payed. But I am happy about their mistakes

          • So I’ll say it differently. The top scorers ALL play on the power play. Draisatl, McKinnon, Crosby – to name three – get 40% of their points on the power play. It is hard to amass a lot of points at even strength. The list of players this year who have at least one even strength point per game is Connor McDavid – that’s it. Getting even 0.5 points per game at even strength is not easy – that’s about where Zib and Strome are – and they get more ES ice time per game than Chityl, who comes in at 0.571.

            The original poster suggested that Chityl’s lack of scoring suggested he wasn’t even a #3 center. In fact, given his usage, his scoring this year is exemplary.

            If I had the chance, sure I would trade him for Brayden Point. Point is obviously young, a proven star, and contributes on the power play while Chityl doesn’t. But just comparing the two this season alone at even strength.

            Point: 42 games, 15 min ice time per game, 23 pts, on the ice for 31 GF, 26 GA

            Chityl: 28 games, 12:45 ice time per game, 16 pts, on the ice for 20 GF, 13 GA

            *********

            The idea that Chityl is a weakness at 3C is absurd.

          • Let me counter that. And the only thing I have at my disposal is historical stats. Check Gretzky or Supper Mario. Their production quite different in PP over 5 on 5 from Ovi. Yet both at the top of the scoring list. I know you will counter with the age differences but you might remember that scoring in 80s and 90s were much easier than now.

            Chityl is not a good center but that does not make him a bad player. He is a real good player. But your assertion that he is 3C on a good team is not a weaknesses what I disagree with. Your projection relies on him playing PP1 with top players. I do not know honestly how this can be justified

          • You are justifying the notion that Chityl is not a 3C by comparing him to Gretzky and Lemieux. Really??

            Look, this discussion is not about opinion; it is purely about fact. The original poster said that Chityl’s low point production indicated that he was not a legitimate 3C. And I pointed that his point production at ES per game played ranked him 23rd in the league among centers – that is, 1C territory. [And the guys ahead of him have more ice time per game]. IOW, the alleged low point production was actually very high point production. At points per 60 at ES, he is better than Ovechkin this year.

            Going further, his ES points/60 this year is 2.689. I found a list of the top players all time in this category, minimum 200 games played. The players are all relatively recent, presumably because of record keeping and so there are no Gretzkys or Lemieuxs on the list. The old-timers are guys like Martin St. Louis. Anyway, the current players are there. 2.689 would put you seventh on this list – behind McDavid, Crosby, Panarin, Malkin, Kucherov and Matthews.

            Now obviously he is not yet a 1C (and I take no position in this particular discussion as to whether he ever will be). 1C’s are expected to be major power play contributors and Chityl clearly isn’t at this time.

            **********

            If you want to say Chityl will have a crap career, you are entitled to do so. But you are not entitled to use his scoring totals thus far in 2021 as supporting evidence.
            Because they are damn good.

          • Ray, I think we have multiple and different conversations here.

            I merely suggested that your point about the PP numbers skewed were not supported by Mario and Gretzky

            Would Chityl number be better playing in PP1? Sure will. But the same argument would be if he played with Panarin regularly. Would you deny that?

            My main argument as I have expressed it multiple time and I strongly believe in is whether he is a center? My view he is not. And that has nothing to do with his projected stats as the same argument to an extent with Strome

            As I am sure you know centers are at a bigger demand and therefore paid mire than wingers with few exceptions (Panarin is a center playing the wing, and few others on that list)/ So the question is what makes the center more valuable than wings? In my opinion there are several qualities besides stats that Strome has higher stats. One is faceoffs. Cant escape that. He is terrible at that and not getting better. Second and most importantly showing higher numbers for his wing men. I have stated several times here that the lack of progress for top 2 draft choices is a result of playing with inferiors center and I stand not by numbers only but by their play. Both Laf and Kakko not doing as great as many anticipated. So if he is a great center and paying with top wings all of them should be showing some promising numbers. None of them do. But mainly I know how good center should play, He just not it.

            I certainly think he is a very good player. Like Strome I do not believe they are any close to being center 2 or even center at all. Not even touching any other qualities.

