Latest posts by Phil Kocher (see all)
A 3-7-2 record is bad enough, but even bad teams never want to be kicked when they are down, and few things hurt more than a shot to the ribs when you’re already reeling. Yet here we are, talking about a poorly performing team’s compete level just 12 games into a season that they are quickly losing ground in.
The Rangers are drowning among the unrelenting waves of mediocrity, like a swimmer caught in a riptide, only ever managing to escape long enough to catch a panicked breath of air before getting pounded by the next crash of water. Losing games isn’t their only problem, though. After Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to the Montréal Canadiens, so too, apparently, is their energy level – which is another way of saying this group, at times, lacks the proper motivation to play.
As the spiral worsens, if these Rangers won’t (or perhaps can’t) bring the kind of energy required to adequately compete in games that will only increase in importance as the year progresses, then it’s on general manager Jeff Gorton to find someone who will.
The Blueshirts’ lack of motivation was most recently on display during the first period in which they put themselves in a 3-0 hole before the buzzer. They were only able to muster two shots on goal in that time versus a whopping 19 from the Canadiens. It wasn’t until the second period when the group began to compete and apply themselves in an attempt to salvage the game that had gotten away from them, ultimately failing to do so. This has been a theme for the Rangers throughout the season thus far, as they have found themselves trailing to start the game seven times.
“When someone questions your effort level and compete, it’s not a good feeling,” captain Ryan McDonagh said. “You want to prove it to yourself and prove it as a group that that’s not what we’re about, that’s not acceptable, that’s not who we are.”
Blockbuster trades are a rare occurrence this early in the season. This is likely due to a combination of teams believing they have more time left to sort out their problems than they actually have and an unwillingness to take an early bite out of their salary cap that, thanks to its prorating nature, naturally builds as the year advances toward the trading deadline. The Rangers, however, are in need of some impact if they still have any hopes of making the playoffs this season. A failure to act soon could quickly land them on the sellers’ side of the market this February.
Impact comes in many shapes and forms, and acquiring a top-six center to fill the Derek Stepan-sized void they failed to sufficiently fill would surely make its mark, but would also be among the most expensive paths to take. Instead, given the early nature of the season and understanding the desire to leave some wiggle room for another deal or two come February 26th, let’s look at a few of the more affordable targets.
A Deal With Dallas
Just a few days into their offseason this past summer I wrote about how the Rangers could benefit from bringing in some fire, either via free agency or trade. Among the trade options was 27-year old Antoine Roussell, who is in the final year of his deal ahead of free agency.
The French-born Canadian pest had 27 points and 115 PIM in 60 games last season (0.45 P/GP) and is one of the most hated players in the league. Thanks to playing in the West, he’s someone the Rangers haven’t had to spend much time playing against. Much like the trade that brought Wayne Simmonds to the Flyers years ago, unleashing Roussel’s brand of antagonism on the Metropolitan division might be a worthy cause in their favor. He’s not just a productive and industrious bottom-six winger, but over the last three seasons his score, zone, and venue adjusted 52.98 CF%, 53.8 FF%, and 53.6 xGF% rank fifth, sixth, and seventh respectively among Stars forwards. His minus-8 penalty differential is a drawback, but a manageable one. In the big picture, he’s not a five-on-five liability, despite his role, and his age and contract status are both attractive. He doesn’t have the cache of a high-end impact player, but his in-your-face style of play would give the Rangers an added level of bite in their bottom-six.
The Stars, currently third in the Central division with 12 points in 11 games, could stand to upgrade their top-six forward group where Roussel is currently being asked to skate alongside Martin Hanzal and Jason Spezza on their second line despite having just one point through the Stars’ first 11 games. If the Rangers are seriously considering moving Chris Kreider, perhaps Dallas would be willing to include Roussel in a larger deal?
Roussel’s $2M AAV would easily fit under the Blueshirts’ cap, especially if Kreider is being moved to the West as part of the exchange. But any deal including Kreider runs the risk of robbing from Peter to pay Paul. They need fire, yes, but replacing a player of Kreider’s caliber won’t be easily done. Few have his combination of speed, skill, and aggression. In addition to this, Roussel is a natural winger, where the Rangers are already fairly deep, so it’s not a perfect marriage.
