This past year the Rangers took another step towards their goal of challenging for the Cup with a core built upon homegrown talent. Some of those core players continued their development and showed us all the great promise of what’s to come, while others left us wanting a little more.
Despite a few media reports saying otherwise, we probably won’t see any major roster upheaval this summer. However, next summer could be very interesting. There will likely be several big name UFAs, our own core RFAs, and we’ll be going into an offseason coming off a year of heightened expectations.
Anyway, for now let’s focus on 2012.
What I’ve taken away from the organization’s communication of NYR’s plan is that there are three main ingredients to building their team template. Those ingredients seem to be roster balance, skating, and effort. Whether it’s the kids they’ve drafted, the players they’ve signed, or the homegrown talent they’ve invested in, the foundation of our team concept hasn’t changed.
So as you begin to forecast what this roster will look like in 2012 and beyond, forget statistics, ignore the trade rumors, and bet your behind that any long-term acquisitions/signings will have to fit the John Tortorella mold even beyond JT’s tenure here.
The Rangers third line had a lot of trouble getting out of their own zone this season and I think Boyle could use a little more skill on either of his wings. Feds is likely a goner, as speed and board battles were an issue for him this season. Prust appears to be looking for more money than the Rangers are willing to spend. Mitchell is a utility player, who I wouldn’t mind resigning, but won’t be upset if he’s looking for more minutes elsewhere.
Semin? No chance. Radulov? No thanks. Parise? Not likely. Na$h? We shall see. Every other available goal scorer has been linked to the Rangers at one point or another and your guess is as good as mine whether or not we acquire someone of this ilk. However, if we take Glen at his word that he will not trade our kids, then I have a pretty tough time seeing the Rangers getting that coveted scorer we all so desperately want, unless Sather pulls another magic trick.
I know Dubinsky is everyone’s favorite whipping boy this year, but his trade value is not as high as it once was. If you want a consistent 30+ goal scorer, you have to send more than just Dubinsky in the other direction.
But Suit, what if you package Dubinsky and one of our top defensemen?
Not the worst idea I’ve read, but please read on…
Coming out of the exit interviews and subsequent media tour, Tortorella said the biggest need for the offseason was roster depth, particularly on defense. The playoffs proved that both Bickel & Eminger weren’t really ready for the pressure of the NHL’s best competition.
With this in mind, I have a hard time seeing any of our top 4 defenders (McD, Girardi, Staal, or MDZ) getting moved this summer. Bickel will probably be given another chance to develop as a #6 or #7 d-man, or perhaps even as a fourth line winger. Eminger on the other hand is likely done.
Perhaps Sather brings in a cheap insurance policy or a stop-gap while Dylan McIlrath is being nurtured in the AHL. Stralman fits what is needed the most, but with the allure of oil money (the KHL), playing in his home country (SEL), or perhaps the promise of higher quality minutes elsewhere, his resigning isn’t guaranteed I’d take a look at less heralded UFAs such as Carlo Colaiacovo, Kent Huskins, etc. These guys can eat minutes and bring some balance to the blueline.
2013 Roster and beyond
I’m still high on Anisimov as a successful NHLer, but he doesn’t truly fit in New York given my three ingredients of balance, speed, and effort. I think he’s more of an east-west finesse player trapped on roster built for north/south play. If you have no idea what I mean by that please read my hockey systems posts. Dubi at this point is a goner in 2013 unless Sather unloads him this summer.
Gaborik has proven he can score goals in many different ways (balance) and in different systems/coaching philosophies. Depending on his health, production, the trade market, and how our youth’s progressing (Kreider, Miller, etc.), will ultimately decide his fate. The KHL as an option for older Eastern European players probably prohibits the continuation of his career.
I love Michael Rupp and Brian Boyle and I appreciate their execution of their respective roles, however, I don’t see them on the roster beyond their contracts and maybe even before they’re up. The effort is there, but their skating is not.
Hagelin and Stepan are part of our core and in a perfect world should be held on to unless other Rangers prospects like Fogarty, Fast, etc. push them out the door down the road. Ryan Callahan is a New York Ranger for life and hopefully Kreider will give reason to be as well. Richards likely is because of his contract.
While the short-term look of our defense probably won’t change much, the long-term implications are a different story. In my opinion, everything begins and ends with stay-at-home defensemen Marc Staal. Up until his unfortunate concussion (delivered last season from his brother Eric), Marc was arguably one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL. We started to see Staal come around during the playoffs and I’d expect for him to be back to his elite self come October.
What makes this situation interesting is the recent trade of Marc’s younger brother Jordan to the Hurricanes, where his older brother Eric is locked up until 2016. One would have to think that an entire summer of excitement in the Staal household has Marc thinking about eventually taking his talents to Raleigh, joining up with his two brothers (and potentially 3 if Jared makes it out of the Carolina’s farm system). Would he ask for a trade prior to his contract running out in 2015? Hell, I probably would.
What also makes a trade potentially feasible next summer is the continued emergence of players such as Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto, and perhaps Tim Erixon and/or Dylan McIlrath if the latter two aren’t traded for offense. If you could pull off a three team trade with Carolina, so they get Marc and we receive an elite scorer, I’d be quite happy with a defense consisting of McD, Girardi, MDZ, and then either Erixon or McIlrath, and d-men acquired via trade, free agency, or through the draft. But that’s for down the road to debate…
*Side note – Dear hockey rumor sites, please source me on all three-team trade rumors involving Marc Staal moving forward.
PS – Replacing Henrik Lundqvist is not on my periphery at this point.
Also, here is our 2011 Master Plan. It’s always fun to look back and see how far our opinions have all come in the past year. Seems just like yesterday people were complaining Rupp and Fedotenko would impede the progress of guys like Hagelin.
So what’s your plan of attack?