The New York Rangers did not meet expectations. The New York Rangers were a disappointment this season. However, this whole year in hockey was a disappointment. We had 48-games, missed a few months, no Winter Classic, no All-Star weekend, bad injuries, and whole lot more.
Now that the Rangers season is over, I’m going to do what I do just about every day of the year and play Armchair-GM. Every year I do my homework and do some real research. So here are the moves I think the Rangers need to make.
The “Buh-bye Club”
1. Amnesty Brad Richards: This is not only because of his lack of production but it gives the Rangers a whole bunch of space. With the emergence of Derek Stepan and Derrick Brassard waking up, Brad Richards is simply just taking up space. If Brad Richards does emerge as a better player next season, we still have 3 center’s that struggle in the faceoff circle. That needs to change. I wish Brad the best and hope he can turn it around, but we simply don’t need him even when he’s at his best.
2. Trade Michael Del Zotto: I don’t care that he’s 22. I don’t care that this could’ve been just an off-year. His style of play simply just doesn’t fit this team. He is a defensive liability which is not really what you want out of a defenseman. He doesn’t have that great of a shot, his passing is at best good but it’s more like above average, and he has zero hockey sense. And stay tuned because I do have a trade in mind.
3. Fire either Tortorella or Mike Sullivan: If you want to give Tortorella a full camp and an 82-game season, fine. I have no problem with that. But then you HAVE to fire Sullivan and hire a guy who is more offensive-minded and can step into coach. I wouldn’t mind Brian Leetch but I don’t know if he really wants to coach. However, you have this at your fingertips, fire Tortorella and hire Lindy Ruff. Take away Tortorella’s Stanley Cup for just one second and his playoff history isn’t even in the same league as Lindy Ruff’s. Lindy Ruff is an offensive minded coach with a good power play but still gets pretty good defense out of his players. This is the formula you need with a goalie like Lundqvist. You have Staal and Girardi to cover for an offensive minded team and Hank to shut the door down.
Henrik Lunqdvist is the best goalie in the sport. However, while he can make those spectacular saves and put up tremendous numbers, he consistently gives up these soft goals that hurt us. But why do they hurt us? Because we don’t have the offense to cover for a guy that simply can’t be perfect all the time. Lundqvist is not Broduer, he’s not Patrick Roy, he’s not Dominik Hasek. He can’t be given a one goal lead and expect to shut the door down throughout an entire post-season year in and year out. He needs an offense to bail him out when he does make those mistakes.
The “Welcome To Broadway” Club
1. Sign Viktor Stalberg: Viktor Stalberg is 6’3” and fast. He is a great forechecker and can give you 20 goals. He can be penciled in for 70 games no problem every year. That covers a few needs for the Rangers. Scoring, forechecking, and lineup consistency. He isn’t expensive either. The Rangers could most likely get him for a cap hit no higher than $2M. He’s basically an offensive minded Zuccarello but about 7 or 8 inches taller and with a better scoring touch.
2. Sign Mark Streit: Also a must have for the Rangers as he brings not only power play experience, consistency both in production and appearances, but he also brings offense and experience. He plays at least 70 games just about every season and averages around a point every other game every year. Granted he was playing the last few season with John Tavares but that’s even better. That could help out guys like Stepan and Brassard.
3. Sign Jake Muzzin: He’s a RFA that will be tendered at about $650k. I would offer him around $1M-1.25M because even if he doesn’t pan out to be what I expect, he shouldn’t be much worse than Eminger. You could even get him for under 1M and trade Michael Del Zotto for him. But why do I want this guy? Why do I think he is the most important acquisition for the Rangers? Because he’s built and plays a similar brand of hockey to Michael Sauer while still being a good puck mover. He has a great one-timer and a quick release. He’s big and strong and can move guys off the puck. We need that instead of Del Zotto’s style. He’s only 24 and I think having Streit, Moore, Muzzin, and McDonagh as your power play defenseman drastically improves our power play. We need a crease clearer, a guy that can help Lundqvist fight off screens, but also be able to move the puck and shoot from the point. I think a trade of Michael Del Zotto for Jake Muzzin and Dwight King would be perfect.
4. Sign Matt Cullen: Granted he’s 36 but he’s played in New York and he’s always in the top 15 in faceoff leaders at the end of the year. He still has some game left and when put with guys like Hagelin and Zuccarello or Miller, you have yourself a ridiculously good energy 3rd line. Cullen wins the faceoff and you have Hags, Zucc/Miller fighting along the boards to keep it in and you have Muzzin and Streith firing away from the point while Cullen plants himself in front of the net.
