Kreider Re-Signs For Four Years At Buzzer

I really don’t know why people were worried. We’ve all been through this before. The only difference this time? Chris Kreider had planned to be in Toronto last night anyway for Dominic Moore’s Smashfest. Once we knew that, we should have realized this was going down to the wire.

Anyway, at 9:30 am EST this morning, this was tweeted:

I honestly was starting to think the hearing was in the afternoon with how quiet it was before that. There was no way, especially with how close the numbers were, that this was going to arbitration.

As for the specifics:

That modified NTC is nothing. It makes the player feel like he has some control and the Rangers can easily still move him if necessary. Would I have preferred five years instead of four? Sure. At that price, buy out as many UFA years as possible. But they bought out two and we don’t have to worry about this until after the next lockout. (Actually, I’m surprised Kreider apparently wanted a contract that expires the summer of the next lockout.)

Basically this is a win for everyone. And now we have four more years of Kreider’s crazy speed, playoff prowless, dry humor…and watching him run into walls trying to avoid colliding with goaltenders. (Watch him closely. He actually throws himself into the back boards to make sure he avoids collisions with opposing net minders. I’m convinced at some point he will learn to “hockey stop”, as he puts it.)

**********

With this deal complete, the Rangers have a little under $7 million in cap space (depending on where you look and who is included) to sign one RFA – Kevin Hayes. I can promise you he won’t get anywhere close to all of that money so the Rangers somehow managed to give themselves a little breathing room this summer. As for Hayes, expect that contract to be signed as soon as I post this…or at 9 am next Wednesday morning.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Updates: Kreider, McIlrath, Jooris + More

The one contract everyone has been worried about since the season began is the one Chris Kreider will receive this summer. Him filing for arbitration, while expected, didn’t help in calming people down. You have probably seen people saying everything from “give him a long term deal” to “one year might be the best option” (thanks for that laugh Daily News!), from “he deserves to get paid” to “trade him, he’s not worth whatever he’s going to get”. The reality is somewhere in the middle of all of this.

So, with his arbitration hearing still scheduled for Friday, both sides were required to give their numbers to the arbitrator. As usual, they were on slightly opposite sides of the spectrum:

Okay, that’s not what I was expecting but we’ll still throw this out there: No, apparently Kreider does not expect $4.75 million per year. And no, the Rangers do not plan on paying Kreider only $3.2 million per year. This is how arbitration works. The player gives a really high number (or at least usually does), the team gives a really low number and the arbitrator picks a number somewhere in the middle. So assume, if this gets to arbitration, that Kreider will get a deal for around $4.25 million.

That said, I still do not think this will get to that point and instead he will get that amount on a long term deal. Honestly, have no idea why this isn’t done if that is all he is asking for. Could it go all the way to Friday morning? Absolutely. Ask Derek Stepan about that. But I will be absolutely shocked if they actually step foot in that court room. We’ll see if I’m right in the next 48 hours.

**********

Now some news we need to catch up on from last week.

On Friday, the Rangers re-signed another of their RFAs as Dylan McIlrath agreed to a one year, $800k contract. I look at it as a similar show me contract to what Miller signed last summer. Let’s just hope he gets a chance to show what he can do. Vigneault might not have a choice as if he plays less than 42 games, he becomes a UFA next summer instead of a RFA. My guess? The next move the Rangers make will ensure there is a permanent spot for him in the lineup.

The Rangers also re-signed Hartford RFA Tommy Hughes to a one year deal as well as added ex-Flames forward Josh Jooris to the organization for one year at $600k. What do we know about Jooris? The 26-year old center scored two shorthanded goals last season so he is yet another penalty killer. (The Rangers saw a weakness and seem determined to fix it.) His other stats are nothing to talk about so I think it’s safe to assume this is Dominic Moore’s replacement, or at least his replacement until Oscar Lindberg is healthy.

And finally, not news but a note – I again attended the now annual Comm Ave Classic in Boston last week which pits alums from BC and BU against each other to raise money for ALS. While the game and evening itself were slightly disappointing, a good sign for the Rangers was the best player on the ice was probably Kevin Hayes. The BC alum led his team with five points (two goals, three assists) as the visitors took a 13-8 victory. But besides the points, it was honestly the best I have seen Hayes play. Yes this was a charity game where defense was basically non-existent but the Rangers center was moving his feet all night and genuinely looked ready for the season to begin. Now he just needs a contract…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Deadlines Set For Rangers

Last week we found out that four Rangers RFAs elected arbitration. Now we know when those players will be signed by have their case heard by an arbitrator:

As Andrew Gross mentioned, it doesn’t mean it will come to that. But it does mean those players will be signed no later than 48 hours after those dates.

