Rangers Send Brassard To Ottawa For Zibanejad

While everyone has been complaining that the Rangers haven’t done anything, I’ve repeatedly said to be patient because a move will be coming once the initial free agency stuff calms down. Well Rangers fans, you got what you wanted:

Oh, that’s not what you wanted was it? Well surprise, that’s what the Rangers did.

Let’s take this piece by piece.

Since the end of the playoffs, there have been rumors about Derek Stepan being traded. The Rangers never leak stuff to the press on actual moves so I immediately assumed (and admittedly hoped) this was a decoy. Apparently it was as this move was completed weeks ago but couldn’t be announced until after the Rangers paid Brassard the $2 million bonus he was due last Friday. Weeks ago. And no one knew. That’s how the Rangers work. One day people will remember this.

Now onto what they did. Oh Derick Brassard. I’ve never believed you were a number one center but you made a great 1A/1B pairing with Stepan. You two were like ying and yang. One knew what the defensive zone was, the other actually knew how to find the net. While I will miss the points and your celebrations, I will not miss your utter cluelessness in your own zone. We just now need someone to make funny faces on the bench, randomly steal opposing players sticks and take care of Mats Zuccarello.

Oh, and while his four points in his Rangers debut and hat trick vs Lightning in 2015 playoffs are definitely great memories, I’ll always remember his OT goal against Pittsburgh in 2014. That comeback doesn’t happen if he doesn’t score that goal to win game one:

I love how Brassard was the only one who knew his shot was in the net. Although I guess that play describes him perfectly as he stopped playing after that. Fortunately for his teammates, so did the Penguins.

So what did the Rangers get? A younger, cheaper version of Brassard in Mika Zibanejad.

In addition, Zibanejad has had two 20 goal seasons and is only starting to reach his prime while Brassard had his first 20 goal season last year. He is also a right handed shot, something the Rangers are in desperate need of. (There is only so many places Stepan can be at once.) And he penalty kills. (Notice a pattern in the moves the team has made this year?)

But more importantly, the Rangers turned a soon to be 29-year old center into a 23-year old center who puts up similar numbers. They also went from having roughly $8.5 million in cap space to now having over $10 million in cap space, which will come in handy as they try to sign Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider, both of which I expect to return. Oh and the Rangers get an extra second round pick in 2018 for when they inevitably trade their own.

And, to be honest, it shook up the room without completely blowing up the team. Brassard was very well-liked in the locker room so players will notice no one is untouchable if they don’t compete. This plus everything being said about the team should give us a room full of players with quite a chip on their shoulders. Well, those who are still there. While Jeff Gorton didn’t admit to anything else in the works, most of the beat writers walked away thinking he is far from done. As we said in May, it’s going to be a fun summer.

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One quick side note. During his conference call with the media, Gorton was also asked if the team ever thought about buying out much maligned defenseman Dan Girardi to which he said, per Andrew Gross:

“I would say no,” Gorton said. “I know Dan Girardi has taken a beating in the media. He’s 32 and he had a significant injury (knee) but he’s had some real good production. He did, by all accounts, not have the season he wanted or we wanted. But we expect Dan to be better. A buyout just didn’t make sense. It’s something we never really considered.”

I’ve said from day one that a buyout didn’t make sense. It didn’t. We just have to hope he bounces back and has a respectable season next year. Expecting him to be an all-star is unrealistic. But expecting him to do what he did this year isn’t really fair either. The only thing we know is that he’ll be there in September.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Staals Are Brothers…On The Rangers

We knew it wouldn’t be quiet around the Rangers for much longer. I also should’ve known as soon as I said in last nights’ recap that the Rangers wouldn’t be getting a certain player, that it would guarantee that player was headed to New York.

So what did the Rangers do on their off Sunday before the trade deadline? For the second year in a row, it was another big name headed to Broadway:

I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know if I’m finally growing accustomed to these trades or if this one really isn’t that bad, but I’m not mad at the Rangers for this move. Maybe because I was expecting it to be a lot worse.

So let’s break this down. What did the Rangers get?

That’s easy, another Staal. I’m not even going to mention the relationship or who Eric Staal is because if you don’t already know that then you’ve been living under a rock. The question is what type of player is he? A couple of years ago, he easily would have been the Rangers best center and possibly even best forward. But he’s declined over the past few seasons and is having his worst career year this year. Will a change of scenery help? Only time will tell. Obviously the Rangers are hoping for that.

