Rangers In Search Of New Assistant Coach

Roughly one month ago, news came out that the Rangers planned to keep their entire coaching staff. Apparently something changed in the past month (or unsurprisingly that news wasn’t accurate) as this morning, the Carolina Hurricanes announced this:

I’m not surprised Ulf Samuelsson got a head coaching job. Over the last few weeks of the season I saw two trains of thought in regards to his status. First, was people asking if he would be a possible replacement if Vigneault was fired once the Rangers were eliminated. Second was a belief he would be the one to take the fall on this years’ bad defense and penalty killing. Always fun when fans see things on two completely different sides of the spectrum.

While Samuelsson wasn’t “fired” per se, it does look like the latter won out. I wish Ulf nothing but success with Carolina and wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the NHL again sooner rather than later. (This looks very similar to what the Penguins did with Sullivan at the start of this season and we all see how that worked out.)

As for replacements, the popular opinion and obvious choice seems to be to promote Jeff Beukeboom from Hartford. Personally, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t what the Rangers did since he has been grooming their top two defensive prospects (Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei) the past couple of years. But strangers things have happened. As for other options, I wouldn’t even begin to guess who the team could be looking at so we’ll just wait and see when they announce it.

**********

As for other news, today is the deadline for the Rangers to sign three prospects from the 2014 draft without losing them – C/RW Keegan Iverson, D Ryan Mantha, and LW Richard Nejezchleb. You can find what I wrote about them when drafted here. I haven’t heard much since then so not sure if they are or aren’t in the Rangers plans. We’ll find out soon enough.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Offseason Already Leading to Ridiculous Conclusions

When the Rangers season ended exactly one month ago, my first thought wasn’t that the team had failed or to worry about the changes that are probably coming. No, my first thought was “great, now everyone has an extra month to try and find something to write/talk about”. I was right.

I’ve honestly just laughed at some of the things I keep seeing. How the beat writers put into the fans minds a possibility of a Dan Girardi buyout before realizing how horrible of a business decision that really is. (Seriously, in one month they went from saying it was possible to pretending as if they said all along it made no sense.) We’ve only scratched the surface on possible trades, unless you count the truly unrealistic ones that wouldn’t even work in a video game.

And then we have my favorite part – complaining about how much the Rangers messed up in letting past players go.

I’m just going to come out and say it – no, the Rangers did not mess up in trading Carl Hagelin. I would make that move 100 times out of a 100 even knowing the outcome. Why? Because everyone forgets the most important part. The Rangers didn’t trade Hagelin to the Penguins. They traded him to the Ducks. He lasted two months there and did nothing. The Ducks saw right away it wasn’t working and sent him back east to the Penguins, a team even I could have success on and I’ve never skated in my life. If he was on almost any other team in the league right now, he would be doing exactly what he did for the Rangers and Ducks.

Yes it sucks that Hagelin was sent to a division rival and is having success right before our eyes. But let’s see if it continues next year. If it does then he found somewhere he was worth $4 million for four years, something he wasn’t (and still isn’t) in New York. If not, well I’m sure everyone saying it was a mistake to let him go will go back to saying that contract was a mistake, i.e. what they said earlier this season. I’d bet money that happens before Hagelin continues to lead the offense in Pittsburgh.

Although at least Hagelin’s success has quieted, to a point, the success of the ex-Rangers in Tampa. To my knowledge, no one is really upset the Rangers let Ryan Callahan go. (I’m sure there are a select few but most aren’t complaining about that.) In the past two months, I’ve learned that apparently Brian Boyle had fans in New York. I have no idea where they were during his five seasons here but apparently they exist. Even seeing what the Rangers third line was this past season, I still would not have guaranteed Boyle a spot on it so the Rangers definitely didn’t make a mistake there.

And then there is Anton Stralman. This is a tricky one. I still remember what he was in New York and I don’t believe he was ever held back in any way. Has he succeeded in Tampa? Absolutely and I give him all the credit for that. Do the Rangers look bad giving him up? A little. I won’t argue that. But when Brady Skjei seamlessly enters the lineup in October, maybe everyone will realize why it happened.

