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.

 

New York Rangers lose to the Washington Capitals in a penalty filled game

The secondary story of Wednesday night is that the New York Rangers fell to the Washington Capitals by a score of 4-2.

The main story is the aftermath of the Tom Wilson incident from Monday night. If the NHL was hoping that nothing would happen after just fining Wilson for his actions Monday night, they were sadly mistaken.

The action started right from the face-off as Colin Blackwell, Phil Di Guiseppe, and Kevin Rooney all square off with the Capital’s starting forwards. Brendan Smith later took on Wilson when skated for his first shift. The sides combined for six fights and 72 penalty minutes just over four minutes into the heated contest.

Wilson did not return after the first period. The Capitals reported that Wilson had suffered an upper-body injury.

After all was said and done, both teams racked up 141 penalty minutes.

The New York Rangers fall in a penalty-filled game

Lost in all of the Wilson business is that the Capitals T.J. Oshie returned to play after the passing of his father. Oshie responded by getting a hat-trick in the contest.

Morgan Barron scored his first NHL goal to close the gap to 4-2 after Oshie’s empty netter. Alexis Lafreniere scored the Ranger’s first goal.

Probably due to the high level of emotions that came with this game, the Rangers took quite a few non-fighting penalties.

Pavel Buchnevich received a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for a cross-check to the head of Anthony Mantha. This came in the second period after Buchnevich took a slashing penalty against Wilson and a high-sticking call against Zdeno Chara late in the first period.

Ryan Strome received a 10-minute misconduct penalty after taking a tripping call.

The Rangers go right back into action on Thursday night when they travel to Boston to take on the Bruins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers-Tom Wilson Fiasco will not go away Silently

In a normal season, the New York Rangers may not have to see Tom Wilson and the Washington Capitals for a little while after just playing them on Monday night. However, in the pandemic-adjusted NHL schedule, the Rangers will get to see Mr. Wilson again on Wednesday night.

Of course, this is just more than a team trying to win a game. This contest will come off the heels of a second-period melee that earned Wilson four minutes for roughing, a 10-minute misconduct, and sent Artemi Panarin to the dressing room for the rest of the game. It started with Wilson pinning Pavel Buchnevich to the ice with his stick and punching him in the head a couple of times.

The NHL did not do much about this incident, recently releasing a statement saying that Wilson was fined $5000 for the incident. This appears to be the extent of his punishment.

The whole situation did not sit well in Ranger nation, and the fine folks running the Capital’s social media account added fuel to fire by posting this on Twitter:

The Capitals deleted the post after about 30 minutes, telling members of the Washington media that the post did not meet the team’s social media standards.

Even though it could be more of a coach standing up for his player, the Capitals head coach’s comment after the game did not help either.

“I thought it was just a scrum, like a physical play,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “There was something going on originally with the goalie and they’re jamming at the goalie and a bunch of players jump in there. It happens a lot.”

Those who watch a lot of hockey are scratching their heads at this comment.

The New York Rangers have a genuine concern about player safety

Head coach David Quinn had a different take on the situation. “There are lines that can’t be crossed in this game. There’s just zero respect for the game in general. You got one of the star players in this league now that could have gotten seriously, seriously hurt in that incident.”

This statement was not without exaggeration, as veteran Ranger’s beat writer Larry Brooks of the New York Post re-tweeted a slow-motion video of the incident.

Unfortunately, the small fine seems to be the only punishment Wilson will receive for this.

This brings into question, how serious the NHL about the safety of their players, especially as everyone has learned about the serious effects surrounding people who suffer concussions.

Wilson is no stranger to suspensions. Earlier this season, he was suspended seven games for an illegal check to the head of Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. In his career, Wilson has received a total of 30 games in suspensions and forfeited nearly $1.3 million in salary for his actions.

Despite the video showing what he did to Panarin, the people who run the NHL Department of public safety stated they didn’t find any compelling evidence that Wilson threw Panarin to the ice by pulling on his hair.

So Wednesday night’s game has just added some more intrigue to the contest. There is no truth to the rumor that the Rangers will call Ogie Ogilthorpe out of retirement.

 

 

New York Rangers Cannot Solve the Shorthanded Washington Capitals

The New York Rangers could not take advantage of the Washington Capitals missing a handful of players, including one of the best in the NHL. The Capitals trailed by one late in the second period but rallied to defeat the Blueshirts 6-3.

