Girardi staying helps the Rangers look elsewhere long term. Photo Credit: US Presswire
For several years the Rangers had a relatively steady flow of defensive prospects make it to the NHL through the system. Whether it was Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer or Girardi himself, the Rangers were able to supplement the NHL roster with cost effective home grown talent. Recently, there have been concerns of the talent approaching the NHL level.
With the relatively slow progress made by Dylan McIlrath (who still has time on his side) and the unknown NHL projections of Brady Skjei and Calle Andersson, the Rangers don’t have the ability to promote from within. Perhaps Conor Allen aside, there is very little that could step up in short notice.
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It’s the time in hockey season where rumours are rampant. Ryan Callahan is apparently already half way out the door, the Rangers are apparently in bed with Martin St Louis and apparently Glen Sather will ‘check in’ on Ryan Kesler. All of these rumours have legs to some degree, so when you hear Derek Stepan’s name mooted as a piece Vancouver may want back for any Kesler deal, it does make you question the moving pieces.
The Rangers, for the long term, cannot afford to move Stepan. Not just because he is a home grown, quality player but because too much change is never a good thing. Consider the likely departure of Brad Richards in the summer. Consider also the expiring contracts of Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore. Then throw into the mix the still uncertain future of Derick Brassard (How much is enough? Is he even kept?). There is a legitimate chance in all of this then that the Rangers entire center ice unit changes. Until you realize no team in their right mind would change an entire position over one deadline/off-season. Right, Glen?…
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What does the future hold for McIlrath? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
When the Rangers made their Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein swap with the Predators, they gave up on a frustrating offensive talent and went with the less able but more reliable stay at home, physical type. What they also did was commit to a player whose size and physical ability is likely to be on the Rangers blue line for several seasons. They also committed to someone that inadvertently may be a road block for one of the franchise’s key draft picks, Dylan McIlrath.
While Klein doesn’t possess the same potential snarl or size as McIlrath, the additional four years (at $2.9 million per year) means the Rangers have solidified their third pairing with the type of player they’ve needed for what seems like generations. Is there still room for McIlrath? With his skating ability still his biggest question mark, Mcllrath’s future is at least partly dependent with how Klein acclimatises to New York, with the initial solid performances promising.
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Keeping Callahan means building a contender (Photo: Anthony Gruppuso, USA TODAY Sports)
If you’re a cup half full kind of person, assume for a minute that both Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi sign back up with the Rangers and the core remains intact. Let’s also assume for a moment that Anton Stralman sticks around for a reasonable cost, and all of a sudden the Rangers fine core remain together; losing ‘just’ Brad Richards who is surely off to pastures new.
With the NHL salary cap going up this summer –and with the Rangers likely to have some serious cap room to play with– the opportunity (or danger?) to go out and entice a major free agent or two is there. Of course, most Rangers fans start getting anxious at the thought of Glen Sather having a blank cheque book. Sather’s Achilles heel is his free agency history.
Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman represent the key to the Rangers spending ability this summer. The upcoming free agency period is absent of legitimate options on the blueline, unless you’re happy to over commit to 36 year or 37 year olds. With Girardi and Stralman (hopefully) under wraps the Rangers retain one of the deepest defensive units in the league, allowing them to focus any spending up front, where there could be a few quality players available.
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Once again, Mr. Dependable. Photo: McIsaac/Getty
Anyone watching the Rangers to begin the year wouldn’t have foreseen this (individual) turnaround. Anyone paying close attention to the Rangers’ popular no. 5 for most of last year wouldn’t have predicted this scenario either. However, without doubt – thanks to the impressive turnaround in his play – Dan Girardi has become an essential, can’t-be-allowed-to-leave piece of the Rangers puzzle.
Girardi was error prone throughout the Rangers indifferent start to the season. Rather than being part of the solution he was part of the problem. However, the past two months have seen Girardi return to being the indispensible, minute eating, shot blocking rock on the Rangers blueline. Over the past ten games, only three times has Girardi had less than 3 blocked shots. Only twice over the same period has Girardi not being credited with at least two hits. He’s back to his shutdown best.
Girardi’s return to his old form has coincided with the Rangers extended hot streak and has helped the Rangers really develop a core to match even the best teams in the league. With Henrik Lundqvist’s return to form, three capable offensive lines, strong special teams and a dominant top defensive pair (Girardi and Ryan McDonagh), the Rangers are becoming a team no one will want to face come playoff time. This all brings us to the already much discussed free agency and Girardi’s opportunity to cash in.
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Derek Dorsett could be a difference maker (Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)
The Rangers facd the toughest possible opponent tonight. When an elite team like the Blues head to town fresh off a mauling, they will be conscious of stopping the rot before it starts. This will be a great benchmark game for the Rangers. Can they go toe to toe with a contender? Can they put behind them their own disappointing game? Tonight’s game is the definition of a character test.
