The time has come where the Rangers need to make a decision on rookie J.T. Miller. Miller played his fifth game last night, and once he plays his sixth game, the first year of his entry-level deal will count. If the Rangers send him back to the AHL, and do not use him for a single NHL game for the rest of the year, including the playoffs, then his deal will slide once more. If his deal slides, then his initial ELC won’t expire until after the 2015-2016 season. If he plays one more game, it expires a year early.
With the new CBA, the salary cap is going to drop to $64.3 million next season, and likely drop again the season following. This puts additional strain on the Rangers, who have three key RFAs (Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh) this season. The added cost certainty of Miller’s ELC will go a long way to keeping the core pieces in blue.
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Kreider’s development into an offensive threat is needed… now
The Rangers have been up and down all season long and there has been absolutely no consistency from any unit, line, and from any one player. All that needs to change, but above all the Rangers need that much, much discussed issue of secondary offensive to be resolved quickly.
Chris Kreider’s shot that resulted in his goal against the Devils was a thing of beauty. Yes, perhaps Brodeur shouldn’t have been beaten from such an angle, but Kreider had almost nothing to aim at and still found a hole up high. It’s an example, isolated as it is so far this season, of Kreider’s undoubted ability.
The Rangers are suffering right now, without doubt. They are desperate for secondary scoring, desperate for Ryan Callahan to return, and getting pretty desperate for any kind of prolonged spark to ignite their season. It’s because of all these combined facts that Kreider’s development into a legitimate scoring option needs to happen quicker than ever.
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Taylor Pyatt has been the one exception to an almost universal rule
Countless factors go into individual player evaluations, but one quality continues to dictate how the Rangers construct their roster: speed.
It’s not exactly a new revelation, the altered NHL demands that players possess speed and skill as the league has phased out the plodding physical specimens that were impact players in the 1990s. But few franchises have put as strong an emphasis on skating ability as New York. Just look at three of the team’s most recent first-round picks: Chris Kreider, JT Miller and Brady Skjei. What do all have in common? Tremendous skating ability.
There’s simply no room on Broadway, especially under coach John Tortorella, for players that can’t outskate the opposition.
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Howard Simmons/New York Daily News
The Rangers have had a lot of issues at forward depth. It’s something we’ve discussed ad nauseam (here, here, here, here). Part of this issue is the roster makeup, there is no denying that. But that problem was only supposed to be limited to the fourth line of Arron Asham, Jeff Halpern, and Mike Rupp. The thought here was that one more quality depth player with speed would be able to balance out the lineup a little better. This was rectified a bit with the addition of Benn Ferriero.
Then injuries started to take its toll. Chris Kreider went down with an ankle injury, and Ryan Callahan went down with a shoulder injury less than a week later. These are two guys expected to play in the top six, which forces guys from the bottom six to move up a slot. This in turn leads to Stu Bickel playing forward, and the likes of Brandon Segal and Kris Newbury getting a game a piece.
But the issue goes deeper than this. The Rangers were assuming they would get top-six quality out of Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin. They have not gotten this from these two yet. This is also relevant for Kreider, but to a far lesser extent, especially since he started the season on the third line.
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Plenty more Nash celebrations as a Ranger to come
What do Theo Fleury, Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, Brendan Shanahan and even Jaromir Jagr all have in common? Despite varying levels of success as a Ranger, each of the aforementioned stars were acquired by the Rangers on the downside of their career.
In the case of Fleury and Lindros both players had productive spells as Rangers even if their spells in NY were classed as failures. Of course Jagr had a substantial impact on the Rangers, including perhaps the greatest scoring season in Ranger history. But even the great Jaromir Jagr came to the Rangers labeled as ‘damaged goods’ and past his Pittsburgh prime. Of course, Jagr managed to reclaim some of the shine from his career in New York. All this brings us to the Rangers’ newest superstar, Rick Nash.
As a player that brings the potential for so much more upon (and not before) his arrival in New York, Nash breaks the mold of these past superstar acquisitions. Brad Richards is also in this mold, but not as much so as Nash. This is a refreshing change for the Rangers and perhaps the greatest reason for optimism in the current squad.
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No, he’s no longer available. He’s a Ranger. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
In case you missed it yesterday, the Rangers signed Jason Arnott last night to a one year, $1.6 million contract. It was something that I talked about just that morning, so it’s rather funny that the Rangers inked him that day. Arnott, 38, spent last season with the St. Louis Blues, putting together a line of 17-17-34 and a +13 rating.
