Alex Petrovic by Bridget Samuels
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Exploiting Vulnerable D

I explained back before the trade deadline that the Rangers would be wise to look at a forward-for-defenseman trade prior to Vegas’ expansion draft because it would kill two birds with one stone. Their blue line is in disrepair, with arguably the entire right side of the defense group in need of an overhaul and they have too many forwards to protect. This combination of problems is rather easily remedied, however, should the Rangers simply opt for a trade with a team with the opposite problem. I used Anaheim as an example, twice arguing—once for Nash and once for Miller—that their especially deep blue line was ripe for the picking. It still is. But so, too, are the defense groups of the Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators.

Should things reach an impasse in SoCal, turning to any of these three clubs could still provide the Rangers with a strategic partner as a means to solve one another’s expansion composition problems.

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Everyone Needs a Subban

Subban undoubtedly has the talent to be successful but has yet to put it into full practice. This is where the Rangers could benefit. Over the last decade, the Rangers have done some great work with goaltenders as a result of the efforts of coach Benoit Allaire. Allaire, who oversees both goaltending for the Rangers and their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack, has helped goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist, Chad Johnson, Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta to see success at the NHL level. Johnson and Talbot both came to work under Allaire at age 23 after several years playing at the NCAA level, so it might not be too late for Subban to study under the goaltending guru. Simple changes to his approach, which Allaire has become an expert in spotting, could help the Toronto native re-invent himself under the bright lights of Broadway.

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Value Pack: Four Players Rangers Should Target In Draft

After what has seemed like an eternity the New York Rangers actually have a first-round draft pick this summer! With about a month to go until the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, there are some important decisions to be made. Among them, who do the Rangers eye as their selection with the 21st pick? There are plenty of options to choose from and while this may not be the strongest draft in years it still has its benefits. The great uncertainty surrounding this draft has led to various risers and fallers and that should continue up until draft day. That should allow for some talented players to fall within range of the Rangers’ pick if not directly to them.

With a barren prospect pool, the Blueshirts should be applying a best player available approach in order to restock the currently empty cupboards. Recent acquisitions such as the signings of Neal Pionk and other UDFAs (Undrafted Free Agents) have helped in that regard, but nothing compares to first-round talent. Among some of the talented players that can fall within reach for the Rangers are Timothy Liljegren, Eeli Tolvanen, Kailer Yamamoto, and Erik Brännström.

Chris Drury by Bridget Samuels
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Time Chrisis: Drury on the Fast Track

Anyone with a pulse on the Wolfpack this season probably wasn’t surprised by the news given the especially poor result of the season. However, Drury’s promotion, specifically, was surprising given how quickly he’s been climbing the rungs of the Rangers’ management ladder. Frankly, I’m hard pressed to name a faster-rising star among the front office ranks of the NHL. For all the praise heaped on up-and-comers and soon to be’s like Mike Futa, Kyle Dubas, Paul Fenton, Claude Loiselle, and Julien BriseBois, Drury’s rise has been meteoric by comparison.

Drury retired, as a Ranger, from the NHL after 12 seasons in August of 2011 after accepting a buyout of the final year of his contract. It was an unceremonious ending for a heart-and-soul player who was also the Rangers’ captain. However, in just three short years since being hired to the Rangers front office, beginning in September of 2015, he’s gone from being named Director of Player Development, to Assistant General Manager of the New York Rangers, to General Manager of the Hartford Wolfpack (while retaining his AGM title with the Rangers). Those aren’t just significant leaps. They’re significant leaps made within a very short length of time.

His successive promotions give a clear indication not only of his value to the Rangers, but his value to the league, especially when you consider the permission request to interview him regarding the then open GM position in Buffalo was blocked by the Blueshirts a month ago. He certainly appears poised and on the fast track to an NHL General Manager’s position. The question is, will it be with the Rangers?

