This past weekend was a whirlwind of misleading news regrading Ryan Lindgren’s injury and return, as he was “set to return” before both games this weekend. Naturally this didn’t happen, and it makes you wonder if the Rangers should have placed Lindgren on LTIR at the onset to open other roster options. Would it have saved them from moving players up and into the lineup? Or would it have been more of the same?
Pros of Lindgren on LTIR
As of this weekend’s games, Lindgren has missed the last 7 games for the Rangers. He’s skating, which is certainly a positive sign, but it’s abundantly clear the Rangers aren’t taking any chances. They know how important he is to the team, and they will ensure he is ready to go before putting him back in the lineup.
However if the Rangers placed Lindgren on LTIR at the initial point of the injury, there’s a good chance they would have had the cap space to make a few depth moves for a playoff run. Lindgren’s $3 million on LTIR would have allowed the Rangers to acquire Kane a little sooner and also potentially add another depth defenseman or depth center (Nick Bjugstad?).
In the short term, this could have avoided the 16 skater mess the Rangers put themselves in while K’Andre Miller was serving his suspension. Assuming the right deals were made, the Rangers likely could have dressed a full 18 skaters, even if not 12F/6D, and avoided some of the fatigue the team is clearly managing at the moment.
In the long term, putting Lindgren on LTIR, and thus acquiring those 1-2 extra pieces, would give the Rangers a huge depth boost come playoff time. It’s those depth guys that give matchup and injury flexibility, and sometimes make all the difference when making a Stanley Cup run.
But – Lindgren would be shut down for the regular season
The biggest drawback of putting Lindgren on LTIR when the injury happened is that it likely would have ended his season. It has nothing to do with timing (10 games/3 weeks) of LTIR either, it’s simple cap math. Had the Rangers placed Lindgren on LTIR, acquired Kane early, and perhaps added another body or two, then they wouldn’t have the cap space to activate Lindgren until the postseason, when there is no cap.
This is precisely what Tampa did with Nikita Kucherov, granted it was a season long injury, for their Cup run. They were $10 million over the cap, so why can’t the Rangers do something like that?
Given how the Rangers have looked recently, there is a good question about how much impact Lindgren has in the lineup. Adam Fox looks lost with Niko Mikkola as his partner, which may be more of a chemistry thing than a Mikkola thing. How much of it is Fox? How much is it missing Lindgren? It’s tough to say really.
Would the pros have outweighed the cons?
Would it have been better to shut Lindgren down and help fix the roster in the short term? This is the $64,000 question that is virtually impossible to answer. We see the Rangers are struggling, but there hasn’t been one reason for it. Poor execution on the ice, fatigue, new faces, injuries, dressing 16 skaters for 2 weeks. You name it, it’s an input into the recent struggles.
Placing Lindgren on LTIR is also a moot point now. The Rangers can’t add any more depth pieces unless they come from Hartford. The only benefit would be keeping Jonny Brodzinski with the team, and potentially calling up Libor Hajek (let’s be real, it won’t be Zac Jones). Some call up flexibility would be nice for load management, but that’s the only benefit of shutting Lindgren down for the season.
It’s all hindsight. Until we see the Rangers turn things around, we will be guessing at the issues and remain frustrated with the on-ice product.