Thursday, June 3, 2010

Offseason Profile: New York Rangers

It could of been the fact that Mark Messier was on Versus last night, or perhaps that I read an article last night from the NY Daily news remembering the day ten years ago when Glen Sather was named GM in New York. Whatever the reason, I felt the need to start our off-season profiles with the team that was a shootout win away from making the playoffs, and eliminating the eventual Eastern Conference Champions from playoff contention.

As is always the case with the NY Rangers, they will be active on July 1st. It's just their nature as they will be unable to contain themselves from squandering MSG money on big name players. Last season it was Marian Gaborik, who when healthy, is one of the best snipers in the game. Who will it be this year? Marleau, Whitney, Kovalchuk?

Ranger Forwards:
Gaborik $7.5M till 2014
Dubinsky $1.8M RFA next season
Drury $7.05M till 2012
Callahan $2.3M RFA next season
Avery $1.9M till 2012
Voros $1M UFA next season
Anisimov $822k RFA next season
Boyle $525k RFA next season
Brashear $1.4M UFA next season

Unsigned: Jokinen,Prospal,Shelley,Prust,Cristensen

At first glance the Rangers really only have one first line forward(Gaborik) as it stands right now. Dubinsky and Callahan are solid players, that most teams would want in a trade if the Rangers were going to acquire another front line player, specifically a center. If they wanted to dump a bad salary, ex. Redden, Drury, Rozsival, they would have to include one of the two.

Sean Avery seems to be somewhat of a spark plug for the Rangers, but do they really need him and Donald Brashear eating up all that money? In all likelihood the Rangers will re-sign restricted free agents Prust and Christensen. I think Anisimov could be a pleasant surprise for them next year and add more offense.

The Rangers also are slowly building a stable full of promising prospects. According to the Hockey News Future Watch, the NY Rangers have three of the Top 25 prospects in the league. Ironically enough, all three of them have played center, with Evgeny Grachev moving to wing. Derek Stepan is a 19 year old center that scouts describe as a playmaker in the Craig Janney mold. Chris Kreider was their #1 pick last season, and is considered the fastest player from that draft.

Rangers Defense:
Redden $6.5M till 2014
Rozsival $5M till 2012
Gilroy $1.7M RFA next season
Del Zotto $1.08M RFA 2012

Unsigned: RFA Marc Staal, RFA Dan Girardi

This is where Ranger fans go crazy. I don't know a player in the league more vilified than Wade Redden(2 goals, 12 assists). Whats wrong with spending $2.5 million per goal? Of the Rangers top six defensemen, Redden registered the fewest amount of points with only 14. The drop-off in production for Redden since he has been on Broadway is astounding. At one point, the guy was a top offensive defensemen in the league. For the most positive of all Ranger fans, he did post a plus-8 rating this season.

Michal Rozsival is probably not too far behind on the Ranger fans most renounced list. Three goals and 20 assists is not enough production for that kind of cap hit. Unfortunately, for the Rangers contracts like these are what is handcuffing them. As we mentioned earlier, if they want to unload one of these guys, Dubinsky, Callahan, or one of their many prospects will have to go the other way. Will the Rangers bury Redden in Hartford and have him stay in the AHL? Could happen.

The rest of the Ranger defense is very young, and very talented. Other teams rave about Marc Staal, who will be re-signed by Sather this summer. At age 23, he will only improve of his solid numbers last year (8 goals,19 assists). Michael Del Zotto stepped in as a rookie this season and showed the enormous potential that he has. The minus-20 is indicative of the learning curve for a rookie defensemen. Gilroy and Girardi, who will probably be re-signed as well, which round out a solid core of blueliners. However, the Rangers still need a veteran presence to run the point on the power play and log plenty of minutes.

Rangers Goaltending:
Lundqvist $6.8M till 2014

Unsigned: Auld, Valiquette

One of the best goalies in the game, Henrik Lundqvist posted a .921 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA. As he goes, so do the Rangers. He has the ability to steal a game outright and gives the Rangers a chance to win every night. The workload has been heavy the last four seasons, and it may be a good idea to acquire a serviceable backup that could play around 15-20 games effectively.

