The first weekend of free agency has come and gone and the Rangers were able to fill two of their three needs. Unfortunately, a huge hole remains down the middle. Let’s take a look at another wild and crazy start to NHL free agency.
1. So, have the Rangers fitted Shattenkirk for Redden’s old #6 yet?
2. In all seriousness, if you didn’t love Shattenkirk before the Rangers signed him you’re officially crushing on him now that he left years and dollars on the table to live out a life long dream of playing for the Rangers. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of guy I want playing for my team.
3. Oh yeah, he’s a pretty good player as well. Seriously, with Shattenkirk, Skjei and DeAngelo potentially running the point on the power play, the Rangers haven’t seen that kind of skill QBing the extra man since Leetch and Zubov. It’s also going to allow AV to take McD off the power play (where he didn’t belong) giving the Rangers Captain additional rest which should do wonders for his stamina. BTW, here’s exclusive video of Lundqvist upon hearing of the signing:
4. If there’s been one criticism of Shattenkirk it’s his apparent defensive deficiencies. While I’m far from being a #fancystat nerd, when Shattenkirk is sporting a career 54% Corsi For, you can pretty much be assured that when he’s on the ice, his team is in possession of the puck and rarely pinned in their own end. The last time I checked, when you’re able to provide possession for your own team, that speaks volumes of your defensive ability. Especially in today’s NHL when speed and puck possession is the name of the game.
5. With Shattenkirk in the fold along with the Girardi buyout, the Rangers top four defensemen are easily a Top 5 foursome in the NHL. Sadly, there’s a big drop off to the bottom pairing, especially if Staal and Holden are given regular playing time. Having said that, there’s going to be one hell of a competition for those final two spots with DeAngelo, Bereglazov and Pionk also fighting to make the roster. Now we just have to hope AV doesn’t screw it up.
6. So no Thornton, Bonino, Hanzal, Gagne, Boyle or Marleau. Who the hell is playing center for the Rangers? After making a win now move to sign Shattenkirk, having Zibanejad & Hayes as the top two centers is not a corresponding win now strategy up front. With the Metro Division becoming stronger and stronger with each passing day, the Rangers cannot go into the regular season as currently constructed or they will miss out on the postseason for the first time since THIS:
7. So what are Gorton’s options? He could stay in-house. During the Shattenkirk signing conference call, the Rangers GM indicated that moving JT Miller back in the middle is a realistic option. However, with Miller seemingly more comfortable on the wing after coming off a career high 56 point season, you have to assume the club would ultimately rather leave him there and look elsewhere. Other organizational options include oft-injured Boo Nieves and 2017 #7 overall pick Lias Andersson. But I very much doubt Gorton wants to begin the season with 3rd and 4th line centers who have zero NHL experience.
8. Maybe via a trade? With a number of teams committing big dollars to free agents (cough Maple Leafs cough) some centers may now be available who weren’t just a week ago. I mention Toronto because after committing $6.25M per year for the next three seasons to Patrick Marleau the Maple Leafs are currently over the cap, so a guy like Tyler Bozak might potentially be dangled. Or Gorton could look to make a big splash by offering up a Kreider or a Miller to pry away Duchene from the Avs or Nugent Hopkins from the Oilers. Although, if Gorton is going to target Duchene, he probably should have just kept Stepan seeing as they’re very similar players.
8. How’s the center free agent market looking?
Even the low risk, high reward guys are barely hanging on:
9. Remember the Kid ‘N Play movie “Class Act” when they switch roles, that’s pretty much what’s happened with the Rangers defense and center ice position this offseason.
10. Besides the defense, a second position the Rangers were able to sure up over the weekend was goaltending as they signed the wildly inconsistent Ondrej Pavelec to a one-year, $1.3M deal to backup Henrik Lundqvist. Let’s take a look at Rangers goaltending whisperer Beniot Allaire’s reaction to the signing…
11. For the struggling Pavelec, signing with the Rangers makes all the sense in the world. First, he gets to learn under the tutelage of the talented Allaire who has transformed his last two backups into #1 NHL netminders. Plus he can work on his game without the stress of being the top dog. Having said that, there will be pressure on Pavalec to provide the Rangers will a solid 25-30 starts this season to keep Lundqvist fresh for the stretch run and postseason the way both Talbot and Raanta had done in the past. If he can’t, unfortunately, the Rangers will be forced to lean on the aging Lundqvist much more than intended which could lead to burnout in March & April.
12. I guess Brian Boyle enjoys playing in front of empty seats as he signed a two-year, $6.1M contract with the New Jersey Devils.
13. Speaking of former Rangers, Dan Girardi officially signed with Tampa for two-years, $6M. I love Dan, but I just don’t get it. That’s one year and $5M more than I’d ever be willing to pay Girardi. Seriously, does Yzerman not have the NHL package at home to watch Girardi’s deteriorating play the last two seasons?
14. I must have missed the Rangers announcing that they’ve re-signed Tanner Glass. Right?
15. Despite the cavernous hole at center, I have all the faith in the world that Gorton will address it properly. Minus the Eric Staal trade (Sather likely had his fingers all over that one), he has done a tremendous job transforming the Rangers from a team that looked old and run down just two seasons ago in the playoffs vs. the Penguins to a squad that exudes youth, speed and excitement.
16. Speaking of youth, the Rangers #21 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Filip Chytil, finished development camp with three combined goals in two scrimmages. Here’s an exclusive photo of the 17-year old Czech prospect getting into his car after the final scrimmage…
18. It’s sad that no team, up until this point, is interested in extending a contract to the ageless Jaromir Jagr. However, he’s been entertaining as hell on social media:
19. Since the situation is still floating out there like a big turd in the pool…
Ilya Kovalchuk is reportedly waiting on whether the Devils are willing and/or able to trade him to the Rangers, Columbus or Toronto. The only way I envision the Rangers, who are stocked at wing, interested in Kovalchuk is if they are committed to Miller at center. If that’s not the case, I don’t see how Kovalchuk makes sense on this team.
20. Finally, if you’re counting at home, the Rangers currently have $8,350,556 in available cap space and that’s without re-signing both Zibanejad and Fast, which means they really don’t have room to bring in a top center unless they’re able to move some salary. Hopefully, the rumors of a Klein retirement are true as that’ll open up an additional $2.9M, which should be enough to acquire an elite pivot. Now Gorton just has to find one. Fingers crossed!