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)

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Comings + Goings For Rangers Before Game Vs Jets

The Rangers got some good injury updates before their game in Winnipeg against the Jets. First, the big news:

Welcome back, Derek Stepan!

It’s not a secret the Rangers have missed their first line center as they went 3-5-2 since he was injured. He will probably be playing with Chris Kreider so here’s to hoping that helps wake up the slumping winger. As for who is out, Vigneault said a couple of guys have bumps and bruises so one would be taken out. Looks like the lucky party is Oscar Lindberg. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vigneault just wanted to rest him as the rookie has been off the past few games. (UPDATE: I was right as after game they announced he was a healthy scratch. Not sure anyone could argue it wasn’t deserved.)

In other injury news, Vigneault gave an update on Antti Raanta saying the goaltender was feeling better and is day-to-day. The thing with head injuries is you just never know. While the Rangers clearly need their backup, I’m just hoping they wait until he is fully recovered.

As for the defense, Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi are still out. Klein was placed on IR retroactive to November 30th (meaning he can play whenever he’s ready) because the Rangers needed a roster spot. And why was that?

The big discussion last night was how would the team replace Raanta without any cap space. The solution?

I had a feeling no matter what Brady Skjei was headed down in the next 24 hours so as to be in Hartford when the roster freeze came into place. While it was clear he needs a little more seasoning, the main reasons he was sent down was his cap hit ($925k) and the fact he played five games in seven days after last night. Since Klein and Girardi aren’t ready, the Rangers needed another defenseman so up comes Chris Summers at $600k. That extra space allowed the team to bring up Magnus Hellberg ($625k) to back up Lundqvist. You know the saying “every penny counts”? Well they really do for the Rangers right now.

The good news is the team should be getting almost all of their regulars back by the Christmas break. Here’s to hoping no one else goes down any time soon. Oh and that a full roster gets the boys back in the win column on a regular basis.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Find Rest For The Weary

Alain Vigneault swore he wasn’t resting players when he mentioned Marc Staal and Rick Nash would not play tonight. He swore they were day-to-day with “injuries”. I don’t completely doubt him. I’m positive neither player is 100%. I’m also positive every guy on the roster isn’t either and that if tonight’s game against the desperate Senators mattered to the home team those two, along with Mats Zuccarello, would be playing. Instead, they will be watching from above and joining the annual Blueshirts Off Our Backs celebration in suits rather than hockey equipment.

I’m not complaining about either part. I’m glad the Rangers are in the position to give guys who have bumps and bruises a night or two off. Make sure they are healthy for what will hopefully be a long playoff run. I also don’t blame Vigneault for trying to make it not look that way as these games matter to other teams and they wouldn’t want them doing that if roles were reversed. That said, it is clear as day what the Rangers are doing so at this point they might as well just say it.

Instead, we get things like this:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAt least Rangers fans don’t have to worry about important players being labeled as injured.

Speaking of Zuccarello, while it is still being categorized as general soreness, Andrew Gross said it is believed to be a lower body (foot) injury. I can’t remember him blocking a shot that could’ve left a bruise but I’m guessing that’s what happened. We’ll know for sure at the end of the game tonight but my guess is he’ll be fine for next Thursday. (If he comes on the ice with a boot or crutches for post game ceremony, I will start worrying.)

So who will be playing for these guys? Well James Sheppard will remain in for Zuccarello. As for Staal and Nash, the Rangers made two recalls:

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Welcome back Chris Summers. Guess Vigneault didn’t hate what he saw last weekend. As for Ryan Bourque, this will be his NHL debut. Going to be honest, I’m excited to see what he brings.

One more injury update as Vigneault finally confirmed Kevin Klein will not play before the playoffs. I know the beat writers were implying he could allow some defensemen to rest down the stretch but the practice updates I was seeing didn’t make that sound possible to me. He’s only been skating for a week or so and he just started stick handling the past day or two. He’s not ready. They are hoping he will be a week from now. If things are as they sound, I’m sure he will be.

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On a separate note, the team had two more awards to give out which were done this morning – the Rangers MVP, which is voted on by the media, and the Players’ Player award. To the surprise of no one, Rick Nash won both. For the laughs, I would’ve loved to see the players give their award to someone like Tanner Glass but Nash absolutely deserves it for the season he has had. Congrats Rick!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Late Goal Leads Rangers Past Jets

My hope going into tonight’s game against the Jets was that the Rangers would come out of it in one piece. The Jets are known for hitting so I just wanted no injuries. Getting the two points was an added bonus.

A couple of pregame notes. Yesterday Chris Summers was sent back to Hartford meaning Matt Hunwick was ready to go tonight. Summers didn’t leave an impression one way or the other with me but he did get 15 minutes of ice time so we’ll see what the coaching staff thought if a defenseman is needed again.

In non-lineup news, you know it’s getting to the end of the season when we start seeing award winners. Today the NYR chapter of the PHWA announced that Marc Staal was once again their nominee for the Masterton trophy while Derek Stepan was this years’ John Halligan Good Guy winner.

Staal had been previously nominated for the Masterton in 2013 after returning from his concussion. Since he wasn’t able to be nominated last year (Dominic Moore, the eventual winner of the award, got that one), the writers gave it to him this year. Staal’s  initial response was “again?” but I agree with the nomination. You can read his complete reaction here. What I found most interesting was the breakdown in votes. Per Andrew Gross:

The chapter’s voting (on a 3-2-1 basis) for this season’s Masterton nominee was Staal with 13, Marty St. Louis with 11, Dan Girardi with nine, Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist with six and five others receiving votes.

St. Louis makes sense to me but the other three caught me offguard since we’re trained to think of this award as one for a player returning from injury or dealing with a hardship. Lundqvist will obviously get it next year unless something else happens to another player on the team.

As for the Good Guy award, that is given to the player who is best with the media. Players can only receive it once so Lundqvist, Staal and Girardi were ineligible. According to Gross, Stepan was an obvious choice for the award. Not surprised since there seems to be quotes from him every day.

Now onto the game.

Well I’m going to move onto the game. The Rangers didn’t show up for the start. Somehow the Jets only had a 1-0 lead after outshooting the Rangers 9-0 in the first five minutes. Yes, five minutes. Fortunately for the Rangers, the Jets took a penalty at 5:20 allowing them to get a couple of shots on net. But it took until almost ten minutes into the period for the visitors to get an even strength shot on goal. Lucky for them it went in as Mats Zuccarello found a puck in the crease and deposited it in the back of the net.

John Giannone said there was a sigh of relief on the bench after the goal and it was noticeable as after that, the Rangers actually looked like they had arrived in Winnipeg. But you could still tell the Jets were a desperate team and once again, the Rangers didn’t seem to know how to handle that. The good news was Henrik Lundqvist continued to get the practice he needs. Fortunately for the team, he showed up at puck drop as he faced 16 shots over the first 20 minutes only allowing one past him.

It’s a good thing he was still ready to go in the second as once again the Rangers weren’t ready for puck drop. But there was only so much he could do as ex-Ranger Lee Stempniak beat him high glove less than 90 seconds into the period to regain the lead for the Jets. Wonder if that shot was from being with the Rangers or what he knew before he came to the team.

The Rangers did wake up a little earlier than they did in the first but still didn’t have much going. They had some zone time and a couple of shifts where they pinned the Jets in their own zone but the puck was mostly kept to the perimeter.

Nine and a half minutes in, the Jets received another penalty after hemming the Rangers in their zone. I say received because if I’m being honest, it was a light call. Perreault was headed to the bench and somehow clipped Dominic Moore on the blue line and the veteran center went down. I’m not going to call it a dive because the view MSG showed didn’t show a good angle but let’s just say I was waiting for the makeup call. When the Rangers scored less than a minute later, I knew the makeup call was coming.

The goal was a beautiful one though as Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh kept the puck at the points and got it to Derick Brassard in the left circle. Brassard took a slap shot that Pavelec had no chance of seeing due to the maze of bodies, specifically Rick Nash, in front of him. I honestly needed to see a replay to see how the puck got in the net.

Three minutes later, the makeup call came as Nash was called for hooking. I knew it would be him or Hagelin. It’s not a Rangers game if one of them don’t end up in the box. Early in the penalty kill, Dustin Byfuglien took a shot from the point that Dan Girardi blocked. (He did a lot of that tonight as he was credited with a career-high 10 blocks. Of course he tried to pretend it was no big deal after the game.) Right away, Joe Micheletti said the iron man was hurt…as I watched him race around the zone to stop the Jets from taking other shots. He was fine. Again, not human.

The Rangers killed the penalty as well as the remainder of the period to get to intermission tied at two. But not without a little action. With only a couple minutes remaining in the period, Dustin Byfuglien decided to do this:

http://streamable.com/e/rzly

Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were besides themselves for the remainder of the game. Not only that there was no call but that he threw that crosscheck. Luckily J.T. Miller was okay.

I remember Byfuglien when he was with the Blackhawks and that was not something he did in Chicago. I hope DoPS takes a good long look at that check. After the game, Vigneault did not mince words by saying it was “violent, deliberate, could have broken his neck. One of the most vicious cross-checks I’ve seen this year” while Steve Valiquette compared it to Chris Simon’s hit on Ryan Hollweg, which by the way garnered a 25-game suspension if I remember correctly. I don’t expect that again this time as I don’t think it was as vicious as that one but Byfuglien better get something.

Anyway, back to the game. The two teams battled it out in the third period and it looked like we were headed to overtime. Then J.T. Miller found the perfect revenge on Byfuglien by helping Chris Kreider do this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014021148-621-h

That reaction is priceless. So was the goal. It turned out to be the game winner as the Jets pushed but in the end couldn’t get another one past Lundqvist. It didn’t help that Byfuglien decided to go after Mats Zuccarello with 40 seconds remaining. Sam Rosen’s response to the referees finally calling a penalty on him? “It’s about time.” He did apologize as he usually doesn’t lose his cool but I think every Rangers fan agreed with him on that one.

And with that, the Rangers once again found a way to bounce back. The win gave them their 25th road win, most in the NHL and tying a franchise record set last year. Why do we want home ice again? Oh right, cause they have 23 wins at MSG. Six more games to go before the fun really begins.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

First Time In Two Months Rangers Lose Consecutive Games

It’s been two months since the Rangers have lost consecutive games. Two months. I’m not sure we can really complain about this weekend knowing that. The question is what is plaguing the Rangers right now?

Is it a clinching hangover? Now that they’re in and almost definitely going to win the Metro, probably going to win the East and possibly win the President’s Trophy, are they going at half speed to conserve energy for the playoffs? We’re all human so I can’t completely blame them if they are subconsciously doing that. I don’t agree with it and I think they know as well as I do that they shouldn’t be doing it, but I can’t blame them.

Or maybe the number of games finally caught up with them. We knew they had to make-up all those games in hand at some point. They aren’t done yet but they’ve gotten close by playing six games in the last nine days. That’s a lot of hockey. Problem is they still have seven more while most teams only have five or six. It’s why I haven’t liked the way the schedule played out this year and could play a major role in the team not completing what they plan to this season.

But right now asking those questions is useless as there’s nothing we can do about the lost weekend. It hurts. They just have to stop the bleeding now before it gets worse.

Before the game the Rangers announced that Matt Hunwick was day-to-day with an upper body injury and would not play tonight. Chris Summers was recalled to play his first game as a Ranger. I honestly have no idea what happened to Hunwick and when since he was on the ice at the final buzzer. I know there was a scrum at the end but wasn’t sure how involved in it he was. Either way, hopefully this isn’t a long term injury. Summers didn’t look bad but there’s a reason the 27-year old hasn’t cemented a spot as a full-time NHLer yet.

The game started interestingly as just 28 seconds in, the Rangers were given a power play. The team hadn’t had a power play their past two games and only one in their past three. Two minutes later all I could think was this is why I haven’t complained about not having a power play. The Rangers are a better team when they don’t have a man advantage. (Funniest part was some near me screamed “don’t you guys practice this?” and I replied no, they really haven’t recently. Between not having them in games and not having practices, they really haven’t practiced it…and it showed.)

