Latest posts by Andrew Keenan (see all)
It’s been a quiet off-season for the New York Rangers since they signed Kevin Shattenkirk on July 1st. Despite the recent re-signing of Mika Zibanejad to a five-year extension, there’s been relative radio silence from the team. That, however, is likely to change thanks to a second July 1st of sorts on August 15th when several college hockey players are slated to become unrestricted free agents. Among them: Will Butcher, Alex Kerfoot, and Dominic Toninato.
Butcher, 22, is undeniably the grand prize of the August 15th sweepstakes and for all the right reasons. The recipient of the Hobey Baker Award for the NCAA’s top player, the young defenseman was a key piece in the University of Denver’s NCAA Championship winning season. Originally a fifth-round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Butcher has been a productive defenseman at the NCAA level with 69 points in 82 games through his junior and senior years. It should come as no surprise if every team comes knocking at the strong skating defenseman’s door. He’s a cerebral player and his ability to skate is a major commodity in the current NHL climate.
If the Rangers were to sign Butcher it would be an absolute steal, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll choose to sign with a team that has spent an offseason loading up on players of a similar type. With the additions of offensive defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Anthony DeAngelo, Neal Pionk and Vince Pedrie, the young defenseman would find himself a redundant piece. In addition, he’d also find himself competing for a spot on a left side that already has Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei, Marc Staal and Alexei Bereglazov. Given the Blueshirts’ current depth, it’s highly unlikely Butcher signs with New York though there’s no harm in the Rangers extending an offer his way regardless.
Instead, the Rangers should be setting their sights on the two center options that will become available in Alex Kerfoot and Dominic Toninato. After losing Oscar Lindberg to Vegas via expansion and trading Derek Stepan to Arizona, the Blueshirts are without the center depth they boasted just a year ago. Now they have Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes likely stepping up into higher roles in the top six while the bottom two pivot positions remain questionable. The addition of David Desharnais might work to fill in a fourth line spot and some speculate that a Ranger prospect like Boo Nieves or Lias Andersson could also be in contention for the final opening, but there really is no definitive answer to the Rangers center issue.
Enter Alex Kerfoot. Originally a fifth-round selection by the New Jersey Devils in 2012, Kerfoot has spent the last four seasons at Harvard University. His time with the Crimson has been defined by productivity with point-per-game seasons in three out of his four years played. In his most recent season in which he served as team captain—replacing none other than former Crimson, Jimmy Vesey—he posted career highs in goals and points with 16 and 45 respectively. Despite his very strong production and skill set, however, Kerfoot doesn’t project to be more than a strong bottom-six player in the NHL. Nonetheless, the Rangers shouldn’t pass up on an opportunity to once again add a quality young player for free.
Unlike the situation they face with Butcher, the Rangers actually offer quite a bit in terms of being an appealing suitor for the Harvard forward. Specifically, the aforementioned center openings in the bottom-six. Kerfoot will likely be looking to get ice time immediately and the Rangers can offer just that and quite a bit of it. If he’s unsure of whether or not he’ll actually receive that time, he can look no further than the treatment of former college Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey who both saw immediate action after signing. In addition, going to New York means a reunion with former linemate Jimmy Vesey. The two were productive alongside each other in Harvard and slotting Kerfoot into the third line center spot would likely result in Vesey joining him on the wing. Given the Rangers usage of Kevin Hayes to lure Jimmy Vesey to New York, it’s likely they will, in turn, use the Harvard connection to try and win over yet another college UFA.
The lesser known center available is Dominic Toninato, a selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2012. While he doesn’t boast Kerfoot’s productivity, Toninato produced a respectable 29 points in 42 games in the 2016-17 season in which he captained University of Minnesota-Duluth to the NCAA Finals in which they lost to Butcher’s Denver club. The most recent winner of the NCHC Best Defensive Forward Award, he’d likely be considered to fill in for the defensive responsibilities of lost in expansion Oscar Lindberg and injured Jesper Fast.
