Quick Hits: Eyes on the Prize

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
Phil Kocher
@ me

Sweet ‘n Sauer

As brief as it was, how great was it seeing Michael Sauer again? And how poetic that his appearance occurred the same night Dion Phaneuf—the man responsible for ending Sauer’s NHL career—was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. That feel-good moment would instantly become a feel-good story were we to learn the Rangers have employed him again, perhaps as a scout, but in all likelihood, he was just visiting for the night given his St. Cloud roots. Regardless, it’s nice to know he’s alive and well since falling off the grid in the months and years following that horrific collision with Phaneuf.

The Long Game

No matter how well Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson are playing, Jeff Gorton’s comments regarding not wanting to burn the first year of their entry-level deals are exactly the words fans should be elated to hear. This is especially true ahead of the pending deadline sales, with what promises to be a sizable rebuild on the horizon thereafter. Much as fans may want an early look at both—in Chytil’s case, a second—the bigger picture transformation of the franchise is infinitely more important than the immediate NHL aspirations of either player.

“We are not going to burn the first year off any contracts,” general manager Jeff Gorton told The Post following practice Friday.

What Gorton will accomplish by keeping both youngsters away from the level they are no doubt itching to crack is maximizing his options; specifically over the next three years – seasons in which both prospects are going to be heavily relied upon to return the Rangers to contention.

Burning a year off either or both of their contracts in a lost season would needlessly remove a full year of cost control at the price of far less than a full season’s worth of games. So what’s the point? For a rebuilding club, that’s just not wise. The fact Gorton appears to understand this bodes well for how effectively he can execute the task ahead. Being able to manage the cost of young, productive assets is critical to righting this ship.

The Kids Are Alright

John Gilmour and Neal Pionk can play, eh? Isn’t it amazing what happens when you prioritize young, mobile defenseman who skate well—exceptionally in Happy’s case—ahead of slow-footed veterans who, well, don’t? Maybe next season it won’t take a wave of long-term injuries to give others the same opportunities.

Quick Bounce

Speaking of kids, according to a tweet from Andy Strickland, the Blueshirts seem more interested in prospects and roster players than draft picks:

This isn’t in inherently a bad idea so long as the focus is on high-end potential/promise. It might even be a less risky path to rebuilding to contention than purely through their own selections. For instance, if they were to insist on one of Eeli Tolvanen or Dante Fabbro from Nashville in exchange for Rick Nash instead of a first-round pick that is all but guaranteed to be at the very end of the draft order. Both men, chosen in successive drafts by David Poile’s Predators, are on the precipice of qualifying for the NHL. In acquiring either, or those like them, the Rangers can potentially field multiple rebuilding assets as soon as next season.

Broadway Ilya

It sure feels like it’s only a matter of time before the Rangers bring Ilya Kovalchuk back to the NHL. Yes, the same Ilya Kovalchuk whose double daggers to the back of Team USA’s net should serve as blunt reminders why even at 34, his shot isn’t to be slept on:

This is a player who has dominated at every level, in every league he’s ever played in. As long as he’s healthy, he’s a player the Rangers would be wise to look to bring into the fold. Even if it took longer than fans may have hoped to do so.

Um, Wut?

Seriously—what the hell even is the definition of goaltender Interference in this league? Does anyone, including the NHL, actually know?

We’ve already seen numerous examples this season—James Neal’s stick to Connor Hellebucyk’s head that wasn’t pulled back rings a bell—that practically beg the NHL to take a hard look at it this summer. After Saturday’s misfortune matinee against the Senators in which Brandon Halverson found himself in an equally compromised situation, only to have the goal count, we can officially add another to the pile.

By the Numbers

  • Here’s more fantasy fodder for the future Blueshirts – Among point per game leaders younger than 20 in the AHL this season, Filip Chytil (0.84) and Lias Andersson (0.80) rank first and second respectively.
  • One more for the future: Ty Ronning, who is reportedly on the verge of signing his entry-level contract with the Rangers, scored his 51st goal of the season earlier this week.
  • With his goal Saturday afternoon, Michael Grabner is again tied for second in the NHL in even-strength goals (24).

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