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Is Slavin’s Contract Skjei’s Ceiling?

In signing top defender Jaccob Slavin to a long-term contract, the Carolina Hurricanes has brought more clarity to the big picture surrounding Brady Skjei’s next deal. While we’ve pontificated about what it might cost to sign Skjei before, Slavin’s contract provides another valuable barometer; one that Rangers’ GM Jeff Gorton will certainly leverage when working to extend Skjei.

While Skjei’s point production was phenomenal last year (1.68 points per 60 minutes (pp/60), 10th among all defensemen and second among rookies), he hasn’t quite reached top-pair status. That means, assumedly, that Gorton will leverage Slavin’s contract as a ceiling, rather than a benchmark. Part of Skjei’s production stems from his favorable oZS of 58.8% and lack of a heavy defensive burden. It’s hard to compare him to Slavin when he played nearly six fewer minutes per game and wasn’t featured on the penalty kill, where the ‘Cane saw more than 3:00 per night.

Those with similar salaries and ages to Slavin—namely Hampus Lindholm and Rasmus Ristolainen—are also their team’s top defender. In that sense, they also represent a ceiling for Skjei’s next contract. That’s not a knock on Skjei, especially since he’s stuck behind Ryan McDonagh on the depth chart, but it does push his value more towards Shayne Gostisbehere, even if he’s a more well-rounded player.

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 Would Be Dumba Not To Do It

Jeff Gorton’s performance in the days leading up to the roster freeze before tonight’s expansion draft announcement was safe but, consequently, boring. A complete lack of action—or even substantial rumors—will do that. In the lack of action, however, there’s still a gaping hole on the Rangers’ first-pair next to captain Ryan McDonagh and this offseason will be a colossal failure if that’s not addressed.

As such, it’s hard to think that Gorton isn’t actively pursuing trades to upgrade the Rangers’ right-side defense. At this point, considering the fact that Anaheim has reportedly already lost Shea Theodore, the under-discussed Matt Dumba, the soon-to-be 23-year-old, could provide the Rangers an opportunity to upgrade the blueline. However, the price would be high.

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Tanev-er Gonna Give You Up

If Benning agrees that Lindberg can be a top-six guy (a role he took on for Sweden in the World Championships last month), or Raanta is a certified top goalie that Vancouver can hitch its hopes to, then a Tanev trade is easy, but both seem unlikely. Most likely, either of the two would have to be included in a deal as part of a larger package.

Evaluating the cost for Tanev is tricky because he has a very strong but limited skillset. He’s one of the league’s top shot suppressors but doesn’t have a great offensive resume*. Because of that, his value will certainly change from team to team and, most likely, the realistic cost for Tanev comes somewhere between the returns for Brendan Smith and Dougie Hamilton.

*It’s worth mentioning that, though Tanev doesn’t have a great offensive track record, he’s a good skater and strong with the first pass. That bodes really well for being productive in Alain Vigneault’s system. We saw glimpses of Brendan Smith, a comparable player, as an offensive presence despite limited minutes and adapting to a new system this past Spring.

As we know, the Rangers’ brass chose to give up second and third-round draft picks to acquire Smith from Detroit at the trade deadline. While that would be a price that New York would certainly be happy paying to Vancouver for Tanev, it’s probably wishful thinking as Tanev is an elite-level defensive player.

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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Buch Brings Balance to the Blueshirts

Luke Skywalker he is not, but just two games into his playoff career, rookie Pavel Buchnevich has already brought balance to the Rangers’ lineup and helped take down the Montreal empire. While the Tanner-Glass powered Rangers fell pray to the Habs’ embrace of the Dark Side, in games four and five, the Rangers were able to deploy a more balanced lineup. In turn, they were able to utilize their speed and skill advantage to earn back-to-back wins to take a 3-2 series lead.

Perhaps Buchnevich’s impact is best measured in the play of the fourth line. As Arthur Staple wrote, “Alain Vigneault called it a ‘subtle little move,’ putting rookie Pavel Buchnevich in the Game 4 lineup and shifting Michael Grabner to the wing on the presumptive fourth line in place of Tanner Glass. What it allowed the Rangers to do was roll four lines pretty evenly throughout the 2-1 win Tuesday night at the Garden, and that speedy Grabner-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast trio was effective once again.

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NYR 2, MTL 1 - Rangers Respond, Overcome MSG Woes

“We’re confident that we’re going to play the right way.”

While not as brash as Mark Messier’s guarantee in 1994, the Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh, expressed confidence in his team on Tuesday before game four against Montreal. Needing a win to get the Madison Square Garden monkey off of their back, the Blueshirts responded with their best effort of the series to earn a 2-1 win and tie the series at two wins apiece.

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NYR 2, MTL 0 - King Henrik Shines as Rangers Take Series Lead

Henrik Lundqvist was serenaded with sarcastic “Hen-rik” chants in the Bell Centre, where he’s struggled in his career, to start the Rangers’ playoff run, but on Wednesday night, the chants did nothing to get the King off of his throne. He was sparkling, making 31 saves en route to a 2-0 win in the series opener. Thumper Tanner Glass’ surprising’ first-period goal, ended up as the game-winner.

The odds on Glass scoring the first goal of the playoffs for the Rangers were probably pretty slim, so drinks are on you if you placed that bet. Glass’ second-career playoff goal gave the Rangers the lead in a first period in which they were outshot 16-5. His line, with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast, was excellent all night.

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New Faces Can be Rangers’ X Factors

For the underdog Rangers to beat the Canadiens and make a serious run at the Stanley Cup, they’ll need peak performances throughout the lineup. While we know that the Henrik Lundqvist vs. Carey Price battle will have a say in the opening series, the Blueshirts will need elevated performances throughout their lineup.

In 2013-14, we saw Martin St. Louis, who scored three goals in five games, provide a spark when New York topped Montreal en route to the Cup Final.

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Playoff Audition for Taylor Beck?

With great production in the AHL, 25-year-old Taylor Beck has been chomping at the bit to make his return to the NHL. As announced earlier today, he’s getting his chance. OFFICIAL: #NYR have recalled forward Taylor Beck from @WolfPackAHL. — New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 7, 2017 Conventional wisdom would say that this is a […]