The Rangers don’t have NHL players close to Toninato with whom they can use to entice him, but Neal Pionk, who signed in May, was a teammate of his at Minnesota-Duluth, as was Hartford Wolf Pack signing Brendan Kotyk. Familiar faces and the potential to compete for a roster spot could work to sway Toninato just as it would Kerfoot.
History has shown that the Rangers can use August 15th to help back-fill their prospect cupboards and with a gaping hole at center and two viable candidates, both with some connections to the team, this off-season shouldn’t be any different.
I'm hoping they trade for Duchene, or get in on the Tavares sweepstakes. Pretty sure they could fit him under the cap if they move a player or two.Getting back on topic, Sportsnet has Kerfoot meeting with the Canucks. He's from Vancouver and is a Canucks fan so make sense, and the other name is the Rangers due to the obvious Vesey connection and lack of centers.
Eklund has the Bruins and Preds to, but I don't think anyone on here views him as a credible source.
Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk@MikeChambers: #Avs sign free agent F Dominic Toninato from Minn-Duluth. Can't sign Will Butcher, national champion, but get one from runnerup Bulldogs
I don't get this wasting money arugment from you either. Where is the money being wasted? The Rangers have around $3 million of cap space with Holden on the roster. Remove him and you add another $1.65M. Signing someone like Kerfoot or Toninanto costs you $925K. Not even a million. What's this penny pinching that you're doing? If they're not good enough you just send them down to the AHL to develop more.
The Rangers need top end talent but they also need role players. Right now they're sparse on those especially at center. If you can add a young player who can take on a third line position for almost nothing, you don't take it because he might not be more? Why? This is a cap league.
If you're sacrifcing this season to bank on Tavares then you're making a terrible move. The Rangers have Vesey, Hayes, Skjei and Miller all expiring in the summer. Good luck fitting Tavares in when plenty of teams can outbid you pretty easily.If these kids were in our prospect pool we would be raving about them (arguably), yet some are not happy to sign them as FA's?
Our prospects are relatively weak, and we have the option to sign a prospect that could make it as an NHL player (which many draft picks don't), so why wouldn't you sign him? For free.
I get we only have 50 contracts and you want veteran signings, but we are 'rebuilding/retooling', hence why Stephan was traded. You have to break it down to build it back up.
Also, who are we signing next year? Outside of Tavares, who would never sign for the Rangers, there is nothing available at center...
The only ones I would consider would be Little (30), Backlund (29) or Turris (29), but are they really better than Stepan, without another crippling contract? The way you obtain a top center is either via the draft (typically a 1st, maybe a 2nd), or trade (where you would need high draft picks and prospects that we don't currently have).
If one of these guys put up Vesey like numbers wouldn't you be happy? In a cost controlled league, NCAA prospects that project as NHL players, especially RHD and C, are like rocking horse shit no? Sign them, they work out great, if not send them to the minors, package them up or whatever. We don't have a 3rd or 4th center right now. Desharnais has question marks but is experience with offensive talent. Anderson has never played an NHL game, and is 18. Nieves has one NHL game under his belt at LW. What 3rd/4th line center's?
Ashton-Reece joined the Pens, Vecchione the Flyers, Foo the Flames etc etc. Personally I just disagree completely. A kid on $925k for 1-3 years is not affecting this team, but if he works out he makes a huge impact in terms of production vs cap hit.
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Not all too hard to understand.
Stepan wasn't signed to that deal, and he is no longer here. He's not here because he is a low point producing, player miscast as a top line center here. They got rid of him to sign an offensive D man, and left a hole at center that the team needs to now fill. Makes absolutely no sense to waste money on players that don't fit a team need. They don't NEED 3rd and 4th line talent, and they certainly don't need to stock pile them while trying to make them into more than what they actually are.
I don't like the idea of the commitment. I don't like the idea of putting them in Hartford and putting them on a top line to drag down the rest of the team , if they aren't top line material. It obviously wouldn't kill the Rangers to sign one. I just don't see the point of adding these types just because they are young. The analysis brought forth from the article doesn't make me want to get psyched to sign them.That really doesn't make any sense to me. You're talking about worrying about talent and how much you're paying them and then advocating you go out and sign free agents. So the Rangers should just stand pat with the awful center depth they have now so they can overpay next off season for aging players? How does that help more?
