In case you were wondering, last week I kinda had a post recapping our new division rivals’ offseason moves. I emphasize the word “kinda” because I only finished about half of it before it got published. Little scheduling SNAFU. Whoops.
Let’s try this again shall we?
The Rangers only major acquisition of the offseason was the hiring of new coach Alain Vigneault. Barring any late-summer trades, the Rangers will mostly rely on a new voice in the locker room to be the key difference maker this coming season. However, a few of our new ‘Metropolitan Division’ rivals made some very interesting moves this summer. Some of them voluntary, others not so much (sup Kovy?).
Here’s a look at which teams in our new division should improve, which teams appear to have taken a step back and which teams will likely to duplicate last year’s efforts.
The NHL has a long history, it should have used it.
Throughout the summer (a brief one, thanks to the abbreviated 2012-13 season) we’ll discuss aspects of the league that invoke discussion as well as continue to discuss everything New York Rangers. First up, missed opportunities.
Once again the National Hockey League has missed a trick. When the league pushed through realignment they had an ideal opportunity to bring the league’s storied past into play. Just like how the league renamed the Lester Pearson trophy after Ted Lindsay, the league should have renamed the newly formed divisions after former great players and legendary hockey league innovators.
Hockey had an opportunity to respect its tradition and pay homage to those that made the game what it is. It had an opportunity to move beyond mere geographical titles, and the commercial priorities of individual clubs with their TD Gardens and HP Pavilions. The league had an opportunity to use history as a selling point to the national hockey league and to provide some meaning to divisions.
The 2014 NHL schedule has been released, and the Rangers will be playing in the newly formed Metropolitan Division with the Devils, Flyers, Penguins, Islanders, Capitals, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets.
As for the schedule, the Rangers will open on October 3 in Phoenix. That game will be the first of nine games in a row on the road, as MSG plans to re-open its doors after the third and final summer renovation. The first home game will be on October 28 against Montreal.
Due to the Olympics, the schedule is a bit condensed. The Rangers will play eight back-to-backs and six three-in-fours, with a few tough stretches there. Their first three-in-four is at LA, San Jose, and Anaheim, and their first six games are against teams that went to the playoffs last season. They also have a four-game west coast swing in late March-early April, play ten of thirteen games on the road from mid-March through early April, and have a five-game road trip in November. However, the Rangers do play ten of thirteen (including seven of eight) at home in January-February, and nine in a row at home in December.
In case you’re not on Twitter, Ilya Kovalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL. Kovalchuk, 30, leaves 12 years and $77 million on the table from the Devils, who will have a $250k cap recapture penalty for the next 12 (!!) years, until 2024-2025. Signing Kovalchuk cost the Devils a first round pick (due to the circumvention issue), and probably cost them Zach Parise as well.
Will Ray Emery be the solution to Philadelphia’s goaltending woes?
Faced with precious little cap space and a host of key players to re-sign, the Penguins did a marvelous job of keeping a successful core intact. Pittsburgh opened the offseason by inking Evgeni Malkin to a long-term deal and also managed to retain key UFAs Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz below market value. It seemed like Pittsburgh would be unable to meet Kris Letang’s contract extension demands and that he might be dealt over draft weekend as Jordan Staal was last year, but the Penguins managed to keep their high-scoring defender happy with an eight-year, $58 million extension.
Pittsburgh lost trade deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Morrow as free agents and also allowed pest Matt Cooke to exit, while trading depth forward Tyler Kennedy to San Jose. But amidst all that, the Penguins were able to bring back Rob Scuderi, a defender they regretted letting leave in the first place. Pittsburgh has no room to operate under the salary cap so another trade might be coming and the Penguins are still planning to rely on Marc-Andre Fleury in goal next season, so it’s hard to classify them as a ‘better’ team. However, the Penguins kept an extremely talented roster together for the most part and should again be a Cup favorite heading into 2013-2014.
Former Ranger Brendan Shanahan will be a member of the 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, Geraldine Heaney, and Fred Shero will also be inducted. Shanny played two seasons with the Rangers, putting together a line of 52-56-108 in 140 games. For his career, Shanny was one of the best power forwards to ever play the game, scoring 658 goals and adding 698 assists, with over 2,500 PIMs.
This July 5th, was perhaps the most stupid free agency opening in living memory. When a player scratched in the Cup Final (Victor Stalberg) can turn his level of ‘performance’ into a four year deal you have to wonder. When Andrew journeyman Ference can – at 34 no less – turn his bottom pair duties for Boston into four years 12+ million you continue to wonder.
When Ryane Clowe – for all his obvious talent – can turn an injury, concussion plagued season and 3 goal production into a five year deal with a significant pay rise you know the last of the sane general managers have lost their marbles.
There were countless deals this Friday that left heads scratching, that made a mockery of the lockout (once again) and left teams who managed somehow to exercise caution in a good position. Maybe it was just that the Rangers couldn’t spend this summer what others could but the Rangers figure to benefit from all this madness.
Per Bob McKenzie, Tomas Kaberle (Montreal), Rostislav Olesz (Chicago), and Steve Montador (Chicago) are the only three players on buyout waivers today. They will clear tomorrow and then be bought out by their respective clubs. With these moves, Montreal and Chicago have used both of their compliance buyouts.
Vinny Lecavalier (Tampa), Danny Briere, and Ilya Bryzgalov (Philly) are also expected to be on waivers during the buyout period.
In case you missed it, John Tortorella was introduced as the Canucks head coach today, marking the first time in history that teams have swapped head coaches in the same offseason. As per John Shannon of Sportsnet, the Canucks were also granted permission by the Rangers to talk to current assistant coach Mike Sullivan. Larry Brooks had initially reported that Sully was definitely out as assistant coach, so this shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Here’s the Torts press conference, which was interesting to say the least.
The Edmonton Oilers surprised a few people yesterday when they fired head coach Ralph Krueger after just one lockout shortened season. While the Oilers organization was a bit cryptic about the firing, the reason became clear a few hours after the firing. The Oilers will actually be hiring Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins, with a press conference slated for tomorrow.
Eakins was a top coaching candidate for a lot of teams with coaching vacancies, including the Rangers. It is rumored that Alain Vigneault is still the front runner for the job in New York, with names like Ken Gernander, Mark Messier, and Lindy Ruff still in the mix.