With Boston winning earlier, the Rangers have been eliminated from the playoffs.

The Capitals were missing a few players, including Alex Ovechkin, who only skated one shift in the first period before leaving the ice. Washington later announced that he would not return due to a lower-body injury.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov also missed Monday’s game for disciplinary reasons while T.J. Oshie was out for a personal family matter.

Mika Zibanejad scored twice for the Rangers while Kappo Kakko added their third goal. Artemi Panarin had assists on Zibanejad’s goals.

The New York Rangers have a scrum with the Capitals Tom Wilson

Things got interesting in the second period when Capitals forward Tom Wilson was handed three penalties in the second quarter. One of the penalties was a 10-minute penalty for misconduct, after roughing Artemi Panarin and going after Pavel Buchnevich in the crease after play had stopped. This included a few punches in the back of the head while Buchnevich was face down.

Panarin had a cut above the eye and appeared to have hit his head on the ice in the scuffle. He did not return at the start of the third period.

After the game, Zibanedjad had this to say about the Wilson incident: “You should have more respect for the game and the players. I honestly don’t know where to start. It’s just horrible, zero respect.”

Head coach David Quinn also shared his thoughts on the incident in his post-game Zoom conference. “There are lines that can’t be crossed in this game. It’s just zero respect for the game. You have one of the star players in this game who could have been seriously, seriously hurt. It’s totally unnecessary.”

The two teams will play again on Wednesday at MSG.

 

 

 

The New York Rangers are Finally Getting to see Lafreniere’s Potential

Ever since that New York Rangers ping-pong ball jumped up from the NHL’s lottery machine, people have been waiting for Alexis Lafreniere to show the hockey skills that an overall number one pick should show.

On Thursday night, head coach David Quinn shuffled his lines and put the overall number one pick on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. On Friday, that move paid off big dividends as all three players on the line had two points in the 4-1 win over the Flyers. Lafreniere had a goal and an assist for his two points.

After Friday’s game, Quinn talked about the move and Lafreniere’s development. “One of the things I think has happened to him is he understands how to create offense at this level right now better than he did maybe a month ago,”

So what took so long?

The pandemic hindered the young New York Rangers’ development.

Lafreniere got off to a little bit of a slow start to the season, something that is not really anyone’s fault. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic threw a huge monkey wrench into the plans, including the New York Rangers.

Before Lafreniere hit the ice for training camp in January, the last time he skated in a meaningful game was in March of 2020. Those games came in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Good hockey of course, but it is a league for players under 20 years old. It is not the NHL.

The Rangers could have decided to let Lafreniere play in the World Junior Championships in December. Much to the dismay of some Ranger fans and the entire country of Canada, the Rangers decided to have their top draft pick sit the tournament out. It was a move that looked a lot better after the Chicago Blackhawks lost one of their top young players in Kirby Dach before the tournament even started.

All of this meant that Lafreniere had to acclimate himself to the NHL with an abbreviated training camp that included no exhibition games.

Of course, it should have taken him a little longer to get up to speed.

Lafreniere’s progress will more than likely carry over to next season

Lafreniere talked about his progression and development in his post-game Zoom conference Friday night. “I’m making a lot more plays, I think, and I kind of found my game a little bit but still need to get better. That’s what I’ll try to do for the rest of the season.”

Part of the reason that very few think that he will continue to improve quite a bit is that Lafreniere has an excellent work ethic, something that his coach has definitely noticed. “I think his effort has been elevated to an NHL level'” Quinn said Friday night. “I think that’s the biggest thing players have to learn when they get to this level. There’s a whole new definition of hard work, and I think that’s something that he’s embraced and he realizes it, and it’s allowed him to have a lot more success here over the last few weeks.”

After that slow start, Lafreniere now has nine goals and seven assists on the season. As much as playing with Zibanejad and Buchnevich can help development, it will also mean that he should see more ice time. Before the promotion, Lafreniere was on the third line, a line that did not see as much recently as Quinn leaned on his first two lines in an attempt to keep the Rangers firmly in the playoff hunt.

But as the season winds down, the New York Rangers will look for ways to continue to develop Lafreniere and all of their young players so that they will all hit the 2021-22 season in full stride.

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers keep Their Feint Playoff Hopes Alive

The New York Rangers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 4-1 victory of the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. They moved back to six points behind the Boston Bruins, thanks to a Buffalo Sabres victory of the Bruins.