The issue with Stepan wasn't his presence on the team, but the contract he had in respect to the team's situation. If the team had signed him to the $4.7M for 6 years deal that he wanted as opposed to bridging him and then doling out a huge contract, he'd probably still be here. That deal actually would've been perfect. He simply had the most moveable of the huge contracts that were given out.
What's the difference between his and rummaging through the scrap heap? Except in this, you're getting a player that's in the lower half of his 20s.
These players are also coming on ELCs. So of course their deals would be two-way (which doesn't matter much at all considering most deals aren't) and they'd have a maximum of $925K but with some bonuses that probably won't have to be given out.
Makes no sense to me. None.
I'd rather rummage through the scrap heap than waste time on developing lower line center depth. Because then you're investing time and have so much of the same thing that you're trying to squeeze something different out of.
If they can get them on two way deals at a low cap hit. Fine. But I'm thinking this is going to cost more than this team should be spending on such a role. I bide time, have cap space and wait for better talent to become available to them. As is, every center on this team should be slotted down. You wanna pad what's under them some more with more of the same? I don't want to invest the time into that spot.Where do you intend to get this talent from then? Right now the Rangers have Zibanejad and Hayes as NHL centers. Desharnais isn't even that good of a center. Nieves missed most of last season with multiple concussions. Andersson is another rookie. I don't understand this idea of "wasting contracts." The Rangers have no depth at center whatsoever. What harm is there in adding more centers? If they're good in the bottom six what's the issue?Yeah, but they don't need another 3rd or 4th line center. Need more talent. I'm not into piling up mediocre talents to what would have to be one way contracts to get them here. With Anderson and Nieves already here (in the system) along with Hayes and the midget they signed, I think they are just fine on bottom six centers. Don't waste contracts on lower line depth.
I'm fine with adding a D man though. Seems like you can never have too many of them, no matter what type of game they play.
Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by TapatalkI think Staal actually represents more value than Butcher if you include Staal's leftover cap hit to Butcher's.
Like it or not, I think we're stuck with Staal and this d-corps.
As for Holden, I'm inclined to believe that they'll see how the start shakes out and by trade deadline they'll make a decision that's more maneuverable with half the salary off the books.
Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by TapatalkDon't like Buchter. Doesn't skate well enough to make it translate to the NHL level. Pionk was the better NHL prospect. I'd take either or both of the centers though.Just a side note: after this year Staal will have 3 yrs at 6 mil., 5 mil., and 4.2 mil--]which includes 1 mil. Signing bonus he gets every year. If we were to pay him his 1 mil. signing bonus before we dealt him at the end of the season he'll have 5, 5 & 4.2 mil left. I think that Staal at 3 yrs and 14.2 mil or at an avg salary of 4.73 mil is very much tradeable considering how the salaries for d-man continue to go up. So I don't think there be a need to buy him out after this season. But we will need someone to replace him, the more guys we have the better the odds are to replace him and I would love to add Butcher to the list. Just like Kerfoot would give us another body who could compete for the 3rd and 4th center stop( I'm not impressed by Deshanias at 5'6" on the 3rd line).
Sent from my iPad using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by TapatalkNice read. I've only really heard of Butcher, but Kerfoot makes a ton of sense. I like the Vesey connection/chemistry, but more so the fact Andersson won't be rushed. Could be a nice end to a strong summer from Gorton.
I agree with the LD comments (i.e. we have McDonagh, Skjei, Staal, and Bereglazov), but it would really cap off a strong offseason if Staal could in some way be moved, even with a partial salary retention, to make way for Butcher. If we are in 'rebuild/retool' mode, Butcher would be a catch and the Rangers should be banging on his door.
McDonagh - Shattenkirk
Skjei - Smith
Bereglazov/Butcher - DeAngelo/Pionk
Holden (if not traded ideally)
Such good puck movement from the back end, what an upgrade on last year.