Monday, July 23, 2012

Rick Nash!

Welcome to New York, Rick Nash! We trust that unlike Shea Weber, you'll enjoy living in the city.

Though the official trade call hasn't been made to the league yet, all sources seem to point to the trade being Dubinsky, Anisimov, Erixon, and a 1st-rounder to Columbus, in exchange for Rick Nash, some yet-unnamed AHL defenseman, and a conditional 3rd-rounder. Let's be clear: this trade is a steal for the Rangers, on all fronts.

NHL-ready value: Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov vs. Rick Nash. Clearly, this is where the Rangers win big; there's not a lot of cause to explain this. Player-for-player, you'd rather have a Nash than a Dubi and an Anisimov. Sad to see those guys go, as neither is bad at all, but come on.

Prospects: Of course, this is where Columbus makes up a little ground. But as it turns out, it's not much. We swap a 1st-rounder for a 3rd-rounder, which is of course giving the edge to the Blue Jackets, but we're discussing completely unknown players; neither of those picks is gonna be a top-5 overall. And we swap Tim Erixon for a defensive AHL-er named Steve Delisle, who probably isn't as good as Tim Erixon. Erixon probably has a decent upside, but it's all unproven. You'll never hear me complain about giving up someone who has the potential to be great for someone who is already very good.

Incidentally, the condition on the 3rd-rounder is that we give it back if we make it to the Cup Finals. If Nash pushes us to the Cup Finals, do you think anyone's gonna be complaining about a lost pick?

Price: Cry cry cry, Rick Nash costs a cap hit of $7.8 million, blah blah blah. Check out what happens when you use a little math before you complain about math, though. Dubinsky's cap hit is $4.2 million. Anisimov's is $1.875 million. Erixon's is $1.75 million. Mr. Calculator just called and told me that adds up to $7.825 million. So, assuming Erixon plays in the league next season either way, the Rangers actually save money under the cap next year.

(And Nash is only 34 when this contract ends - we're not exactly talking Brad Richards-length, here. At 28, Nash is in his prime, not on his way out of it.)

So I'm just not interested in hearing Ranger fans complain because they think every contract given to anyone over the age of 25 is Scott Gomez.

All in all, the Rangers' third and fourth lines got worse this off-season, and their first and second lines got better. I'm sad to see all those great character middle-of-the-pack guys go (Dubinsky, Mitchell, Prust, Fedotenko, Anisimov). But let's look at who's left, even assuming the Rangers make no further moves (sorry that I've flipped some wingers, it made organization easy):

Gaborik - Richards - Nash
Hagelin - Stepan - Callahan
Pyatt - Boyle - Kreider
Rupp - Halpern - Asham

All of last season, we talked about how the Rangers were a team full of 2nd- and 3rd-liners, and about how the coach didn't trust his bottom 6 enough. We all assumed the solution was that he had to learn to coach differently. Maybe instead, the solution was to give him a team that suits him better. When I look at this lineup, I'm inclined to give ice time the way Torts does, too. Maybe this is the team Torts needs, to take them to the next level.

And now, imagine if the Rangers can still land Shane Doan (there's plenty of cap space, by the way). This could be a lot worse, is all I'm saying.

The only problem now is that there's gonna be a work stoppage, and we won't actually get any hockey.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


A few months ago, a friend and I were discussing the proposed realignment and, of course, the fact that the NHL is too big now. I proposed that we merge four mediocre-market teams into one big franchise. We could combine the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Today, with graphical help from an artist at work, I'm proud to introduce you all to my realignment solution... the Southern Weathercats!

(NB: I did not make this graphic. I simply asked someone at work, who has any skill at all, to make it for me.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Whither the PK?

The Rangers' character-3rd-liner pool took another hit today, as Ruslan Fedotenko signed with the Philadelphia Flyers (yet another reason to like them and then immediately get angry at yourself for liking them). It's a 1 year, $1.75 million deal (a $350,000 raise over last season), and, much like with the Prust deal, while I can't be angry with Fedotenko for taking that deal or with Sather for not offering it, I'm still sad to see the guy go.

For what it's worth, to make up for the depth hemorrhaging we've been doing this week (Mitchell, Scott, Prust, Fedotenko, and Zuccarello), we did sign a little bit more than just Asham, Haley, and Newbury, whom I mentioned Tuesday. We agreed today to terms with some kid name Kyle Jean, so look for that to potentially matter in a few years, or not. But more importantly, we signed erstwhile Coyote Taylor Pyatt to a 2-year deal at $1.55 million per year. I think I'd rather have Pyatt at $1.55m than Feds at $1.75m, so I can't really complain.

But let me try: Fedotenko and Prust were two of the club's top penalty killers last season (and Mitchell was a pretty responsible forward in a jam as well). They've been nominally replaced by Asham and Pyatt. First of all, I'd never use the word "responsible" to describe Arron Asham for any reason. I'd use other, less savory ones. But here's my real point:

Last season (including playoffs), Prust and Fedotenko combined for 296:17 of shorthanded time on ice, and yet finished the season only a combined -2. Meanwhile, across their two respective teams, Asham and Pyatt, who combined for 1752:29 on ice, played a total of six shorthanded seconds between them. So, as excited as I am about seeing Taylor Pyatt suit up, I still think this offseason has not been kind to the New York Rangers thus far, especially on the PK.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nash rumors

(because, hey, everyone else is doing it)

So, the accepted wisdom thus far has been, as it was back around Trade Deadline Day, that Scott Howson's asking price for Rick Nash is far too high for Glen Sather to be able to pay it, requiring at least one of McDonagh, Stepan, and Kreider, all of whom Slats considers untouchable. And so everyone's been waiting for one of the two to change his mind on that, while both are kinda desperate to make a deal (the Rangers need that kind of big scoring presence up front; the Jackets need lots of pieces and are terrible and Nash wants out).