Losing Stralman had nothing to do with Dan Girardi or Marc Staal or even Dan Boyle. It had everything to do with Brady Skjei.

Hear me out. The Rangers decided they wanted to keep Girardi and Staal. (When that decision was made, everyone agreed it was an acceptable one. No one expected them to crash this quickly.) Once they were signed long term, the team had to decide who else they wanted around for multiple years. They had no problem signing Stralman to a two or maybe even a three year deal, although I’m of the belief they wanted only two years. Stralman wanted longer. Nothing wrong with that. When the team realized there wasn’t going to be a compromise in length, they stopped negotiating. Again, nothing wrong with that.

Why did the Rangers only want two or three years? Look who is ready to join the team exactly two years after that contract would have been signed? I know a lot of people think the Rangers don’t know what they’re doing. They know exactly what they are doing and they absolutely plan for the future.

Maybe I’m off and the Rangers just didn’t want their entire defense locked up on long term deals and Stralman was the one pushed out. But from the moment the first rumor hit on those contract talks and it was clear that length would be the issue, that has been my belief.

Either way, hindsight is always 20-20. You can look at last summer and say why did the Rangers sign Jarret Stoll instead of Matt Cullen? There is no one who expected Cullen to do what he’s doing. (Just more proof that anyone could be successful on that Penguins team.) It is what it is. But I refuse to say the Rangers made a mistake in letting these guys go. Doing so is just giving everyone something to write/talk about during a month we had become used to seeing the boys playing hockey.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part II

Last week I tackled the Rangers goaltending and defense. If you missed it, you can read it here. Now it’s time for the fun part. Since this is going to get long, we’re going to get straight to it!

Derick Brassard (C, 80 games played, 27-31-58, +12) – As I mentioned in the first part of these reviews, plus/minus is a useless stat. That said, I have no idea how Brassard was a plus-12. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. There been a lot of talk of moving one of the Rangers top centers. If the team were to find and be able to get a true #1 center, Brassard might be the one to go. But those players don’t grow on trees so my guess is the Rangers will stick with the 1A/1B they currently have. Which means another year of cringing every time Brassard is forced to play outside the offensive zone … 75% to return

Jesper Fast (RW, 79 games played, 10-20-30, +9) – There are not a lot of players that are basically guaranteed to return. The moment the Rangers confirmed Vigneault was staying, I felt comfortable saying Fast would be back too. Fans joke about coaches having pets they refuse to take out of the lineup. Fast isn’t one of those but Vigneault absolutely loves him and why not? He is a perfect bottom six forward who doesn’t look out of place when put in the top six. All season, all we heard was how everyone wanted to play with Fast as he made his linemates better. It was obvious too. And I will take 30 points from him every year if I could … 95% to return

Tanner Glass (LW, 57 games played, 4-3-7, -3) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t hate Tanner Glass. He also was the least of the problems on the fourth line as he was extremely solid from the moment he returned from an early season stint in Hartford. Was he a player driving the offense every time he was on the ice? No, but he’s never been that in his career. Was he a liability on the ice? Honestly most of the top six were more of a liability on any given night. He has one year remaining so things could get interesting. Would someone trade for him? Maybe. Would the Rangers think about buying him out? It’s possible. But Vigneault likes him and since the rest of the fourth line might be gone, he could remain as the extra forward. Basically Glass is one of the reasons I’m not doing a straight “keep or dump” this year … 50% to return

HayesKevin Hayes (C, 79 games played, 14-22-36, +4) – Every year there is one player that I just don’t know what to write. This year, that is Hayes. He drives me absolutely crazy and I probably wouldn’t be upset if the Rangers decided to move on from this experiment. But I see the talent. It’s there. There’s a reason he was a first round draft pick. And I keep reminding myself that Kreider and Miller needed a few kicks before they figured it out so maybe Hayes is taking the same route. But he is so damn frustrating to watch. … 75% to return

Chris Kreider (LW, 79 games played, 21-22-43, +10) – Oh Christopher. I feel like I start his this way every year but it’s fitting. Funny part is I’ve seen everyone saying what a bad year he had and then look at his numbers (which are almost identical to Miller’s). Do the Rangers need more from the power forward? Absolutely. But his year wasn’t as horrible as everyone thinks it was. Personally, I wouldn’t give up on him. Yes his new contract will look bad to start. But if he finally puts it together, it should look like a steal in no time. And I still think he will put it together … 85% to return