Voulez-vous faire une affaire?
If not Roussel, the Rangers could possibly look to the team who most recently embarrassed them in the Canadiens, who themselves are embroiled in a very disappointing season. Saturday night’s victory over the Rangers was just their third of the season (3-7-1) and failed to pull them out of the eighth and final spot in the Atlantic division.
The Habs—who are dead last in the league with 2.00 GF/GP—could use any offensive help they can get their hands on. Like Dallas, they’d probably have a significant interest in Kreider, who despite being off to a slow start this season scored a career-high 28 goals last season.
Alex Galchenyuk, currently buried on the Habs’ fourth line and seemingly being driven out by Montréal’s media, seems the most likely target, but in his 31 Thoughts column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman did mention that Andrew Shaw could also be in play:
I do think they would move Andrew Shaw, potentially keeping some part of his salary. Shaw does have four more years at $3.9 million. Trading with term is not easy.
If the Canadiens were willing to retain at least 25% of Shaw’s $3.9M (bringing his AAV to roughly $2.9M), Shaw would be an interesting third-line center option for a team who, until two games ago, has been struggling to ice a roster with four NHL-caliber centers on it. Like Roussel, Shaw is an agitator supreme, and also like Roussel, one whose abilities don’t come solely away from the puck. Even for a near-league-worst Canadiens team with a minus-19 goal differential this season he’s a positive possession player. Through Montréal’s first 11 games his 56.62 corsi for percentage (CF%) and 1.28 points per 60 minutes (P/60) are sixth among all Canadiens skaters this season at five-on-five.
He does have five years left on his contract, but at age 26, it’s not as though the Rangers would be bringing in a player with very little career runway left.
An Exchange With Edmonton
If neither Roussel or Shaw suffice, a look to the West might be in order, as the Rangers and Canadiens aren’t the only teams underperforming this season. The Connor McDavid-lead Edmonton Oilers, 3-6-1 on the season, are also trying to meet expectations in a competitive Western Conference in which they made it to within a game of the Western Conference Final last postseason.
Part of their problem has been dealing with a wave of injuries, including concussion symptoms for Leon Draisaitl, a significant knee injury to Andrej Sekera, and an undisclosed injury to Drake Caggiula. Add to this the struggles of starting goaltender Cam Talbot, who has slipped from his .919 Sv% last season to just .904 this year, and whose GAA has gone from 2.39 to an alarming 3.10 through nine starts this year, and it’s not all that difficult to understand why they are where they are.
Though they are tenth in the league in GF/GP (3.30), the brunt of the scoring has come by way of McDavid and Patrick Maroon, though Draisaitl does have seven points in six games. Friedman speculated on Saturday night that Kreider would be an interesting add for the Oilers, but it’s difficult to see where he’d slot in given the Oilers’ depth at left wing that currently features Maroon, Milan Lucic, Caggiula, and Jussi Jokinen. Lucic, 29, still has six years remaining on his contract (this season included), so one of Maroon or Caggiula would probably need to be coming to New York in the deal. Of the two, Maroon would best address the lack of fire on Broadway, but the deal would certainly appear lateral as both he and Kreider are cut from the same cloth and boast similar size and production (Maroon scored a career-high 27 goals last season).
If not Maroon, the Rangers would likely be asking for 24-year old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (RNH). Given their need for quality centermen, Nugent-Hopkins, currently centering the Oilers’ second line between Lucic and Letestu, would help to mitigate the loss of Stepan, but would also leave the Oilers dangerously thin up the middle given the buyers remorse they’re currently feeling following the Jordan Eberle-Ryan Strome deal. Putting aside for a moment his progressively falling production over the last three seasons, RNH would also fail to provide the kind of aggressive spark that Roussel or Shaw could, so a deal for him may still not actually solve the Rangers’ “energy” problem.
It’s possible the two teams could attempt to help one another in a trade, but most conceivable scenarios appear to be sizable, which probably pushes any deal between the two closer to New Years than before Thanksgiving.
No matter the team they look to to find it from since it’s apparent that it’s not coming from the current roster, the Rangers need to find an energy source sooner rather than later. A “total lack of energy” and “lack of compete” as McDonagh told the NY Post after Saturday night’s loss is unacceptable and could destroy any chances, no matter how diminished, of making the postseason.
