NY Rangers Offseason Mailbag

Mike Stobe. Getty Images.

The best part about your team's season ending? Getting to play virtual GM like any of us know what the fuck we're talking about when it comes to running an NHL franchise. So I asked Twitter to feed me some offseason questions Friday and hammered out answers over the weekend. Surprised no one asked about trading the #1 pick but maybe that's because, even though it's fun to speculate, it's simply not gonna happen. We'll start though with the question I saw the most and that was regarding the center position, understandably.

Oh and by the way, I answered these separately at different times then put them all into the blog - so if I repeat myself in my responses you're just gonna have to deal with it. Anyway...about that Rangers abyss up the middle...

 

 

Barring trades, I think Strome will be back on a 1-year deal and Chytil might get one last crack at proving he can be a top-six C. If Strome doesn't return I'd love to see NY scoop up Erik Haula off the free agent pile. Good skater, solid at the dot & buried 29 tucks before a brutal knee injury cost him a majority of last season & a month of this one. Perhaps his knee remains a lingering issue but there'd be no better spot for him to sign a cheap prove-it deal while being an upside stop-gap for the Rangers until they address the position long-term.

Man, it's hard to predict a 'realistic' trade market especially for the league's most coveted asset - a young center. Teams just don't move them for the hell of it, and the fact that free agency is real light until 2022 (Forsberg, Barkov, Hertl, Zib) means they're even more valuable than ever. I'd love to throw some names out there but I don't think there's many, if any, obvious options for a pick in the early 20's and a player due a significant pay raise. Gorton would have to get creative. If you're thinking RNH I don't see a match there. EDM needs defensive d-men, not a DeAngelo type, and they've got their own back end studs in the system (Bouchard, Broberg) so they don't need more kids. If RNH is flipped it'll be to improve their team right now. Plus the Oilers will have plenty of money when his contract is up for renewal next summer if they want.

A name that makes some sense is Max Domi. The Canadiens surprising postseason has been with Domi moreso riding as a passenger than a driver. He's fallen down the depth charts to third-line winger as Danault and youngsters Suzuki & Kotkaniemi have seized the center spots. There's no future for Domi up the middle there. He's entering an RFA year that should get him a decent raise from $3.15M despite a significant drop-off from his 72-point campaign in '18-19. If the Habs don't want to make a commitment, perhaps they'd be interested in Buchnevich. Buch is the same age & still under contract for $3.25M before one last RFA season when Montreal sheds a ton of salary. Would make perfect sense to see how well Buch fits in before it comes time to decide which wings they re-up. Tony D might make some sense as well considering their right side is led by a duo well into their 30's. Either way I do think Tie's kid could bring some playmaking upside to a Rangers squad that needs it at the pivot.

Regarding Tampa's cap situation - you're right, the Bolts will most likely be able to move the Killorn contract provided they find a partner not on his 16-team no-trade list. But Johnson's got a full NTC as does every other player with a salary worth moving. Dumping Killorn gives them an expected $9.75M to sign their 5 RFA's (including Sergachev & Cirelli), plus they'll need to find a 6th defenseman. You'd think they're in trouble but the truth is, they just gotta make it to next offseason. Sergachev and Cirelli don't have arbitration rights so all TB needs to do is float them one-year qualifying offers for under a mil each. They've got no leverage. Either sign or skip the season. Easy decision when playing for a Cup contender.

Then they can dump TyJo next summer when his full no-trade turns to a modified & have more wiggle room to keep their kids long term. Still won't be easy but my point is they're not at a "now or never" decision yet, so I don't expect a trade that includes Cirelli and it definitely wouldn't include any money going back to them (i.e. Strome). An offer sheet, however, and I'm pretty sure they're fucked. That'd essentially work out to trading Cirelli for a first and a third. So if you ARE talking trade, there's no reason to offer them more than that.

Who gets protected from the expansion draft and what will the lines for next year look like in your opinion? 

 

 

The Rangers don't have anything to worry about in terms of losing anyone significant in expansion. Shesterkin is exempt. Trouba and Lindgren will be two of the three D protected, with the third spot going to Tony if he's still here. Fox & every kid who hasn't sniffed the NHL yet are exempt. Up front you can write in Mika, Panarin, Kreider and Chytil as four definites. The other three spots depend on who's still here - could be any of Strome, Buch, Lemieux, Howden, Gauthier or a new acquisition. If Buchnevich is still a Ranger, he'll be protected. I'm not overly concerned with anyone else on that list although I'd hope Gauthier sticks around. Kakko & every kid who hasn't sniffed the NHL yet are exempt. 

Lines are always changing and impossible to predict, but if NY doesn't go out and get a bona fide 2C I'd like to see Chytil get a real good "prove it" opportunity. The trio of Kreider/Chytil/Buchnevich had some real good games together. Wouldn't mind seeing that as a solid second line behind the Panarin & Zib super-duo giving Kakko every chance to be the stud we're waiting for. I know everyone will want to see Lafreniere in the top six but I think it's a safe bet, considering the talent ahead of him, to assume he'll get his pro feet wet on the third line. The rest of which is honestly a crapshoot to fill out (Strome/Chytil or a new C? Kravtsov or Gauthier?) but should still be fairly talented.