The first thing I noticed? Chris Kreider has an early arbitration date. (Hearing are from July 20th to August 4th.) This is good for everyone involved as once Kreider’s money is sorted out, the team will know what they have for everyone else. And yes, I believe Kreider is staying. So does Larry Brooks and love him or hate him, he has connections so the Boston speedster isn’t going anywhere.

The fact that Dylan McIlrath is the day before tells me the young defenseman will be signed sooner rather than later. (I would be surprised if that isn’t completed this week.) I’m a little concerned the contract for J.T. Miller has a chance to linger but I still think it will get done. And recent rumors have said the Rangers aren’t shopping Kevin Hayes so that one might be completed right after McIlrath is.

I still stand by my belief that none of these players will step into a court room in Toronto and I would honestly be shocked if any even make the trip up north. These are the easy ones as it’s no secret the team wants to keep all four players. Now the Rangers no longer have an excuse. They have a deadline so they can’t say they need to wait for other shoes to fall; which is why these players elected arbitration in the first place. The players want their contracts done as much as the fans do. And now they know they will all be done no later than August 5th.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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.)

**********

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)

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)

Rangers Flip Script With Third Period Comeback

When I saw this game on the schedule, I thought maybe by April I would be over the bitterness of last May and therefore be able to handle seeing the Tampa Bay Lightning on MSG ice. Well, there’s always next season.

I make it no secret my feelings towards the Penguins and Canadiens. That said, I screamed more at the visitors tonight than I ever have at those two teams. I mean, they gave me plenty of reasons to do so but still not something I’m entirely proud of.

There’s a lot to get to so we’ll deal with Tampa in a minute. First, to the surprise of no one, Ryan McDonagh missed tonight’s game and was ruled out of the rest of the regular season with an “upper body injury”. He broke his hand. Every single person who saw the play knows what happened. There is no reason to be secretive about this. You don’t want to say how bad the break is, fine. But the team looks ridiculous calling it an undisclosed upper body injury.

Fortunately we have Larry Brooks who always manages to get the details:

“…sources have told The Post that McDonagh could very well be sidelined for at least the opening games(s) of the first round with what is believed a small fracture of the right hand the captain sustained blocking a Brandon Dubinsky shot at 14:47 of the first period of the Blueshirts’ playoff-clinching 4-2 victory in Columbus on Monday.”

That sounds about right. Hopefully it’s only a couple of games.

In his place, the Rangers recalled rookie Brady Skjei. By doing so, they were also able to give Dan Boyle a rest and allow Dylan McIlrath to get a game in as well. Both rookies weren’t great tonight but hopefully they will be able to get better the more they play. Vigneault also finally allowed Oscar Lindberg back in the lineup, giving Kevin Hayes the night off. (If the team had clinched earlier, those last two moves would’ve been made already.) For some reason, Henrik Lundqvist started in net. He’s the only reason the Rangers had a chance to come back in this game.

As for the first period, this quote says it best:

We’ll just leave it at that.

Oh and Tanner Glass got thrown for a late hit on Namestnikov. Depending on which side you look at will depend if a suspension is expected. I’m not even going to begin to guess. From replays I’ve seen, while Namestnikov was admiring his pass, the hit was late and may have been blindside so probably not good for Glass. Fortunately the Tampa power play is worse than most Rangers power kills.

The second period looked like it would be slightly better simply because it couldn’t be worse. Then with less than five minutes remaining, Derek Stepan gave me what I wanted. All I wanted was to hear the goal song. I couldn’t take another shutout to the Lightning. On the power play, Mats Zuccarello made one of his incredible cross-ice passes and Stepan rifled it in the net to get the Rangers on the board.

That gave the Rangers momentum until the last minute when they tried to give it back.

Then came the third period, where the Rangers finally turned the tables. Two and a half minutes in, right after another Rangers power play had ended, it was Derek Stepan again to tie the game with his career high 22nd of the season. I’m pretty sure Vasilevskiy will want that one back (but he can’t have it).

Two minutes later, Chris Kreider did this:

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/kreiders-go-ahead-backhand-tally/t-279846678/c-43273003?autostart=false

Hi Christopher. We’ve missed you. It’s so nice to see you.

In all seriousness, that was an incredible move. I have no idea what changed but if he finally has his confidence, I will take it.

Unfortunately that left the home team over 15 minutes to try and kill. Fifteen minutes to not allow a goal and to stay healthy through. They were successful on the first part.

But with a little over a minute to go, Dan Girardi went to play the puck behind the Rangers net. Ex-Ranger Brian Boyle felt the need to check Girardi while he was headed behind the net, and not in the legal way. That combined with the fact Boyle had bowled over Lundqvist in the first period, left the Garden crowd not too pleased with the ex-Ranger.

Was it a hard hit from behind directly into the boards? While I want to say yes just so I have more of a reason to be mad at Boyle, no it was not. It was a shove. But it was a dangerous shove as the two were too close to the boards for that hit to be made. The ironman went down and didn’t get up.