The assumption is he will be playing in the top six tomorrow night. My guess is he will be on the wing with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider but Vigneault has plenty of options. We’ll find out at practice tomorrow morning, assuming Eric will be there. (That would be the ultimate troll move if he didn’t get in until closer to game time but sounds like he is on his way to New York this evening. Well, probably Connecticut since I’m assuming he’s crashing at Marc’s place.)

In regards to players and picks, that’s all the Rangers got. But they did get one other thing:

Now that is huge. Honestly, it’s the only way this deal works. It doesn’t leave the Rangers much space to make any other moves but allowed them to make this trade without giving up any current roster players.

So what did the Rangers give up?

Like last year, let’s discuss what they didn’t give up. Someone somewhere thought it would be funny to start a rumor that the Canes might get Chris Kreider in a deal for Staal. That would’ve have pissed me off more than any of the deals they’ve made the past few seasons and it wouldn’t have been close. Honestly, that would have been an absurd overpayment. Personally, I can’t imagine Kreider is even available. If he is…I’m not even going there because there is no way he is. (Yes he’s having a bad season. That helps the Rangers as it makes it easier to re-sign him this summer.)

But what they did give up might be why I’m okay with the trade. There was rumor earlier today that the Canes wanted a 1st round pick and the Rangers refused. Yes, you read that correctly. The Rangers actually refused to trade a 1st round pick. I was shocked. Of course they gave up their 2nd round picks both this year and next year. I guess they figure if they can find Henrik Lundqvist in the 7th round, they can get that lucky again in later rounds. Or they’ll just hope other teams’ give up on who they’ve picked in the 1st round and trade them to the Rangers. (It’s worked in the past. See McDonagh, Hayes, Brian Boyle, amongst others.)

They also gave up their 3rd round draft pick from 2015, Finnish forward Alexsi Saarela. I won’t pretend to say I follow the teams’ European draft picks but last June, I had written he “reportedly is a good puck handler but an average skater.” This year he had 31 points in 43 games as a 19-year old. As with the day players are drafted, come back to me in a few years and I’ll let you know if this was a good or bad move to make.

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So the Rangers finally made their first move. Will it be their last? Being that Jeff Gorton pointed out they have space for one more small player in his conference call about the trade, I’m going to assume no. But I do expect this to be the big move for the year. We’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours. All we do know is the Rangers are officially “all in” for this year, again. As they have been for the past three years. No they haven’t succeeded. But you can’t say it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The question is how many more tries will they get? Hopefully this year finally is the year.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Healthy Scratch No More! Etem Sent To Vancouver

In the least shocking development of the season, the Rangers decided it was time to cut ties with a trade acquisition that wasn’t working out:

I think we can all agree the writing was on the wall for Emerson Etem. For me, the final nail was when Chris Kreider was hurt last weekend. Rather than keep Etem in the line-up (who was scheduled to come out so Kevin Hayes could return), the Rangers called up Jayson Megna and placed him on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. If Etem hadn’t asked for a trade up until that point, my guess is he did after that.

And I don’t blame him. I can’t explain why but for some reason, it just didn’t work for him. Here’s Jeff Gorton on Etem from a conference call after the trade (per Andrew Gross):

“It’s clear Emerson got off to a tough start here and didn’t seem to gain any traction. We’re trying to find the right fit for him and roster spot and it goes back to training camp, really, where it didn’t seem to be working and a fit. That’s why, at this point, we felt it was best for us to get him another spot to go to and for us to get a player we liked and has a future.”

I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes at camp but it was clear from the start that there was something they didn’t like. Unfortunately, due to the NHL’s fantastic rules, Etem couldn’t be sent to Hartford without going on waivers. The Rangers reportedly had planned to send him down on a “conditioning assignment” this weekend. Since I still don’t understand how the league would have allowed that, I’m just going to continue to believe they said that knowing the trade would be finalized later in the day.

The problem with this is it now looks like the Rangers got nothing for Carl Hagelin. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I said it when Hagelin was traded, the Rangers moved him for the cap space they needed to sign Stepan. And they got that. (Hagelin signed for $4 million per year while Etem signed for under $1 million.) They also got a second round draft pick which they turned into Ryan Gropp, a defensive prospect they seem very high on.

So the Rangers have now gotten (cap space to sign) Stepan, Gropp, Nick Jensen and a 2017 6th round pick for Hagelin. I’d say they did pretty well.

Speaking of which, what do we know about Jensen? Not a whole lot.

The 22-year old Denmark native was a first round pick (29th overall) in the 2011 draft. (For those wondering, the Rangers actually had their 1st round pick that year and selected J.T. Miller 15th overall.) He has played 24 NHL games in the past three seasons and has three goals and three assists, all coming in the 2013-14 season. He has yet to play an NHL game this season and will remain in the AHL for the time being, reporting to Hartford this weekend. My guess is they give him a little time to learn the teams’ systems down there and then call him up to see what he could do.

