Training camp is here, the hockey world is back full time and the Rangers have what appears to be a significant amount of questions as they enter first camp under Alain Vigneault. Let’s hit the musings to open the season.
Derek Stepan: Over his first three years in the league he outscored highly rated youngsters such as Jeff Skinner and Evander Kane. He deserves a significant pay rise; it’s a lot harder to produce in a market such as New York than outposts such as Carolina or Winnipeg. That said, I’m in Sather’s corner; you do not give up your strong negotiating position. However, there has to be a comprise. Stepan is a smart kid; he should not risk his immediate future by missing camp.
Johan Hedberg – he should be cheap, knows the division but indirectly he is a huge acknowledgement by the organisation that – as is the case with Biron’s current situation – if the organisation loses Lundqvist or Biron then there is a huge vacuum of talent at the goaltending position. No one internally is anywhere near the NHL level.
Reasons for optimism: If Marc Staal and Brad Richards return to their old levels. The Rangers are stacked. If they return to a level that is ‘just’ close to their ceilings then the Rangers are deep. A huge amount rides on Staal and Richards in the short term.
Reasons for concern: The Center position. There are a lot of question marks at this position for the Rangers: When does Stepan sign? Can Brassard follow up his promising start (his career to date causes concern), Can Richards rebound? Can Moore be effective after a long break form the game? What Brian Boyle will show up this year? Can Lindberg make the team? The Rangers have a ton of potential/talent at center but not a lot of sure things heading into the season.
Stepan’s contract stalemate really adds extra strain on to Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin’s recovery periods. Assume Stepan misses a game or two (surely the absolute worst case scenario) the Rangers would effectively be missing an entire scoring line on the season opening road trip. Huge depth concerns.
A change is as good as a rest? The Rangers will have an entirely new coaching staff. The team has injury issues so new players will need to be integrated. If ever there was a good time for a long, long road trip that time is now for the Rangers; time to get to know each other.
The Rangers will have a vastly improved powerplay this year. If it’s only borderline competent the team will have a significantly improved record. Will Brad Richards be a focal point? With Stepan potentially missing pre-season/camp time Richards will have a chance to make a first impression on AV and co.
Media funny: TSN listed Matt Gilroy as a ‘key departure’. I chuckled.
- How many goals will Rick Nash score this season?
- If Marty Biron does miss part of the year would Hedberg be your choice as an addition, or if not who would you choose?
- Where will Jesper Fast start the season?
- When will Lundqvist sign on the dotted line?
- What terms (if any!) do you think Stepan signs up for?