The “Stay Right Here” Club
1. Re-sign Derek Stepan: 5 years at a cap hit of 4.5M. He has shown his importance to this team and he has gained a bunch of confidence. We need Stepan to come in and take over that first line center role and I think he’s ready. Show the support in the kid and give him a contract that doesn’t kill us but also gives him his first pay day. He’ll sign his real pay day deal at the end of this deal when he’s 26 or 27 and going into his prime.
2. Re-sign Ryan McDonagh: 5 years at a cap hit no higher than 5.5M. He is vital to this team and can’t stand to lose him. We need him there. This is a no brainer.
3. Re-sign Carl Hagelin: 2 years at a cap hit of 1.5M or less. He still hasn’t shown the scoring touch I need to see to consider him a good 2nd line player. He’s a perfect 3rd lien player and cut put in 15-20 goals with the right center. This creates some great depth and good offensive depth for us.
4. Re-sign Zuccarello: 2 years at a cap hit of 1M. He’s vital in the defensive department and can make plays offensively. He’s vital to creating a great 3rd line.
So let’s look at the lines.
Rick Nash/Derek Stepan/Chris Kreider: It’s big, fast, and creative. You got shooters in Nash and Kreider and a guy who can move the puck in Stepan. Kreider can learn how to use his hands and his body to get to the net instead of firing from the outside. I’d expect a 30 goal season from Nash, 20 goals from Stepan, and 25 from Kreider. That’s solid production from your first line especially with a defensive unit of Staal and John Moore playing with them.
Viktor Stalberg/Derrick Brassard/Ryan Callahan: Good shooters on the wings, playmaker in the middle, forechecking and good speed. Each of these guys should put up a 20 goal season and maybe even a close to 30 goal season from one of them. This a great 2nd line to have because it has good size and can generate good offense.
That’s already 145-155 goals from your top line.
Carl Hagelin/Matt Cullen/Mats Zuccarello or JT Miller: This is a great energy line that could generate scoring chances. I’d expect about 15 goals from Hagelin and Zucc and 5 from Miller as he plays throughout the year but also around 15 from Cullen just from being in front of the net. You get a 3rd liner that can win faceoffs and allow us to plant it in their zone for 1 minute and a half, well that’s something we desperately need consistently.
That’s around 200 goals from your top 2 lines.
Darrell Powe/Brian Boyle/Arron Asham: If Boyle can become a consistently good faceoff taker than this becomes a very good 4th line especially with guys like Dwight King, Derek Dorsett, Kris Newbury, or Miller and Zuccarello as scratches and able to come in for a game when needed. I’d expect about 20 goals from the 4th line.
That’s about 220 goals from your 4 lines.
Marc Staal/John Moore: If Staal can get back to top form for the first time in a long time, this is a perfect D-Pair. Moore could potentially grow into a mini version of Ryan McDonagh so with a puck mover and a guy that can carry the puck having Staal to pick up the slack defensively, it gives 3 and a half forwards on the 1st line. Moore could put 15 goals in the net and Staal could account for 5. That’s 20 goals from your top D pair. (around 240 in total so far)
Dan Girardi/Ryan McDonagh: While this is easily the best defensive pair for the Rangers, it fits better as a 2nd unit as it makes any line you put them on that much better. The first line doesn’t need that. The other lines would be that much better for having it. Girardi could net 10 goals and McDonagh 15. That’s 25 goals from your 2nd D pair (around 265 in total so far)
Mark Streit/Jake Muzzin: Finally, a 3rd D pair that can actually be put on the ice and not exhausting the top 4. Muzzin can shut down but still score. He has 7 goals and 9 assists and is a +16 in his first NHL season (48 game season). Imagine a full year for him. I could see him being 15-30-45 guy which is tremendous production from your bottom pair especially if he can also help keep the puck out of the net. And Mark Streit is down for similar numbers as well which means you could get 25-30 goals from your bottom pair and about 60 assists. The Rangers would have the best defense in the league by far.
Judging from my expectations, the Rangers would have anywhere from 265 goals to 300 goals. The top scoring teams in 2011-12 were Pittsburgh (289), Boston (269), and Philadelphia (264). Notice how two of those teams were notorious for having weak defense. The Rangers goal differential could easily lead the league and that’s a recipe for a Stanley Cup.
As always, feel free to disagree with me and LET’S GO RANGERS!!!!!