All summer long Dave, Chris, and I have been trying to bring you all rational posts on draft picks, prospects, free agents, trade targets, and in-depth analysis of our beloved team, the New York Rangers.
Sometimes to keep the Rangers blogosphere in check, we’ve poked fun at those who want to see NYR’s future roster be entirely composed of draft picks and homegrown players (great idea, but unrealistic). Other times we have taken jabs at those who wish to trade our important pieces like a Michael Del Zotto or a Derek Stepan for other teams veterans (bad idea, and also not happening this summer).
No matter what the topic or rumor, we are generally here to keep the peace, keep our analysis on an even footing, and avoid the toxicity that can be sports blogging. I surmise most of you have realized this at one point or another, as it is probably why you are part of the conversation here and not elsewhere.
Well today we are putting all of these separate conversations and posts into one MASTER PLAN, if you will.
In our minds, 2014 likely is the year where we will know if our current core and highly touted picks (Kreider, Thomas, McIlrath, 2011’s pick, etc.) are ready to dominate (Stepan) or disintegrate (Jessiman). Not every core player or highly touted pick will be a Ranger, such is the nature of sports, but by then we should all know if this team is seriously ready to contend or pretend.
If you ever watched the show Lost, you would know that “The Incident” was the cause and effect for the entire storyline and character foundation. Whether you are pro-Richards or not, “The Incident” for the 2011 and 2014 rosters will be his potential signing. If we sign him, and I think we will, the team’s build likely goes one way. If we don’t sign him, the team likely goes another way…
The 2011 roster
If we do sign Brad Richards, we believe the rest of the roster will remain pretty much intact, save a depth move or two. We all have a potential top 6 consisting of Wolski-Richards-Gaborik and permutations of Dubi-Stepan-Cally. The bottom 6 likely looks like Feds-Anisimov-MZA, and Avery-Boyle-Prust. Though lines are never set in stone and likely a carousel, figure this is the basis for which we can work.
If Carl Hagelin should have a solid training camp and is ready for the NHL, we have Hagelin moving into the bottom six and perhaps Wolski gets moved or buried, with MZA moving over to left wing, or perhaps he’s moved.
If the Rangers strike out on Richards, we have a hard time believing that Sather will roll out the same exact roster as last year, not with this amount of cap space. If the Rangers truly believe that Stepan and Arty are the 1-2 punch of the future, then maybe they make a move for Dave’s coveted left wing powerforward. If not, they’ll try to acquire a Statsny-type player.
It’s hard to say who would likely go in such a deal, but our candidates to be traded this season are P-Tank, Boyle, Wolski, and perhaps MZA…not necessarily packaged together, but some iteration of those three and perhaps picks.
***Side note, I wrote this post last Wednesday (6/22) and had Grachev on this trade candidate list as well. I figured he could be packaged for more, but Sather’s hand was obviously forced. Oh well…there’s still plenty of pieces.
Michael Del Zotto does not get moved at this point period, end of story. Matter of fact, with or without Richards, I think the current defense stays together at least one more season. Perhaps Gilroy is resigned to a more reasonable offer after he tests free agency, perhaps not. Does anyone really care? Not me.
The 2014 roster
Now we get to the fun stuff. What you think this roster looks like in 2014 probably depends on how aggressive you think the Rangers organization will be. Do they horde every last prospect or do they make a splash? Being the centrists that we are, and given Sather’s recent trade history, we think it’s a combo.
In a perfect world we’d like to see a top 6 consisting of Dubinsky-Richards-Gaborik, with perhaps Kreider-Stepan-Thomas or Cally giving them a run for their money. Our third line potentially consists of Hagelin-Anisimov-Cally or Thomas. Fourth line could be Prust surrounded by other bottom sixers acquired via the draft or outside of the organization. Notice I said in a perfect world.
Look, we don’t have a crystal ball, but should any combination of Hagelin, Thomas, or Kreider not work out over the next couple of years, we think someone like an Anisimov could be moved for another goal scorer. I have no doubt he will be a solid player in the NHL. I just have a hard time seeing the organization show him the kind of patience needed. I’ve been saying since he was a rookie that his transition and growth in the North American game are going to take several seasons. With the direction this team is moving, he simply may run out of time, but I hope not because the skill is there.
Erixon, McDonagh, and MDZ all have the potential to bring more offense than Girardi does, who is just not elite. Staal, Sauer, and potentially McIlrath all do a better job of clearing the crease. Girardi is kind of a jack of all trades, so it will be interesting to see what happens with him long-term. Our defense of the future likely embodies Staal, McDonagh, McIlrath, Del Zotto, perhaps Sauer and Erixon. Should Del Zotto or Erixon not live up to expectations, perhaps Girardi is moved, but it’s still too early to tell.
Noticeably absent from these rosters:
Avery is gone after his contract is up. Fedotenko is a short-term stop gap and rightfully so. At 5’8 160lbs, Bourque is likely too small to be a bottom 6 player. I’m not anti-diminutive players (the NHL is indeed getting smaller), but I think to be that size in the NHL its likely top 6 or bust.
Dale Weise won’t be a fulltime Ranger, nor will Kundratek due to better options above them on the depth chart. But as I always say, you’d be a fool to deal with absolutes when it comes to prospects. Well, that’s we got. We don’t think it is too radical, but I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreements.
***I initially forgot to mention Erik Christensen in this post…says a lot doesn’t it?
Like 99% of you who read this site every day don’t comment, but we want to hear from you! Tell us what you agree with, disagree with. Get in the conversation. Let’s hear your plan!