It appears the Rangers have lots of money tied into a few key players. The fact that they are not getting the production from a few of their big salary players, makes it difficult for the organization to improve the club via trade or free agency. On the bright side, they do have promising prospects coming up through the system and one would expect the Del Zotto's, Staal's, Gilroy's, Anisimov's, and Girardi's all to improve. Having an elite goalie, and an elite sniper is also a plus. For the tenth straight year, Ranger fans will be counting on Glen Sather to fill the necessary holes on the New York roster this summer. Unfortunately, Ranger fans will have to hold the "Fire Sather" chants till opening night.

And now we have a series

After the Chicago Blackhawks held serve at home with two 1 goal victories, the Flyers came home and won game 3 in Overtime. A win in game 4 will even up this series and make it for all purposes a best of 3. Once again, the Flyers had the better of play in the latter stages of the game similar to game 2. This time, they got a couple of bounces and were able to send the game into Overtime and get a game winner when they took advantage of a bad change by the Blackhawks.
After the Flyers came back from a 3-0 deficit in games to the Bruins in round 2, we saw them come back and add themselves to the history books. However, a loss in game 4 at home will have the Blackhawks starting to nail the coffin shut. Although the Flyers have proven they can come back when trailing in a series, the Blackhawks are not the Bruins.
So what do the Flyers have to do to win game 4 ? Do what they did in the 3rd periods of games 2 and 3. They out shot the Hawks 15-4 in the third period of both games. They will also need Micheal Leighton to play like a #1 goaltender. He was good enough in game 3, but they will need him to be the better of the two goalies in game 4. With how the Flyers have played late in games, they have proven they belong in this series and a win in game 4 could bring us closer to one of the better Stanley Cup Finals in recent years.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nice hit, Dan Carcillo

Tuesday Timeout

Stanley Cup Update through two games:

Talk about two totally different games thus far at the United Center. Game 1 featured an abundance of offense,poor goaltending, and sloppy defensive coverage. Last night's game was all about old time physical hockey that consisted of verbal jabs, players hitting their own teammates, thrown elbows, you name it. I total of 72 hits were dished out last night. Personally, I enjoyed last nights game and felt both teams put everything they had on the ice. What these last two games proved to me was the amount of depth that the Chicago Blackhawks actually have. Considering that Toews and Kane have not registered one point yet, they are getting production from Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Tomas Kopecky, and Ben Eager. The Flyers probably can match up with Chicago's top six forwards, but after that, Chicago has a huge edge.

What can the Flyers do to make this a series and win Game 3?

Let's start with playing their 5th and 6th defense pairing as little as possible. Lukas Krajicek and whomever the pair him with whether it is Oskars Bartulis or Ryan Parent, are simply not getting the job done. I feel like every time I see Krajicek on the ice he is either turning the puck over or getting rammed into the boards and down on the ice. Peter Laviolette is getting some criticism and rightfully so, for having his 5th and 6th defensemen on the ice for a faceoff in his teams zone, which led to the Hossa goal.

We expect Philadelphia to feed off the energy and Wakovia Center on Wednesday night and they will need to continue to play physical right from the drop of the puck. For whatever reason it appears that the Flyers have come out somewhat flat in the opening period physically in both games. If the Flyers continue to stop the Toews line, and stay out of the box which they did in game 1, and killed off all three penalties in Game 2 they have a chance. Michael Leighton would probably want the Ben Eager goal back, but overall he was solid last night and plays very well in Philly. They will also have to try to rattle Niemi by getting more bodies in front of the net, and hopefully some of the shots that Chicago blocked last night, will find a way through in Game 3. Obviously, this is a must win for the Flyers, even if some of their fans point out that they were down 0-3 to Boston and came back. News flash, the Bruins are not on the same planet as the Blackhawks. The Flyers have been resilient all playoffs but are facing a team that has won 7 straight on the road.

Niklas Lidstrom signs for one more year:

Attention Red Wing Haters: He's Back! The guy simply will not go away even at age 40. This morning Lidstrom signed a one year deal with terms not disclosed. Mike Babcock indicated that he felt Lidstrom would be back and it will be interesting to see what he signed for and how it will effect the salary cap for Detroit. Last season Lidstrom made $7.5 million, so if he is re-signed at close to that number it will be difficult for the Wings to be active this summer. I have a hunch though that he is signed for considerably less than this season.

AHL Finals: Texas Stars vs. Hershey Bears

Series begins on Thursday night as the Hershey Bears appear to be the favorite. Keep an eye on some of the Texas players, because with the murky ownership situation in Dallas, it's a good chance that some of these players will be suiting up for them next season. All indications are that the Stars will be looking to cut salary this offseason.