Kevin Shattenkirk by Bridget Samuels
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The Case Against Kevin $hattenkirk

Making this type of free agent splash almost certainly means a buyout of Marc Staal and/or Dan Girardi, but the ripple effect goes beyond the two veterans. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Jeff Gorton spends big on Shattenkirk and then shells out another $4 million or so for Brendan Smith. If that’s the case, then we’re all but guaranteed one of Nick Holden, Marc Staal, or Dan Girardi spending another year in the top four. Perhaps a new face, namely Ryan Graves, Neal Pionk, or Alexei Bereglazov can cement a spot, but that’s likely wishful thinking at this point as only Graves has ever played professional hockey in North America.

The pure cost and trickle-down effect in the lineup make a Shattenkirk contract a tough sell. That’s compounded by the fact that, despite all he does well, he’s never been a top-pairing shutdown defenseman and doesn’t have the skins on the wall to warrant such a promotion in New York.

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That Raanta is So Hot Right Now

The Flames aren’t especially pressured by Vegas expansion, but they do need a goaltender to protect as their starter, with both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson being UFAs this summer. Raanta and his especially easy to digest $1M AAV for next season would be an ideal financial scenario for a Flames team with nearly $30M tied up in six forwards (Gaudreau, Monahan, Brouwer, Frolic, Backlund, Stajan) and another $20M-plus in four defensemen (Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, Engelland) next season. Like was the case with Talbot and the Oilers, too, acquiring Raanta with a year left on his contract would give them the added benefit of taking him for a test drive as a starter for the first time in his career before committing to a long-term extension. This is an advantage they simply wouldn’t have should they wait to see if he makes it to Unrestricted Free Agency in the summer of 2018.

Perhaps the Rangers might try to take another run at Dougie Hamilton, who found his name churning through the rumor mill last season, who would no doubt compliment Ryan McDonagh’s flank like nothing he’s experienced thus far through his Rangers career. Raanta won’t accomplish that feat alone, but it’s possible he could be a feature in a larger package to bring the Toronto native to New York City. I’m sure the Flames would have plenty of interest in acquiring Kevin Hayes as a means to reunite him with his Boston College running mate, Johnny Gaudreau. The two are currently playing together again for Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship games giving Flames’ GM Brad Treliving an idea of the kind of chemistry the two forwards share.

Josh Manson by Bridget Samuels
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Back to Front, Gorton Must Fix Blue Line From Strength

The Ducks are embroiled in a heated playoff series that will conclude in tonight’s game seven match with the up-and-coming Oilers, but the optics of the trade shouldn’t change regardless of the outcome. The Ducks still face the same protection configuration issue, as do the Rangers, which makes them ideal trading partners to solve one another’s problems.

Anaheim, however, like the Rangers, are a cap team with a lot of money locked up in their core of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Cam Fowler. Trying to pull a deal off that sends someone like Nash, who I originally suggested, in exchange for Vatanen may not be all that palatable an idea from their perspective. Instead, perhaps a swap of younger players is in order. My suggestion – 24-year old J.T. Miller for one of Josh Manson (25) or Brandon Montour (23).

The framework behind this is the same as it was back when I first wrote about it in February. Miller, who was second in team scoring with 56 points in 82 games, should prove valuable to the Ducks desire to add scoring to their top-six, while one of Montour or Manson, both of whom are right-handed, would immediately improve the right side of the Rangers’ blue line. The difference here is Miller will be entering the second year of a two-year bridge deal worth $2.75M per season, and Manson and Montour each have one year remaining on their entry-level contracts and make less than $1M against the cap currently.

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What if the Rangers Buyout Both Girardi and Staal?

It is time for the Rangers to get proactive. And the best they can do now is swallow the hard pill, in buying out both Staal and Girardi prior to this summer’s Expansion Draft.

No doubt it’s a lot of dead cap space to carry, but perhaps with the defensive prospects they now have thanks to some savvy work by Rangers GM Jeff Gorton on the young free agent market, he’s created the perfect time to rip the band aid right off.