Catching Up On Rangers News: Staal, Zuccarello, MSG + More

Is this building moving? (Photo: Matt Ortega/flickr)

Is this building moving? (Photo: Matt Ortega/flickr)

I pride myself in keeping up to date on all the news involving the New York Rangers. And I have recently…I’ve read about everything that has happened involving the team in the past week. Unfortunately life (and a convention I will write about in another post) got in the way of me actually covering it so while this might be all known knowledge, here is a recap of everything that has happened in Rangers world recently!

First, we have the MSG situation. Before I go into the 47-1 vote that gives MSG only a 10-year permit, one thing I want to clarify – if moved this isn’t the first time it would happen so please stop pretending it would be a catastrophe to move such an iconic building. It wouldn’t be. Yes the building has history but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it moved. Every other stadium in the city has recently.

Now onto the actual permit. Right now, the Garden has a license for 10 years to operate in their current location. As that time comes up, Dolan will apply for another permit. All this does is force him to have to go through this process again. I know many believe once this is up, it is up but until I hear plans for a new building being built, I’m considering the current location the home of MSG now and in the future.

All of that said, while this information might have caught fans off guard, Dolan was fully aware of what was going on. I hate to use the word “source” but I did have someone tell me about this months ago so I trust they knew what they were talking about. Basically what it comes down to is politics. A few years ago, Dolan voted against the building of the new MetLife Stadium. When he did that, he essentially “pissed off” (for lack of a better word) the powers that be in the city and they essentially vowed revenge. Well here is their revenge. Dolan didn’t want to help them, they don’t want to help Dolan.

From the sounds of it, many believe this actually is an absolute and Dolan won’t win any argument he gives to extend the lease. I think the city will come to their senses and realize what they want to do isn’t exactly realistic. Sure they don’t care about MSG itself but it’s not as if they can state they are building a new Penn Station and magically it will be done. It’s not that simple as Andrew Gross pointed out in his article today.

But when politics and egos are involved, you can never underestimate anything. The person I spoke with seemed to think there was nothing Dolan could do (basically implied money can’t buy everything) but I’m of the belief that Dolan has too many connections to not have someone still on his side. If he doesn’t and this person is right (very possible), the building moves. To me, it’s not the end of the world. It just proves what we all know – Dolan’s ego is bigger than MSG itself and he thought he couldn’t be knocked down. It might actually be nice to see he can be.

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Next up we have Mats Zucarrello. I had every intention about writing how he was scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow and that hopefully it doesn’t get to that. The good thing about being behind in news is things change as Zuccarello has re-signed for one year and $1.15 million so arbitration has been avoided (which I expected it to be). For the Rangers, that is a very good contract. Granted the entire team is up for new ones next summer but since I still have no idea what to expect from Zucc, a “show me” contract is the best thing for both sides.

That leaves a little over $2 million to sign one more player – Derek Stepan. I’m thinking there will be a trade before that signing takes place. I just hope that signing takes place sooner rather than later. (Yes, I am fully expecting it to happen on September 10th but at least I can try to be optimistic it happens before that. Come on Rangers, work with me here!)

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Then we have Marc Staal…the defenseman who had gone MIA since the season ended. Yesterday, Blueshirts United published an interview with him where he said all the right things – he feels healthy and can’t wait for training camp in the fall. That’s great. The one thing missing from that article? Not a single mention of his eye. Not one. It wasn’t even implied anywhere that it was doing better.

To me that means one of two things – it’s either gotten to the point where it’s the best it will be (he has said in the past it will never be 100%) and he plans to play with how he is or they are trying to give the impression he is fine so they can pull off a trade without it being seen as a necessity. Sadly, I’m leaning towards option two while hoping I am completely and utterly wrong. My reasoning for thinking it’s that is simple – I’ve been fooled by the team before in regards to our favorite redhead. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. You aren’t fooling me twice Rangers. If Staal’s eye was fine, you would’ve said so in that article.

