What Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton Might Have in Common

On June 30th, 2009, New York Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather pulled the trigger on a deal which would help to reshape the franchise for what will likely be the following decade. On that day, he reached out to his Montreal Canadiens’ counterpart, Bob Gainey, to finalize a deal the two had been discussing for over a week.

From NHL.com 

Glen Sather and Bob Gainey started discussing their wants and needs when they sat together at a dinner on June 22. The respective general managers for the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens continued the discussion at the Entry Draft.

Finally, at roughly 3 p.m. ET Tuesday, they consummated a trade that seemingly helps both sides.

The Canadiens would receive 29-year-old center Scott Gomez, coming off a 58-point season who was locked up for another five years at a $7.36M AAV, along with young grinder Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto. The return for the Rangers was restricted free agent Chris Higgins, journeyman Doug Janik and a couple of prospect defensemen, however this was primarily a salary dump by the Rangers looking to land a top tier scoring forward either via trade or in the Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) market, which would open the following day.

OK, we all know now that Rangers’ Captain Ryan McDonagh was one of those defensemen prospects and ultimately ended up being the key part of that deal, while the Rangers would go on to sign UFA Marian Gaborik the day after the trade. Gainey got fleeced here, as Gomez would eventually be bought out by Montreal after one good season and a couple of terrible ones. This deal is largely considered to be the most lopsided one in the post salary cap NHL and a contender in the entire history of the NHL.

The Rangers and GM Jeff Gorton are hoping to have written a second act to this story, though. Just a few weeks ago, he completed a similar deal, this time with the Arizona Coyotes in another salary dump of a mid 50’s point center with a number of years left on a high dollar deal, with the return including a young former first-round drafted defenseman. In free agency, the Rangers acquired top offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (4 years, $6.65M AAV) using the salary cap space they cleared by trading Derek Stepan (4 years, $6.5M AAV remaining). Along with Stepan, the Rangers sent backup goaltender Antti Raanta west in exchange for the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (Lias Andersson) along with a young offensive defenseman named Anthony DeAngelo.

The parallels here are remarkable:

Rangers Re-Sign F Jesper Fast to 3-Year/$5.55M Extension; $1.85M AAV

The New York Rangers have agreed to a three-year contract with Swedish winger Jesper Fast. The new contract is a three-year deal that will take him to age 28.

An integral part of the Rangers bottom six, Fast, has become a favorite player of coach Alain Vigneault given his usage all throughout the lineup. When comparing his new deal to similar players such as Melker Karlsson at 3 years for $2 million and Zack Kassian at $1.95 million, Fast’s new deal falls right in line with the norm.

Rangers Sign F David Desharnais to 1-Year/$1M Deal

It’s not exactly free agent fireworks, but the Rangers have come to terms with Unrestricted Free Agent forward, David Desharnais.

The diminutive forward spent the 2016-17 season splitting duties between the Edmonton Oilers and Montréal Canadiens — the latter having dealt him to the forward in February. He had just six goals and eight assists for 14 points between the clubs in 49 total contests in a season marred by a knee injury that cut into the middle of his year.

Desharnais, 31, has averaged 0.56 P/GP through 453 NHL games but has seen his production steadily declining since 2013-14 in which he averaged 0.66 P/GP. In the seasons following, his numbers have consistently declined, falling to 0.59 in 2014-15, 0.45 in 2015-16, and a combined 0.29 split between Montréal and Edmonton last season.

Kevin Shattenkirk by Bridget Samuels

Rangers Sign Kevin Shattenkirk to 4-Year/$26.6M Contract; $6.65M AAV

It’s happening. The biggest name in free agency, Kevin Shattenkirk, is a New York Ranger according to multiple reports:

The New Rochelle native officially agreed to a four-year deal worth $26.6M a few hours after the market for Unrestricted Free Agents opened at noon Eastern time, bringing to a close more than two years worth of speculation that the 28-year old wished to suit up for the Blueshirts.

Dreger: "Ongoing Discussions" with G Ondrej Pavelec

With less than 24 hours to go before the bell tolls signaling the opening of the Unrestricted Free Agent market, it appears the Rangers have set their sights on soon-to-be ex-Winnipeg Jets’ goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec.

Having traded Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes as part of the Derek Stepan trade prior to the NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers created a hole at their backup goaltending position with no clear-cut internal solution to backfill the void with. Magnus Hellberg might have been that player, but opted to apply his trade in the KHL instead. Larry Brooks of the New York Post also reported that the Rangers had had discussions with Buffalo Sabres backup Anders Nilsson during this window in which teams can speak to players but aren’t permitted to discuss term, but according to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, he’s likely to sign with the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow.

Scott Hartnell by Rich Lee

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 years of his six-year, $28M contract. According to CapFriendly.com, the buyout will cost the Jackets $1.5M against the cap next season followed by a $3M charge in 2018-19, and then two additional years at $1.25M. Hartnell’s contract would have carried an annual average value of $4.75M through to 2018-19 had the Jackets not opted for a buyout.

