Rangers Start to Re-Sign RFAs as Arbitration Looms

Four days after the frenzy of July 1st signals another deadline, of sorts – filing for arbitration.

Players had until 5 pm today to file for arbitration while teams have until 5 pm tomorrow to do the same. Of the Rangers restricted free agents, the following players are arbitration eligible:

  • Chris Kreider
  • J.T. Miller
  • Kevin Hayes
  • Dylan McIlrath
  • Marek Hrivik
  • Mat Bodie
  • Tommy Hughes

Of the names on that list, Mat Bodie didn’t need to worry about filing as he re-signed earlier in the day. Shortly after the Rangers announced that, they also announced RFA Nicklas Jensen was also re-signed. Jensen didn’t have arbitration rights but is expected to fight for a roster spot in training camp so this was an important one to get done. Per Larry Brooks, both contracts are one year, two-way at $600k.

That left six others who could possibly elect arbitration. To the surprise of no one, four of them did as Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath filed before the 5 pm deadline. Does this mean they are headed to arbitration? No it doesn’t, and I stand by my belief that none of them will get there. It just means we have a deadline of when they will sign by and won’t have to worry about them not being around in training camp. The other positive? No offer sheets for any of these players. Not that anyone really expected one anyway.

As for Marek Hrivik and Tommy Hughes, the fact they didn’t file leads me to expect their contracts to be done shortly.  (I don’t expect there to be any issues with either re-signing.)

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And now we wait for more news. Something is going to happen. Everyone knows it. Just no one knows what, which is exactly how the Rangers like to do business.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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NHL News + Notes for 6/15

Going to start a new feature on here. Basically expect a bunch of quick hits regarding things going on around the NHL that will in some way involve the Rangers.

  • Let’s start with actual Rangers news. It sounds like the Rangers have re-signed their first player of the offseason. And it is…Chris Summers. Okay, that isn’t exactly exciting news but you can never have too much defensive depth. Expect Summers to fight for the seventh defense spot in training camp and be on the short list of call ups if an injury hits. According to CapFriendly, the contract is one year, two-way deal at $600k in the NHL and $350k in the AHL. Due to number of pro games he’s played, he will need to clear waivers to be sent down but I still have no issues with this contract at all.
  • Obviously the Rangers have a lot more to do than this so a couple of dates to keep in mind:
    June 15th (i.e. today) – Buyout window opens. It will be open through June 30th.
    June 27th – Qualifying offers are due in for RFAs. The Rangers have a bunch of RFAs in Hartford but the four who will definitely be getting QOs are Chris Kreider, J.T. MillerKevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath. And yes, they will still get qualifying offers even if the Rangers are thinking of trading them. If they don’t, they become UFAs on July 1st and the Rangers lose them for nothing. That’s not happening.
  • Surprisingly, the Rangers still do not have a new assistant coach to replace the since departed Ulf Samuelsson. There were some random rumors that Rick Bowness would be leaving Tampa. After signing an extension yesterday he said he had no idea where those rumors came from. (Personally I didn’t think they made sense since everything I heard said he was staying in Tampa.) I’m not sure what they are waiting for as most assume they will be promoting Jeff Beukeboom. Unless other changes are on the way as well and they want to announce new crew all at once. It’s possible they could be waiting for Scott Arniel to find something. This way they changed the staff without actually firing any of them.
  • Yesterday, hockey fans were abuzz with news that expansion would indeed be happening in the 2017-18 season. This wasn’t really a secret, nor was the fact it would only be to Las Vegas, but we basically got confirmation. So what does that mean? Well for starters, next June there will be an expansion draft and the Rangers will lose someone off their roster. I refuse to speculate who or anything else until the guidelines are set. Once they are, like everyone else, I will have plenty to say on this. For now I’ll just say I don’t understand how a league that is bleeding money thinks it’s a good idea to add teams. But that’s the NHL.

And with that, we’ll wait for some actual news which should be coming soon. I’ll blame the quietness on the fact that the playoffs were still going on. Otherwise I would be really worried it’s been so quiet.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Trim Roster To 25

The Rangers said there would be big cuts after the game and there were as the team sent eight players to Hartford, cutting the roster to 25. (It was technically nine players as the mysterious Matt Lindblad finally disappeared from the list. Reportedly, he’s injured so I’m not even sure if he ever was in camp, or who he even is.)