Arnott likely won’t be expected to play a scoring role with the Rangers, especially with Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Rick Nash in tow. Instead, Arnott will be relied upon to provide depth and stability to the bottom six forwards, something that has troubled the Rangers this season. For starters, Arnott will bring his 50.3% faceoff win percentage to a team winning face offs at a 46.6% clip.
Arnott will also bring that depth and stability mentioned above. For a while now, we’ve been discussing how the Rangers will not survive if their fourth line consists of Mike Rupp, Jeff Halpern, and Arron Asham. We talked about the need for a depth forward and about available free agents. Arnott’s presence will likely push one of them out of the lineup –barring injuries– and serve as a matchup forward.
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Why yes, Jason Arnott is still available. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Yesterday we discussed how the Rangers forward depth is clearing becoming an issue for the club. Before the season started, we had also discussed how the Rangers could definitely use a forward to help make that fourth line stronger. Keep in mind that the Rangers need bottom six help, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be fourth line help. The Rangers could look to add a third or even second liner –especially if the struggles of Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider continue– to push some of the current players down a slot.
Another signing might be crucial to give the Rangers that edge they need on the bottom six. A quality signing would also help the Rangers if and when injuries rear their ugly head. There are still quite a few free agents that are available, and the Rangers have some cap room to give for a one-year deal. But of those available, only a few really pique my interest:
Sykora played with the Devils last year after earning a roster spot in training camp. The 36-year-old winger showed that he still has it, putting up a nice season that included 21 goals and 44 points. He also played to the tune of a 9.1 GVT (3.0 PVT), and his peripherals (.032 QOC, 7.6 RCorsi, 49.3% Ozone Start) are fairly solid. It’s actually surprising that Sykora is still available.
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Over the past few weeks, we’ve focused primarily on the Rangers need for a bottom pairing defenseman. We’ve discussed how the Rangers could use a depth forward as well (here and here), but it wasn’t until tonight that it became evident that Torts doesn’t necessarily trust his bottom lines. At one point in the second period, Torts ran a 1-2-1-2-3-1-2-4 rotation with his lines. Considering the majority of the top six play the powerplay and/or the penalty kill, this leads to a lot of ice time and tired legs.
Torts needs a bottom six he can trust so that his best players don’t get burned out for the postseason. It’s clear that Torts doesn’t trust Kris Newbury –although he might be a temporary player while Kreider grows– and Jeff Halpern. Halpern will be better, but the Rangers won’t be able to survive with a fourth line of Halpern, Mike Rupp, and Arron Asham. When looking at the way Torts uses his players, a line of two enforcers and a face off specialist won’t see much time.
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Gaborik goes to the net, something that’s he does more and more as a Ranger
This isn’t just about Marian Gaborik breaking out in the biggest of big ways with the hat trick against Boston last night. This is about his overall performance. Throughout the game Gaborik went to the net looking for chances, for scraps, and for rebounds. He wasn’t afraid to control the puck along the boards and he was clearly quick on his skates, as we’ve become accustomed to. It also wasn’t about his finishing ability, which we all know he is at a supremely high level. Well, it was about all of that, but most of all it was about his ability to take a pounding, get back up and be willing to take it again.
Throughout the Rangers 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins, Gaborik got a physical manhandling. This came mostly from his countryman, the towering Zdeno Chara. Anyone that knows anything about hockey knows when Chara hits you, you feel it. Gaborik took what Chara had and still had plenty left in the tank to win the game for the Rangers. He fought through checks all game, including the game winning play.
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Rob Carr/Getty Images
The day we have been waiting for has arrived. The NHL season has arrived four months late, but it has arrived nonetheless. The Rangers are in Boston to take on the Bruins tonight, and the projected lines have been set by John Tortorella and his coaching staff:
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Marian Gaborik-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Chris Kreider-Brian Boyle-Taylor Pyatt
Mike Rupp-Jeff Halpern-Brandon Segal
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Stu Bickel
As we spoke about yesterday, the organization moved Gaborik to the left side for a number of reasons. This move really opens up the Rangers offensively, as for the first time in a long time, they have solid primary scoring, solid secondary scoring, and solid tertiary scoring. The defensive pairings should look incredibly familiar, as they are the same pairings from last year.
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