“Moves like this are never easy, but with our current organizational depth at the position, it is something we believe is in the best interest of our club moving forward,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen following the team announcement.

According to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, Hartnell was informed at the end of last season that the team wished to move on without him, but the veteran forward was never asked to waive his No Movement Clause in order to be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights during their Expansion Draft.

Regardless, Hartnell is now free to sign anywhere he pleases as of July 1st. While his former clubs, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Nashville Predators are probably the leading contenders for his services, the New York Rangers would be wise to touch base with the 35-year old to gauge how amenable he is to donning a Blueshirt next season.

Anders Nilsson by Sarah Gansky

Anders Nilsson: A Shestyorkin Case Study?

Like Cam Talbot before him, Antti Raanta gave the Rangers two years of great backup goalie play before being traded for future assets. But in making the move, GM Jeff Gorton has created another hole in the lineup and will be challenged to find a competent backup for 35-year-old Henrik Lundqvist. According to Larry Brooks, the target may be Unrestricted Free Agent and former Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson.

Nilsson is different than other Rangers goalies in that, quite simply, he is much bigger than them. At 6’6, he’s athletic but depends on his size to cut angles and challenge shooters. But he complements that size with decent athleticism as he moves well for such a big man. He’s similar to Pekka Rinne in that vein.But unlike Rinne, Nilsson has never proven himself to be a number one goalie and, to be blunt, has generally struggled as a backup.

Through his first 52 NHL games with the Islanders, Oilers and a brief stint with the Blues, he posted a save percentage of just .902 and a goals against of just a shade under 3.00. But last season, in Buffalo, he had a fairly defined role and found his stride. In 23 starts, he had a .923 save percentage (Raanta was .922 last season) and a goals against of 2.67. Many goalies, like Talbot and Raanta, really hit their stride around the age of 27 and Nilsson, who turned 27 in March, seems to be following that trend.

Rangers Round Table: Gorton’s Plans for the Summer of ‘17

In today’s Rangers Round Table we’re going to discuss what seems like New York General Manager Jeff Gorton’s plan for the upcoming 2017/18 Season. I’m Dave Rogers, I’ll be moderating the discussion. I’m joined by Phil Kocher, Ray Sarlo and Mike Valvano. Good evening gentlemen…

Ray: Hello

Phil: Hey, boys

Mike: Hey gents

Dave: For this first question, I think we’ll start with Ray since he said “Hello” first. The term we’ve seen thrown around is “rebuild on the fly”, and we’ll get into specifics of what’s been done already, but how do you see Gorton doing that, generally?

Ray: Gorton’s trade of Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta for a higher draft pick and a younger, offensive threat on the backend signals that he’s looking for any way [he can find] to re-tool the Rangers. He’s not trying to blow the whole thing up, but getting rid of Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein on defense while retaining Brendan Smith, signing Kevin Shattenkirk, and bringing in Anthony DeAngelo are keys to putting a new spin on the Rangers blue line. That’s rebuilding on the fly.

Dave: Phil, your take on that?

Phil: Assuming they actually sign Shattenkirk, sure. I’m guessing we’ll touch on that later, though.The way I see it, the terms are all interchangeable. On the fly, re-tool, tweak, what have you. It’s all part of the same acknowledgement that this group, at least as they were built from the core out, failed to get the job done. The “on the fly” nature of the change just signals that they’re not going to firesale the entire team to build a new one.

Mike: Yep, I agree Phil. Honestly, I think the term is really just a way to say they were cutting what they thought was dead weight while being as respectful to Stepan and Girardi as possible. If the return was greater, then maybe it’s a rebuild but, for now, it’s a [salary] cap dump. I tend to think they aren’t going to sign Shatty so, really, it’s a youth movement, at least on the blue line. The “on the fly” part will come into play when they sign a center to replace Step, so it’s a lateral move there.

Ray: Youth would certainly be an interesting way to improve the defense. There are, what, four or five players that can challenge for that 6th and 7th spot? We signed Neal Pionk and Alexei Bereglazov. Then you have Nick Holden and Steven Kampfer from last season. We have Ryan Graves in the AHL right now. Plus DeAngelo! Forgot him.

Mike: But I don’t know if you can call it a rebuild if you haven’t filled up Ryan McDonagh’s partner (phrasing). So it’s a cap dump, unless a youngster takes it, for now.

Ray: Yeah, I’m wary of what they have planned for that. Though anything would be an upgrade of Girardi.

Phil: There’s promise to some of them, but that’s more quantity than quality. And they’re all fighting for, in effect, the same one, maybe two spots on defense. All of this is fine and in line with Gorton’s rebuild, but it’s still really difficult to envision where this is all headed. The defense is surely getting remade, but they dealt their top-line center and their backup goaltender for a player who can maybe make the team this season but probably requires another year of seasoning and a defenseman we’re hopeful will be a top-four. Whatever vision Gorton has in mind is really incomplete at the moment, because there are sizable holes in the lineup to patch.

Dave: We’re starting to get away from a more general take on this, and we’ll get into it on a lot of these topics you’ve touched on, but for now, I think we should move on.