Oscar Lindberg (C, 68 games played, 13-15-28, +12) – Lindberg had an interesting rookie season. He came flying out of the gates with 4 goals in his first 3 games. Everyone knew he couldn’t keep up that pace and he didn’t, although he was solid until the end of the year. There was a lot of questions over the last month when Lindberg appeared to be a healthy scratch for an extended period of time. Then the hip injury came out. There still hasn’t been any word of when he sustained the injury but I’m going to guess his play later in the year had something to do with it. Either way, it complicates his status for next year. While he is a young player who the Rangers probably want to keep, he may be a good chip to add into a big deal or help get draft picks back. I wouldn’t rush to trade him as he definitely showed a lot of promise in a bottom six role but changes are being made and this might be an easy one to do … 65% to return

J.T. Miller (C, 82 games played, 22-21-43, +10) – Raise your hand if you thought J.T. Miller would be a must sign at the start of year? Heck, raise your hand if you thought he would make it past the trade deadline? Give the 23 year old credit – he took a “show me” contract last summer and earned the raise he will absolutely get this year. His 16.30% shooting percentage (22 goals on 135 shots) was best on the team and he tied for first with 5 game winning goals. Is he perfect? Not even close, especially in the defensive zone. But he got rid of those blind passes through the center of the ice so you can see he’s learning. And he will continue to learn in NY … 90% to return

Dominic Moore (C, 80 games played, 6-9-15, -2) – All year I heard how his linemates were bringing Moore down. There’s only one problem with that – he played with plenty of guys and they all did fine when moved off his line. So maybe they weren’t the problem. Look I have nothing against Moore. It was a great story for him to come back and he really is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. The last two seasons he was more than serviceable in his role. But if we’re being honest, he had a really bad season this year. And because of it I think it’s safe to say his time in New York is up … 5% to return

Nash-BrassardRick Nash (LW, 60 games played, 15-21-36, +8) – Where to begin. Let’s start with the obvious – this was an injury plagued year for Nash. He missed a lot of games and had trouble coming back when he did return. Truth of the matter is, the Rangers need more from him. They know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. To sit and say the year was a failure, though, wouldn’t be accurate. Think of how bad the penalty kill was in January and February. Who was missing at that time? I get it. The Rangers aren’t paying him for his defense. But to ignore how good he is on that side of the puck would be ignorant. He’s very good defensively. But the Rangers need offense which is why, for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it to opening night next year. Although I do laugh at the fact I predicted this exact situation before the trade was even made … 55% to return

Eric Staal (C, as a Ranger: 20 games played, 3-3-6, +1) – Two years ago, everyone said give Marty St. Louis some time to adjust to a trade from the only home he’s really known. He was horrible that season after the trade (1-7-8 in 19 games) but had another year so everyone forgot. Same thing happened with Keith Yandle last year (2-9-11 in 21 games). But because Staal was only here for this season, everyone can’t believe how bad he was. These players need time to adjust. Staal never got the chance. Do I regret the trade? I wasn’t really for it the day it happened but I accepted it. Is it the worst trade the Rangers have made? Not even close. They tried, it didn’t work, move on. At least they didn’t give up another 1st round pick … 5% to return (I highly doubt he’s returning but it’s not impossible.)

StalbergViktor Stalberg (LW, 75 games played, 9-11-20, +6) – Sometimes you have to admit when you are wrong. Stalberg surprised me this year. While he definitely had some bad streaks, he had more good games than bad ones. I guess whatever Vigneault said to him in regards to this being his last shot finally sunk in. But while he was good, he wasn’t irreplaceable. Would I be upset if the Rangers kept him? No, assuming it’s a short term, cheap contract. His speed does help in both the bottom six and on the penalty kill. Will Stalberg be able to take this year and cash in elsewhere (similiar to Benoit Pouliot a few years ago)? Absolutely. And if that’s what he wants to do, I will wish that team as much luck as I wished Edmonton … 65% to return