            I do not know what your view of centers are but if you think he is not a liability at 3C then besides his stats pls let me know

        • He is 21 years old and he is going to be only better. Compare to 28 years old Strome with troubles with skating and balls

          • I was told in my younger age that two wrongs do not make it right. If Rangers next year has Strome at 2C and Chytil at 3C you will have people justifying another year of development and calling “kids” “babies”

  • While we are all planning on a 2021-22 run for the Cup, there are some other factors to consider. The hated Isles can steal the headlines if they go far in the playoffs. That will not sit well with the owner and executives. Look for us to try to make a big splash over the summer.

    • Nobody is planning the parade just yet, we’re talking about being able to actually contend … get into the Playoffs, maybe steal a round or two.

  • Dump Julie Ann Gauthier. Career Minor Leaguer. With his size he is meek, week, and timid. Then dump Howden. PDG good 13th forward.
    Need some toughness and a fighter, not goon, on the 4th line.

    • After Quinn’s “ He thinks they have better balance with Kravstov on the 4th line.” Gauthier makes more sense on the wing then Howden. Kravstov is a shoot 1st player at least Gauthier will crash the net. From what Howden has shown he should be a career minor leaguer.

    • I think you’re mistaken, when they’ve allowed him to play in the last couple of months he’s looked more assertive and aggressive than ever before … he would be optimal as a 3RW that could move up if really needed.

      • You talking about Gauthier or Howden ? I agree with you if you are talking about Gauthier but Kravstov should get 1st shot at top 9, seems to have chemistry with Zibanajad. If you’re talking about Howden I disagree.

        • Howden? lol Of course I was talking about Gauthier … and of course Kravs should play ahead of him. In fact maybe Kravs should be put on the 2nd line with Strome and Panarin, he looks ready to pop … or Kakko, although I like the way Kakko plays with Chytil and Laffy, especially the last couple of weeks.

    • Nothing like good old fashioned sexism, right? You don’t like him, so you call him a girl’s name. So original. So edgy. So funny.

      • Come on Dave, everybody knows that women are meek, weak and timid. While we’re at it, they’re also hormonal, irrational and only care about finding a rich husband. Even when they go to College or Grad School it’s just to find a good provider, because they can’t provide for themselves — too weak.

        How did I do Dave? Do you think that was sarcastic enough for Mark Melini?

        • Tanto, in my family that could have gotten you playing time with some Siberian team, even top 6 minutes. LOL

          • As long as I got to play with Tarasenko, I’m in … Cheraponov was also from Siberia, I believe. RIP Cheraponov.

  • I still think this team will need some toughness. Not goons, but just some players with an edge to them.

    We’re very skilled and very young. But I think it will be tough to compete in the Playoffs long-term with a roster like this. We’d matchup decently against some teams. But a big, heavy, skilled team would push us around in a 7-game series. And right now, that would be my strategy as an opposing coach. Run them all day, and they will wear down and hesitate.

  • Careful with the love affair for Colin Blackwell, he has 1 more year of being cost controlled … but after that he’s going to look for a significant raise, at age 29 — is this really the direction we would want to go?

    1) he will be a 29 year old UFA and looking for a raise and some term;
    2) he’s blocking one of the kids from playing on the 2nd line, like Kravs; and
    3) he’s blocking one of the kids from getting more PP time.

    Rangers need to open up a spot on the wing in the Top 6, it won’t come from trading Kreider, or not resigning Buchnevich (he’s way too valuable to this team and still youngish).

    Whether this means we should protect Gauthier, I’m not sure. Who might have more trade value? Gauthier can play, when he’s actually allowed to play. He’s still young … if I’m Seattle and he’s left unprotected I’m grabbing him in a heartbeat — same for Blackwell, but one is for the present the other for the future.

    • Kemosabe – As you noted Buch is waaay too valuable to this team. He has turned himself into a 200 ft. BEAST. The dude is all over. Offense, Defense, PP, PK, corners, in front of the net.

      Did you notice the animated celebration Buch and Igor had last night? That is something to take notice of as we will be riding Igor for the next decade.

      Staying with the Russian angle, Panarin isn’t going anywhere and Kravs is looking like he is going to be something special, as we had hoped.

      Thus I think one of the biggest moves to make is Buch. And I say “lock him up”.

