Funny how one of the most important weeks for the New York
Rangers for the 2014-2015 season isn’t played on the ice but everywhere else.
With the Rangers making the long expected buyout of Brad Richards’s contract
the team has at the very least a starting point to begin shaping the roster for
Buying out Richards might have been an easy decision for
Glen Sather and the management team to make but how to deal with the free
agents both restricted and unrestricted is going to be much harder. Then of
course comes the draft starting on Friday in Philadelphia but having moved
picks in the first, fifth, sixth and seventh (Rangers regained a pick in the
fifth from the Panthers), don’t expect a whole lot of help coming from what
most agree is a weak draft.
Where to begin starts with needs for the 2014-2015 season as
you can make a case for a second line center or look to shift Chris Kreider or
Rick Nash back to the middle where each has played before. Trust me that this
idea will have lasted as long as it took you to read it as Nash with his issues
with concussions and Kreider’s chemistry with Derek Stepan knocks that idea out
in a hurry.
The Rangers to keep the compensation rights for Derek
Brassard need to offer him 3.7 million but can Brassard move up the depth
charts and handle the second line center spot? How much of a raise does
Brassard deserve after the season he just had? If you offer him a raise of
1-1.5 million then Brassard should be in the running for the second line center
Paying a guy close to five million to be your third line
center is a bit much so why not move him up? Marty St. Louis is your playmaker
option on the line while Carl Hagelin is the speed/forecheck which leaves
Brassard to do what he was doing for Zuccarello and Pouliot last season which
is set screens and park his butt in the crease area.
Third line now needs the center and a winger which can be filled
by J.T. Miller or Oscar Lindberg as your center with Jesper Fast as the right
wing replacement for Beniot Pouliot should he depart as a free agent. One thing
Mats Zuccarello has shown during his time as a Ranger is that it doesn’t matter
who he has as linemates, he will make it work.
Zuccarello if you go look will lead the Rangers with the
most assists to different players something he has been doing since originally
joining the Rangers. Fast is going to give you energy and while he isn’t as
fast as Carl Hagelin, Fast is no turtle and is strong on the forecheck. The battle
between Miller and Lindberg should be good with Miller stronger on offense but
Lindberg better at both ends of the ice.
Miller also needs to show Coach Alain Vigneault that he is
growing up and won’t wind up in his doghouse. At worst Lindberg replaces Boyle
on the fourth line where he gets mentored by Dom Moore.
The Rangers can keep Dom Moore by helping him with today and
his post career decisions. Moore wants to stay but other teams will be waving
cash in his face which might price him out of the Ranger plans. I said it
before if I am Glen Sather first I find out how much longer Moore wants to play
and then I offer him a contract and a promise of a job when Moore hangs up his
It just might be the best way you can keep Dom Moore as a
Ranger. Don’t be surprised when down the road you see Dom Moore as an NHL head
coach. Derek Dorsett returns and becomes the team enforcer if the Rangers don’t
keep Dan Carcillo.
Now comes the fun part which is filling critical holes that
may not be so visible to the average fan. Cam Talbot’s broken hand and the
disappointing performances by the three kid goalies the Rangers had under
contract mean that Sather needs to sign a goalie who will become the number
three on the depth chart.
In a perfect world you are looking for someone with NHL
experience who can step in as a stop gap if Lundqvist or Talbot were to go down
with injuries. In many ways this might be a very critical move for Glen Sather as
you will need to find a guy who is willing to accept his role as the number
three goalie while being a mentor to whichever kid goalie the Rangers send to
Scott Stacjer and Jason Missiaen are both restricted free
agents and while Missiaen played well for Greenville, it doesn’t help that he
wasn’t able to do well in Hartford. Stacjer wound up being loaned out of the
system before his hip injury issues resurfaced. Jeff Malcolm is on an AHL
contract but he too was in the ECHL after struggling in Hartford.
If it was my choice I would let both goalies walk and have
MacKenzie Skapski battle it out with Malcolm to be the backup in Hartford. If
Skapski struggles then he can be returned to the WHL for an overage season
which saves the Rangers a year on his contract.
And yes drafting/signing another goalie will be a must do
this week for the Rangers. That along
with some tough decisions for some of the minor league players as the Rangers
head towards the draft.
The Rangers just might need to put some help wanted signs
for Hartford and Greenville.
Monday—Lets play sign them/release them
Tuesday—We play with the draft
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday—Who knows?