Could Zuccarello’s arrival mean the end for Gaborik?
There’s a strong chance that after such an impressive performance against the Flyers (no matter how unimpressive the Flyers have been this year) that John Tortorella will stick with the line-up that pulled out the victory, and certainly the 5-2 win perhaps affords the coaching staff time with re-acquainting themselves with Mats Zuccarello. That said, when Zuccarello does eventually re-enter the line-up – and he will, why else bring him back? – his play will have a significant impact on the future of Marian Gaborik.
The Rangers have a young roster and enough moving parts that cap space isn’t a huge concern at the moment, even if it does need monitoring for next year. However, moving Gaborik or buying out Richards gives the Rangers much more maneuverability going forward. Therefore, a successful return by Zuccarello and/or an immediate impact by the also incoming Jesper Fast make Gaborik a luxury.
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Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
Though he was last year’s playoff hero, Chris Kreider got off to a tough start with the CT Whale during the NHL lockout, and his confidence was at an all-time low when he joined the Rangers for the start of the NHL season. Kreider had been asked to round out his game in the AHL and the learning process was more difficult than he may have expected. As a result, his offensive numbers took a nosedive.
Still, the Rangers saw just how valuable Kreider could be last spring and handed him a job to start the season despite his struggles. One highlight reel goal against Martin Brodeur notwithstanding, Kreider failed to generate much of anything offensively in third line duty, so the Blueshirts made the difficult decision to return Kreider to the Whale two weeks ago while keeping 20-year-old JT Miller with the big club. Read more »
A microcosm of Bickel’s last year in blue.
When Stu Bickel came to the Rangers as a midseason call up last season, he made a lasting impression on the team, the coaching staff, and the fans. He played with that edge that the Rangers lacked since Michael Sauer went down with his concussion. But, we started seeing some questionable aspects about his game, and it started affecting his ice time last season, specifically in the playoffs.
On the ice, Bickel has been nothing short of a disaster. His skating isn’t what Torts needs it to be (he looks like a pylon), he misses assignments (both on forward and on defense), and he contributes nothing offensively. A physical presence only gets you so much, and all this is evidenced in Bickel’s ice time. Bickel is lucky to get five minutes per game when playing defense, and luckier to get eight minutes per game while playing forward. Torts simply appears to have lost trust in Bickel. That is not a recipe for success.
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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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