Derek Stepan (C, 72 games played, 22-31-53, +5) – The best news regarding Stepan right now is that this isn’t a contract summer. There has been talk of possibly moving the young center but personally, I think that is one of the dumbest moves the Rangers could make. Yes he could get them a ton in a trade. But he wouldn’t get his replacement. I understand the Rangers need a true #1 center and Stepan isn’t that. (Although to be fair, at almost 47% he ended the year with his highest faceoff percentage in his career so there’s hope on that front.) But he does everything. And don’t forget how much he was missed during that month he was out. His defensive game did seem to take a step back but so did everyone this year. I’m not ignoring five years of fantastic play because of one below average season. I’m going with my gut and saying Rangers will do same thing … 90% to return

Mats Zuccarello (LW, 81 games played, 26-35-61, +2) – Going into the season, everyone was worried we might not see our favorite Norwegian on the ice again. Zuccarello had other plans, having a career year after a life threatening injury. But he’s very similar to his best friend when on the ice. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. (Yes I literally copied and pasted those same four sentences.) Honestly, no one can complain about what Zuccarello did this year so while there are only a few definites this summer, Zuccarello staying is probably one of them … 95% to return

 

If these percentages are accurate then yes, I realize there won’t be enough changes if the team really is in a new era. But there are reasons to keep almost every player on this roster and I’m sure the Rangers management realizes this which is why I’m really intrigued to see what they do. It’s going to be an interesting three months, that’s for sure.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

Pavel Buchnevich Officially Signs With Rangers

It wasn’t a question of “if” Rangers prized prosepct Pavel Buchnevich would sign, but more a matter of “when” he would. Well we got that answer today as the Rangers just announced it was done:

Again, this isn’t a surprise. It had been long speculated that Buchnevich would be heading across the pond next season. After putting up 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 48 games in the KHL last season, he will be a welcome addition in the organization.

While he will definitely help the team, no one should expect him to be automatic savior. (Yes I realize it’s too late for that. But I’m not assuming a 21-year old 3rd round pick will be on the first line and scoring 40 goals in his first season in North America.) It’s assumed he will be in New York to start the season but starting in Hartford isn’t out of the question if the Rangers fell that is best. Basically, they know what they have and will do whatever they think necessary to make sure they don’t mess it up.

And that starts now as Buchnevich will reportedly spend the summer in New York City which should help the process. Besides learning the area, the main focus will be on the language as Buchnevich does not speak any English at the moment. To those who think that might be an issue, see Artemi Panarin in Chicago. Just make sure there is someone else who can translate for him on the team and he should be fine. (That could mean bringing in another Russian or just giving Chris Kreider another job next season. Yes, Kreider speaks Russian.)

The Rangers official release, with more information about Buchnevich, can be found here.

 

Добро пожаловать в Нью-Йорк Рейнджерс, Павел!

(Or in other words – Welcome to the New York Rangers, Pavel!)

Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part I

This year really is different. The past four years I have done this, it has been mid to late June and I have been in denial that I am doing it after another lost season. This year? Early May and I’ve been sitting watching hockey every night since the Rangers were eliminated. I really can’t explain it.

Anyway, for those who aren’t familiar with how I do my year end reviews, I write a small paragraph on each player and then say if I would “keep or dump” them. Last year I got every player correct except one…and I still defend my decision to “keep” Talbot even though I knew it wasn’t realistic. This year I’m going to do things slightly differently as I have no idea who should stay or go nor who I would keep or move if I were running the team. So instead I am going to give the odds that each player is back. Yes it is completely a cop out on picking what changes should be made to the team this year. At least I admit it.

First up, as usual, goaltenders and defense!