      • Swarty,

        not sure if you know. Butch and Igor are friends going way before Igor joined the team. I am not sure about Russians on the team. From what I heard from Panarin he is not very close with any of them. Kravtsov is few years younger and new kid on the block. Not sure about Giorgiev.

        • RFF – yes I was aware. They were both with SKA a few years back. The admiration they have for each other is evident and goes right to the point I was making.

          Buch has become somewhat of a quiet leader to the younger guys on this team and that is surely going to be needed going forward.

          • I love Captain Happy, always have always will. He’s done EVERYTHING this team has asked of him development-wise, why would we even consider the possibility of trading him away now that he’s finally blossomed into the player we always wanted?

          • Swarty,

            I am not 100% certain, but Schesterkin started with SKA the year Panarin still played, which makes it 2014-2015. I believe Butch played few games the following year, 2015-2016, but he was not a regular player there. So most likely they all knew each other from those 2 years. I think Butch, Schesterkin and Sorokin were all part of Russia National teams and all three of them are very close friends

            Sorry for National Inquirer moment

    • Ironic that this came from the same site that’s been advocating selling high on Strome for the last 2 years. It’s been a great year Colin. Thank you! But…

  • This will only be a playoff team if the first 2 lines dominate. We can not depend on our bottom 6 to generate enough offense – hence why we need a real scoring threat on the 3rd line. Enough kids already, get me a top 20 scorer.

    • You want a Top 20 scorer playing on the 3rd line and still producing as a Top 20 scorer? You’re asking for the impossible, that player doesn’t exist.

    • We get a lot more offense from the bottom six than people think. Power play points make us think the offense is all coming from the big guys but I took a look at even strength points scored by our centers. Strome and Zib score at about the same rate. Correcting for ice time and games played, for every 3 points one of them gets, Rooney gets 2.1 and Chityl gets 3.6. [Sadly Howden is close to 1.0.]

      • When your bottom 6 are 4 first rounders, do you expect less of them from the top 6 that contain two undrafted players and third rounder? Just asking if that is too high expectations for anyone?

          • Common tanto. Be fair. How long will they continue to be “babies”? Babies only start growing when they are treated as adults.

            This is Strome’s third team. Mika’s second. At very least should make you think. While the bottom 6 consists of first and second overall draft choices? And we should not have much expectations for them?

          • I don’t know what game you’re watching, they’re playing well — NOW … and no, I don’t want to treat them like babies, I want them to grow up and to do that they need to be challenged. When I say they’re babies, I’m merely pointing out that you can’t expect the same results from babies or growing kids as you do from the adults in the room. Growing pains … I remember the old days when a 22 year old was considered a young rookie prospect. Nowadays everybody wants the 18-19-20 year old to be fully formed.

          • You also might remember in those days “babies” not getting paid as much. And when were expectations for top draft choices equal to low draft choices? Are you saying that we should not expect much from them?

            Instead of me pointing the obvious, perhaps you could tell me your expectations. Chytil has been with the team for 3 years. Kakko for 2, Laf for one. What should we expect from them and when?

      • Dave, Is there any problem with this rationale? Would you consider Bruins a contender without their top line scoring? I certainly hope not to rely on 2 lines but at the end of the day, they must produce. With the talent we have at bottom 6 it sure will ease this dependency but not eliminate it

  • 7. I’m not sure the Rangers protect Blackwell over Howden. I believe Howden is an RFA after this season so I’m not sure, either, if Gorton can even trade him to get him away from Quinn. I think they must extend him either way as to be able to expose/protect him or possibly trade him.

    I’m hoping for a trade, which definitely won’t happen, because he would have to be added to that team’s protection list. But I do believe Gauthier should be protected because I think Seattle then takes Howden. But, again, Gorton will probably capitulate to Quinn and Howdy will be here next season. Boo! (not Nieves)

    • Would the Rangers really protect Brett Howden? The guy hasn’t shown anything that warrants this. Gauthier has 8 pts in 27 games, has size, is a fast skater and is one of the few that will crash the net. Howden has 5pts in 33 games.

      • Oh but Howden PKs … and every time he does, my legs twitch with every shot while I’m watching him.