Alexandar Georgiev stopped 26 shots and improved to 8-5-2 on the season. He has allowed two goals or fewer in five of seven career appearances against the Flyers, including one goal or fewer in four of those games.

Chris Kreider opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 6:02 of the first period. It was his 11th power-play goal of the season, tying him for the most in the NHL.

Artemi Panarin had an assist on the Kreider goal, giving him his 100th career assist as a New York Ranger.

For Thursday night’s game, head coach David Quinn did some changing of the Blueshirts lines. One of the changes was to move Alexis Lafreniere up to the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. That line was very effective as each player on that line contributed two points in the victory.

Buchnevich put the Rangers ahead 2-1 at 7:56 with his 20th, assisted by Lafreniere and Zibanejad. Lafreniere made it 3-1 at 9:24 of the third for his ninth of the season. Buchnevich and Zibanejad assisted. Zibanejad has seven goals and 10 assists this season against the Flyers, including two six-point games.

Filip Chytil completed the scoring with his eighth at 13:40, with assists to Kaapo Kakko and Panarin.

The New York Rangers rebound after a tough loss Thursday night.

“I’m just trying to learn every day at practice,” Lafreniere said in his post-game Zoom conference. “It’s fun to play with Mika and Buch and I just gotta learn from them and get better every day.”

“I thought we were a little more opportunistic,” Quinn said after the game. “I don’t think there was a big dip in our game, but the 5-on-3 kill was huge. That third goal really put us in a different mindset.”

The game was part of the “Garden of Dreams” night at MSG, a fundraising effort for that foundation. The Garden of Dreams Foundation is committed to helping children who are facing challenges such as homelessness, extreme poverty, illness, and foster care, and since it began in 2006.

The Rangers will play the Buffalo Sabres twice at MSG, on Sunday and Tuesday night.

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers use a Buchnevich Hat Trick to Defeat the Devils

After dominating the New Jersey Devils for almost two and a half games, the New York Rangers almost lost a four-goal lead on Saturday afternoon. Pavel Buchnevich had his first career hat trick and the Rangers held off a Devil’s rally to win by the score of 6-3.

Buchnevich is the first player in franchise history to score a hat trick on his birthday. He is the 14th
NHL player with a birthday hat trick and only Wayne Gretzky did it twice.

After scoring the first four goals of the game, the Devils rallied back with three goals to narrow the margin. The Rangers then added two empty-net goals to seal the victory.

Artemi Panarin added four points in the effort, scoring a goal with three assists while Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome also added three assists.

Igor Shesterkin finally gave up a goal to the Devils after going over 199 minutes of holding them scoreless.

Per the NHL Public Relations, Shesterkin has established a Ranger franchise record for the longest shutout streak against one opponent. He broke the record held by Dave Kerr, who went 198:07 against the Montreal Canadiens during the 1939-40 season.

The Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period as Buchnevich scored twice. Strome scored the other goal in the first period. Panarin scored in the second period while Buchnevich and Chris Kreider added the empty netters.

The New York Rangers were not pleased with their third-period effort

In his post-game Zoom conference, Mika Zibanejad addressed the issues that led to the Devils almost coming back from a four-goal deficit. “We stopped playing a little bit. We just made it way too easy for them. They were good enough to take advantage of their chances. That obviously was not good but I like how we stuck it out and got the win.”

“They were winning way too many one-on-one battles,” head coach David Quinn said in his post-game conference. It really was a reflection of where we were mentally. Once we got up 4-0 we disrespected the game and our opponent. I wasn’t surprised by the pushback we got from New Jersey. We got outplayed in the second half of that game and we have a very, very difficult game tomorrow.”

The two teams will for the final game of their four-game series on Sunday afternoon in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

Shesterkin’s First Career Shutout leads the New York Rangers to Victory

Igor Shesterkin recorded his first career NHL shutout in leading the New York Rangers past the New Jersey Devils 3-0. Shesterkin stopped all 27 shots that he faced.

Shesterkin came out ready to play as he stopped Jesper Bratt with his right pad on a breakaway attempt 22 seconds into the first. He later denied Miles Wood with his blocker on a breakaway attempt at 4:16 of the second period.

Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring for the Rangers with a goal at 7:02 of the first period. He has registered 12 goals since Mar. 17, which is the most in the NHL over that span. He also has scored 12 goals in his last 15 games.

