There is a lot of interested in trading for Ryan Kesler, and for good reason. Kesler is a top line center who is usually good for about 60 points per season when he isn’t hurt. He plays a solid two-way, three-zone game, and would give the Rangers a lot of options in their top-six. In a vacuum, dealing for Kesler is a very shrewd move that would cement the Rangers place as a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
The problem is the cost. The Canucks are rumored to want a “young center that is 20-25 years old, a top prospect, and a third round pick.” You can’t blame them for wanting this much, as Kesler is locked up for another two seasons at $5 million per year. For the Rangers, that would mean dealing Derek Stepan, a top forward prospect (Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast), and the pick.
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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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A little over a week ago, one of my go-to publications, InGoal Magazine, released an interesting article, entitled GSAA: An Essential Statistic for Evaluating Goaltenders, touting a new advanced metric for analyzing goaltending, called GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average). The author, Greg Balloch, does a nice job of breaking down the specific methodology that goes into determining how many goals a goaltender saves above the league-average. Here is Greg’s explanation of the mechanics from the article:
You take the league’s average save percentage and apply it to the amount of shots a particular goalie has faced. You get a number of goals that the average goalie in that league would have surrendered if they faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question. That number gets compared to the number of goals surrendered by that goaltender, and a plus/minus is created. If a goalie is in the positive, that is how many goals they have saved compared to a league-average goalie. If they are in the negative, then it is safe to assume that they are performing worse than how a league-average goaltender would perform in the same situation.
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I still can’t get used to Alain Vigneault’s steady line combinations after four years of John Tortorella’s incessant juggling, but Vigneault has stuck with the same combinations for quite some time now. It’s worth nothing that the Rangers finally turned a corner this season thanks in no small part to the team’s balance and chemistry up front. Mats Zuccarello has been the team’s best forward so far this season and a key cog in Vigneault’s formula, but with him lost for likely another week or two (not to mention the upcoming trade deadline), Vigneault will be forced to rejigger his preferred trios.
Throw in the fact that winger Derek Dorsett is ready to return from a broken fibula and 20-year-old J.T. Miller, who has been dominant in the AHL, was recalled last night, and it’s tough to predict what Vigneault will end up with. It’s probably most likely that Vigneault will be forced to try several different new looks – which might not be settled by the trade deadline in three games, throwing us back to square one.
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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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This year’s Olympic competition sports a pool of goaltenders amongst the strongest we have seen since the NHL began participating in the games. The United States and Finland are especially deep, each with three goaltenders that could easily start for most nations. Although the tournament has already gotten underway, and we have seen some solid (Lundqvist, Hiller) performances and some sketchy (Rask, Halak) ones, let’s take a look at what each county’s best stopper has to offer. I realize there are going to be some changes made between the pipes as the tournament goes along and most teams have several starting caliber tendys, but I’m going to break down the ones who should be starting based on ability level and previous performance.
United States- Jonathan Quick
Why not start with the Red, White and Blue? Despite this being a Rangers’ blog, I have committed a significant amount of digital ink to the King’s world class netminder. Ryan Miller was dynamite in 2010 and deserves some ice in Sochi, but this is Quick’s team. The Americans will only go as far as he can carry them, and judging from some of his playoff performances, that could include the podium to accept the gold medal. His athleticism in this tournament is rivaled only by (ironically enough) the two Russian netminders. However, his technical skills, vision and positioning are lightyears ahead of the hosts. Read more »
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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Any excuse to show the Pinstripe pads.
Despite being Ben Scrivens’d (again) last night, the Rangers have been on quite a roll for past six weeks or so. Most will point to the terrible 5-3 loss to the Islanders on December 20th as the game that proved to be a turning point for the season. At that time, the Rangers were struggling to break .500, playing downright terrible defense, and saw fans calling for AV’s head. But most vexing was the play of Henrik Lundqvist.
Since that dark time, the Rangers have played much better hockey. The team went on 15-6-1 stretch of dominance, the system seems to have sunk in for the players in a meaningful way and the play of their King greatly improved. During the beginning of the season, we were all left scratching our heads at how the Henrik could look so mortal after another Vezina nominated (half) season. Some pointed to the new equipment restrictions, I was curious about his new super-lightweight Bauer pads, but he seems to have put it all to rest.
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