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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AP Photo/Matt Slocum
For those that remember last year’s “epic fail” series between the Flyers and the Penguins last year, recall the aftermath of the Game Three bloodbath. Arron Asham was suspended for four games following his intent to injure Brayden Schenn. The Penguins played three more games that series, before bowing out to the Flyers in six. That leaves one game remaining on Asham’s suspension.
This means that Asham will actually need to serve the final game of his suspension on Saturday while the Rangers are in Boston. This leaves the Rangers with a hole to fill on the fourth line for one game.
I reached out to Jim Cerny, who kindly responded that the Rangers will likely deploy Stu Bickel at forward for that game. This was on Monday, about 24 hours before the Rangers placed eight players on waivers.
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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
With the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding yesterday the NHL lockout officially ended, and teams are now free to pursue business as usual. Teams are now finally allowed to sign free agents (restricted or unrestricted), make trades, make call ups, and perform other duties required for the start of the season.
For Glen Sather and the Rangers, there isn’t much to do to get this team ready for the season. Their top 12 forwards are already set, as are their top six defensemen and two goaltenders. That said, there are a few moves we can expect the Rangers to make in the coming days, some obvious, some not so obvious. Let’s get into the moves we should expect the Rangers to announce
1. Sign Michael Del Zotto
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Can Thomas Jr follow his father in to the NHL? Time is ticking.
It may seem incredibly harsh to suggest Christian Thomas’ time as a legitimate prospect is expiring. However such is the media scrutiny on each individual performance, the impatience of fans and media alike, not to mention the enviable depth the Rangers enjoy that it’s a very real possibility that Christian Thomas is running out of time to make it at the NHL level with the Rangers.
Thomas has been eagerly anticipated by Rangers fans. He was considered a potential cure-all for a club that struggled to score goals; anticipated especially given his blood lines (an overrated obsession in North American sports) and his OHL junior career that was littered with impressive goal scoring seasons. Something however, happened a long the way. Whether it was the drafting of guys such as JT Miller or the accelerated development of Chris Kreider, Thomas has been a little forgotten about. It hasn’t helped him that the Rangers have continued to unearth prospects such as Marek Hrivik and Kyle Jean.
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