  • Libor will be protected thanks to having DeAngelo and Bitetto to expose. And you are nuts if you think Seattle would have passed on him. We aren’t exposing anyone of importance. My guess is they’ll take either Howden or Blackwell depending upon who we choose to protect, or even Gauthier as you mentioned. Libor at worst is a 3rd pair LD and depth option for next year, and that’s only because they are loaded at D. He’s only 23 and is trending up.

    Their biggest issue is probably Kreider. He’s blocking Lefreneire from a top 6 role and is too expensive to stick on the 3rd line. It also may prevent them from extending Mika if he gets some serious offers elsewhere. He’s from Mass so maybe they can trade him to Boston if Hall doesn’t work out but that’s a long shot. I’d also hate to see him there of all places, but that’s entirely up to Kreider

    • Kreider isn’t going anywhere, at least NOT until after the 2023-24 season when his NMC turns into a MNTC (15 teams). Is he too expensive to be on a 3rd line? That depends on whether he’s one of the core spiritual leaders on the team; we can survive a few more years of Kreider, no problem.

        • Gandhi can’t skate like the wind (in a straight line) nor can he park himself in front of the net on a PP and take the abuse. Though I have to admit, if there was a hockey skill for fasting he would be the MVP. Oh yeah, and he’s dead … very dead last time I checked.

          • I do not know what “core spiritual leader” is but when you find out let me know, I would happy to reconsider

  • Next years Rangers will look a lot like this years Rangers – with the hope that the kids with potential start to put up more points. The team needs to be better offensively. Unclear if you wait for all the kids or move some for a 50-60 point scorer.

    • Well they’re not only putting up more points this year, but they’re also much more defensively responsible. Keep them.

  • Eventually either Kreider or Trouba will have to be traded based on salary increases for other players. Chytil just keeps improving and while everyone assumes Strome goes for a big time center, teams will want Chytil. He is the one that may be packaged along with D prospects. Gauthier is not playing, but we should keep him even at the expense of Blackwell. No team or NYR fan wants Howden

  • #1. “Even without COVID, this was unlikely to be a true competition year, but it would be seen as an improvement on the 2019-2020 season. While there will be some doubters, it has been better. Folks remember that February run in 2020, but often forget the Rangers were a historically bad defensive team until then.”

    As I said time and time again, the Rangers were not such a bad defensive team. It was just that Lundqvist put such a structural strain in the defense. I always presumed things would get better when he was gone. And miraculously, in the eyes of most here, that is exactly what happened.

    I predicted the Rangers would make the playoffs this year. Judging by goal differential, the Rangers are well ahead of Boston and roughly equal to the other three playoff teams. The Rangers are currently on the outside looking in only because of their poor record in close games. And they have gotten this far missing stretches from Panarin and Shesterkin, with a weak stretch from Zib, and saddled with Lafreniere.

    If they don’t win the lottery and keep Fast, maybe they would have won the Cup this year.

    #7. If the expansion draft were held today, the Rangers would expose Blackwell and Rooney and protect either Gauthier or Howden as the seventh forward. They could not protect Blackwell because of the requirement that two signed forwards with a sufficient number of games played be exposed. However, if they can sign either Gauthier or Howden before the draft, they can protect whomever they want.

  • One item you did not address is the Zac Jones contract, which was very interesting.

    The Rangers burned a year off his ELC. However, they got three things in return for this. They kept him from spending another year in college of course and made sure they got him in the fold. They get to look at him immediately, very valuable with so many promising young defensemen.

    But the big overlooked item is that the contract contains no performance bonuses. This is unusual AND for the Rangers who had to lose cap space this year to provide for potential bonuses, this is a godsend. Trading a year of ELC to circumvent the bonuses is clever negotiating.

  • Dave,

    I have issues with every point in your article. I will avoid my comments. At the end of the day we have the same cause here, just different ways to get us there

  • Nice write up Dave, and I have to agree just about completely. Next season will tell us where we are. I think we will see them striding toward the playoffs and being a very competitive team. The year after that, they very well be a dominating team.

    I know I talked up Kravtsov a lot, but I will not claim to be prescient. He looks smoother and more confident than even I expected. He is going to be a player, and probably an excellent two-way forward like his fellow Ruskie Buchnevich. If the kid puts on more muscle and gets a bit stronger, he could be a beast. He likes to shoot and has a nose for the net, and can pass the puck.

