Victims of Head Shots, Staal & Vesey Join Rangers' Injury Parade

Victims to two headshots—the one on Jimmy Vesey being especially viscious—the New York Rangers will likely be without the services of Marc Staal or Vesey for a while. What, you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse?

Staal, who has a worrisome history of head injuries, was the first victim, taking a high hit to the head from Predators defenseman Alexei Emelin midway through the second period:

Quick Hits: Cue the Opening Bell

Welcome to a new feature (well, an old feature made new again) here at ClearedForContact: Quick Hits. Each Sunday, we’ll cover some of the recent happenings, statistics, and anecdotes from the previous week’s games, as well as touch on important goings-on around the NHL as a whole to cap off the week and to get your Monday mornings started.

Liquidate For Leverage

In and of itself, last Thursday night’s 4-0 loss to the Leafs was just a hockey game. But the Rangers’ listless effort and subsequent loss—their seventh in their last ten contests in which they’ve been collectively outscored 39 to 26—was more than just a game. It was a microcosm of this seemingly lost season. It was the most recent example that management need not have any reservations over whether this roster is a contender or a pretender when asking itself the tough questions regarding the trade market and their place in it ahead of the February 26th trading deadline.

One need not overly value the draft to recognize the cold reality staring the Rangers in the face, either. They can either foolishly pin their hopes to a severely flawed roster that would require a great amount of outside help to go deep in the playoffs, or they can take a poetic cue from Toronto and strategically sell the assets they still have to rebuild—emphasis on re—even if it is “on the fly.”

As I wrote about in late January, with a deep draft to look forward to, the assets the Rangers can no doubt acquire at the deadline and/or perhaps the draft floor should help them to move up the pick order. This will give them a golden opportunity to draft the game-breaking talent they desperately crave.

Rangers Inching Close To Signing Ty Ronning

Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver reported on Friday that the Rangers are having “good positive talks” with Vancouver Giants forward Ty Ronning.

The 20 year-old Ronning, a 7th round pick in 2016, currently has 44 goals in 50 games in with the Giants in the WHL. When his Giants season ended last year, he signed an amateur tryout agreement with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He netted two goals and three assists in his 12 games with the Pack.

Rangers Lose Pavel Buchnevich to Upper-Body Injury

Another one bites the dust. Already reeling at 4-6-0 in their last ten games coming into tonight’s losing “effort” against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers’ suffering appears to have no end in sight. In fact, it’s only gotten worse, with Pavel Buchnevich—the team’s second-leading scorer (tied)—now ostensibly on the shelf.

Shortly after taking a hit from Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner in the second period, the 22-year-old would leave the game with the Rangers later announcing he would not return:

New York Rangers Schedule Wallpaper – February 2018

There’s still a couple more days before the Rangers play their first game after the All-Star break, but with February just about here, it’s time to update your wallpaper accordingly.

Download it via the links below:

Quick Hits: Priming the Pump (and Dump)

Welcome to a new feature (well, an old feature made new again) here at ClearedForContact: Quick Hits. Each Sunday, we’ll cover some of the recent happenings, statistics, and anecdotes from the previous week’s games, as well as touch on important goings-on around the NHL as a whole to cap off the week and to get your Monday mornings started.

Righteous Indignation

Brendan Smith has every right to be seething at the NHL, or more specifically the Department of Player Safety, in the wake of being the victim of a vicious headshot from Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford this past week.

“I’m still shocked that nothing has happened,” Smith told The [New York] Post. “I think those kind of hits are what we’re trying to get out of the game. That’s what we’ve been harping on. So I don’t understand what’s going on at the moment. To me it’s a clear target of the head.”

This type of inaction is a prime example of why the CBA’s mandate that an injury on the play heavily factors into the decision to apply supplemental discipline or not, and it needs to be collectively bargained out at the next negotiations. The practice is one that may have made some sense on paper when it was agreed to, but has proven impractical, if not utterly backwards, in reality – as the Clifford-Smith collision proves. After all, would we be having this conversation had Smith been concussed on the play? Or instead would we be debating the length of Clifford’s suspension?

If the NHL wants these types of headshots out of the game, then do so by legislating heavily against them, regardless of whether the victim gets up off the ice right away or not.

Is Third Time the Charm for Rangers and High-Stakes Draft Deal?

Back in early November, coming off a miserable 4-7-2 start to the year, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted in his 31 Thoughts column that the Rangers weren’t just ready to restock but apparently were ready to do it the right way. They feared “the dreaded middle” – that no man’s land of mediocrity that spans between a playoff contender and a lottery squad. After dealing Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for the seventh overall pick (Lias Andersson) and Tony DeAngelo, they wanted more. Picks and prospects, that is.

Their ship’s course has righted since that awful start, but not so much as to instill a sense of hope that this roster has what it takes yet to compete for hockey’s ultimate glory. In fact, as of the time of this writing, they’re not even in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as their All-Star game break begins, trailing the final wild-card spot by a single point.

But this is a problem that a high-risk Draft day gamble might solve rather quickly. One the Rangers have attempted twice in the previous two drafts, ultimately coming up short. Perhaps the third time’s the charm?

An Alternative, Youthful, Trade Deadline Approach

With poor play over the last few weeks and a brutal West Coast trip before the All-Star break, the Rangers are trending towards deadline seller territory. It’s too early to definitively say that, especially in a weak Metropolitan division, but it’s getting harder to see Alain Vigneault’s squad buying at the deadline. But regardless of this season’s aspirations, moving to get younger and more talented without giving up premium assets should be a goal.

Fortunately for General Manager Jeff Gorton, there may be a few young guys needing a change of scenery, so to speak, who could contribute to his “rebuild on the fly” mantra without costing premium picks. Around the league, there are a handful of guys, like Anthony Duclair, who are young but either haven’t reached their potential or may be expendable to their current organizations who could contribute to the Rangers immediately while providing more building blocks for the future.

Hayes Excels in New Role as Shutdown C with Upside

When New York Rangers’ general manager Jeff Gorton chose to trade away his long-time top center Derek Stepan, it was with the expectation that Kevin Hayes—the former first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks—would build on last year’s 49-point season and take ownership of a top-six role.

“He’s going to get the opportunity,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’m very confident that he’s going to prove us right, that we had every reason to have faith in him.”

Unfortunately, perhaps as a consequence of New York’s lack of center depth, Hayes’ role hasn’t grown like we might have thought. He’s being used as a defense-first center, which limits his ceiling. With Stepan no longer taking any offensive-zone faceoffs, a larger, more production-oriented role should have been available for Hayes. So, while he has stepped into the top-six, his role probably isn’t what was envisioned when he got the vote of confidence from Vigneault.

Kevin Shattenkirk Out Indefinitely With Meniscus Tear

The Rangers made big news on Friday by announcing that their big, summer free agent acquisition, Kevin Shattenkirk, would be out indefinitely following knee surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. Larry Brooks of the New York Post shed some more light on the matter, indicating that he will be having the surgery on Monday and that he was playing with the injury throughout the season:

The Rangers called up Tony DeAngelo from Hartford Wolf Pack to fill his spot in the lineup. The offensively gifted defenseman had one point in eight games with the Blueshirts before being sent down to the Wolf Pack earlier in the season. This is as big a chance as any for DeAngelo who has had trouble sticking in NHL lineups so far in his career.