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Lastly, I’m pretty sure I never posted about the assistant coaches Alain Vigneault hired to round out his staff. There is still no word who will be covering what or where they will be during games but Ulf Samuelsson (presumably will be covering defense, especially since Staal mentioned he has spoken with him a couple of times this summer), Scott Arniel and Dan Lacroix will be on the team. (Benoit Allaire remains as goalie coach.) The assumption is two guys will be on the bench and one will watch from above but I guess we will find out for sure in September. Either way, it will be a different look from Tortorella’s take of very few coaches on the bench.

Welcome aboard guys!

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Even The New York Rangers Get It Right Sometimes

Rangers Stuff

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of signings and trades for the following PSA – when it comes to the fans, even the New York Rangers are awesome (every once in a while)!

I know what some of you are thinking – the Rangers are one of the worst when it comes to relationships between team and fan. (“They don’t even let us attend rookie camp!”) That’s why I prefaced my statement with “every once in a while”. Above you will see a picture of a lot of loot. Where did that come from? It arrived at my house yesterday as a gift from the Rangers because they hit 1 million likes on Facebook.

I’m sure everyone saw the program they were running during the season as they tried to be the first NHL team to reach 1 million likes on Facebook – “enter here to win a prize pack from Party City and be entered to win a bunch of stuff you’re never going to get!” At least that’s how I read it, but I still entered because why not. Then I received an email last week saying I was one of the winners. They didn’t tell me what I won but asked for a release form and said they would send my prize. I came home to that.

For those who can’t tell exactly what is there, here is the note that came along with it:

Letter

Yes, that is an authentic Ryan Callahan jersey (it has the strap and everything), a signed Henrik Lundqvist puck, a signed stick from the entire 2013 team and a $600 watch. (I left out the prize pack because who wants to see pom poms and face paint when the other stuff is around.) I guess everyone has to get it right at least once.

The purpose of this post isn’t to gloat (because I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do with all this stuff after I get over the initial shock and stop starring at it every second of the day). I, like a lot of fans, pick on the Rangers for a lot of what they do. This doesn’t correct those wrongs and won’t stop me from making those comments in the future. (I would’ve liked the opportunity to attend rookie camp being that my family has had seasons’ tickets for over 40 years.) But I also feel that when they get it right, it should be acknowledged. So with that, I say:

Thank You New York Rangers! I know you can’t give prizes like this away a lot but this fan definitely appreciates (and will continue to do so) the times that you do.

Team USA Gets It Right For Rangers, Unlike Team Canada

McDonagh-Stepan-meme

Yesterday, Team USA and Team Canada announced their Olympic camp rosters with 48 and 47 players, respectively, invited to the end of August orientations. A number of Rangers were expected to be on both of these rosters and as expected, five were included (three for the US, two for Canada).

Team USA, of course, got it right by inviting 2010 returnee Ryan Callahan, plus newcomers Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh to the orientation. Callahan is basically a lock to make the team (if he can stay healthy) as should McDonagh be. If I’m being honest, Stepan is probably on the bubble but a good start to the season should see him grab one of the last spots.

Ironically enough, many have mentioned that Stepan’s inclusion on the list was the reason another familiar name was left off – Brandon Dubinsky. They are similar players so if Step did indeed replace Dubi, well it wouldn’t be the first time but I would still feel bad for Dubi. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are players who aren’t at this camp and make the team.

You can see the full camp roster here.

Then we go to Team Canada. Rick Nash made the list which is no surprise. Brad Richards did not which again, is no surprise. (Not as if they needed another center on this roster.) On defense they chose a Ranger who is known for his offensive and shutdown abilities. A veteran who has played well enough to be invited to the all star game one of the past two years it’s been held. A player who has been the number one defenseman for the team the past two seasons, playing big minutes in big situations. Who am I talking about? Marc Staal, of course.

Yes you read that correctly. Marc Staal, the guy who has played 67 of the past 130 regular season games and who we honestly have no clue if will even be ready to play come October was invited to the Team Canada camp. Look, I have nothing against Staal. I like him as a player and wish that he would stay healthy. If he could, he absolutely should be on this list. But right now, he was only included because his name is Staal (and anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves).

So who do I think should’ve been included? A guy who…well I’ll let Torts take this one:

“It’s not just this year that he’s underrated.  This guy’s has been a really good player, but if you don’t have the pedigree in this league, they don’t look at you.”