For those who want to read more about him, you can find a pretty good scouting report from last May here. The part that caught my attention? He’s fast, 6’3″, 200 pounds and while has some skill, the Canucks organization seemed to believe he might be better suited as a bottom six forward. Can you say replacement for Viktor Stalberg? That’s just my guess from reading that.

In the meantime, Etem gets another fresh start. Many had hoped the move to New York would help him. It didn’t. I have no idea if the move to Vancouver will but hopefully he does something to earn a chance. Unfortunately, we never really got to see what he could do while he was here.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Find Their New Backup Goaltender

Only a couple of hours ago, I said I was worried about the Rangers trading Cam Talbot because I wasn’t sure who they would get to be the new backup goaltender. I have to stop questioning this organization.

Just when we all thought the team was done for the day, they did this:

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I am honestly trying to be impartial on this but I love this deal right now. Antti Raanta was Corey Crawford’s clear backup going into last season. When Crawford went down early in the year, Raanta was their guy and he was great. But he had one bad game so the Hawks decided to see what they had in Scott Darling…and they fell in love.

As someone who follows the Hawks, I never saw a huge difference between Raanta and Darling. They were both very capable backups. For some reason, Joel Quenneville preferred Darling and it was clear that Raanta would be on his way out. So clear that when rumors that Talbot would be traded started, I jokingly told someone to trade him and then bring in Raanta. I got my wish granted.

Over the last two seasons with the Blackhawks, Raanta has played 39 games and gone 20-9-5 with three shutouts, .912 save percentage and 2.41 GAA. Not much more you can ask of a backup goaltender. He’s signed for this season at a cap hit of $750k and then a UFA. The Rangers like that part even better than the numbers.

Basically, I will miss Cam Talbot but Sather and Company once again pulled their magic to save money and not take a hit talent wise. Now let’s just hope Raanta gets his second ring next June.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Trade Talbot, Hagelin Out West

Day one of the draft was boring. Lots of speculation, no actual action. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised as I didn’t believe Cam Talbot would fetch a first round pick but everyone else seemed to believe it was possible. The beginning of day two has been anything but quiet.

We’ll do the obvious one first – Cam Talbot is headed to the Oilers. This wasn’t really a secret, just a question of when it would happen. Heck, I said in my thoughts on the schedule that Rangers fans would be interested in December 15th. That’s when Edmonton comes to MSG. (You can also circle December 11th as that is when the Rangers go to Edmonton.)

So what did the Rangers receive for the goalie that was supposedly the best available option (but was traded after five others this weekend):

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAnd there were people who actually believed all the ridiculous speculation that Talbot would fetch a first round or high prospects. A second, a third and a seventh round pick. Exactly what I would have paid for an un-proven goaltender who will be a UFA next summer. In my player review, I said the following on Talbot:

Cam Talbot (G, 21-9-4-5, 2.21 GAA, .926 SV%) – While there are a couple of guys with question marks, Talbot is the most interesting. The Rangers signed him to a one year extension during this season (which turned out to be one of their best moves of the year) and my guess is they absolutely want to keep him. But he would be a great trade chip to get them something else they need. That said, he would need to be replaced. I’m not sure who will be better at or below his cap hit of $1.45 million. There will be some who will say he wants to be a starter. He does. But if he wanted to do that next year, he wouldn’t have re-signed. Do I think he will be on this list a year from now? Not really. But stranger things have happened. That said, if it were up to me… KEEP (I get he’s a good trade chip but Lundqvist needs a reliable backup. He has one in Talbot.)

I stand by what I said. I would have kept him because a reliable backup on a win-now team means more to me than three late picks. But I understand why the Rangers did what they did. So I will reserve complete judgement until next week, when we find out who his replacement is. That said, I will miss Prince Cam.

But the Rangers weren’t done as at the same time, they freed a bunch of cap space by sending Carl Hagelin to the Ducks for Emerson Etem:  

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Both players are RFAs this summer. The difference? Etem is coming off his entry level contract and is owed a qualifying offer under $900k with no arbitration rights. Hagelin’s qualifier would’ve been close to $3.5 million.