A scrum ensued and after it cleared, Girardi was seen lying on his back talking to the trainers. He slowly was helped to sit up, talked to them a little longer and then somehow was able to skate to the locker room with only a little help from his teammates. But even from my seat upstairs at MSG, I could tell he looked dazed.

After the game, Vigneault gave some promising news:

“He’s being evaluated by our medical staff right now,” Vigneault said of Girardi. “But as far as I could tell when I left everything looked good.”

But did he lose consciousness?

“Uh, I didn’t get into the details,” Vigneault said. “I just asked if Dan was all right and everybody shook their head (yes).”

From what I saw, both in person and on replay, it didn’t look like he did. But he definitely looked dazed so it’s possible. The scrum also took place basically on top of him so if he had, there may be no video that would show that. It’s just never a good sign when Girardi stays down. Here’s to hoping the ironman is okay.

Boyle was thrown from the remainder of the game and while the Rangers didn’t make it easy on themselves, they did manage to hang on for the 3-2 comeback victory. Does it make up for last year? No way. Did I enjoy watching Tampa lose a game they were leading after two? Absolutely.

Now only two games left. I don’t even care what happens in the standings but can we please not have to give another injury update on Thursday night?

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Third Times A Charm As Rangers Finally Clinch

A week ago, I looked at the Rangers remaining schedule and said nothing short of six points would be acceptable in the three games vs Carolina, Buffalo and Columbus. They managed two points. At least they got that, and in doing so finally got that “checkmark” next to their name in the standings.

Of course it can never be all good news when it comes to this team. Late in the first period, while on the penalty kill, Ryan McDonagh blocked a shot by Brandon Dubinsky…with his hand. I have no idea what McDonagh was thinking leaving his hand exposed the way he did but the puck clearly hit it clean. He somehow played the rest of the period but didn’t return for the final 40 minutes. Of course the Rangers are only saying “upper body injury” and that “he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow”. I understand it’s the time of year where injuries aren’t disclosed but the puck hit his right hand above the thumb (or possibly between the thumb and pointer finger). We all saw it. Just tell us if it’s broken or not. My guess, it is. We’ll see if they admit it on Tuesday or just say he’s not playing against Tampa and is “day to day”.

As for the rest of the game, I guess the Rangers finally got the message that their last two first periods weren’t acceptable. (Although apparently Vigneault didn’t have a problem with Saturdays performance.) But the boys came out flying and were able to take a 1-0 lead as Chris Kreider buried his own rebound for his 20th of the season just six minutes into the game. Assists went to Derek Stepan…and Henrik Lundqvist. Funny part is Lundqvist almost had his second assist of the period a few minutes later but Korpisalo made the save. Guess he wanted to make sure they won after his last two performances.

Five minutes into the second period, Korpisalo also did this:

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/boyles-sharp-angle-goal/t-279766972/c-43237503?autostart=false

Dan Boyle looked just as surprised as Sam and Joe sounded that it went in. My favorite part was the look on Eric Staal’s face. I think he was trying not to laugh. Can’t blame him as it was a bad goal.

Of course the Rangers never make things easy for themselves as Marc Staal took a penalty with less than eight minutes to go in the period. (To be fair, it was his one blemish on the night as tonight was easily one of Staals’ best games of the season.) Somehow the Rangers killed that with basically three defenseman (Keith Yandle saw only clean-up duty at the very end) but then let in a goal 17 seconds after it ended to make it a 2-1 game.

Less than four minutes later, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello came down on a 2-on-1. Kreider started the rush and then passed to Zuccarello. Of course the Norwegian tried to pass it back (even though he had a shot). Fortunately it hit Columbus defenseman Ryan Murray and bounced back to him where he elected to shoot it and regain the two goal lead. Basically, the two would have tried to pass the puck until they were behind the net but due to a fortunate bounce ended up with a goal instead.

So twenty minutes to keep a two goal lead. Any Rangers fan who says they were confident is lying. Surprisingly the Rangers still had their foot on the gas for the first halfway of the period. Then Nick Foligno got his second goal of the game off a lucky bounce with a little over nine minutes remaining.

I won’t say the Rangers retreated into a shell but Columbus definitely dominated the remainder of the game. When Zuccarello took a penalty with roughly two minutes remaining, most assumed overtime was on the way. Instead, Derek Stepan found the empty net (for his, and the teams’, third shorthanded goal of the season) and the Rangers finally clinched the playoff spot they should’ve had a week ago.

Was it a masterpiece? Far from it. Was it better than the past six periods the Rangers have played? I will say yes, which is a good sign. Now they need to do it against an actual playoff team. They’ll get their first shot in less than 24 hours when the Lightning make their first visit to MSG since last May. There should be no shortage of motivation for this one as I’m sure both teams will remember the last time they were on that ice. I know I will. I better hear the Rangers goal song tomorrow night…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)