    Speaking of Buchnevich: He is only 25 and has matured into be the second best winger on the team due to being able to do everything well. “Lock him up! Lock him up!” Same with Igor, lock that Ruskie up faster than you can say Vladimir Putin.

    Yeah Blackwell is nice to have around and he has played well. No complaints about him other than his age. I’d sell high on him if possible because of the crowding on the wing. I’d rather keep Gauthier if possible. We will see what happens with the expansion draft.

    • Lock Buchnevich up in order to have the flexibility to move him(or not)

      This is Gorton’s M.O.

      If Kravtsov’s p60 starts approaching Buchnevich, then you have luxury assets.

  • I forgot to mention that I would lock up Chytil now too. I think he is about to break out next season. I would lock up Chytil now so that they don’t have to give him more later.

    • Actually Peter, if you look at my comments above, Chityl is not going to break out next year. In his limited usage, 12:44 of ES time per game, prorating, he is already putting up HOF numbers.

      16 points looks like nothing, but for someone who doesn’t get on the PP, only gets third line ice time, and has missed 1/3 of the season, it is actually an awesome total.

      *******

      Obviously you don’t put a center in the HOF on the basis of 28 games – or a center who doesn’t PP – but if his role expands and his point numbers are not a fluke, you do.

  • I agree with most all of your analysis except for one aspect of the Rangers future. I think the brain trust is not giving Gauthier the opportunity to grow and fit in like they have given Howden and their draft choices to develop. Gauthier brings an element of game that the Rangers truly lack, a fast aggressive power forward who goes north -south, bangs in the corners and can overpower a defenseman. He’s young and a bit undisciplined, and that drives Quinn crazy. So Gauthier becomes expendable. Wrong. I say, work with him, bring him along and he’ll be a valuable asset to this team.

  • Even after expansion, Reunanen would be 6th in the pecking order at LD.

    To wit:
    Lindgren
    Miller
    Bitetto
    Robertson
    Jones
    .
    .
    Reunanen

    And that’s *before* they pick up another veteran replacement level player as insurance, something Gorton has done every year as GM.

    Expect a Crawley like outcome or mutual termination.

    Blackwell was signed specifically to be exposed. Just because he’s done well doesn’t change that.

    Stupid GMs protect players having career years heading into the downside of their aging curve. Really stupid GMs take those players when better, younger players are available. Ron Francis might be a overly deliberative guy, but stupid he ain’t.

    That Gorts didn’t call anybody up even before the deadline means he wants Barron er al developing in Hartford, Will only use emergency call up for actual emergency.

    How Jones plays out will be interesting. Not a lot of practices available for the rest of the season, so he’ll have to show a lot more than what he did during NCAAs, but there’s no need to send him down now.

    • Reen,

      Why are you focusing so much on Reunanen? I have only seen him in a couple of games so my view of him is limited to say the least. But I just do not understand the rationale of him being below other higher drafted defensemen somehow he should not be allowed to show his skills and develop? You mentioned Crawley but he could be possibly another Keane? Or with some trades he could move up in this list? It is a sincere question

      Agree with your point on over aging defensemen. But interesting enough Gorton did not make this move during the playoff inspiration. I know you can’t replace key players. But what if Smith get injured in a midst of playoff push, who you replace him with? Reunanen or Jones? This is not a video game hockey. Questioning Gorton is a good start. Could not agree with you more

      • Dave keeps mentioning Reunanen as if he’s a prospect, I keep pointing out he is truly no such thing. Everything the Rangers have done with him over the last 2 seasons illustrates this, but some people can’t believe their own lyin eyes.

        With Jones now signed, barring a Covid outbreak there is zero chance that Reunanen returns to Broadway; come summertime he would be a makeweight throw in on any trade. It should be fairly obvious there is no future for him on this team; I just saw it first, early.

        • Did you see anything in his one game with the Rangers that you disliked? He played limited minutes but his assist to Panarin cross ice was pretty good. Besides Fox I doubt any Rangers D is capable of this pass esepcially in a first game in NHL

          I am not sure what his future is but he is an asset and could quite possibly be traded or moved higher on the list of this management decide to move assets ahead of him. Weirder things happened with this team

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