Scott Hartnell by Rich Lee
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The Case for Scott Hartnell

This summer’s Unrestricted Free Agent class is widely considered to be one of the weakest crops in years, but late Thursday afternoon, an interesting name was officially added to it thanks to a late buyout — Scott Hartnell. Hartnell’s now ex-team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, formally announced they would be buying out the final two […]

Anders Nilsson by Sarah Gansky
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Anders Nilsson: A Shestyorkin Case Study?

“He’s been excellent whether he’s been playing or he’s not been playing,” Bylsma said of Nilsson. “He’s been ready to play well every time he’s stepped in there.”

Raanta and Talbot both thrived in the limited role and showed the ability to carry the load should Lundqvist be out for an extended period. Nilsson has shown as least the propensity for the first half of the role and if his KHL performance in 2014-15 is any showcase of NHL ability, he can perform in a longer term as well.

Of course, what should also make Nilsson attractive to the New York brass is that he should come relatively cheap. Last season, in Buffalo, Nilsson earned $1 million even. Since nobody is going to be giving him starter money, considering his inconsistencies in the NHL, a moderate raise should be appropriate. Mike Condon just signed a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.4 million, but that’s probably on the high end for Nilsson while Raanta’s previous two-year, $2 million dollar deal seems a bit low. There are a number of backup goalies (Budaj, Montoya, Hutchinson, Khudobin, and Hammond) who all fall between $1 million and $1.5 million, and that’s a safe bet for Nilsson. Something like two years and $2.70 million should be the sweet spot.

The most fascinating aspect of a potential Nilsson signing is that he provides a template to set fair expectations for prospect Igor Shestyorkin, the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 2014. Though when Shestyorkin will make the jump from the KHL to the NHL is anybody’s guess, it’s even harder to say how well KHL success as a goalie translates to the NHL. Generally speaking, the elite KHL goalies are guys who have made their careers in Europe or Russia and rarely are legitimate NHL prospects amongst the best.

Dating back to the 2008-09 season, just two goalies who have spent significant time in the NHL—Semyon Varlamov and Kari Ramo—have finished in the top-five in save percentage in the KHL. Not even Sergei Bobrovsky did it, though he did have sixth- and seventh-place finishes.

While it’s hard to define Nilsson’s limited NHL experience as “significant” to date, he posted a .936 save percentage to finish third amongst all KHL goalies in the 2014-2015 season. Last year, Shestyorkin finished fourth with a .937 save percentage. The parallels there are striking, even if the two goalies’ styles are vastly different, and it’s interesting to think that part of the appeal to Nilsson is that he can help Gorton and Allaire better understand how to measure Shestyorkin’s KHL production and sustain his growth.

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Rangers Round Table: Gorton’s Plans for the Summer of ‘17

This Rangers Round Table Slack Chat was our first attempt at adding a conversational approach to some of the impending issues facing the Rangers and Jeff Gorton as free agency approaches.

Below is a clip from that conversation:

Dave: As we know, teams are already talking to Unrestricted Free Agents. July 1st is creeping up quickly. What thoughts do we have on free agency for help at center, defense and a backup goalie? Ray, you want to take this?

Ray: Yeah. I just want to rain on Phil’s parade and say absolutely, positively stay away from Joe Thornton. He’s coming off a torn ACL and MCL and the worst [statistical] season of his career since the 1999-2000 season. Plus he’s looking for 3 years? HELL NO. Give me Nick Bonino.

Dave: Phil, are you going to take that?

Andrew: Have to agree with Ray on Thornton. I think you get more Marty St. Louis in Thornton than anything else, but not good Marty. We’re looking at a guy who had a stark drop in points and then suffered a big injury. St. Louis didn’t even suffer such a setback. I’d stay away.

Phil: Thornton is an ideal stop gap solution. Not a long-term one. Not even I want to give him three years.

Mike: Three years is probably too much for Thornton, but as a 2c/3c who can get offensive zone starts and play the power play, I think he can still be really productive.

Ray: How is he ideal? I think he’s far from ideal, especially for the Rangers’ up-tempo game.

Mike: His hands and vision will still be there, and favorable starts helps mitigate the skating.

Phil: He’s still a top-six center in this league, and all indications are that he’s expected to make a full recovery from the injury. A one- or two-year deal with an AAV of around $5.5M isn’t going to break anyone’s back IMO.

Also discussed during the chat were Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers’ performance at the Entry Draft, the impact of the Stepan trade, and more.

Feel free to read through and respond to any of the topics at hand.

Joe Thornton by Sarah A.
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Jumbo Solutions to Fill Stepan's Shoes

“If not Thornton, perhaps the Rangers look to another player they’ve been linked to for years in 30-year old Czech center, Martin Hanzal. Hanzal has been remarkably consistent playing for a slew of especially poor Arizona Coyotes clubs over the last five years. Since 2013-14, he’s posted a P/GP pace of at least 0.62 in three straight years. Though Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold publicly regretted GM Chuck Fletcher’s decision to bring Hanzal in at the deadline given the heavy cost it came at, Hanzal paid immediate dividends posting 13 points in 20 regular season games and one point in five playoff games.

Like Stepan, Hanzal isn’t particularly gifted offensively. Though he finds his points just fine, he’s not the type to wow you in games through blazing speed (he doesn’t have it) or exceptional offensive flare. Also like Stepan, Hanzal is as defensively responsible as they come. He’s an ace-in-the-hole at the dot and boasts some of the NHL’s best faceoff winning percentages of the last five seasons.

Among centers who played in at least 60 games last season, Hanzal was ninth in the league with a 56.4% face-off winning percentage (FOW%), and he’s second only to Boyd Gordon (57.9) over the last five years with an average FOW% of 56.1. Given face-offs were a particular weakness, at least perceived, for Stepan, this specific facet of Hanzal’s game would likely interest the Rangers should they choose to pursue him.”

New York Rangers by Karan Bawa
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Rebuilding on the Fly Means the End of an Era

“In an on-air interview during day one of the two-day NHL Entry Draft, New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton let slip, perhaps intentionally, that his Blueshirts are officially “rebuilding on the fly”. This “slip of the tongue” occurred just minutes after TSN’s Bob McKenzie uttered the same words following the Rangers selection of Lias Andersson with the 7th overall pick — a pick that they’d acquired from the Arizona Coyotes along with defenseman Anthony Deangelo early Friday afternoon in exchange for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. If those words haven’t been ringing loudly in your head since surely you’ve missed their significance as signaling the end of an era. An era of wildly successful yet Championship-less hockey, that saw Broadway’s Blueshirts advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in twenty years amidst two other Eastern Conference Final appearances over the last six years.

While it’s not quite the promise of a full rebuild—something that generally entails a firesale of nearly every valuable veteran player for future assets, as well as at least one full season of tanking for a lottery pick—an “on the fly” version still promises significant overhaul. That process began when the Rangers bought out the contract of long-time defenseman Dan Girardi, and it continues in the aftermath of dealing Stepan to the West.

Though the lack of a championship will no doubt mar the optics of just how successful this collection of players was, the fact remains they are one of the winningest teams in the NHL in the postseason in the last seven years. That’s not an arbitrary range, either. It precisely overlaps a span of time in which Stepan, from his rookie season, and Girardi, from his fifth NHL season, overlap as New York Rangers.”