I don’t usually pat myself on the back but I called this one. While everyone said Kevin Klein would be the salary dump (and he technically still could be), I said this in my player reviews:

Carl Hagelin (LW, 82 games played, 17-18-35, +18) – Hagelin and Klein are the two I really have no idea what the Rangers plans are in regards to keeping them. I said last year I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t on the list this year. To be honest I am surprised he made it past the trade deadline, especially after they decided to keep Zuccarello. Hagelin is a terrific penalty killer whose game is based on speed. He fits perfectly in this system…as a third line player who may chip in 10-15 goals. The question is how much does he expect to be paid to do that? This year his salary was $2.4 million (salary, not cap hit) which means he will want a raise this summer. I’m not sure how much more than that the Rangers can or should pay him. I never ask or expect players to take a hometown discount but if he wants to stay, he might have to. It’s not what I want to happen (even though he drives me nuts sometimes) but I’m going with my gut on what I think will happen… DUMP (Again, I want to keep him as I think he fits in this system. I’m just not sure he (or his cost) is in the Rangers plans.)

I absolutely love Hagelin and it hurts that he’s gone, both for his play on the ice and his relationships with the team off it. I will miss his blonde hair blowing in the wind as he races up and down the ice and will never forget his overtime winner that ended the Penguins series this year. But he is a third line penalty killer. In a cap world, I’m not paying a player like that over $4 million. Honestly, I’m not paying it in a non-cap world either but every contract would be ridiculous then.

So rather than seeing him opening night, Rangers fans will get one chance to say goodbye to one of their favorite Swedes as the Ducks come to the Garden on December 22nd. I guess I have to go to that game now.

I’m not sure how either will do on their new teams, Talbot being a starter behind that defense and Hagelin in the big, rough west, but I wish them both the best of luck and really do hope they succeed. They were both rightfully loved by Rangers fans and will be missed in New York. It’s another reason why I wish the Rangers had won one of the last two years. Those two deserve to win.

As for Emerson Etem, I honestly don’t much about him other than he’s young (and cheap). He never really fit with the Ducks, continually being sent down to AHL or scratched for other players, so hopefully the change of scenery does him good.

In the meantime, welcome to New York Etem and good luck out west Cam and Carl!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Busy Sunday Continues: Stempniak Out, Sheppard In

I’ve already discussed the main deal of the day as the Rangers received Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a draft pick for John Moore, Anthony Duclair and draft picks. If you missed it, you can read my thoughts on that deal here.

I briefly mentioned the second deal of the day in that post as well but let’s go more in depth for the rest of Sather’s afternoon.

Shortly after the Yandle trade was completed (yes, I am calling it that now and hopefully won’t be calling it the Duclair trade in a few years), Glen Sather started to shed cap:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsCarl Klingberg is a Swedish left wing who has played all of 12 games in the NHL…spread out over four seasons. He’s headed to Hartford. He’s also a RFA this summer so he may never wear a Rangers sweater, a.k.a. the reason I am calling this trade a salary dump.

Lee Stempniak is…Lee Stempniak. Look, I wanted to like him. I did. Of all the random forwards the Rangers picked up last summer, he was the one I understood the least. I understood Matthew Lombardi. I understood Ryan Malone. I did not understand Lee Stempniak. Watching him play, I understood the move even less and still have no idea how he lasted the longest of the three. I know people would prefer him to play over Tanner Glass. Personally, I thought Glass served more of a purpose since he penalty killed. Otherwise, that’s like asking if I would rather deal with a foot of snow or two feet of snow – either way, it’s too much snow.

Everyone knew Sather wasn’t done after that so the question was what else did he have up his sleeve? An hour later, he replaced Stempniak:  

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I’m not going to look up stats or fancy stats numbers and pretend I know anything about James Sheppard. I know nothing. Right now, to me he’s not Lee Stempniak so that makes this a good trade. A week from now, I may feel differently. The Sharks also retained some of his minute salary so you know the Rangers are right up against the Cap.

What I can say about Sheppard is he’s five years younger than Stempniak. He apparently was pushed into a center role in San Jose but is better on wing so my guess is he plays wing for the Rangers. It’s amazing how a couple of good games for Kevin Hayes changes the direction the Rangers go in. Otherwise I would just be repeating numbers and stats which you have all seen elsewhere.

Giving up more picks isn’t great but I’ve accepted the fact the Rangers are in win-now mode and that we will feel like Sabres and Coyotes fans five years from now so it is what it is.

Now the question is what else does Sather have planned? Is this the team that will compete for the Cup this June or does he have more moves up his sleeve? When Stempniak was traded, my initial thought was J.T. Miller survived and might have earned a permanent spot. With the Sheppard acquisition, now I’m not so sure. Guess we’ll find out in a couple of hours.

Until then, I say welcome to the new #93 and #45, Keith Yandle and James Sheppard respectively, to the  New York Rangers!

 

(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)