As for the other cuts, the following players are headed to the Wolf Pack training camp, which starts today:

Forwards: Luke Adam, Ryan Bourque, and Brian Gibbons

Defense: Mat Bodie, Ryan Graves, Brady Skjei, and Chris Summers

Goaltender: Magnus Hellberg

The one I feel bad for is Mat Bodie. He did enough to earn a spot, there just wasn’t a spot there for him. But if the Rangers need someone during the season, I am sure he’ll be towards the top of the call-up list. I am not surprised Brady Skjei was sent down. Is he close? Yes, he’s closer than I expected him to be from what I heard. But there was no way he was starting the season as the 7th or 8th defenseman in New York. Assuming no major injuries, come January the Rangers will trade a veteran defenseman (probably Kevin Klein) and Skjei will be back. It’s exactly what happened six seasons ago with some guy named Ryan McDonagh.

As for backup goaltender, the spot was always Antti Raanta’s to lose and he did nothing to lose it. But it’s good to know if there is an injury or if Raanta falters, that Magnus Hellberg is more than a capable backup.

So who does that leave in camp?

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Emerson Etem, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, Jayson Megna, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Viktor Stalberg, Derek Stepan, Jarret Stoll, Mats Zuccarello

Defenseman: Dan Boyle, Raphael Diaz, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle

Goaltenders: Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Raanta

Obviously they are all set in net. They would like to be all set on defense as there are eight defensemen remaining but unfortunately due to cap, they may only be able to keep seven. The assumption is that battle is between Raphael Diaz and Dylan McIlrath. Honestly, to me, they both deserve to stay so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers tried to find a way to keep eight. I’m just not sure they will be able to. And in that case, I won’t begin to guess which one goes.

Up front is where it gets interesting. There are currently 15 forwards remaining in camp. The Rangers have said they will carry 13. (That is partially cap related and partially Vigneault only wanting one extra forward.) I think we can all agree Jayson Megna will be in the last round of cuts. As for the second forward? I haven’t a clue.

Let’s get rid of the guys who definitely are staying – Derick Brassard, Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello aren’t going anywhere. Kevin Hayes has been invisible but he’s safe too.

In my opinion, Emerson Etem hasn’t earned a spot but he needs waivers to be sent down. As I said in my recap last night, they aren’t going to lose him for nothing so my guess is he gets a long leash and gets to stay.

That leaves five players. Vigneault has liked Viktor Stalberg so I’d be surprised if he’s cut. (I still don’t see what the coach does but I’ve learned to trust him.) I think Jarret Stoll was brought in to be a veteran center and he’s done that so I’d be shocked if he’s cut.

Which leaves us with Tanner GlassOscar Lindberg and Dominic Moore.

You see the problem here. Lindberg needs waivers and has done enough to earn a spot. (Honestly he’s done more than a lot of the forwards remaining in camp.) Moore has been invisible but they won’t just send him to Hartford. Could they trade him? It’s an option, although not sure if it’s one the Rangers want to use at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if teams were interested.

And then there is Glass. Is there a spot for him? That depends on who you ask. There is no one who fills his role but as Vigneault said a few days ago, does speed and skill trump his skill? He’s the easiest guy to remove, minus the two years remaining at a $1.45 million cap hit each year. No one is going to take him with that. But if they put him in Hartford, they have to keep $500k of his cap on the books. That’s better than the full thing but still not ideal.

I really don’t know what the Rangers are going to do and I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t at the moment. It’s great to have this depth but you want to keep it and right now, the Rangers need to literally give someone up. Going to be an interesting couple of days…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Cut Five More + Tonight’s Roster

The Rangers had said they were going to cut down to 18 forwards and 9-10 defensemen after their game in Boston. They lied as they only cut five players leaving them with 19 forwards and 12 defensemen (and three goalies). Yesterday, forwards Marek Hrivik and Adam Tambellini, defensemen Brett Bellemore and Tommy Hughes as well as goaltender Jeff Malcolm were sent to Hartford. I was close in my guess who would be included as only name on that list I didn’t have was Hrivik.

Those cuts left 34 players in camp. Vigneault said he would cut to below 30 after tonight’s game in New Jersey. Guessing some of it will depend on how guys playing tonight do but probably not a good sign for a few players not in the lineup tonight.

