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Now that all the hemming and hawing over Henrik Lundqvist’s contract situation has been completed, Cam Talbot’s future has been an oft-discussed topic. Whatever you may think about the specific details of the contract, Hank is going to be manning the pipes at the Garden until 2020-2021.
This brings us back to Talbot. His emergence this season as a viable NHL goaltender have prompted quite a few fans to jump to conclusions about his long-term future in the Rangers organization and his potential trade value and contract status. Just to get the facts out of the way, Talbot is under contract for this season and next at a very reasonable $562,000 cap hit. As Dave pointed out in his fantastic analysis of Hank’s contract, the discount between Marty Biron’s salary and Talbot’s hedge quite a bit of the raise that Hank received in the context of overall goaltending cost.
After next season, because of his age, Talbot will be eligible for Unrestricted Free Agency. Generally speaking, when a player makes his NHL debut, there are usually several cost controlled years at the team’s disposal, either through the ELC or RFA status. Because goalies are more often than not, late bloomers, the Rangers don’t have this luxury with Talbot. Read more »
In case you missed it, and I doubt you did, the Rangers re-signed Henrik Lundqvist to a massive seven-year, $59.5 million ($8.5 million cap hit) contract extension yesterday. It is a long commitment to the best goalie in the world. It’s also a contract that makes him the highest paid goalie in history (not counting Roberto Luongo’s contract, which was for a much longer term). The contract represents a clear message: This team is committed to winning, and is also committed to keeping their franchise players in New York for the foreseeable future. Naturally, there are a lot of pros and cons of the contract, so let’s get into them.
- The contract is only a $1.7 million (approximately 25%) raise on his current deal. With the cap expected to hit $70 million next season (10% increase), the cap hit only represents 12% of next year’s cap, compared to 10% now. The 2% increase is well worth it to keep Hank around. The interesting part is when you start combining goalie salaries. Martin Biron (pre-retirement) was slated to make $1.3 million, for a combined total of $8.175 million this season (12.7% of the $64.3 million cap). Next year with Hank’s contract and Cam Talbot’s $562,500 contract ($9 million total) is only 12.9% of the $70 million cap. The numbers actually remain the same in terms of dollars spent on goaltending. Read more »
It seems sacrilegious to call him out, but even Ryan Callahan must elevate his game
As is always the case when the Rangers are struggling, fans, players and the media alike are all searching for answers to the team’s woes. And though everything from bad puck luck to injuries has been a factor, coach Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head yesterday when he put much of the blame for the team’s poor start on its underperforming core members.
“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players,” Vigneault told Andrew Gross. “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”
Vigneault couldn’t be more right in his assessment of the team 28 games into the year. Because as much as fans like to argue about what Michael Del Zotto might fetch in a trade or which youngster should play a handful of minutes a game in place of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot, it’s highly unlikely that any such substitution would have a major impact on the team. Maybe J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Kristo will re-join the Rangers this year and maybe not, but the Blueshirts certainly can’t count on any of the unproven prospects within the organization to arrive and turn the season around. The team has already gotten a surprise shot in the arm from Chris Kreider, and even that hasn’t been enough. Read more »
Is AV still looking to point his players in the right direction?
If any conclusions can be drawn from the apparent goaltending ‘drama’ that has been going on in New York it is that Alain Vigneault is still getting to know his team and he’s still learning which buttons to press with which players. Henrik Lundqvist is usually harder on himself than anyone else could be; such is his will to win. He won’t have been happy backing up Cam Talbot for Monday’s depressing defeat against the Jets but if the result is a hot streak from Lundqvist who are we to second guess the decision?
While some prefer to focus on a controversy, Cam Talbot is someone that has clearly grown with every start and you can see his confidence grow with every save – despite the defeat last night. It appears that Vigneault may be flirting with a goalie controversy but is it just a coach still familiarising himself with the assets at his disposal? Could it even be a message to the rest of the team rather than the star goaltender?
For those paying attention, Vigneault has prodded countless players over the past few weeks and months and given the middling results so far this season that is exactly what he should be doing. The Michael Del Zotto situation has been one where the coach has been unafraid to publicly challenge a player to be better. Vigneault has publicly expressed his opinion on Benoit Pouliot while players such as Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin and John Moore have been asked for more from the coach publicly. With the inconsistent and at times disappointing performances from numerous players on the roster this season it stands to reason that the coach will look to coach and prod his players for better performances.
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Scott Levy, Getty Images
If you read some of the papers this morning, then there is quite a bit going on about a goalie controversy here in New York. It was solidified even more when coach Alain Vigneault announced that Cam Talbot is the starter for tonight’s game against Winnipeg.
Talbot has been phenomenal in his first seven starts, and could push himself into the Calder conversation if his play continues. (That’s just a bad mistake on my part. Talbot is not eligible for the Calder, he is too old). Henrik Lundqvist is still an All-World goaltender, but he appears to be mortal this season. AV also noted that Hank is still the team’s #1 goaltender.