Kevin Klein’s arrival meant the end of Michael Del Zotto, but does it also signal the end of Anton Stralman? Stralman is reported to be looking for $3 million plus at season’s end, despite being distinctly average for the most of this year. Would the Rangers be willing to lock up what are essentially two third pair guys for what would be $3 million each?
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Cam Talbot will want a starting opportunity if he keeps up his form. (Scott Levy, Getty Images)
The dilemma is always there: A franchise always wants to have strong goaltending and a strong, reliable back-up, but the threat of losing such a commodity to a club dangling a starting gig is constant. Cam Talbot may be approaching this kind of situation in his near future and the Rangers need to be ready to deal with it.
The Rangers have been lucky in recent times with backup goaltending thanks to Marty Biron and now – in spectacular style – Cam Talbot. With Talbot’s play – leading the league in save percentage and goals against average – Talbot will surely be an enticing prospect for several clubs this summer (the likes of Washington, Islanders, Calgary and perhaps even teams such as Winnipeg). Henrik Lundqvist’s backup still has a year left on his modest contract and with his performances, appealing size and (likely) desire not to remain a back-up long term, he’ll surely be open to offers.
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Photo credit: Christopher Pasatieri
Often it is the smaller, less heralded moves that make the difference in playoff races. So as the Rangers approach the trade deadline in good form, but still with flaws, should they make any additions? In most cases you have to give to receive, and if the Rangers want to make a real upgrade to their team they will need to consider moving a current piece of the roster.
One player who has quietly had a solid season – even during the dark, inept start laid down by the Rangers – is Brian Boyle. He’s also one player whose future in New York is unclear. We have discussed here numerous times the merits of Boyle’s defensive game, his face-off skills, and his underrated role on the Rangers. While his 21 goal season has proved to be the exception to the rule, even his 10 points so far this year have been welcome help.
All that said, it appears Boyle may be an ex-Ranger soon. Larry Brooks published negative sounding comments from Boyle regarding his future, and pointed out his regressing role as the Rangers have become increasingly disciplined on the ice. Would it make sense to move Boyle? Can the Rangers replace his PK prowess?
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After Tuesday’s disappointing and above all unnecessary loss to the Lightning, the Rangers take on Detroit tonight. Absolutely there for the taking, the Rangers need to avoid a let down game against the Wings who are depleted and not what they were a couple years back. Let’s hit the musings for the first time in a while shall we?
Careful what you wish for: For all the moaning and concerns about the Rangers start to the year, consider the state of the Wings franchise right now. A squad with a few core aging players (think Alfredsson, Kronwall, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson and Cleary) and not a huge amount coming through their system (relatively speaking, of course). The Rangers on the other hand are younger, with a pipeline that while not chock full of talent is far from empty. The Rangers could be in a lot worse shape compared to many teams in the league.
Just when you thought he’d turned a page, Michael Del Zotto has a major lapse in the Tampa loss. That’s why he is so frustrating; for all the good, there is always some bad just around the corner.
The Rangers MVP after the halfway mark? Ryan McDonagh. Undoubtedly without McDonagh, the defense – which has been in a state of flux all year anyway – would have been in big trouble. His offense is also developing quickly.
Talking contracts: How much can Ryan – I can’t stay healthy – Callahan really command and get come contract time? Is it possible that he demands more than the Rangers can offer?
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Pouliot: Riding recent success to a new deal? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image
Inconsistent, journeyman pro, never sticks with one team, will never live up to his draft status. The list of criticisms labelled at Benoit Pouliot is a long one, and by and large most criticisms and assumptions about the Rangers winger have been or are true. Pouliot will never live up to being 4th overall in 2005, nor is he particularly consistent, but in recent weeks something inside of the highly skilled, big winger may have clicked.
We wrote pre-season with excitement at the potential steal the Rangers may have signed when they took on Pouliot. We then watched Pouliot stumble through the first 25 or so games of the season, as he looked like a free agent mistake. In the past month or so, Pouliot has been one of the Rangers better players and may even manage to stick with a club beyond one season for the first time since the club that drafted him (the Wild). Of course, this if he can continue his great recent form.
At 6’3 and 200 lbs Pouliot is big, can skate well, is very skilled, and works hard. He’s not a defensive liability either, but it always appeared something was missing. All of a sudden (at least recently) Pouliot is consistent and, above all, dangerous. Using the breakaway against Dallas as an example, he doesn’t give up on plays. In short, Pouliot is working his butt off to stick with the Rangers or at least prolong his NHL career.
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