Speaking of tonight’s lineup, the last two veterans finally make their debuts as Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will be in the lineup. They, along with Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello, took their testing earlier in the week and both said they were ready to go. Hopefully they have as much jump as the latter two did.

The rest of the lineup will be as follows:

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta

Defensemen: Mat Bodie, Raphael Diaz, Dan Girardi, Dylan McIlrath, Marc Staal, Chris Summers

Forwards: Luke Adam, Emerson Etem, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, Jayson Megna, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Viktor Stalberg, Derek Stepan

You will notice there are technically seven centers listed in that lineup. J.T. Miller has played exclusively on wing (and is expected to again as he plays with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider). So who are the other two who will be on wing tonight? Kevin Hayes and Dominic Moore. Vigneault has said he will try different things and to me these two make a lot of sense. There is a very good chance Moore and Jarret Stoll will end up on the same line. If that happens, only one can play center. Might as well see which one is better at wing.

As for Hayes, many expected him to have the first crack at replacing St. Louis. Fortunately for Miller, Vigneault liked what he saw at the end of last year and in the playoffs so is giving him the first shot. The other thing in Miller’s favor so far? Hayes has been bad this preseason. I’ve touched on it in recaps of both games he played but Vigneault flat out said he needs to be better:

“I’m expecting more from his game so far,” the coach said. “I understand it’s training camp, but Kevin needs to pick up his play a little bit.”

Challenge given. Will it be accepted? We’ll find out tonight.

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Speaking of St. Louis, Vigneault was finally asked yesterday if he planned to replace his A this season or just stick with three. The coach told the media that after speaking with McDonagh at the start of training camp, they don’t think another A is necessary. It’s possible someone comes out and earns that later in the season but for now it looks like they are sticking with just three. I said before camp started that I didn’t know which route they would go and either would make sense. Now my only question is how will the rotation work? Will one guy get a permanent A with the other two rotating or will it be a three way rotation? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Make First Cuts + Roster Vs Boston

As expected, the Rangers made their first cuts today and there were absolutely no surprises on this list as 19 players (basically group C) were sent to either Hartford or their Junior teams:

Forwards to Hartford: Chris McCarthy, Chad Nehring, Josh Nicholls, Michael St. Croix, and Nick Tarnasky

Forwards to Juniors: Ryan Gropp, Keegan Iverson, and Brad Morrison

Defensemen to Hartford: Calle Andersson, Kodie Curran, Troy Donnay, Samuel Noreau, and Petr Zamorsky

Defensemen to Juniors: Ryan Mantha, and Sergey Zborovskiy

Goalies to Hartford (both are rehabbing injuries): Cedrick Desjardins and Mackenzie Skapski

Goalie to Juniors: Brandon Halverson

Goalie released from tryout: Jacob Smith

Again, none of these guys were going to see game action during the preseason so no surprises in these cuts. There probably won’t be many surprises in the next round of cuts unless the Rangers choose to make a really big one. It’s after that where it might get interesting.

The remaining players had the day off before 20 of them head to Boston tomorrow for preseason game #3. Speaking of which, definitely a few more familiar names in tomorrow’s roster:

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Bourque, Emerson Etem, Brian Gibbons, Tanner Glass, Kevin Hayes, Marek Hrivik, Oscar Lindberg, Rick Nash, Jarret Stoll, Adam Tambellini, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Brett Bellemore, Dan Boyle, Tommy Hughes, Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei, Keith Yandle

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist, Jeff Malcolm

My guess is Lundqvist will play the entire game. I’m not surprised to see Brassard and Nash on that list. I am surprised to see their linemate getting into a game so early. I didn’t expect to see him until next week. Also not surprised to Lindberg playing again. He will probably play almost every game as the Rangers decide what they want to do with him. My guess is they are at the same point I am – he’s probably ready for the NHL but where on the roster do they put him?

On defense, it’s good to see Boyle back from whatever personal issue kept him away from the team the first two games. Hopefully his return means everything is okay. And it’s good to see the captain playing, although again not really surprising. I would expect the other two who haven’t played to make their debut in New Jersey on Saturday.

Bring on the Bruins! (Or whoever is making up the Bruins tomorrow night in Boston…)

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Land In 8th At Traverse City

Let’s be honest, that title makes it sound as if the Rangers did better than they did. Oh 8th place, that’s not horrible! We’ll just ignore the fact there were only eight teams in the tournament.

Is it great to come in last place at a prospect tournament? No, it’s not. But a couple things to keep in mind here.

First of all, these are young prospects who are just joining the organization. That means they’ve never played together. Sometimes guys click right away, sometimes they don’t. What I care about is how the guys looked individually. I know this is a team game but do these prospects look like they are on the right track? Are they doing the things necessary to succeed as a pro? If the answer to both of those questions is “yes”, then I couldn’t care less what the score of the games were.

Guys like Brady Skjei (who unfortunately got injured in the first period of the third game and missed yesterday’s final), Keegan Iverson and Adam Tambellini all got better as the tournament went on. Those are the things I like to see. After their one and only win, coach Ken Gernander said:

“I like the fact that for three straight nights now we’ve shown pretty good improvement,” head coach Ken Gernander said. “The first night I wasn’t thrilled with some of our efforts, but each night it’s gotten better and better, and consequently, our team has gotten better and better.”

That’s all I expect to get out of a prospect tournament. If you can manage to win the games as well, that’s even better. If not, no big deal to me.

The other reason I’m not concerned with the Rangers coming in last place? Take a look at their roster for the one game they actually won:

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Look closely at the last line for each prospect, i.e. where the Rangers got that player from. You’ll notice “free agent invite” appear 12 times. That means 12 out of the 20 players who suited up were invited specifically for this tournament. In other words, they aren’t Ranger prospects at the moment. If this team, with a bunch of guys trying to find a contract anywhere they can, managed to place highly at this tournament I would’ve been shocked. It is also the reason why I chose not to give daily updates on the tournament this year. I didn’t have a reason to follow most of the guys playing each night.

So then the question comes up, why did the Rangers need so many extra players?

Let’s start with goaltending. We all know Mackenzie Skapski is still recovering from hip surgery so he is out. Igor Shestyorkin is in Russia so he couldn’t play. Other than Brandon Halverson, our other goalies in the system were too old to be in this tournament which meant the team needed goalies. And it’s a good thing they got two as Halverson got hurt before the tournament started and never ended up playing a game. So right away, the Rangers had a random player in the most important position each night.

As for defense and forwards, it comes down to age. A lot of our younger players are either still in school (Cristoval “Boo” Nieves) or over in Europe (Pavel Buchnevich). A lot of those planning to play in Hartford this year are too old to go to this tournament. Does that mean the organization doesn’t have any prospects? I’m not sure having a bunch of 23-year olds rather than 19-year olds means there is no one in the pipeline. But this is what happens when you trade your draft picks trying to get that last piece for the big team.

Either way, I’m not worried. Yes I would’ve liked this mish-mosh team to have done better. I’m sure the Rangers brass would have as well. But I’m not writing off the pipe line because they came in last. The organization hasn’t won this tournament since 2007 and while a lot of the current Rangers have come from elsewhere, there are still plenty who came up and have done just fine in the NHL. (See: Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, etc.)

Speaking of those current Rangers, training camp officially opens tomorrow with physicals for all players. Then on Friday, the boys hit the ice for the first time this season. Doesn’t it feel like we were just asking if next season could start already? Well, next season is here!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Another One Down, Rangers Re-Sign McIlrath

One look at what the Rangers have done the past two days tells me that the front office had been on vacation to start the month…and wants to get back on vacation as soon as possible. No complaints on that.

After re-signing Oscar Lindberg and Emerson Etem yesterday, the Rangers continued to lock in their RFAs this morning. Next up, Dylan McIlrath:

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It is a one-way contract for one year at $600k. I’ll admit that is cheaper than I expected. As for the contract, the one-way means he will be paid the same amount whether he plays in the NHL or AHL so in regards to those of us watching the team, it means nothing to us.

Belief is that McIlrath has made strides in his play and could be close if not ready to make the jump to the NHL. He played 73 games last year and had six goals, 17 points and 165 penalty minutes. I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to watch him play so I’m intrigued to see him in training camp.

McIlrath will be subjected to waivers (I believe due to his age & how many pro games he’s already played) so it will be interesting to see how he does in camp as well as the Rangers plans for the roster. Right now, I don’t see a spot for him unless they plan to keep him around as a spare which really doesn’t make sense to me. But if he proves he deserves a spot, it’s possible we will see another defenseman traded before the start of the season. Either way, this is a big camp for the guy known as the Undertaker.

Four more to go, Gorton!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)