But let’s entertain this for a moment. Hank is struggling –somewhat– but his play recently has been more on par with what we’ve expected. Over his career Hank is a .920 SV% guy, and is currently at .917 SV%. That includes the San Jose and Anaheim games. Statistically he is on par with last season. So what’s the issue?
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Is Dylan McIlrath ready?
Alain Vigneault commented after the Rangers’ turgid performance in Tampa on Monday that “Nobody touched a soul”, referring to his team’s lack of physicality. This has been an underlying issue for large parts of the season so far. In the mean time, Michael Del Zotto continues to be, at best, inconsistent (and the subject of countless traded rumours in the media) and John Moore also has yet to find his game consistently. As you can see, there is plenty of room for improvement on the blueline.
While the Rangers forward unit appears to be more settled with the demotion of JT Miller (who simply needs playing time at this stage), despite the relatively decent performance of the blueline corps, the Rangers appear in need of an injection of physicality. Is it about time they took a look at Dylan McIlrath?
Mcllrath’s development curve is trending in the right direction. While in Hartford the big, bruising 1st round pick has begun to add an offensive dimension to his game but perhaps more appropriate is that he also leagues the American Hockey League in penalty minutes (with 102 penalty minutes in just 18 games) and if you check the box scores regularly enough, you’ll have noticed a few majors along the way.
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Dan Girardi’s struggles may extend Michael Del Zotto’s tenure in blue
Despite all the recent trade rumors swirling around Michael Del Zotto, the young D-man may remain a Ranger beyond this year.
I’ll spare you the argument that Del Zotto is still very young for a defenseman at just 23 years old, because frankly I don’t buy that as an excuse for his erratic play any more either. But though Del Zotto hasn’t lived up to expectations, he is still pencilled in as a top-four defenseman in New York’s short- and long-term plans.
That matters because another key member of the top-four, Dan Girardi, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in July. And the way things are going, Girardi might not be back. Girardi has been better than Del Zotto this season, but not by much. He’s coming off a down year under John Tortorella, so Girardi’s struggles can’t be blamed solely on the coaching change. No, at 29 years old, it’s likely that we’ve already seen the best of Girardi, and quite possible that he’s begun his decline. Read more »
As the season has progressed the biggest concern has been the play of some of the veterans, specifically Benoit Pouliot and Taylor Pyatt (when healthy), and why a player like J.T. Miller isn’t in the lineup instead. None of the three have been consistent enough to warrant a full time spot on the roster, and it can be argued that some have been bad enough to get Prucha’d full time.
Starting with the vets, Pyatt brings a physical game and some good board work to the lineup when healthy, but he has cement in his skates. Pouliot is a fluid skater and creative offensively, but does nothing without the puck and has taken bad offensive zone penalties. Miller is a bit of a mix, bringing good board work and good skating to the lineup, but he is lost without the puck and in the defensive zone. This seems like a “pick your poison” type of decision, but let’s look into the stats a bit.
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Del Zotto has fallen on hard times in New York
For anyone that watches NHL Tonight, this week you’ll have seen Darren Dreger discuss the Rangers apparently having had contact with ‘five or six teams’ interested in acquiring Michael Del Zotto. The moment Del Zotto’s regression offensively caught up with Alain Vigneault’s lack of trust in his defensive game, this kind of rumour always surfaces. For those of you not in the know regarding Dreger, he’s not the kind of guy who recklessly gossips so there are legs to this story.
The Rangers should definitely explore trading Del Zotto. The Rangers need help offensively and/or they need more physicality on the blue line. Trading Del Zotto could help the Rangers tend to one of their needs as despite Del Zotto not having a good season so far, his previous offensive production, his relative youth, his affordable contract situation and his draft pedigree all combine to make him a very moveable asset.
Whether the Rangers decide to move Del Zotto will likely depend on the return, but if they are to move Del Zotto the time is now. The modern day NHL requires asset management and right now Del Zotto is a declining asset. With his recent trips to the press box and with just four points on the season, Del Zotto appears to be regressing. His importance to the Rangers has also diminished as John Moore slowly but steadily develops. Include Ryan McDonagh’s offensive progression, and he could become a Norris-worthy defensman. In short, Del Zotto’s time in New York could be running out.
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Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
About midway through October we asked everyone to have some patience after we started the season less than stellar. As I say every year — wait till the 20 game mark before planning a parade, trade, or handing out pink slips. Not every organization follows this advice of course, but most good ones do.
As expected, the Rangers have now made the full transition from playing Tortorella’s 2-1-2 spread forechecking system to AV’s more overload style of play. There’s still a fair amount of similarities between the two coaches though, definitely more than most would care to admit.
The Rangers still collapse in the slot and block a ton of shots, rather than pressuring the points. AV is also not afraid to shorten his bench if guys aren’t going. The zone-start/player deployment strategy (after a whistle) is pretty similar. Both regime’s penalty killing strategies are nearly identical. Though to be fair, most of these philosophies are fairly common in the NHL.
Where things get interesting though is for the players who haven’t yet made the transition. Obviously everyone learns at their own pace, but at some point the org has to start wondering about certain players and their adaptability.
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