“If I had the answer, I’d tell you”, McDonagh said. Well, if he doesn’t have the answer, and Alain Vigneault can’t seem to find it either, then it’s on Jeff Gorton to figure it out before time runs out on the Rangers.
Lindberg aside, I'm still not sold that DD has turned it around. Montreal and their fans could not wait to get rid of him. I could be wrong, but he seems like a nice 12/13th F to me and a 4C if Nieves slows down or gets another concussion. I want to see if he can put together some sustained offense in the next 10 games.
Dead horse, but I think you're just really overstating Lindberg. Being second on the team in goals is nice, but he's 11th in shots. He's not going to shoot 28% all year. He doesn't really do anything that DD doesn't.What buyouts? And when have I ever said that about fourth-liners?
I'm aware they lack it. That's why I wrote this piece talking about acquiring it.
Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalkat least he's a body, compared to the constant buy outs you guys are peddling.
And as you've always said "yeah, but at the end of the contract, all 4th liners will be getting 6m. It will be a steal!"
At least the guy brings some heart and soul. This team is desperately lacking that.I want nothing to do with Lucic. He has six years left. Even at half the cost, it's just too much term. He's already 29. A 34, 35-year old Lucic is gonna be a lemon.
Yeah yeah, we need a topline gamebreaker and a top 4 RHD that can actually shutdown top lines, play fast and add to the attack. Those are big trades. A lot of this discussion was about an add to the 3rd or 4th line. So the kind of elixir you seek isn't in this discussion.
Lindberg is no savior but he's second on their team in goals. He'd be 2nd here. His coach is raving about his all around game. Putting the kids with him. Giving him important D assignments and they are 8-1. What did you want from him so far. What the fuck did Lindberg do to you? The guy goes all out and is tough and cheap. He excelled in Sweden, Hartford and the Rangers, including in the most recent playoffs. Always exceeds expectations and seems to still have upside.
There is one team in the league that is openly willing to trade their better players, Vegas. It's the preapproved tank. They have a few C's, but Lindberg is an affordable low cost fit. He'll give more offensive opportunities to Zib and Hayes, w/ d zone starts. Wins faceoffs. Improves Fast and Grabs game too.
He'll probably be a Pen in months. If we lose a few more, I won't care. Might as well be sellers.
And it is not just about Lindberg Guys up and down the lineup can give the team an advantage. Take away Stralman, Hags and Lindberg and the team is not as dangerous OR defensively responsible. Don't replace Step and we don't have the great depth to make up for not having top-tier topline talent. This is the NHL, the whole roster matters.Again, I never suggested trading for Lucic.
Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by TapatalkImagine CBJ will never do a deal with NYR again, and I admit that knowing Sonny Milano's family(though not him) clouds my judgment here. But after scoring 5 goals in roughly the first 5 minutes, he has had a total of 9 minutes of ice time over the last 2 games. Dubinsky-inexplicably-is in Torts' doghouse.Not saying it could happen and given the division thing probably won't. But if you're looking for a gritty center who despite being old liked playing here and has some gas still in his tank and a young speedy offense wing, could do no better.
Lucic? Jesus H Fucking Christ on a pony.
The one option I'm realizing I didnt' account for that I probably should have is Lettieri.
Sent from my VS501 using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by TapatalkGalchenyuk...
If we could get Galchenyuk and MTL's 1st for Kreider, one of our D prospects, Gropp, and a later round pick I'd be all about it.Who can we get from either of those teams?
Sent from my Z981 using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk@TSNSimmer
Scouting the MTL/OTT game
Schoenfeld, Leger, Sather, & Risebrough from NYR all here tonight. Very rare to have senior staff at one game. @TSN1200 @TSN690
I'm sick of hearing about Lindberg, tbh. He's got 0 assists and has 4 goals while shooting 28%.
We don't miss him and he wouldn't solve anything.
As for the roster, you're exactly right. Anyone but Skjei, Chytil and Shesty. All potential 1C, 1D, 1G. All others are available, if it means we improve the future.i hated losing lindberg.
this team will be up and down all year. we need to be sellers at the deadline and retool. we really are in dire need of a top tier player. i have no clue how to pull it off though.
everyone is on the table in my mind. Even krieds for the right deal.For a simple addition why not just get our 3C back from Vegas. I listened to Gerard Gallant, during the pregame, say he was putting Haula on the line with Tuch and Lindberg because they play fast and that Oscar is not only outstanding defensively, but has a very complete all around game that has impressed him.