Honestly, my biggest problem with this game was the Rangers usually shut down Ovechkin and today that couldn’t. It started two minutes after the power kill as the Caps captain got the puck in center and went around Ryan McDonagh to enter the zone. Then he beat Jesper Fast and put a shot on net that went through Dan Girardi to get the scoring started. Fast has been off since he returned from injury and I’m wondering if he’s not 100%. Granted he got moved up to the Stepan line today so maybe I’m just crazy in thinking that he hasn’t played well past few games.

Couple minutes later, the Rangers got another power play which had some chances but still couldn’t beat Holtby. Shortly after that, they had to kill a power play which didn’t look bad. It actually didn’t score only because Dan Boyle saved a goal. No really:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=794264

Garden crowd gave him a nice ovation when that was shown on the scoreboard.

Then with less than two minutes remaining, things got a little crazy. First the Caps turned the puck over in their zone and Kevin Hayes gladly swooped in and put it past Holtby to tie the game. A minute later, Mats Zuccarello made a quick pass to Derick Brassard who absolutely sniped one top shelf to give the Rangers the lead. I don’t remember the last time I saw Brassard shoot a puck as quickly as he shot that one. With the quick goals, the Rangers would get out of the period with a 2-1 lead.

I have no idea what happened after that. Maybe the quick goals woke the Caps up. The second period was a typical Rangers second period where they spent the bulk of it on their heels. There were also a lot of penalties called giving both teams full and partial power play chances. The penalty kill units looked great for most of them, although the Caps did capitalize on one to tie the game. I’m trying to figure out which of the five penalties taken was stupidest – Rangers taking their usual too many men on the ice (they almost got it a shift before they actually did so the call didn’t surprise me at all) or Joel Ward taking a chop at Yandle’s leg to try and break it with his stick. I’m leaning toward the second one.

But even with the Caps having a little more jump in the middle frame, the two teams headed to intermission tied at two. Basically win a period, win the game. The Caps won the period by a landslide.

After the game, the quotes coming out of the locker room from the players and coach were that the Rangers didn’t have the necessary energy in the third period. Maybe they didn’t for the reasons listed above. Problem is they need to find it if they plan to play for three more months.

It started less than five minutes in when Keith Yandle attempted to clear the puck out of the zone and instead passed it straight to a Capitals player.  (I’m really curious when Yandle becomes the scapegoat for the Rangers fan base.) A couple of passes later mixed with some horrible defense in front of the net and Cam Talbot having no idea where the puck was and the Caps had the lead. Three minutes later it was Chris Summers turn to miss clearing the puck out and the Caps had a two goal lead.

I can’t even say the Rangers got close to getting back into the game at any point after that because they didn’t. But for some reason, Vigneault still tried to pull Talbot with over two and a half minutes remaining to see if his team could get two goals. Only one problem as while the puck was in the Caps zone, the Caps were the ones in control as Talbot was pulled. Needless to say the empty netter came five seconds later and the building proceeded to clear out. Who pulls the goalie when their team doesn’t have control of the puck? I’ve never seen that before.

And so the Rangers head out west for a two game swing against two teams battling to stay in a playoff spot in Winnipeg and Minnesota. The excuse the past few games has been the other team has been more desperate. These two teams will be desperate. The Rangers better pretend the games matter to them or we may be looking at our first four game losing streak of the season. And while the games don’t really matter, I don’t want to go into the playoffs on a losing streak.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Trade Duclair, John Moore For Yandle

We all knew the Rangers were going to be doing something this trade deadline, right? Glen Sather and his crew don’t know how to not make a move at the deadline. I’m just not sure I expected this:

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Okay then. Let’s take this piece by piece.

What did we get?

Well, we got Keith Yandle who is basically a younger version of Dan Boyle in that he is an offensive defenseman who knows how to take the puck out of his own net when he gets caught in the defensive zone. Personally, I wanted no part of Yandle since I felt we already had him but what’s done is done. I liked him on the Coyotes a few years ago so I’ll root for him now that he’s here. I’m just curious how long it takes for Rangers fans to turn on him. My guess is before the end of March. The good news is Yandle is coming over at half of his $5.3 million cap hit. Who would’ve thought the day would come where the Coyotes kept salary in a trade with the Rangers?