Artemi Panarin scored the second goal, playing in his 100th game as a New York Ranger. That goal gives him 138 total points, passing Mark Messier for the most points by a player in their first 100 career games with the Blueshirts.

Adam Fox had assists on both the Panarin and Zibanejad goals. Not counting what Victor Hedman did tonight, Fox leads NHL defensemen in assists (33) and points (38) this season.

Pavel Buchnevich added an empty-net goal to round out the Ranger scoring. Buchnevich’s score was the 20,000th goal in New York Rangers history. They join the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings to reach the milestone.

Shesterkin was outstanding in goal for the New York Rangers

In his post-game interview, Jacob Trouba had nothing but praise for his goaltender. “He’s been good. Ever since he got here, he has been a top-of-the-line goalie. Every night he seems to make some saves that you don’t expect a goalie to make and usually that is the difference in a game.”

“Igor has been great,” Zibanejad added in his post-game Zoom conference. “It was unbelievable last year as well. I feel that he gives us a chance to win games every night. He comes up with big saves at the right time.”

Shesterkin was pleased and humbled by his first career shutout. “It obviously means a lot,” Shesterkin said in his Zoom conference.  “I want to thank all the players who played in front of me and blocked shots all game, especially at the end when it was so meaningful to me to get this win and the shutout. They did it for me and I’m thankful.”

The two teams will meet for the second game of their four-game series Thursday night at MSG.

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers Should Make this Trade

The 2021 NHL trade deadline for the New York Rangers and the rest of the league arrives on April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. While the expectations are that the Rangers will not do much, they could make a move or two by the deadline.

The Rangers are still a very young team, the youngest in the league, having used over 10 players age 23 and under. Any trade that they make might require giving up some of that talent. However, there is still a small move or two that the Rangers could make that would not require them to give up a lot, and still help their team.

The Blueshirts could trade for a shooter.

That’s right, trade for a player who can score some goals because they are not afraid to shoot the puck. Having the ability to win faceoffs would be an added bonus.

One of the issues that the Rangers have had over the past couple of years is the unwillingness to consistently shoot the puck. Something that has not been lost on head coach David Quinn.

After Thursday night’s loss to Pittsburgh, Quinn discussed this issue in his post-game Zoom conference. “Not shooting the puck has been a problem for us all year. It’s been a problem since I’ve been here. Sometimes when you win a game 8-4, or you score the number of goals you have, you change your mindset a little bit. You do that at this level, you’re going to get what you deserve. We’ve got to find that balance of being effective offensively and playing the right way. That’s just the balancing act we’re always battling. And it bit us in the ass tonight.”

Last season, the Rangers scored more than their share with 3.33 goals per game, despite an unwillingness to shoot. They averaged 31.1 shots on goal per game, 20th in the league. They have a little better this season, but still not quite at the level needed. It can even be heard almost nightly on the MSG telecast from Joe Micheletti and in the studio from analyst and former Ranger goaltender Steve Valiquette.

Is Jack Eichel still on the New York Ranger’s radar?

Eichel would fit the bill of a shooter. But is the price too high for the Buffalo Sabres superstar?

Recently, The Athletic’s Craig Custance asking anonymous league executives about trade proposals involving the Rangers and Eichel.

Custance reported that a likely trade could look like the Rangers giving up Nils Lundkvist, Pavel Buchnevich, Braden Schneider, Ryan Strome, and a 2021 first-round pick.

It is likely that the Sabres would want more and the Rangers may be unwillingly to give up as much as was just mentioned.

But they do not really need to give up a lot to get the player that they need.

They could go out and get a nice top 6 or even top 9 forward who will come in and show many of the young players that is just fine to take that good shot instead of making that extra pass or two that the Rangers sometimes engage in.

Having the ability to win faceoffs would be an extra welcome bonus. Going into Saturday night’s games, the Rangers face-off win percentage was 44.9%. Which is dead last in the NHL.

There are times when the Rangers have brought the only reliable faceoff man they have in Kevin Rooney, only to shuffle him off after the face-off. Something that happens more in lacrosse than in hockey.

The New York Rangers and their fans will be curious to see what happens in the next couple of days. On Sunday at 7 p.m., the Rangers will once again tangle with their rivals, the New York Islanders. Then on Monday, everyone waits to see what the Blueshirts Brass will or will not prior to the NHL trade deadline.