With Vegas leading Colorado 1-0 in the second, Oscar's 4th of the season was a thing of beauty. Lindberg turned D into O. The Vegas Sun wrote a whole article about it calling it "the single most impressive goal of the Golden Knights' season" and "spectacular." Here's the article and video. Love the multiple video angles when you scroll down, but also real clear HD vid is on NHL.com.
As with a RNH, Oscar gives us the C we need to free up Hayes for more offense. His minutes and PK responsibilities are picking up. Desharnais just can't do this and I'm worried that he is too limited a player for a top team as well as if he can handle the tough checking of the playoffs. Which may not be a worry if we keep playing Desharnais as our #2 offensive C.
Let's hold up on trading Kreider for the current perceived need for 'grit' and energy, eventually those guys can be found for cheap pieces. He has a unique set of attributes and is a fast power forward, a pretty rare bird. Save Kreids for landing a high level player. Besides he had two decent games, maybe he can get hot and increase his value.
Beyond Kreids, what is it you are trying to do? Are you trying to add an energy guy cause we need a shakeup and look lackluster at times? At points, it sounded like you wanted a real impact though and talked about a blockbuster.
Let's look at the targets you mentioned:
Roussel, I've liked aspects of his game and thought he'd be a perfect replacement for Prust. Yet, he just put up his first point of the year playing with good linemates. He has problems taking bad penalties in the Carcillo mode. If mgmt and coaches want a guy like this now, i guess he's a fine choice if it cost a 3rd or 4th. However, isn't this role we fill in after we have better scoring, defending and goaltending?
Same for Maroon and Lucic - Lucic is a selfish dumb descending player. This week McKenzie called out Chiarelli as a fool for bringing in his high priced selfish ass and attributed a recent loss to his insistence to score an empty netter and ice the puck twice. Maroon is like Martin, a 4th liner with the special role of getting in front of the net for McDavid. His 5 on 5 points would be paltry if he played the 3rd or 4th line role he should. We don't really want any of these guys.
Galchenyuk - did you not get my scoop last week. (Don't worry only Josh and a few others read my shit and I purposely buried it) Well it was validated 3 days ago by Mario Tremblay, the former Habs star and now announcer. He uncouthly revealed that Galy was dealing with Opioid abuse. So, not only is he struggling, struggling more at center, has looked disinterested and is unwilling to play D, but he has other serious issues. Mgmt has tried to trade him AT A DISCOUNT and still no takers. Everybody knows the deal now.
RNH - totally different trade and someone who actually has real value. Your looking at a #2C (3C when because of Leon) who has become their goto D center who plays against opponent's top lines. Not only would he be a fit here because of need, but he also brings very good speed, plays 200' and would free up Hayes for more offensive situations. This is a player who could actually fill a need plus improve the team around him. This is the kind of trade the Ranger's should consider. He is going to cost a lot more than the others you mentioned. Maybe not Kreids, but Edm wants scoring and D. DeAngelo could be part of a package, if they are interested. If Chiarelli changes his mind and considers moving RNH, Gorton should be on the phone.
Phil, I'll stand by my suggestion for a blockbuster with Toronto who is getting desperate for D. McD for Marner or Nylander. It changes the team makeup by opening up a huge hole and filling an even larger hole. Yet, it does wonders for our future and adds life to this team. We get younger, faster, more explosive and it solves the impending UFA conundrum.
Other specific ideas in line with my thinking. Kreids, Desharnais, and DeAngelo for Manson and Rakell. Sub Miller for Kreids? Sub Gropp or another prospect for Desharnais? Just Kreids for Manson and top prospect if we make the McD trade with Toronto?
Dude suggested DeAngelo and Vesey for Duchesne. We'd have to replace Vesey with Miller or Kreids , but I'd consider it. Unfortunately they'd probably want at least a second if not a first.
You want Shaw? If Montreal continues to tank and we can string a few wins together... let's do Shaw and Byron for DeAngelo, Gropp and another prospect.
That's all I got for ya.