Lundqvist-benchHenrik Lundqvist (G, 35-21-7-4, 2.48 GAA, .920 SV%) – There’s no way to sugar coat it – that goals against average is ugly. But it’s fitting considering the mess the Rangers were this year. I’m not going to sit here and discuss Lundqvists’ season. We all know it wasn’t his best. Am I giving up on him? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, what are the Rangers plans this summer? If they are blowing up the team like some expect does Lundqvist want out? I’ve always said the only reason he will ever leave is if he asks to be moved. Is this the year that happens? I’m skeptical but it’s a lot more of a possibility than it ever has been in the past … 95% to return

Antti Raanta (G, 11-6-2-1, 2.24 GAA, .919 SV%) – I admit this one might have been different if written two weeks ago but not by much. I have been a fan of Raanta since he broke into the NHL with the Blackhawks and he was exactly what I expected to get when the Rangers traded for him last June. While he will need to play more next season, he is still the perfect veteran backup. Yes he had a little hitch in February that made many worry the Rangers would need to find a goaltender at the trade deadline, but he bounced back and will only get better the more he works with Benoit Allaire. And now that he’s signed a new contract, it’s pretty safe to say he’s staying … 99% to return (This should probably be 100% but crazier things have happened)

Last year I ended this post by saying “There will come a time the back end will be the difficult part to figure out on this team but it won’t be any time soon.” Apparently it was sooner than I expected…

Ryan McDonagh (D, 73 games played, 9-25-34, +26) – Remember when everyone thought McDonagh would be a perennial Norris trophy candidate? I’m not saying he had a bad year but his name and the word “Norris” were never in the same sentence this season. (And saying he was the Rangers best defenseman this year wasn’t exactly a compliment.) I happened to watch McDonagh closely this year since many believed his defense partners had been dragging him down in the past. What did I notice? A player who once again was trying to do too much and who in many cases was the one out of position because of it. McDonagh is a phenomenal defenseman but I’m still not convinced he can carry the weight of the C. The guy before him who he’s been compared to couldn’t. That said, he isn’t losing it anytime soon. As for his spot on the team, I don’t expect him gone until March 2019 so we’ll put him at … 95% to return

Dan Girardi (D, 74 games played, 2-15-17, +18) – Oh Dan. This one hurts. Sigh, here it goes. I look at that number of games played and think it’s a mistake. I think about all the missed coverage and hot potato passes and wonder where my favorite defenseman went. While I try to keep personal feelings out of my writing, it’s no secret I’m a fan of Girardi’s. I just don’t know who was wearing his jersey this year. I refuse to believe he went from a guy who many believed deserved the extension he got to the one who looked like he fell off a cliff this year. That change doesn’t happen overnight. But he clearly took a step back and mix that with injury issues from the start (I will fight to the death that he was behind from day one) and you have the season we witnessed. No one is more angry about it than Girardi himself. Maybe I’m delusional (or extremely hopeful) but I think he can bounce back from it. Will he be the player who earned a write in vote for the All Star game a few years ago? No way. But he isn’t this bad and I think the Rangers know that which is why I think they give him another chance. Again, maybe it’s my heart over my head speaking but I expect him in Rangers blue in October … 85% to return

Staal-Klein-Ramsey-toastMarc Staal (D, 77 games played, 2-13-15, +2) – Sigh again. I don’t know where to start with this one. The good news was Staal had a relatively healthy year in comparison to earlier in his career. The bad news? Basically everything else. After the season ended, I saw someone mention that Staal was brought down by Boyle most of the year. I never really thought about it that way but it is true that pairing never really worked. But while I would love to blame it on that, that’s not really being honest about the year Staal had. I don’t know what it was but all year something just seemed off. So what do the Rangers do? I do think his contract is slightly more movable but not because he is the better of the two longest tenured defensemen. More because if the Rangers could get Carolina or wherever Eric signs to want two Staals instead of one, I think Marc would be willing to go. But it won’t be easy which is why I still think it’s unlikely … 75% to return

Kevin Klein (D, 69 games played, 9-17-26, +16) – Last year I predicted that Klein would be traded at this past trade deadline. It’s not that I wanted him gone, I just didn’t expect him to stay. With how much the rest of the defense struggled, Klein quietly stayed behind the scenes. I really don’t know what to say about him. He isn’t the top pairing defenseman many fans want him to be but he’s a solid 4/5 on any team. Will he be here in September? His low cap hit would be a reason to keep him. It would also make him easy trade bait. This one really could go either way … 50% to return

