Tomorrow, Saturday, July 1st at approximately noon all hell will break loose around the NHL. Yes, the 2017 free agency period will be officially upon us.
As is usually the case, the Rangers have been connected to a number of free agents including over the hill centers as well as difference making defensemen.
So let’s take a look:
1. Before we get started with the rumor mill, let’s recap some news as the Rangers re-signed Brendan Smith to a 4-year, $17.4 million contract. Definitely a bit pricier than I would have liked, but he absolutely would have commanded more if the Rangers allowed him to explore the open market. So I can live with Jeff Gorton ponying up a few more bucks to get Smith back in the fold. Smith has a nice mixture of skill and toughness that the Rangers sorely need on the blueline. Pumped to have him back.
2. Meanwhile at Development Camp, the Rangers 21st overall pick Filip Chytil has been lighting it up as he nearly had a hat trick on his way to a two-goal performance in the first scrimmage of camp earlier this week. Chytil was only eligible for this year’s draft by a few months, so the 17-year old was one of the youngest players taken last week. A number of experts felt if Chytil was available in next year’s draft, he would have been more highly regarded headed into the draft weekend. When I was 17, I was drinking beers celebrating the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup. And this kid is out here scoring goals in Development Camp.
3. The Rangers other first round pick has also been turning heads this week as #7 overall pick Lias Andersson found the back of the net in the same game. The more I hear from the Swedish product, the more impressed I get. Here’s his latest interview:
4. It wasn’t the NHL version of the Blueshirts, but Rangers hockey was actually played this week and damn it was fun to see. Here’s some highlights from development camp:
5. The Rangers are in desperate need of some centers, defensemen and a backup goaltender, so why in the world am I hearing rumors that they’re interested in THIRTY SEVEN YEAR OLD WINGER Patrick Marleau?!?!?!
6. I have too many mental scars from the late 90s – early 2000s Rangers to be hearing about possible Blueshirt connections to the San Jose geriatric twins of Thornton and Marleau. Those two are so old, their memory is in black and white.
7. Confirming that Glen Sather is not in fact Gorton’s puppet master, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that unlike in the past, the Rangers will not be going crazy on the open market, so there might not be a fit with Kevin Shattenkirk. So, if you’re keeping score at home: Yes to over the hill winger the Rangers don’t need and no to in his prime dynamic defenseman they do.
8. While I understand the reluctance to offer a long term contract, the signing of Shattenkirk combined with the buyout of Girardi literally turns a weakness into a strength overnight. In case you’re having trouble following along, let me show you:
Last season’s defense:
This season’s potential defense:
9. Speaking of defense, apparently Dan Girardi to Tampa is a done deal. I guess the Lightning didn’t learn with Callahan how living through the Torts era destroys a player physically.
10. As I mentioned above, the Rangers are in the market for center icemen and one player that they’re supposedly interested in is Nick Bonino. The Penguins center is looking for a 4-5 year deal in the $4.5M per range. Just what the Blueshirts need, a third line center in Top 6 clothing. Hmmm, this reminds me of another situation. I can’t quite put my finger on it though:
11. Another forward just hitting the market after being bought out by Columbus is Scott Hartnell, who could add a much needed agitating element to the Rangers line-up. Although, I’d only endorse the Rangers signing Hartnell if I was able to punch him in the face first.
12. The Hartnell buyout also signals that Columbus may be ready to go all in on attempting to acquire Kovalchuk from the Devils if the Russian import decides on an NHL comeback. Besides the Blue Jackets, Kovalchuk has apparently also expressed interest in joining the Rangers. Seriously, are the Rangers tied to every aging free agent? Where are the Jagr to the Blueshirts rumors?
Oh, my bad Jags.
13. Speaking of buyouts, the Oilers bought out our old friend Benoit Pouliot (aka Captain Taco, aka Poopsalot). Nope, never thought he’d end up being a buyout candidate after signing his 5-year, $20 million contract. Nope, never in million years.
14. It’s looking more and more like the Rangers may be missing the boat on a backup goaltender. Both Mike Condon (Senators) and Keith Kinkaid (Devils) were re-signed while, according to Elliotte Friedman, a number of backup netminders are connected to other teams: Chad Johnson to Buffalo, Brian Elliott to Philadelphia, Steve Mason to Winnipeg, Ryan Miller to Anaheim, Antti Niemi to Pittsburgh, Anders Nilsson to Vancouver.
This would be catastrophic for the Rangers. Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger and with injuries becoming more of a common occurrence for the Rangers goaltender, finding a suitable backup was of paramount importance after the trade of Raanta.
15. Since I mentioned Lundqvist injuries, Larry Brooks reports that the left knee injury “The King” sustained in last month’s World Championship tournament is healing on schedule and will have no impact on his preparation for the upcoming season.
16. Man, the rumor mill on the Rangers is literally all over the map. I have no idea which direction they’re leaning. They can just as easily go all-in as they can rebuild.
17. As far as my preference, obviously I’d like to see them commit to winning a Stanley Cup this coming season, but I trust that if Gorton doesn’t feel the pieces are out there he’ll reassess the situation and look to rebuild. I just want them to commit to a decision. If they’re going to rebuild then rebuild. If they want to go for it then go for it. Just don’t be half pregnant. The worst thing they could do is not sign Shattenkirk, commit to letting the young defensemen such as DeAngelo, Bereglazov and Pionk learn on the fly, then still sign a Marleau, Thornton or Bonino. That’s a recipe for disaster.
18. Nice first step by DeAngelo getting in good graces with the Rangers organization and the fan base:
It’s no Ray Bourque taking off his #7 jersey during Espo’s Bruins retirement ceremony, but it’s a nice gesture by the kid.
19. We Bleed Blue Vegas trip update:
20. Saturday can be a very stressful time in a hockey fan’s life, so my advice is to enjoy it. Try to remember that free agency begins, not ends on July 1st. Just because the Rangers don’t make all the moves you want right away, doesn’t mean they’re finished for the remainder of the summer. And if all else fails: