Rangers’ Chris Drury preparing for first encounter with UFA’s & RFA’s as GM

President and GM Chris Drury has been a factor in the decision-making process of signing free agents in the past.  This season is a bit different as he now is the man who makes the final decision for the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers are going to have some tough decisions to make when the 2020-2021 season officially concludes in July.

Unrestricted free agents along with restricted free agents are the keys to improving a hockey team.  Every decision is crucial to the organization and involves research and some luck in order to make the right moves to be a successful team.

The Rangers go through this every season as do most NHL teams, but this time around they are lead by a rookie GM with plenty of risk on the line.

RFA’s and UFA’s

A quick review of the team’s status via CapFriendly.com shows the hard work Drury has ahead of him. The decisions of who and how much to offer a player are hard enough, added to the equation is the Seattle Expansion draft, the NHL Draft, and the beginning of the free-agent signing period.

UFA

The Blueshirts have three unrestricted free agents on their roster. UFA’s are free to shop for other teams or negotiate with their current clubs.  The Rangers have no rights for these players once their contracts expire.

Philip Di Giuseppe, Brendan Smith, and Jack Johnson qualify as UFA’s at the end of this season.

RFA’s

Restricted free agents are players who have their contract expire but the club still retains their rights to play. Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, and Libr Hajek are RFA’s at the end of this season.

There are also Arbitration Eligible restricted free agents. Here a third-party arbitrator is used to determine a fair contract term and length for an expiring RFA player. Arbitration can be requested if a player meets the following conditions (CBA Reference 12.1 (b)):

  • The player qualifies as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA).
  • The player has not signed an offer sheet.
  • The player has met the required professional years of experience. (via CapFriendly.com)

The Rangers have two players who qualify for this section, Pavel Buchnevich, and Igor Shesterkin.

Buchnevich signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal in July of 2019.  His AAV was $3.25 million for each of the last two seasons.

Shesterkin signed a two-year, $7.75 million dollar entry-level contract that was loaded with bonuses in May of 2019.

Decisions, Decisions

Let’s start with the no-brainer, the team will absolutely re-sign Shesterkin.  He had the torch handed to him from the Henrik Lundqvist era and though he struggled at points this season he will be the man between the pipes for years to come.  The numbers will work themselves out one way or another.

Buchnvevich is a tough one, I’d anticipate this situation at least being scheduled for an arbitration hearing.  Buch is coming off a strong year that saw him score 20 goals with 48 points in 54 games.  He became a leader on the ice as was evident in the Tom Wilson fiasco where he was punched in the back of the head, the picked himself up to defend Artemi Panarin in the same play.

He will be looking for a long-term deal that will end with him being an unrestricted free agent. How much and for how many years will be the result of a long and most likely uncomfortable process.

Brendan Smith is the most compelling story to tell. A few seasons ago he was in the AHL with Hartford and ended the season injured after having a fight in practice with a teammate.  Fast forward to this season and he has become a player the kids look up to on and off the ice.

He played different positions with David Quinn as his coach while becoming a valuable and trusted player on the ice.

Now the problem changes from do they want to re-sign him to how can the club re-sign him now. Plenty of teams will be inquiring about his service offering more money and more years than the Rangers may be willing to offer.

His time with the club is most likely over. It would be hard to offer a big contract to a defenseman who will be a third-pair player.  He is probably ranked sixth out of the six defensive spots behind Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller.

Trades, signings, or re-signings are how teams succeed or fail in today’s NHL. Drury needs to have a solid game plan for his first go-around or the teams can find themselves out of the playoffs next April. A scenario this club would prefer to go through again.

New York Rangers Finish Season in Style with win over Boston

The New York Rangers could have just played out the season and left for vacation. Instead, the Blueshirts put in a strong effort in defeating the Boston Bruins 5-4 to wrap up their 2021 season.

Mika Zibanejad scored two of New York’s four third-period goals, and the Rangers ended their season by halting their five-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid made 28 saves before leaving with an injury midway into the third period. Igor Shesterkin finished up in goal with seven saves.

Alexis Lafreniere and Vitali Kravtsov also scored in a wild third when the Rangers overcame a 2-1 deficit. K’Andre Miller started the scoring with a goal in the first period. Pavel Buchnevich seemed a little snakebit with his puck shooting but did add three assists in the victory.

The victory will bolster the spirits of the New York Rangers

Heading into the offseason, the win against a playoff-bound Bruins team should help bolster the spirits of a young Rangers team.

That sentiment was echoed by Zibanejad in his post-game Zoom comments. “It means more than what you would think right now. Especially the way things have been going the whole season, especially the last 10 days or so, that’s been kind of crazy with the guys that are not here right now. The way we battled through it and get the win, that was good.”

In his post-game conference, head coach David Quinn noted that it was nice to give newly appointed general manager Chris Drury his first win. “I know all of us were very happy that we were able to get him that first one.”

After the firing of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton earlier in the week, it will be Quinn that decides which direction the franchise is heading, including on whether or not to retain Quinn as head coach.

Quinn also was pleased with the effort and the win stating that “it’s been difficult. It was great to finish the way we did.”

With the win, the Rangers will finish in fifth place in the NHL’s East division.

 

Depleted New York Rangers fall to the Boston Bruins

Jeremy Swayman needed to stop only 15 shots for his second career shutout and the Boston Bruins beat a listless New York Rangers 4-0.

The Rangers, in the midst of a tumultuous week that included the firing of the club’s president and general manager, played without a lot of energy from the start and lost their fifth straight. New York had just four shots on goal in the first period and three in the second.

The Blueshirts were without star center Artemi Panarin, who was injured during the Tom Wilson incident that ended his season. They were also without injured defensemen Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren and forwards Chris Kreider and Brett Howden.

In addition, Pavel Buchnevich was been suspended for one game, without pay, for high-sticking Washington Capitals forward Anthony Mantha during Wednesday night’s game. Buchnevich will forfeit $28,017 for the suspension.

Igor Shesterkin had a much busier night than his Boston counterpart, stopping 30 shots and preventing the Ranger from losing by even a greater margin.

The New York Rangers lacked energy after a difficult week

Zac Jones talked about the difficulty of playing this game after all that the Rangers have gone through this week. “It’s definitely tough with everything that has been going on,” Jones stated. “We try to put that in the back of our minds and not think about it. We just go out there and try to do our best and win every game.”

Head coach David Quinn also addressed the difficulties of playing this game in his post-game Zoom conference. “Obviously we understand the situation that we are in,” Quinn said. “Every team has gone through rough stretches of injuries during COVID. It was a challenging night, to say the least. We didn’t lay down. I know the shots were what they were. It was ugly at times but these guys competed their butts off.”

The Rangers will play their final game of the season against the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.

 

 

New York Rangers Shutout in Disappointing Loss to the Islanders

The New York Ranger’s path to the playoffs just ran into a dead end. Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 shots as the New York Islanders shut out the Rangers by the score of 4-0.

With Boston’s win tonight, the Rangers are now six points behind the Bruins. The Rangers have five games remaining and Boston has six, including two against each other.

In a last-ditch effort to get back into the game, the Rangers pulled Igor Shesterkin for a 6-on-4 advantage with about 7 minutes left and trailing 3-0. However, Mathew Barzal came out of the penalty box, picked up a loose puck, and scored into an empty net with 5:34 left.

Shesterkin finished with 23 saves, falling to 0-4-1 in five starts against the Islanders.

The New York Rangers loss to the Islanders was “demoralizing”

Adam Fox described how bad the loss was for the Rangers in his post-game Zoom conference. “Any loss at this part of the season is going to be demoralizing. We still have some games left and it’s a tough situation we put ourselves in but we are going to keep playing hard and try to get some wins.”

Before the game, Fox was named the winner of the 2020-21 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award is presented annually to the Ranger who, as chosen by the fans, “goes above and beyond the call of duty.” The award, which has been given annually since the 1987-88 season, bears the name of devoted Blueshirt fan and New York City Police Detective Steven McDonald, who was shot and injured in the line of duty on July 12, 1986, and passed away on January 10, 2017.

Head coach David Quinn echoed Fox’s statements in his post-game conference. “It’s just disappointing overall. When that team gets a lead they are really tough. I just didn’t love the feel after they scored their first goal. The way they played, it made a long night for us. There wasn’t much to like about our game in any capacity.”

The Rangers and Islanders meet again Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers Overcome Sluggish Start to Defeat the Sabres

Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves, and the New York Rangers keep pace in the East Division playoff race with a 3-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres.

In the playoff race, the Rangers are still four points behind the Bruins, who defeated the Penguins on Tuesday night. However, the Blueshirts are now just five points behind the New York Islanders, who fell to Washington. The Rangers and Islanders play in a home-and-home series on Thursday and Saturday.

Brendan Smith put the Rangers in front 1-0 at 2:22 of the second period. The Sabres tied the game on a Sam Reinhart goal.

Alexis Lafreniere broke a tie in the third period for the Rangers, who won their third straight to sweep the two-game series.

Mika Zibanejad extended the lead to 3-1 on a power play at 13:49 of the third period.

Ryan Strome picked up two assists in the game, which gave him his 300th career NHL point.

With Zibanejad’s goal, the Rangers are the only NHL team that has five players (Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome) who have recorded at least 44 points in 2020-21.

Lafreniere nets game-winner to help keep the New York Rangers in the playoff race.

Lafreniere talked about his game-winning goal during his post-game interview. “It was a great forecheck by our line. Stromer made a nice pass and I just tried to shoot it as quick as I could and was lucky enough to go in. Great play by my linemates.”

Per the NHL Public Relations, Lafrenière is the fifth teenager who has recorded 10+ goals in a season in Ranger history.

“The fact that we won six games from the Devils and Sabres is no small feat”, head coach David Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference. “It’s the National Hockey League and it is not easy to beat teams.”

On the Lafreniere goal, Quinn said, “It was important that he scored that goal because of the circumstances. He’s really played well lately. He’s played really well in the last month. People have made a big deal about his stats earlier in the season but he has had a really good rookie year.”

The Rangers have won nine of their last 11 home games and have also earned at least one point in 11 of its last 13 home games.

 

 

New York Rangers all but eliminated in loss to the Flyers

It was a game that the New York Rangers needed to win. Coming into the game, the Rangers were out of the last playoff spot by six points, with only 10 games remaining. After a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers are now eight points out of the last playoff spot, as the Boston Bruins were victorious in their game.

With Jacob Trouba out, head coach David Quinn started recently signed Zach Jones. He picked up 9:45 of ice time in his NHL.  The NHL public relations department posted that the last time the Rangers had five defensemen 23 years old or younger play in the same game was on Nov. 2, 1980.

However, they were unable to stop the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk from scoreing two power-play goals, including one that went in off his face. On that play, K’Andre Miller deflected Travis Konecny’s shot and the puck went up and off the side of van Riemsdyk’s face. Van Riemsdyk was wearing a shield covering his jaw when he returned.

Brendan Smith and Artemi Panarin scored, and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves for the Rangers.

The New York Rangers discuss their disappointing loss to the Flyers

Adam Fox talked about the difficult loss in his post-game Zoom conference. “We know what is at stake every game. At this point, there is only so many left. We are going to keep fighting until we are officially out of it.”

It was certainly something we weren’t expecting,” a dejected Quinn said after the game. “Because usually when we had games like we did against the Islanders, we responded. Maybe the realization of the situation we were in took the wind out of our sails. We have been a resilient group all year and tonight we weren’t.”

The Rangers will face the Flyers again on Friday night at MSG. According to the NHL Public Relations, the Rangers’ scheduled back-to-back home games against the Flyers mark the first time in franchise history that the Blueshirts would play back-to-back regular-season games against the same opponent on two consecutive days at MSG.

 

 

 

The New York Rangers fall flat in loss to the New York Islanders

The New York Rangers found out the hard way that the Islanders are not the New Jersey Devils. Anthony Beauvillier had a goal and three assists for the Islanders in a 6-1 win against the Rangers.

The Rangers went most of the game without defenseman Jacob Trouba who left in the first period with an upper-body injury. Trouba got hit hard into the boards by Islanders forward Matt Martin and was visibly shaken up after the collision.

Martin, who ranks in the top 10 in the league in hits, wasn’t penalized on the play.

Trouba had registered 12 points in 37 games entering Tuesday. He ranked second among Rangers skaters in average time on ice, logging 21:59 per contest.

Head coach David Quinn talked about the Trouba injury after the game. “Obviously you saw the effect that it had, but I did not love what we were doing before that. Once Troubs went out our level of play dropped even more. Losing a guy like that hurts on and off the ice.”

Mika Zibanejad talked about the loss of Trouba in his post-game Zoom conference. “Obviously that shakes things up a little bit. But I think we should do a better job trying to work for him and work together in a situation like that.”

“We are all human, we all want to make sure he is ok,” Smith said after the game about the Trouba injury. “Emotionally you are always there for a brother like that. You can’t take away what he does for us on the ice, especially as a leader. You have got to respond and I don’t think we did a very good job of that.”

Kevin Rooney scored the only goal for the Rangers, off a deflected shot by Brendan Smith. Vitali Kravtsov got the other assist.

The New York Rangers return home on Thursday night to play back-to-back games against the Philadelphia Flyers.

 

 

 

Two New York Rangers Garner Weekly NHL Awards

Coming off a four-game sweep of the New Jersey Devils, two New York Rangers have been named as winners of weekly awards.

Igor Shesterkin was named on Monday as the NHLPA player of the week. The NHLPA stated that Shesterkin continues to be a cornerstone player for the New York Rangers as the rookie earned an NHL career milestone while posting back-to-back shutouts to lead the league with three wins.

Shesterkin went 3-0-0 for the week and posted a 0.99 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. After returning from a groin injury on March 25, Shesterkin has been one of the top goalies in the league, posting a 7-2-2 record along with a 2.24 GAA and a .929 SV%. Over that span, he leads goalies with 326 saves and two shutouts while sitting tied for second in wins.

“Igor’s been great,” Mika Zibanejad said about his teammate. “He was unbelievable last year as well. We know what kind of goalie he is and I feel like he gives us a chance to win games every night. He comes up with saves at the right times and that’s huge for us.”

The NHL also announced that Artemi Panarin was the second star of the week. Panarin led the NHL with four goals and six assists for 10 points and a +8 rating in four games.  The league cited this for helping the Rangers sweep their four-game series against New Jersey.

Dustin Tokarski of the Buffalo Sabres was named the first star of the week. Tokarski led the League with 128 saves last week while also earning his first NHL win since Dec. 12, 2015.

Panarin has been one of the biggest factors in the Ranger’s success this season.  The Ranger’s record in 2020-21 when Panarin is in the lineup is 19-9-6. When he tallies a point it is 17-3-4 and when he scores a goal the Rangers record is 9-1-3.

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers continue to find ways to win during playoff push

The New York Rangers continue to win hockey games, looking for a playoff miracle, as the NHL season concludes on May 8.

The New York Rangers have been on the outside looking in for a playoff spot for most of this abbreviated NHL season.  A slow start by some of its stars, a nine-game absence due to an absurd accusation against Artemi Panarin, and plenty of inconsistency between veteran scoring and the development of the “kids” is why the team sits in fifth place, four points behind the Boston Bruins who have two games in hand.

Up And Down

The Blueshirts have been unable to put a winning streak together, instead of settling for a win-lose, win-lose format for much of the 2021 campaign.

The month of April began the same way with the Rangers splitting all three-game series against Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the Islanders.

Then a crucial four-game set began against the struggling New Jersey Devils. The Rangers needed every one of the eight points available and surprisingly to some, the team completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon at the Rock.

The win didn’t come without some poor play with the club blowing big leads in each of the last two games. Yet at the end of the day, a win is a win as head coach David Quinn eluded to during Sunday’s post-game zoom conference call.

 

“When you come up with four wins I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care how many leads you blew, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t if you find ways to win and that’s what we did.

Now, that being said, we certainly understand that if we’re going to have success, we’ve got to play better. And we know that that’s not lost on us. It’s not lost on the coaches, and I don’t think it’s lost on any of the players.”

Tough Road Ahead

Playing better needs to begin immediately with the schedule the team has standing in front of them.

The math may not seem to make sense, but the Rangers have a better chance of chasing down the second-place New York Islanders rather than the fourth-place Boston Bruins.

What the heck am I talking about?  Let’s break it down and maybe clarify some of the doubt people may have in this theory.

The Rangers and Islanders have played 45 games each.  The Rangers have 52 points with the Islanders being eight points better at 60. The two teams play each other three more times this season beginning with a game Tuesday night in Long Island.