If this season was Hank's last where does he rank in all time Rangers? 

 

Well I'm fairly certain this was his last, and what a career it's been. Ranking him is so hard though simply because of what the guys (Messier, Leetch, Richter) on that '94 team accomplished while erasing a 54-year Cup drought. I'm not gonna pretend to be a hockey historian and compare him to guys from 50+ years ago but there's no doubt Hank is in the franchise's top-10. The real question is, does he get the nod as the greatest Rangers goalie of all time? Man, I love Richter & Giacomin is a legend - but the answer is yes.

What do you think we can realistically get for Georgiev? (with so many goalies under performing these playoffs... I think the stock went up) 

 

I think we, myself included, put a hefty price tag on Georgie a while ago. Truth is the market for goalies is never what it seems it should be. Regardless of how strongly he's played behind a horrendous defensive squad (his .913 save percentage is top-20 among goalies who've played 75+ games since '17-'18) he's still a relatively unknown quantity. I think he's more important to the Rangers roster than the return he'd fetch in an individual trade (which if it's not a first - and it won't be - pass). If he's part of a package then sure that could change - but he's proven reliable thrown into the mix over and over again without any warning so what's the rush?

He's actually younger than Shesterkin & still under team control for three years. Plus, while his first injury was a fluky car crash, the fact is Shesty has missed games on two different occasions already in his young career. Obviously that doesn't mean he's made of glass but there shouldn't be a push to move Georgiev right now just in case. He'll be better than any backup they could sign for the price. Also wouldn't hurt to see what Tyler Wall's got in the AHL first before potentially throwing him to the wolves.

1) Do you see a future in this organization for Vitaly Kravtsov?
2) Do you see us trading for a veteran C?
3) With the rangers having lots of picks and a great prospect system coupled with a flat cap could you see ya making an offer sheet? 

 

The Rangers aren't giving up on Kravtsov and I don't think he's another Lias Andersson. He's still only 20 and I'm not holding a tumultuous North American debut against the kid - but there's certainly a little reason for concern. He's been put on high alert now though and this will be a big year for him to prove he's gonna be a valuable part of the organization. Since he was drafted 9th in 2018, the Rangers have filled top-nine wing slots long-term by signing Panarin, re-signing Kreider, drafting Kakko & (assumedly) Lafreniere. So the Russian has a battle on his hands just to crack the lineup, let alone become the prolific scorer he was projected to be and beat out a couple kids drafted higher than he was. The right side might seem to be more of an opportunity for him, but if Lafreniere is legit then someone's sliding over from the left to get him in the top-six. There's no spot to be handed to him. Kravtsov is gonna have to take it.

If JD & Gorts make a deal for a center they won't be bringing in a veteran. They'll be looking at a move with a partner who's just as loaded up the middle as NY is on defense and wing. Tony, Buch and Carolina's pick could all be used to bring back that pivot who's just about to enter their prime. Who that is I dunno, but that'll be the only type they go after this offseason. When money frees up next summer, if they haven't addressed the position by then, they'll go hunting more seriously.

Offer sheets are getting a lot hype and I'm not gonna lie, the brief Aho drama last year was fun. I just don't see the Rangers playing that type of game though. Tampa Bay is in a huge cap crunch so naturally names like Sergachev and Cirelli have been buzzing on Rangers Twitter as targets and there's certainly a bid to make there - but there's plenty other organizations in the league eyeballing the same move. As I mentioned earlier, combine a potential bidding war with the fact that there's no certainty these kids want or have to leave a Cup contender and you'll see it's not nearly as much of the reality people want to believe.

Are you going to learn the sport? Asking for a friend...

 

Your friend is such a pussy, can't even ask me himself? But nope. Too many concussions to learn anything new.

What do you think we should do with our buyout candidates? (Staal, Smith, Hank) 

 

 

This question is real easy to answer if Lundqvist doesn't retire - he's the buyout option, no question. There won't be a trade market for him as, even if the Rangers ate half his salary, $4.25M is a lot for a team (that Hank would have to approve) to take on. So if he's not heading back to Sweden to play with his brother, where his salary would come completely off the books, the buyout is his. The organization has said repeatedly they're not going into next season with three goalies and $8.5M for a backup is an impossibility for a team that's gotta get through one more tough cap year before a lot of money frees up. Buying him out saves a valuable $3M this upcoming year & tacks on an additional year of $1.5M.