But then today a Blue Jackets beat writer tweeted that the Blue Jackets were willing to accept a package that does not include those three guys. Which doesn't jive at all with what we've been hearing, and which prompted Darren Dreger to respond that Howson "should let the NYR know that."

So, in conclusion, there are conflicting reports about which GMs want what for whom in the off-season. Weird, right?

Oh, and Ranger fans: I'm putting this on the table now. Rick Nash is very good at hockey. You need to give up value to get value. You can't pull off Gomez/Pyatt/Busto for Higgins/McDonagh/Valentenko every time. Just keep that in mind, is all.

Free Agency

So, I had planned a big post talking about free agency and everyone's status and all that. I wrote about half of it, too. Then the Del Close Marathon happened, and now here we are, post-July 1.

The executive summary of the post-that-wasn't is "everyone's talking about Parise and Nash, let's clarify why those are totally different situations by talking about free agency." Parise is a free agent, which means he can sign with any team, now that July 1 has happened. Nash is under contract to the Blue Jackets, which means he'd have to be traded, which can happen any time (but probably, now that July 1 has happened, won't happen until after the big-name free agents get settled).

So, as for the Rangers, we can all just sit tight and wait for trades, in terms of the big names. The following players from last season remained under contract through at least 2012-13, and therefore are not going anywhere unless traded: Gaborik, Richards, Callahan, Dubinsky, Anisimov, Boyle, Rupp, Kreider, Stepan, Hagelin, Staal, Girardi, McDonagh, Sauer, and Lundqvist. (Not counting Mike Sauer, that's 10 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie.) Zach Parise is not coming to New York (seriously, everyone), and the Rangers have no interest in Ryan Suter, which runs us out of all of the useful free agents.

The bad news, of course, is about losing all our mediocre depth, most prominently Brandon Prust, whose free agency took him to Montreal on a 4-year, $2.5 million/year deal. Understand: Glen Sather is right in asserting that Prust is not worth that deal. For perspective, Brian Boyle is currently costing $1.7m under the cap, and Dan Girardi $3.325m. Prust is not worth $2.5m. At the same time, team chemistry is something you need to consider with your 3rd- and 4th-line guys, just like with your backup netminder. While I ultimately agree with Sather's decision to walk, it does make the Rangers a worse team.

Of the remaining Ranger free agents: Stu Bickel re-upped with a 2-year deal at $750,000 per, and Marty Biron returns on a 2-year deal at $1.3m per. Both are great deals for all involved. Meanwhile, John Mitchell went to Colorado with a 2-year, $1.1m/year deal. If he was willing to take that contract, I think the Rangers should have offered it to him, but I like him more than most people do. Jeff Woywitka is returning to his first NHL team, the St. Louis Blues, for a 1-year, $950,000 deal. (Fine, whatever.) Also, John Scott, who played a gargantuan 33:19 for the Rangers, earning 1 shot and 5 penalty minutes for a -1 (totally worth that 5th-round pick, eh?) has gone off and signed with the Sabres for 1 year at $600,000. I don't miss him; I miss the 5th-round pick he used to be.

If he hasn't played in the league for long enough yet, a free agent is restricted - this means that if his old team makes him a good-enough offer (called a qualifying offer), then he's not allowed to sign with any other team (even if he doesn't accept the offer). The Rangers had 3 restricted free agents going into this off-season: Zuccarello, Del Zotto, and Stralman. They sent qualifying offers to all 3, though none have been accepted yet, and Zuccarello is off to the KHL anyway. The only free agents that leaves (from the big club roster) are Fedotenko and Eminger, who are not restricted and have not yet signed with the Rangers or anyone else.

Finally, the Rangers made a couple of additions since the start of free agency on Sunday: a pair of useless "tough guys" to supposedly "replace Prust," which they will not do because Prust's biggest values were on the penalty kill and in the locker room, not in his willingness to lose fights to men twice his size whenever his team asked him to. Micheal Haley comes to us from the always-classy New York Islanders, 2 years, $600,000 per. And, of course, because he has his fingers on the pulse of the fanbase, Slats signed, consummate douchebag Arron Asham to 2 years, $1 million per.

Ultimately, these cheap tough-guy signings are dumb. The Rangers need to get bigger by bringing in bigger, more powerful forwards - guys who play like Jagr, Ovechkin, and Nash - not by bringing in pugilists with hockey sticks that Torts will play 3 minutes a game. Also, Asham is a fuck-for-fuck who shouldn't play at all, and who is already 34. Remember the great Donald Brashear experiment? So do I.

Other than a few AHL moves (reupping Kris Newbury while letting Chad Johnson go to Phoenix and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault go to Columbus...), that's the free agency summary so far. Now we sit tight while Zach Parise and Ryan Suter figure out what to do. In the meanwhile, maybe we hear news about Stralman, Fedotenko, Eminger, or Del Zotto. Once Parise and Suter are settled, we open our ears for trades again, ideally for either Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan.

PS: We can get into salary cap stuff another time, but basically: the Rangers have plenty of room to work with this season - something like $18 million free under the cap with already 18 players under contract. The concern, however, is not backing themselves into a corner for future seasons. In either next off-season or the one after, the following contracts expire: Sauer, McDonagh, Hagelin, Stepan, Anisimov, Biron, Lundqvist, Bickel, Girardi, Kreider, Rupp, Boyle, Callahan, Gaborik.