Keith Yandle (D, 82 games played, 5-42-47, -4) – Let me start by saying plus/minus is a useless stat they should probably get rid of. That said, we can all agree Girardi and Staal were horrible this year and yet both ended up with a plus next to their name at the end of the season while Yandle was somehow a minus-4. I honestly have no idea how that is even possible. I continually say Yandle is lost in the defensive zone but that takes talent. Anyway, so Yandle. It’s no secret I’m not he’s biggest fan but he played much better this year than I expected him to. Do I expect him back? This one is complicated. Personally, I don’t and haven’t since the day he signed. (I’m on record saying I expect him to go to Arizona or Boston.) But a recent premonition is tilting me the other way. I can’t explain it but let’s just say I have started to accept the fact I may not have seen Yandle play his last game as a Ranger. How will it be done? Not sure. But I think the Rangers are trying to do it … 65% to return (it’s a lot higher than I would’ve put it at the start of the month)

Dan Boyle (D, 74 games played, 10-14-24, even) – Every signing is a gamble. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, you hope the contract is only a year or two. In this case it was. I have nothing against Boyle. He tried. It just didn’t work. It’s a shame he was a healthy scratch in what was probably his last NHL game but it was fitting considering how his time with the Rangers went. I wish him well in the future and really do wish this had worked better … 0% to return

McIlrath-YandleDylan McIlrath (D, 34 games played, 2-2-4, +7) – I said it all year but will say it again – when the six other defensemen on this list played to their capabilities, McIlrath was clearly number seven. Yes, most of them didn’t this year. But Vigneault kept hoping they would. I had no problem with the year McIlrath had. Would it have been nice to get him a few more games? Absolutely. Did I expect it at the start of the season? Not at all. This year was a stepping stone for him, a chance to learn before getting thrown into the fire. Next season he will be a regular. Will that be with the Rangers? I’m hoping so and honestly would be surprised if he wasn’t but nothing is guaranteed right now. I’m still thinking he’s back … 85% to return

 

I know everyone is saying the changes need to start on defense but you need replacements for these guys and it’s not as easy as if we were playing a video game. The six definitely will look different. (For one, Brady Skjei will be included.) We’ll just have to wait and see how different. Next up, I attempt to guess which forwards will be returning.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

Oscar Lindberg Undergoes Hip Surgery

Didn’t I say no Rangers players would need surgery this summer unless there were some random injuries being hidden? Well come on down Oscar Lindberg as apparently, once again, that was the case. Earlier today the Rangers announced this:

That sounds…painful. It probably is better to get both done at once but I’m guessing the next few weeks won’t be fun for Lindberg.

While recovery times are always an estimate, it’s probably safe to say he won’t be in camp or ready to start the season. Hopefully he will be ready by early November, which will not only ensure he isn’t too far behind but will also give him time to get his legs under him before the games really count. (Although after this season, I think it’s clear every game really counts.)

It is also safe to question if those games he missed at the end of the season and in the playoffs really were healthy scratches. I know he was put in for the final game but I’m going to guess he wasn’t 100% which is why that was the only game he played down the stretch. He showed he could play if necessary in that final game but it makes a lot more sense why he was kept out as long as he was when others weren’t performing.

This is yet another why I refused to question the coaching staff in regards to roster decisions. Were Vigneault’s choices perfect? Far from it. But fans need to stop assuming they know why certain decisions were made. Going forward when it seems there is no reason for a player to be a healthy scratch, I’m going on the basis he isn’t and the team just doesn’t want to reveal the injury (especially if this happens at the end of the season).

Get well soon, Oscar!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Contracts: UFAs, RFAs + NTCs

From the moment the final buzzer sounded to end game 5 last Saturday afternoon, the assumption amongst Rangers fans and media was simple – change was coming. No one is expecting the team that left the ice that afternoon to be anywhere close to the one stepping on the ice at MSG in October.

But the question becomes what can change. I will do my usual “keep or dump” in the coming weeks (although I might take a different approach this year) but let’s look at the Rangers contract situations.

Unrestricted Free Agents

The Rangers have five unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Dan Boyle won’t be returning. The assumption is he will be retiring, as that is what he hinted at after his blowup at Brooks, but there hasn’t been any confirmation yet. Also probably not returning? Eric Staal and Dominic Moore.