For those who don’t recognize the quote, it came in November of 2011 when John Tortorella went on his rant about Dan Girardi not being on the all-star ballot. The same holds true here and apparently it’s on an international stage too. (Editors Note: The following rant is why I think Girardi should’ve been invited to the camp. I’m not saying he should definitely be on the team as it won’t be easy to crack that top eight.)

Look, I get it. I get to watch Girardi on a nightly basis and realize not only how much he’s grown but how great he’s become. The Rangers rely on him more than anyone else not named Henrik Lundqvist. (I know some fans will disagree but let’s be honest, we all hoped Ryan McDonagh would play the way he did the past two years. We never said we needed it from Girardi as well because we knew we were already getting it.) He is your typical defensive defenseman and he’s damn good at it too. But not everyone gets to see that on a nightly basis.

For the all-star game, I got it. There is no defense in that game so what would he be doing there? Dan even asked that himself. But the Olympics? Sorry Team Canada, you need a guy like this…at least at camp. And that’s not because I watched Team USA almost beat you with these guys four years ago. If I had any doubt in my mind if I was right on if he should’ve been invited to camp, it was confirmed in this article written by TSN staff over the weekend as they projected their actual Team Canada roster. (Not the guys who would be invited to camp, the ones going to Sochi.) For defense, they wrote the following:

The defence is anchored by a trio of returnees who have all been nominated for or won the Norris Trophy since the Vancouver games: Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Los Angeles Kings rearguard Drew Doughty and Nashville captain Shea Weber.

All three were under the radar a year prior to the selection of the Vancouver team and they’re joined by another Norris winner in Montreal blueliner P.K. Subban.

Vancouver returnee Brent Seabrook earns another Olympic engagement on TSN’s list, which is rounded out by a trio of offensive-minded blueliners including Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, Rangers veteran Dan Girardi and young St. Louis blueliner Alex Pietrangelo.

Okay, he’s not exactly an offensive-minded defenseman but this is still TSN so it counts. And they think he should be going to Sochi. Yet Team Canada didn’t feel the need to invite him to their camp next month. Why?

“It’s because he’s not pedigree.  There’s no pedigree there.  Our league is so a– backwards when it comes to that.”

Yes it is Torts. But then again, I’ll fully admit I’m rooting for Team USA come February, i.e. the one who got their camp roster right for the most part. At least they didn’t invite a guy who will never have 100% vision again over a guy who has played 30 minutes a night to cover for him. Whatever…your loss Canada, is my countries’ gain.

Wedding Weekend + Marty Biron’s Son’s Favorite Player Is WHO?

Nash-McDonagh-meme

It’s the middle of July meaning that news around the Rangers is few and far between. The only contract in question is the one for Derek Stepan which will be signed before September 11th but probably not much before that.

So instead I turned to twitter for news and found this tweet from Marty Biron on Friday:

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Misspelling aside, Jacob’s favorite player is who? Haha! I’m not surprised he didn’t pick his dad but being that he is a goalie as well, I am surprised he didn’t pick Lundqvist. Guess he wanted to surprise everyone. Wonder what Dan has to say to that. Maybe we find out in a Biron’s journal next season?

The other actual news of the weekend involves a couple of weddings as Ryan McDonagh married his high school sweetheart Kaylee on Friday and Rick Nash did the same with his longtime girlfriend Jessica on Saturday. There haven’t been any pictures or tweets from either but we do know Derek Stepan was in McDonagh’s wedding (because Ryan said so during the conference call he did after signing his contract).

Congrats to both Ryan and Rick!

Who Did The Rangers Piss Off To Get 2013-14 Schedule?

We'll be watching this before we know it! (Photo: Melissa Andus)

We’ll be watching this before we know it! (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Because the NHL doesn’t know how to do it any other way, the release of next seasons’ schedule was met with the same reaction across the league – it’s about time! They also released the division names and apparently the Rangers are now in the Metropolitan division with the Atlantic referring to teams in the East not in the Rangers division. Makes perfect sense to me.