As much as a long shot as it is, should the Rangers win those three contests, and get a little help (which has not happened all month) the Blueshirts could have a good shot to overtake the Islanders.

The Long Island rivals play three consecutive games against Washington following Tuesday’s nights game against the Blueshirts. Then a two-game set against the Rangers. Then they have two against Buffalo, two against New Jersey and their final game is at Boston on May 11.

The Bruins are harder to catch because of the number of games they have left In the season. Currently, they have two games in hand over the Rangers and also are on a four-game winning streak.

The Bruins have 13 games remaining, five of which are against the Buffalo Sabres. They also play the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Rangers twice and completed their extended schedule with a game in Long Island and at home against the Caps on May 11.

They are scheduled to play two more games after the game against the Rangers on May 8.

Mathematically the Rangers can catch either teams, but this late in the season chasing down the Islanders may be the best way to get into the postseason.

Valuable Experience

Regardless of how things end up for the Rangers this year, the young kids are gaining so much experience from this simulated NHL playoff scenario.

Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin have all found the score sheet and continue to grow into hockey players that fear no situation or opponent.

For one of the rare times this season the veterans and the kids have been able to play their best hockey at the same time.

When this team plays on all cylinders, as five-man units on the ice, they can compete with any other team in the NHL. Their speed on the ice has caused plenty of chaos for opposing teams, just ask the Devils who had to deal with the Ranger Roadrunners four times in the past week.

Wherever the team ends up on thelast day of the season doesn’t really matter.  What should raise the teams and the fan base’s optimism is a renewed energy on the ice that will get better and better with every game.

This club is learning how to win hockey games instead of trying not to lose games.

Follow Frank on Twitter at @RangerProud

New York Rangers hold on to Sweep the New Jersey Devils

While the New York Yankees were getting swept in the Bronx by the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Rangers kept their playoff hopes alive by sweeping the New Jersey Devils by a score of 5-3.

Sweeping a team in baseball is somewhat common, but not so much in the NHL. According to the NHL Public Relations, the Rangers are the first team in NHL history that has won four consecutive team games that were all against the same opponent in the regular season. The NHL does not usually give teams four straight games against the same opponent, but COVID-19 has required the league to make some scheduling adjustments for this season.

The Blueshirts did not make it easy, blowing another early three-goal lead before Mika Zibanejad slammed home a power-play goal with just three minutes left in the game. Ryan Strome was awarded an empty-net goal after a P.K. Subban hooking penalty on a breakaway to make the final tally for the Rangers.

Vitali Kravtsov scored his first NHL goal at 14:03 of the first period. Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere scored the other goals for the Rangers. After a bit of a slow start, Lafreniere has started to find his groove. HIs seven even-strength goals are the fifth-most among NHL rookies while his 13 even strength points are the fourth-most among NHL rookies.

Alexandar Georgiev made 10 saves on 10 shots but was helped off the ice after making a save at 17:41 of the first period. Igor Shesterkin made two saves on two shots in 2:19 of relief. Georgiev returned in the second period and finished with 25 saves.

After the game, Georgiev stated that something felt out of place with his left knee.  He credited the Ranger’s training staff for taking care of it and getting him back into play.

The New York Rangers once again have to hold off a Devils rally in the third period

In his post-game interview, Zibanejad talked about how the Rangers regrouped after the Devils had rallied to tie the game. “You try to calm down on the bench a little bit and you try not to panic. There was a lot of hockey left and we had to go back and play hockey like we should. But give them (New Jersey) credit, they work real hard.”

Georgiev also talked about how the Rangers were able to “weather the storm” when the Devils tied the game. “After the second goal, they kind of got the momentum going. I think they really wanted to break the streak. It was a great job by us to weather the storm and for Mika to get the goal.”

“I thought we had a good 2nd period,” head coach David Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference. “That second goal gave them momentum and then all of a sudden it is three-three. We found a way to get it done. Playing a team four times in a row, no matter what league you are in, you have to find ways to win.”

The Rangers are fifth in the eight-team East Division, four points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins. Boston has two games in hand in fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot.

The Blueshirts will head travel to Nassau County to take on the Islanders on Tuesday night.