Friday, June 10, 2011

Drury Knee Might Snag Rangers Buying Out His Contract

Arthur Staple at Newsday reports that in order to be bought out Chris Drury has to be medically cleared by the June 15th start of the buyout period, or the Rangers can't buy him out.  It is highly unlikely for this to be an actual issue as Drury did return for the final game of the regular season and participated in a limited role during New York's playoff series against the Capitals.  There is also a grievance process if the club and player disagree on the ability to play, but I certainly doubt that it will come to that between Drury and the Rangers.  Drury likely wants to continue playing, if his knee will allow it, so taking the buy out and looking to catch on somewhere else is his best course of action right now.

If Drury fails to be cleared and the Rangers cannot buy him out, then they could have cause to put him on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) which would allow the Rangers to exceed the salary cap by the amount of his salary next season.

What Signing Brad Richards Could Mean To Rangers Other Centers

When looking at the offseason it is natural to focus on the pieces that need to be added to the New York Rangers in order for them to make the next step in their progression to hopefully winning a championship.  What sometimes gets lost in that discussion is the domino effect that certain signings would have on the rest of the roster.  If the Rangers do go out and sign Brad Richards this summer to the long-term, big dollar contract that he wants, then he obviously becomes the top center on the roster and plays with Marian Gaborik next season. The question left is what happens to the other three main centers that were on last year’s roster?

Artem Anisimov spent much of his second season in the NHL playing with Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.  There are those who discount Anisimov in much of the discussion about the Rangers center position, and he does have areas of needed improvement, but his progression on the scoreboard playing with Callahan and Dubinsky cannot be ignored.  The trio was the Rangers most consistent offensive threat and carried the team early in the season.  Anisimov and the line as a whole tailed off as the season progressed, but one would think that coach John Tortorella would attempt to keep that line together to begin camp. 

Derek Stepan stepped in as a rookie and had a very solid 45 point campaign shuffling up and down the lineup depending on the level of his play at any given time.  Coming into his second year, Stepan should be more consistent with his play at this level and thus could use a more consistent role and linemates.  There are hopes for Stepan to develop into a top line player down the road, but with Richards and Anisimov possibly ahead of him on the depth chart, will he get that same development playing on the third line with potentially less talented partners.

Brian Boyle had a career season during the 2010-11 campaign on the offensive side of the puck.  His defensive skills and penalty killing were always there, but the change in his skating allowed him to pick up his physicality, and speed which led to him being much more impactful on the game, especially offensively.  There are questions as to whether Boyle can repeat his season next year, but the more interesting question if Richards, Anisimov and Stepan are all on the roster at center is can you relegate Boyle back to being a fourth line player?  If he does move back down the lineup to his former role as a fourth line player, then it is very difficult to see him repeating his offensive numbers from this past season.

There is always the possibility that the Rangers will actually role four lines next season, but do the Rangers have the talent on the wing to really staff a four line rotation?  No. Would you want to be paying huge money to Richards and Gaborik to have them not play huge minutes?  No. The more likely scenarios would involve someone changing position, someone getting squeezed into a lesser role, or one of the centers being dealt if Richards does indeed bring his talents to Broadway.

Rumor: Rangers Could Select Defender Jamieson Oleksiak At #15?

The consensus assumption concerning the New York Rangers first round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is that they will use it on a forward due to their immense depth in the defensive ranks.  Jess Rubenstein at The Prospect Park is not sold on that assumption and discusses how the Rangers might be interested in Jamieson Oleksiak with their first round selection this month.  Oleksiak is a mammoth 6-foot-7, 245-pound defender who has received numerous comparisons to another Zdeno Chara, who Gordie Clark selected.
Do not discount for a second that the idea of sending out a 6'5 Dylan McIlrath with a 6'7 Jamieson Oleksiak is not making Jim Schoenfeld or John Tortorella smile. 2 monsters with heavy shots from the point while making life horrible for other teams.

Oleksiak, 18, who has already played his Freshman season at Northeastern recorded four goals and nine assists in 38 games while leading the team with a plus-13 rating.

While many would be disappointed to see the Rangers take yet another defender in the first round, Jess is right that you have to plan for anything with prospects and you are not drafting for today, rather for 2-3 years down the line when the player will actually see the NHL.  This is certainly not a selection that would be based on current need, but as we have seen the NHL is about having assets and if Oleksiak develops as he is capable he gives them another asset to allow them to move him or someone else down the road.

My personal preference is still for a forward if a high quality one the Rangers like is available, but I would not be at all shocked if they went defense and Oleskiak is not the only potential guy that could fit that billing either.

Scouts takes:

Elite Prospects:
A huge defenseman with terrific reach and strength. Moves very well for a man his size. Has superb agility and athleticism.  Oleksiak can deliver thunderous hits and uses his stick effectively to break up passes.  He also has great hands and puck skills, which could see him blossom into a very solid two-way defenseman
Bruins Draft Watch:
Jamie Oleksiak, D Northeastern University (Hockey East)
Huge kid at 6-7, 240 pounds and may not be done growing. Pretty mobile for someone so big, and more importantly, so young. Many guys Oleksiak's size are very gangly and still developing their coordination for their big bodies. He's already pretty much there and has a long, fluid stride and better footwork at this stage than most would think. He covers a lot of ground with the long stride and power behind it. Massive wingspan and long stick make it virtually impossible for opponents to beat him to the outside. Mobility makes it a challenge for them to go inside on him as well. With more work on his skating, could be even more mobile and difficult to beat. Working on his reads and progressions- still a work in progress who sometimes tries to do too much in his own end- needs to keep things simple. Decent passer on short to intermediate feeds, but on-ice vision is questionable and lacks the accuracy to stretch opposing defenses with long leads. As can be expected, has a big drive given all the power and torque he can generate on his twig. Needs to work on improving the accuracy and release. Important to avoid the lazy comparisons to Zdeno Chara or Tyler Myers because of size/mobility alone- those guys are more skilled with the puck and shooting skills than Oleksiak and he has a long way to go to reach that level. Oleksiak has upside, but may end up being more of a shutdown guy in the NHL. One thing he has going for him that most will never achieve no matter how well they are coached or how hard they work is that monstrous size. That should get him to the NHL, but still a wildcard in terms of what he's going to be at that level. Oleksiak will be a first-round pick, but based on what we've seen in multiple viewings this season, we'd take him at the end of the round instead of earlier. There is some risk that he'll be more Hal Gill than Chara, but he's at least made himself into a top-30 option with his potential, and Gill has fashioned a nice NHL career dating back to his league debut in 1997 with Boston.
Craig Button
"I saw Chara play at that age and Oleksiak is way more developed and does possess better coordination than Chara had," NHL analyst Craig Button told "A 6-foot-7 defenseman with the skill of Oleksiak doesn't come very often. There's a big development window in front of him. I could see three or four years down the road, NHL teams that passed on him might be saying 'We should have taken him.’”