As for the schedule itself, I (like everyone else) knew the Rangers were starting on the road. I just picked the wrong cities (big miss as always by NHL not putting Rangers in Vancouver for opener). Looking over the rest of the schedule, however, I was left with one question – who did the organization piss off to be handed a schedule like that?

I understand dates are squished together due to the Olympic Break (February 9-26) but that doesn’t mean the team needs to make it’s Western Canada trip in April! Or end the season in Montreal, otherwise known as their house of horrors! Honestly, we need to hope the Rangers have somehow clinched by the middle of March because the last two weeks aren’t pretty at all.

So what in the schedule particularly stands out?

* The Rangers have 13 back-to-backs with eight starting on the road. (The full split is four both on the road, four road-home, two entirely at home and three home-road.) Will be interesting to see how the team fairs on these this season since Torts conditioning was always the reason they did so well in them. Personally I always think it matters more what the team your playing on the second night did the night before (i.e. did you both travel or were they waiting around for you?)

* Games to circle? Torts returns to the Garden on Saturday November 30th; Dubinsky, Anisimov and Gaborik return home with the Columbus Blueshirts…I mean Blue Jackets…for the first time on Thursday December 12th and Rick Nash will be a visitor in Columbus for the first time a month before on Thursday November 7th.

* As mentioned, the Rangers start on the road. Opening night is in Phoenix on October 3rd and then it’s eight more games that take them through LA, San Jose, Anaheim, St. Louis, Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Detroit. Notice which team is missing? Yeah, they have to make another trip back west to hit Western Canada in the end of March.

* Home opener is against the Montreal Canadiens on October 28th. I’d almost rather Pittsburgh. Almost.

* Longest home stand? December 7 through 23rd where they play nine games. By the end of that stint the boys will be begging to go on the road.

* Even with Torts gone, the Rangers will still be going to Florida the week of American Thanksgiving. Then playing the day after in Boston. (It’s been Boston or Washington since they switched to not spending the entire holiday in the Sunshine state.)

* They also get to spend New Years’ Eve in Florida with a game against the Panthers. The Rangers don’t fair well on games played that night so at least they should be able to enjoy the weather after they lose.

* The two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium are January 26th and January 29th versus the Devils and Islanders, respectively. Rangers are road team for both even though I’m pretty sure their arena is closest to the Stadium.

* Last game before Olympic break? In Pittsburgh on February 7th. First game back? Home against the Stanley Cup Champs on February 27th. Hopefully Patrick Kane is getting a big ovation that night, if you know what I mean.

* Then we get to the end of the schedule. On Wednesday March 26th, the Rangers play a home game against the Flyers. Then with two and a half weeks to go, they play 8 games that include the following – a trip to Western Canada to play Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver March 28th through April 1st, a game in Colorado on the 3rd, home for games versus the Senators, Hurricanes and Sabres, and then they end the season on Saturday April 12th with a hockey night in Canada game in Montreal. The boys better not need that last game to clinch. To say that home stand might ended up being the biggest three games of the year would be an understatement.

You can see the full schedule here. Honestly, I think we should all just be happy that we get 82 games this year. Seventy-six days till opening night!

Rangers Head West For Preseason + RFA Updates

While they won't be here, they will be playing a game exactly two months from today! (Photo: Melissa Andus)

While they won’t be here, they will be playing a game exactly two months from today! (Photo: Melissa Andus)

It’s no secret that the Rangers will be starting the season on the west coast as the final phase of the MSG renovations are completed this summer. Knowing that, it also isn’t surprising to see they head out that way early and play a few preseason games near the Pacific Ocean as well.

Many of these had previously leaked but here is the official preseason schedule released today:

– Camp will open on Wednesday September 11th. That usually meant we wouldn’t see pucks until Friday the 13th at earliest but it will be interesting to see how Vigneault runs his camps.

– First preseason game is exactly two months from today (TWO MONTHS!) on Monday September 16th versus the Devils in New Jersey.

– The next night the boys head to Philly for a game versus the Flyers on Tuesday September 17th.