I don't see Staal as a buyout option at all. Like it or not, he's a valuable presence for a squad grooming a ton of inexperience on defense. He's frustrating on the ice, sure, but he's a pro's pro who will set a good example for all the kids gunning for his job. Take him out of that group and you've got Smith & DeAngelo as the elder statesman in terms of being a Ranger. Those aren't the guys I want youngsters picking the brains of. I'll be happy if his final year is spent mentoring a raw talent like K'Andre. The physical skillset has left Marc Staal but his knowledge of the game could be a big help to a big body who just became a defender five years ago. There's something to be said for a vet heading into his 14th season with the same franchise & 107 playoff games under his belt. Kids will listen.

As for Smith - he's not in anyone's way. Given the option if Hank retires, he'd be the buyout candidate to save $1.5M this upcoming season then tack on about $800k the following. His contract is also perfect to dump to a team willing to eat the cap hit ($4.35M) at a discounted cash price (actual salary is $2.35M) so expect NY to heavily explore that. He's got a modified no-trade but I gotta think he'd agree to go anywhere he'd actually play. But if kids are ready & he's still here, they can bury Smith in the AHL or just ship him to the press box as a spare D/F. He only became a regular defender because of the Skjei trade and only played next to Trouba because A) would you rather it be Staal and B) no way Quinn splits up Fox/Lindgren. If Miller is ready, Hajek has a great camp or someone else surprises - trust me, Brendan Smith won't stop them.

1. I was somewhat surprised that the Rangers didn't bring in a Fin to make KK more comfortable in the locker room. Any worthwhile Finnish FA's?
2. Any appetite for bringing in Jordan Greenway from Minn.?  Believe he's an RFA. Supposedly a Quinn Favorite at BU. 

 

Well up until winning the Lafreniere sweepstakes I had Anton Lundell circled as a draft target to A) fill a C need and B) bring Kakko a former teammate & they could both find their way together, provided Lundell made the squad. I haven't dissected the Finnish FA list, but a guy I really like up the middle they could sign for cheap is Erik Haula - who just happens to have been born within a couple hours of where Kakko was. So now I want him even more.

Pass on Greenway. In terms of forward acquisitions it's strictly center or bust.

You get to sign 1 long term: Strome or Tony?

 

This one's a no-brainer. I like what Strome's done since he's been a Ranger. I don't think his success is ALL simply because of Artemi Panarin. However, when I think championship-caliber team, that team doesn't have Ryan Strome as a 2C. If he's going to end up 3C then paying him his market value of, say, $5M per is simply too much. He's versatile enough to play the wing but the Blueshirts are loaded on the flanks with cheap young talent.

If you look at Tony though, while he's got his defensive shortcomings he's an undoubted asset when deployed properly. You can't overlook 4th in D scoring and he's played some left-side, so sliding over when Lundkvist is ready isn't an impossibility. Plus he's still under team control (with arbitration rights) for three more years so NY doesn't have to commit to a "forever" deal right away. When it comes down to "pick one to sign long term", it's DeAngelo no question even though the tag ($5.5M per?) is slightly higher.

Who out of deangelo, strome, & buchnevich based on their current contract situations do you see as a resign candidate, just here for 20/21 or is used in a trade in your opinion. 

I think all three players are potential trade options but I don't think there will be a strong market for Strome. Wouldn't be surprised to see him on a 1-year deal just for short-term position depth. DeAngelo will probably be around a couple more years. From the Rangers perspective A) they still need time for their backend kids to develop and B) if Tony repeats this offensive output over another couple seasons, his trade value will be huge at a time where NY will have a better idea where their roster holes are.

I don't think Buchnevich sticks around much longer considering how stacked the wings are. I like where his game has gotten to. I like when he plays angry, he's got some fire to him. But he'll be due a raise from $3.25M in his last RFA season (2021-22) and should fetch a nice return because of those two "bargain" years should he match the 55-point pace he was on this year. With Kreider and Panarin eating top-six wing spots for a while, you'd expect to fill those 55-point skates with Lafreniere, Kakko or even Chytil (who I believe ends up a winger). Too many other guys will need to get paid soon (Zib, Fox, Shesty, etc.) to hang onto Buch pushing $4.5M+. He's the most likely to get moved in a package for help up the middle.

How we gonna get this man (Jack Eichel) on the Rangers? 

Well as much fun as it is to run your favorite hockey club as a fantasy team, the short answer is that it's not happening. The Rangers didn't stockpile a slew of young assets just to ship them off before they know what they've got. A player like Eichel would cost a boatload (it's not gonna be draft picks, RFA's and prospects we don't want) and leave the Rangers inevitably with three players making 8-figures (Zib will be there in 2022) & eating up 40% of the current cap with a stripped-down supporting cast. Plus, realistically speaking the Blueshirts won't be true contenders for another couple years as they'd need whoever is left to develop. With six years remaining at $10M/per, it'd be kinda dumb for NY to waste years 24-25 of a superstar like Eichel and that'd be best-case scenario. Maybe it's on the table in the summer of '22 before his no-move kicks in & the Rangers are in win-now mode, but it's not the move for right now.