Chris Summers was a throw in. That said, he did have this incredible video a few years ago:

Yes that is Jessica Redfield, one of the victims of the movie theater shooting in Colorado a few years ago. But it shows his personality so I’m sure he’ll fit in. As a player? He’s basically a fringe NHL/AHL defenseman so this part is irrelevant. What is relevant is this little nugget – he played at the University of Michigan with some guy named Carl Hagelin. There is always a connection in the NHL.

What did we give up?

Actually, before I get to that, I need to mention what we didn’t give up. Originally the rumors had the Rangers including Dan Girardi. I have no idea why he would approve a move like that but to say I was not happy would be an understatement. I understand his fancy stats apparently say he is bad (pretty sure Yandle’s aren’t much better though) and that his body is breaking down. I will never mistake him as the Rangers top defenseman, although more nights than not this year he has looked better than his partner. And that’s not a good thing.

But at the end of the day, moving him makes no sense to me. And there was no way he was waiving his no move/trade clause to go to a rebuilding team. So at least this fan is happy he’s still here.

That said, the Rangers still gave up a lot. I’m not surprised John Moore was moved. I said last night if that was his last game as a Ranger, he can hold his head high. I’m not thrilled they gave up on him (and that the Rangers basically traded Marian Gaborik for Derick Brassard) but it was clear Vigneault didn’t trust or want him. He will definitely get an opportunity in Arizona and I hope he puts it together like Michael Del Zotto finally has.

But Moore wasn’t the big piece of the deal. That would be Anthony Duclair.

Wow. To say I’m surprised would be an understatement. I really didn’t expect the Rangers to give up on Duclair that quickly. I know you have to give to get but I don’t like this deal as I don’t think the Rangers needed Yandle. You don’t give up your top prospect for someone like Yandle.

Then again, I’ve said all year that the Rangers can’t keep Mats Zuccarello and Marty St. Louis if Duclair was in their plans. Well now they can both stay…which works since apparently the PR battle yesterday worked and Zuccarello is close to re-signing. Would I have kept Zuccarello over Duclair? I’m not sure, although the Rangers are clearly in win-now mode so it makes sense. It also makes sense if his cap hit ends up being the rumored $4.5 million. He’s worth that. He’s not worth more, at least not to me. (I also don’t think he’s a top line winger but right now that’s where he’s playing.)

The Rangers also gave up another first round pick. The team may pick in the first round again in my lifetime, although I’m not counting on it at this point. The condition on the pick is if the Rangers miss the playoffs next year, it turns into a 2017 1st round pick instead. I guess that means they can’t trade that pick until they know where they stand next season.

**UPDATE** After that move, the Rangers also traded Lee Stempniak to Winnipeg for Carl Klingberg. I don’t know anything about Klingberg but am more than thrilled that Stempniak is gone. Guessing this deal was done to open a forward roster spot. So until more happens, J.T. Miller has a spot.

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In the end, I know a lot of people are already judging this trade but we really can’t. If Yandle somehow solidifies the defense and the Rangers win the Cup because of that, it will look great. If Duclair becomes the superstar fans think he is going to be, it will look horrible. Until either of those things happen or don’t happen, we really can’t judge. So instead I will wish John Moore and Anthony Duclair good luck in Arizona and say welcome to Keith Yandle and Chris Summers!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Whale Fans: Good Riddance 2012!

Ugh. Another one who has to bite his old team. Can the Whale stop losing players who have the ability to come back and haunt them? (Photo: Bridget Samuels/flickr)

The Whale hoped to end 2012 on the right foot by finally beating the Portland Pirates on their third try. They were well on their way to doing so when disaster struck and to that this Whale fan has one thing to say – Good riddance 2012! Hopefully 2013 will be a better year for you boys!

As for the game, no lineup changes for the Whale…but that is probably because they have no extra players to switch out as the only player on the roster not playing at the moment is Dylan McIlrath, who is serving the second game of his two-game suspension.

The Whale got the first power play of the game a little over five minutes in and while they got a few chances, they weren’t able to get one past Chad Johnson. (Yes, the same Chad Johnson who manned the Whale net last season.) Six and a half minutes later, the Whale took their first penalty. Thirty seconds later, the Pirates went back to the box leading to a minute and a half of 4-on-4 hockey.

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