As to specifics, I’ll start off with a softball and everyone can jump in when they’re ready. Dan Girardi’s Buyout, we were all in favor?

Ray: Absolutely. The dude was a warrior, but he became a detriment. He’s a 3rd pair defenseman, if that, and you just can’t pay $5.5M for that [role]. Best of luck to G in the future.

Phil: 100%. He’s not an NHL caliber player anymore, and I’d bet good money that whatever team does sign him will regret it.

Mike: Yes, but with a qualifier. I don’t mind him as a third pair guy with a youngster like Bereglazov, but you can’t have him AND Marc Staal. I’m curious what the trade market was for either of them, but one had to go. I’m fairly indifferent as to which one it was. Considering the fact that we have no right handed defensemen, I probably would’ve preferred to move staal.

Ray: DeAngelo is a right handed defenseman.

Dave: I was going to move along, but that answer from Mike intrigued me, so this is just for him. Given our depth on the left side, would Staal have been a better buyout choice, even with the increased years?

Mike: I think so Dave. Not from a financial perspective, but just in terms of building a defense corps.

Yeah Ray, but the buyout was before DeAngelo.

Phil: Probably. But the Rangers weren’t wrong to buy out Girardi. Staal’s poor play doesn’t make Girardi’s good.

Ray: I wouldn’t be surprised if they had some sort of plan in advance. Indications were the Rangers and Coyotes were talking before the trade freeze.

Phil: The only saving grace, if you can call it that, to Girardi is that he’s right-handed. But given Alain Vigneault’s inability to not surgically attach him to McDonagh’s hip, Gorton made the right call.

Ray: Agreed.

Mike: Well, we’ve never seen AV with another good option, to be fair. Though I tend to agree.

Phil: Yes, we have. Smith, Brady Skjei, and even Adam Clendening were all superior partners.

Ray: Well, Smith getting bafflingly low amounts of ice time in the playoffs was evidence enough for me.

Phil: Evidence of what?

Ray: That AV was always looking to pair G and Mac.

Dave: I’m going to let Mike answer, since he got challenged by both of you, and then we’re going to move on.

Phil: Come at me, Mike.

Mike: Well I just don’t agree that any of those guys were a good fit with Mac. Skjei wasn’t ready for top pair minutes in his own end, Smith was strong but made a lot of mental mistakes, and I hate Clendo’s compete level. He’d get hammered taking a high % of defensive zone start against top competition. G at least was always where he needed to be…which is….something lol.

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McKenzie: Rangers, Smith Finalizing Four-Year/$17.4M Extension

They reportedly had to pay more than what his former club, the Detroit Red Wings, were prepared to offer him, but it appears that Brendan Smith and the New York Rangers are set to announce a formal four-year extension according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Two days ago, Larry Brooks reported that the Rangers and Smith’s agent, Anton Thun, were “trying to get this done”, and it appears they finally have.

Smith was widely considered to be the second-best defenseman available in a weak free agent market this summer, and his re-signing is the most recent step in helping to bring to light what Gorton’s “on the fly” rebuilt Rangers stand to look like next season.

Custance: Rangers Have Expressed Interest in Patrick Marleau

Entering what will be his 20th NHL season, Patrick Marleau, who has spent the first 19 years of his career under the crest of the San Jose Sharks, appears poised to test free agency. Should he do so, there appears to be no shortage of suitors interested in his services. According to Craig Custance, now of The Athletic Detroit, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, L.A. Kings, and New York Rangers all have an interest in wooing the 37-year old away from the only NHL team he’s ever played for.

Marleau, who eclipsed 500 career goals this season, is coming off a 27-goal year, though his total NHL production has dwindled on the back nine of his perhaps Hall-of-Fame-worthy career. Over the last four seasons, his seasonal production has dipped from 70 points in 2013-14, to 57 points in 2014-15, to 48 points in 2015-16, to 46 points this past year. His goal-scoring, however, is still respectable for a team looking at him as a depth scoring option. He’s scored at least 25 goals in the last two seasons despite his advanced age.

Most importantly, Marleau doesn’t appear to have lost a step in his speed, which has been a staple of his game since he was drafted second overall back in 1997.

 

The Rangers have already been linked to his long-time teammate, Joe Thornton, and we’re only a little more than a year removed from reports that Marleau included the Rangers as the only Eastern Conference team he would be willing to waive his No Trade Clause to go to.

An added wrinkle to all of this might be a Kariya/Selanne-like component where both men sign somewhere, be it with the Sharks or otherwise, as a duo.

With more than $20M in available cap room to spend, the Blueshirts should be able to afford the asking price of Marleau, who it’s worth noting has spent time at center throughout his career. However, like with Thornton, term length should be a major sticking point in any negotiations. Given his advanced age, a multi-year deal would incur the unnecessary risk of the NHL’s 35-plus contract rule that, should Marleau retire before completing, would saddle the Rangers with a full cap charge for however many seasons remain on the deal.

Buckle up, folks – free agency is just four days away!