– And then we head west for games against Calgary on September 23rd, Edmonton September 24th (no idea what’s with the back-to-backs), Vancouver on September 26th (we all know what that one means) and finally the boys head to Vegas for a game against the Kings on September 27th.

Honestly, I always wonder how preseason schedules are made but this one in particular since it’s three sets of back-to-backs. In the beginning it won’t be the same lineups but those last two will be close. It just makes no sense to me.

It will also be interesting to see when the actual season starts to see how long of a break the boys have on the west coast. I would be shocked if they didn’t head straight back to Western Canada to get that road trip over with. (I also expect us to open against the Canucks because why wouldn’t the league have that match-up on opening night?)

The regular season schedule is expected to come out this week pending the league finally announcing NHL players will be going to Sochi. I have no idea what is taking so long to finalize that announcement but technically it isn’t official yet.

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In other news, the Rangers still have two RFAs that need to be signed before these games take place. The first is Mats Zuccarello who filed for arbitration earlier this month and found out today that his hearing will be held the morning of July 31st. If I had to take a guess, he will be signed on July 30th. (I can’t see them going to arbitration.)

The other is Derek Stepan, who there is still no news about. I know a lot of people are worried about this one. I am and I’m not. I’m a huge fan of Step so just want him signed so it’s done with but I know he isn’t going anywhere. The problem is he has no leverage…and Glen Sather LOVES when restricted free agents have no leverage. Do I think Sather is low-balling him? No, I don’t. But he’s obviously not giving a realistic contract in either money or length otherwise Step would be signed. If I had to take a guess when this signing takes place I would place my money on September 10th. Those who have followed the team for years will probably agree since we’ve all been through this dance before. Sigh, so much for an easy summer.

Mixed Bag Of News On Rangers RFAs

Hagelin

Welcome back Speedster! (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Going into yesterday, the Rangers had four restricted free agents they needed to take care of. By the end of the day, fans received some good and bad news regarding all four.

First the good news. As Rangers writers and fans worried that Carl Hagelin might be the hardest one to sign and therefore lead to the ugliest negotiations, he was busy putting his name on a contract that would give him $4.5 million over the next two seasons. It’s a typical Sather bridge contract but it’s exactly what he should be signing at this time as I still don’t know what to expect from him. Is what we’ve seen the last two seasons what his career will be? Or does he have another level he can take it to? Guess we’ll find out over the next two seasons. The money is a little more than I expected but it’s fair so no complaints here.

It also sounds like there have been no setbacks in his rehab as he told Jim Cerny of BlueShirts United that he would be losing the sling next week. I’m sure he still has a long way to go but at least there’s hope he’ll be ready for the home opener. (If I had to take a guess, both he and Callahan are using that as their target date since it won’t be until the beginning of November.)

Next up word came out that Justin Falk, who the Rangers acquired from Minnesota on draft day, was close to signing. Minutes later he inked a deal for one year and $975k. Personally, I love this deal. We have no idea what to expect from him and he knows it so he gets a year to come in here and prove what he can do. If it works, he gets his money next year. If it doesn’t, the Rangers aren’t stuck with another contract they can’t get rid.

There was where the good news stopped as a few hours later, the NHLPA confirmed that Mats Zuccarello had filed for salary arbitration. Honestly, I’m not concerned about this as it just means they haven’t been able to agree on a contract yet. Zucc wants to stay and I’m guessing the Rangers want him so this will be worked out before arbitration. It just stops other teams from poaching him (although not that I thought they were).

That left Derek Stepan, the one RFA without arbitration rights and the one everyone thought would be the next on the list to sign. The news about him today? The two sides are working on it. I guess that’s better than them saying they aren’t talking at all. But each moment that passes that his name isn’t placed on a contract, the more I worry another team will try and steal him. Honestly, if I was 29 other GMs I would and that’s not because he’s one of my favorites on the team (which he is). He’s young and has tremendous upside as he plays in all situations and doesn’t play any of them poorly. Hopefully the Rangers will be announcing he’s locked up soon.

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On a separate note, I wanted to end with these tweets from Michael Del Zotto. DZ gets a bad rap among the fan base but some things he really gets right and this is one of them. Way to go DZ!

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