Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Video: Gordie Clark Discusses J.T. Miller Comparing Him To Dubinsky, Mike Richards

There is no one b.etter to talk about why the New York Rangers selected J.T. Miller with the 15th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft than Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark.  Jim Cerny did just that with Clark for the Rangers official website and Clark shared some interesting thoughts on Miller and his game.  The discussion of Miller's versatility, playmaking and work ethic and effort should make fans happy.  One of the easiest things for fans to wrap their heads around when talking about a player is who that player compares to that is playing now.  During the course of his comments, Clark compared Miller to current Rangers' forward Brandon Dubinsky and new Kings' center Mike Richards.  If Miller plays that same sort of all-around, abrasive game and develops in a similar fashion than Rangers fans will stop questioning the pick and and be elated with the results.

Wrapping Up Day Two At Development Camp: McIlrath Offense, Fasth Skill, Prospect Depth Star

The 2011 Rangers development camp continued today, but there was more than just skating going on at the facility.  The prospect practiced this morning and then had a scrimmage in which they played two 20 minute halves.  While the scrimmage itself turned out to be an 8-3 blowout win for Team White, the most evident thing was just how deep the Rangers prospect core is right now.  Huge games from McIlrath, Fasth, Thomas left the writers with plenty to talk about:

In Andrew Gross recap of the scrimmage at Ranger Rants the praise for the early work of Dylan McIlrath continued:
Dylan McIlrath, the 10th overall pick in 2010, was the strongest player on the ice as he led White to an 8-3 win over Blue this morning at the MSG Training Center. McIlrath, known more for his defense and physical play, had a goal and two assists as he displayed a nice shot from the right point.
The work in this morning’s scrimmage follows up the praise for McIlrath’s skating improvement talk yesterday.  More than the points he put up today, the excitement should be over the improvement of McIlrath’s shot over the last 12 months.  He is not going to become a huge offensive player, but with stead improvement and continuing to add strength that shot is only going to become more of a threat from the point.

Jesse Spector singled out Jesper Fasth as the player of scrimmage this morning. 
Jesper Fasth was the star of this morning’s scrimmage at the Rangers’ prospect development camp, scoring two goals with an assist to lead the White team to an 8-3 victory over the Blue.

Fasth was all over the puck, and knew what to do with it, showing off his skill particularly on a stickhandle through the slot to beat Scott Stajcer. He also scored off a very strong crossing feed from Tim Erixon.
Fasth continues to improve and looks like a steal for a sixth-round pick that was very good at the WJC last season and held his own in the Swedish Elite League a year ago.  Another year or two in the SEL and Fasth could become one of the Rangers best prospects and a threat to be a scorer at the NHL level.

Spector also praised the work of McIlrath, and said that Shane McCoglan was the most impressive of the rookies and that the experience of Hagelin is very evident in how he plays.

Beyond McIlrath and Fasth tearing up the board during the game Christian Thomas did what he does best in scoring with a penalty shot goal and an assist.  Andrew Yogan had a goal, Tim Erixon an assist and Pashnin hit everything that moved.  The hitting for Pashnin was not always a good thing as Gross pointed out in his recap because he was so focused on delivering the hit that he lost sight of the more important aspects of the game.

There were just 4-on-4 scrimmages, but the number of prospects who showed well for themselves exhibits the tremendous among the Rangers prospects giving even more hope for the future.

Andrew Gross has a story on what Ryan Borque learned watching the Bruins win the Cup.

Does Laich Contract Raise Price For Rangers To Keep Callahan, Dubinsky?

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

News came out this morning that Brook Laich agreed to a six-year contract that will pay him $27 million to stay with the Washington Capitals.  Laich agreed to the deal just days before he would have hit the unrestricted market and had the ability to look through all his options.  It is possible he could have gotten more money or more years by waiting until Friday to sign, but he decided to stay where he knows and was given plenty in terms of years and money to do so. The question left behind from the Laich deal for Rangers’ fans: How does this impact the contracts Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky will get?
Laich, 28, is seen as a heart-and-soul, grinding type player that can chip in approximately 50 points while being a critical part of a locker room.  That seems to be a pretty accurate description of what Callahan Dubinsky are for the Rangers.  In term of the Rangers duo, there is more upside for offensive improvement as both showed this year which could make them both think about seeking similar numbers to what Laich just receieved.
Statistically the players are not that different either.  Laich has 100 goals and 137 assists in 475 career NHL games.  Those numbers equate to a .499 points per game or 41 points per 82 games.  Laich has surpassed those career totals in each of the last three seasons, hitting 50 points twice in that span while scoring 20+ goals in three of the last four years. 
Callahan has 76 goals and 68 assists in 284 career NHL games.  Those numbers equate to a .507 points per game average or 42 points per 82 games.  Callahan inflated his career averages with last year’s .8 points per game average, but he still has scored at least 19 goals and 37 points in the last three seasons.
Dubinsky has the best career numbers of the trio as he has 71 goals and 108 assists in 316 career games.  His .566 points per game average puts him on pace for 46 points per 82 game season.  Dubinsky has raised his point totals in each of his four full seasons in the NHL and is coming off a career year that saw him lead the team in goals (24), assists (30) and points (54).    
In terms of statistics and value to their team’s there is little difference between Laich, Callahan and Dubinsky.  The biggest difference in the cases is that Laich was going to be an unrestricted free agent, while Callahan has one more year until he would be and Dubinsky is two years away from that freedom.  The difference in free agency status is a huge card for Glen Sather as he should get at least one year at a lower than market level rate.  One other thing to consider is that Laich staying in Washington weakens an already thin unrestricted free agent class, so it could make Callahan and Dubinsky even more attractive options to teams looking to add talent and leave them as potential offer sheet candidates.  The Laich signing, while not supposed to be used for comparative purposes certainly should leave Callahan and Dubinsky feeling pretty good about where there next contract is going to end up.

