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.”

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Rangers Go Over-Age in Rounds 2-7

“After making two reach selections in the first round with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, the Rangers continued their string of odd choices by first moving back in the fourth round from pick 102 to acquire the 123rd and 174th picks from San Jose.

With that, the Rangers made their first selection of Day Two with Brandon Crawley of the OHL’s London Knights. The Glen Rock, New Jersey native was a strange selection for the fourth round given that this was his third time eligible for the draft. He brings grit and a heavy slapshot but offers little in the way of offense. His skating should be of moderate concern as he goes on to play at higher levels. If anything, Crawley was a huge reach by the Rangers to try and add a large defenseman that doesn’t really fit the current NHL.

Following Crawley, the Rangers selected yet another defenseman, this time from Division I in Sweden. Calle Själin, the 145th pick, is a puck-moving defenseman who spent most of 2016-17 with his local club, Östersunds IK. He’s a smart player who knows how to consistently distribute the puck well. He doesn’t offer any type of flash to his game and would benefit from adjusting his game to use his size to his advantage. Själin might find his way to the NHL if he can bring more of a two-way game and take his skating to another level.”

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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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NHLPA, Buyout Window and Klein to Define Rangers' Off Season

It is every hockey fan’s favorite time of year…

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OK, OK, hockey playing time is over and hockey management time is upon us. While each member of the Pittsburgh Penguins is now planning their “day with the Cup” (Barf.gif), General Managers and their supporting staff are crunching numbers, reviewing contracts and making contingencies based on where the upper, and for some poor teams’ fans, the lower limits of the 2017/18 Salary Cap will level off.

Leveled off is precisely where the Salary Cap will sit if the NHL Players’ Association decides not to invoke a rule called the “escalator” which artificially inflates the cap ceiling up to five percent higher than the players’ 50% share of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) dictates. That even split of HRR would keep the cap at right around $73M per team according to league estimates, the number it was at last season. In 2016/17 the NHLPA did decide to use that escalator, or else the cap that year would have been just under $70M per team.

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Report: Kevin Klein to Valhalla

Beyond the points and the boon his goal-scoring brought to a mostly immobile back end, Klein was a reliable physical presence who had no fear of dropping his gloves in defense of a teammate, nor paying a price to remain strong on the puck in either end of the ice. He was one of only a handful of Rangers players who’s physicality didn’t come at the direct expense of playing competent hockey.

The NHL is still very much in the process of modernizing, exiting an era often highlighted by line brawls and fights. That process undoubtedly points to an inevitable event horizon where, perhaps one day we’ll only know a league in which fights simply do not occur. Safety concerns in light of concussion protocol and the potentially disastrous effects of diseases like Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) effectively demand it, but until that day, fans like me will always appreciate the NHL’s great warriors who are more than willing to sacrifice their own well-being in the name of team success, honor, and camaraderie.

In the meantime, if Klein is intent on continuing his career in Europe, might we suggest Ireland? It’s where Vikings is filmed, and let’s be honest—we all know he’s due for a post-hockey career cameo.

Shayne Gostisbehere by Sarah A
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I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost Contract

Neither the term nor the $4.5M AAV should be terribly surprising for a National Hockey League management landscape that is largely adopting the progressive philosophy of awarding young, blossoming talents with long-term contracts in exchange for a team-friendly AAV. Ghost’s extension was announced a little over a month after the Toronto Maple Leafs signed 25-year old defenseman Nikita Zaitsev to a nearly identical contract ($4.5M x 7). As the ink dries, both men will be joining a class of burgeoning rookie blueliners who share much of the same physical traits on the ice, as well as one off it—the forward-looking agreement between front office and player to sidestep a bridge contract. That group is already home to the likes of Hampus Lindholm, Rasmus Ristolainen, Connor Murphy, Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones, and Oscar Klefbom among others. Not only will Zaitsev and Ghost both join their rank, but so too, hopefully, will Brady Skjei. Perhaps as early as next season.

While there’s technically nothing stopping the Blueshirts from inking Skjei to an extension today (he was eligible to re-sign with the team as of January 1st, 2017), it’s likely they’ll hold off on pulling the trigger just yet as they’re under no real pressure to do so. They could even—though it would be foolish to do so—ride out the entirety of next season before opening negotiations. The risk to that, however, is if Skjei dramatically improves on his rookie campaign, Ghost’s contract will shift from comparable baseline to bare minimum requirement. This is also directly related to why they’d be just as unwise to offer him a bridge deal instead of buying what stand to be his most productive years sooner rather than later. A one- or two-year deal with a mid-range salary of say $2.5M (like they just re-signed Miller to) would grant them a couple seasons of great point-per-dollar value. That value would be fleeting, though, and would cost them much more against the cap in the future when they then had to broach his third contract at the age of 25 or 26. A contract that would inarguably come with an even higher sticker price as even more UFA-eligible years would need to be purchased in the process.