Staal was never expected to return but I don’t think that was a slip up. As for Moore, his story was great but I think we can all agree it’s time to move on.

That leaves defenseman Keith Yandle and forward Viktor Stalberg. (Goaltender Antti Raanta was re-signed earlier this week.)

Personally, I think there are better options than Stalberg out there but if Vigneault likes him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return. I just see him as a player similar to Benoit Pouliot, who used one good year to get a long term contract he already isn’t living up to. And then there’s Yandle.

“It’s been nothing but amazing,” Yandle said of his time with the Rangers. “The way they treat their players, the way you come to the rink every day … it’s a pleasure to come to the rink and I can definitely see myself playing here and it’s one of those things — I have to weigh my options.”

My belief on Yandle has always been that he wants to go back “home” – either Boston or Arizona. His piece in the Players Tribune a few weeks ago made me think he might want to stay. But his quotes at break up day made me think he’s intrigued by free agency. Is he closing the door to returning? I doubt it. Do the Rangers want to keep him? Possibly. Is the money/term going to work? That’s the million dollar question (no pun intended).

Restricted Free Agents

RFAs have typically been where the fun is when it comes to contracts. This years’ candidates for last player to receive a deal are forwards Chris KreiderJ.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes along with defenseman Dylan McIlrath.

At the start of the year, if you asked any Rangers fan who of the three forwards would probably end up as the odd man out, they would’ve instantly said Miller. Now? He’s probably the first to be signed. Not many players should feel safe right now but odds are pretty high Miller will be remaining in blue.

Personally, I wouldn’t give up on Kreider yet either. If he spoke on breakup day, he didn’t say much as I saw no quotes from him. But if the team plans to keep Vigneault, they can’t get rid of their fastest player. As for Hayes, Vigneault was asked if he was in the organizations plans going forward and responded:

We’ll see if that remains the case in the next few weeks.

That leaves McIlrath. While Vigneault said the back end is where they need to look to change, I’m not sure moving the rookie is what he was implying. I said all season that McIlrath was a clear #7 when the others were playing to their capabilities and would be a regular next year. We’ll see if I’m right.

No Trade + No Move Clauses

Here comes the fun. If the Rangers really want to make changes, they will need to touch their long term contracts and most of those have some type of move clause attached to them.

The top three candidates are Rick Nash (limited no trade clause), Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (both no move clauses).

Nash, when asked, replied:

“It’s hard not to worry about it. I love the city, I love the organization, but the realistic side to it is that you don’t know what’s going to happen over the summer.”

Most assume he’s the most logical to move. It would be a big shake up as well as free up a bunch of space. But while he didn’t score this year, he was a 42 goal scorer last season and most assume he’s closer to that then the 15 goal scorer we saw this year.

As for the two defensemen, that’s where it gets interesting. Girardi has four years remaining while Staal has five years. Both would need to approve any move except a buyout. (Since they have a no move, they can request to skip the waiver period needed before the buyout period but if I am understanding the CBA correctly, they can still be bought out.)

Many have mentioned buying out Girardi. If the Rangers choose to, this would be the cap hit over the next eight years:

Girardi-numbers

From a business standpoint, I would rather have the option of the player than that hit for that length of time. Yes they save money next year but they really hurt themselves the following years. Staal’s numbers are even worse which is probably why very few have mentioned that for him.

Other options to move? Derick Brassard who currently has a modified no trade clause (terms are unknown), Mats Zuccarello who has a full no trade clause or maybe Derek Stepan, who unfortunately for him isn’t old enough to have a trade clause. (Players cannot have a clause added to their contract until they are in their UFA years. It is believed Stepan has one for the end of his contract.)

Is the organization actually thinking of moving any of those players? Who knows. But it’s probably safe to assume anything is possible when your coach says the following:

“I think we’re at the stage now that we need to look at some changes,” Vigneault said days after the crash-and-burn, five-game first-round defeat to the Penguins. “For any NHL team, status quo is not possible and it is not what’s needed.

“We want to bring in different players to add to the dynamic. The core guys have been together for a while. Certainly it’s time to look at what we can do to improve.”

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)