Update: No Waivers For Chris Drury Today, But Can Be Waived Tomorrow For Buyout

Update: According to Steve Zipay today was not the deadline to waive Drury in order to buy him out this week.
From what I hear, an NHL player can be placed on 24-hour unconditional waivers tomorrow and, if not claimed, be eligible for buyout Thursday.  My understanding is that a player with a no-move clause must be notified 24 hours before a buyout and can accept or request a waiver,
And with that bit of news we get to stay in suspense about a possible Drury waiver leading to a buyout for another day.

Original Post:
Today was the deadline for the New York Rangers to place captain Chris Drury on waivers in order to be able to buy out the final years of his five-year, $35.25 million dollar contract.  As Jesse Spector was the first to report, the Rangers chose not to exercise the waiver process today, so there no buyout will occur this week and the team will carry his entire $7.05 million against the summer salary cap.   

The team will likely place Drury on long-term injured reserve in the fall to gain salary cap flexibility during the season, if Drury does not do them a favor and retire before then.  The move costs the Rangers $3.33 million against the summer cap, but does save the $1.67 million that Drury would have counted against the cap during the 2012-13 season.

The other option that could come into play would be the second buyout period in August, but that would require the Rangers to take one of their restricted free agents to arbitration, though that is not a great option.

Do Short-Term Gains Outweigh Long-Term Risks In Signing Richards?

There are only three more days until free agency begins in the NHL and with it the seemingly inevitable marriage of Brad Richards and the New York Rangers will undoubtedly commence.  The level of assumption it will happen has gotten to the point that Daze Lozo of NHL.com described the Rangers and Brad Richards signing saying, “With July 1 just days away, it seems there are only three things in life that are guaranteed -- death, taxes and Brad Richards signing a lucrative free-agent contract with the New York Rangers."
The reason the confidence is growing in the inevitability of Richards to New York is the lack of teams capable of meeting his demands keeps dwindling.  After acquiring Mike Richards, the Los Angeles Kings are thought to be out of the running.  The Tampa Bay Lightning, likely Richards preferred destination, have to worry about signing Steven Stamkos before they ever get to Richards.  There is also the issue of what kind of money could be left once Stamkos is signed.  That leaves the Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs as the main competitors for Richards.  There is no doubt that Brian Burke will throw everything he can at Richards to either win him or drive the price for the Rangers upwards.  There is also no doubt that Brad Richards on the Rangers makes them a better team next season.  The question that is not being asked enough is whether the short-term gain of Richards outweighs the long-term risk? 
The question is taken off the table for the most part if the contract is five years or less, but there appears to be no intention on Richards part than to get a deal to end his career.  If the deal is of the 7+ season variety, then there are numerous negatives that have to be considered for the long-term.  The most obvious issue is the erosion of skill that Richards is likely to see 3-4 years into the deal where he is being paid for the player he is, and production he provides today while at a decreased level.  Next would be the fact that even with Richards the Rangers are likely not a championship contender this coming season because the majority of the team is still 2-3 years away from being contending players.  When the rest of the team catches up to where Richards is today, Richards will likely have begun and erosion of his level of play.
Adding to the negatives of a career deal this summer for Richards is concern about what will happen with the next collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) in terms of the salary cap which has to come down.  Locking in Richards for a significant term at large dollars could cause the Rangers to be back in salary cap issues because of the limited flexibility they might end up with under this inflated salary cap.
For many, all of those risks are worth it to take the gamble at wining a Stanley Cup during his tenure in New York.  If Richards can actually bring Marian Gaborik back to the form he played at during the 2009-10 season while maintaining his own level, then the Rangers become more serious threats to win a championship.  Even with those two things panning out perfectly the Rangers are going to need all those who had career years to repeat that and many of the young players to take another step forward in their development.  Will all those pieces fall in place in the short-term to make those long term risks worth it?  Highly unlikely.
Worse than the discussion of whether the Rangers should or shouldn’t get Richards is the idea that they must get him because there is no one else and they have to have someone this summer.  It is easy to make the straw man argument that Richards is the best of the options because he costs only money, but that does not inherently make giving him the 8 year deal that some are reporting he wants is a good idea.  The Rangers have changed the way they conduct business over the past few years in avoiding big name free agents, mainly from lack of money, and giving young players a chance to take on significant roles.  There is nothing that requires reverting back from this model which is giving more hope than in recent memory to that which saw the Rangers trying to buy the big names in hopes of huge returns, only to come up short.  Richards is definitely better than Gomez, Drury, Holik and those other overpaid New York Ranger free agent signings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t erode long term nor does it mean his addition makes this team capable of winning a title in the short term.
It appears that Glen Sather and company are going to revert back to the past and pay the man what he wants to come to New York, which will end up a mistake because the long-term risks outweigh the actually short-term gains.  The inevitability of Richards ending up in New York seems overwhelming at this point, but that does not mean it is the right move for a franchise that has come so far by curbing their obsession with the big name buy.