Friday, July 29, 2011

Marc Staal's No Nonsense Game Has Him Amongst Best Defenders In NHL

Sam McCraig continued his offseason rankings by position today over at Puck Daddy today by ranking the top 25 defenseman in the NHL for next season and New York Rangers stalwart Marc Staal checked in at #20.
20. Marc Staal, NY Rangers: Physical rearguard is blending in some offense to his no-nonsense game.
To see Staal where he is on the list is not shocking simply because of his lack of offense.  Staal is among the NHL’s elite shutdown defensemen and few will argue that point, but until he adds a consistent threat of offense to his game, he will not get the recognition overall as one of the elite overall defenders.  Yes, Staal was an All-Star last season and that means he was considered among the top 12 defenders in the league for the first half, but the recognition I am talking about is more in the subjective assessments like deciding who is amongst the top defenders in the league. 

Staal has shown flashes of the added offense the past two years, and anything more he could add would certainly be welcomed, but Staal’s importance to the Rangers is more in preventing goals than creating them.  His need to improve in how he clears the crease and defends Henrik Lundqvist are bigger issues for the team than his offense.

Devils Keep Parise On One-Year Deal

The New Jersey Devils have agreed to terms with Zach Parise on a one-year deal that will avoid his pending arbitration hearing.  Bob McKenzie of TSN tweets that the deal will pay Parise $6 mil next season.

The fact that Parise is signed for next season will be a comfort to Devils fans, but the failure to reach a long-term contract with their franchise player is concerning considering Parise will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.  While this is certainly a setback in terms of the big picture, according to Tom Gulitti of The Record the team has not given up on trying to sign Parise to a long-term deal and prevent him hitting the unrestricted market next year.  Parise cannot sign an extension until after January 1, 2012.

Parise, 26, is coming off a season in which he only played 13 games due to a serious knee injury.  If he can prove that the knee is healthy and return to the form he showed as a 40 goal, 80-90 point player he will find himself with a very rich contract that should pay him amongst the highest salaries in the league.

Ryan Callahan Talks Rangers Commitment To Young Core, Captaincy

Newly re-signed forward Ryan Callahan talked with Blueshirts United about the three-year, $12.825 million agreement that will keep the heart and soul of the New York Rangers leading the team for the near future.  The discussion featured a variety of topics, but the most interesting quotes revolved around the expectations of the team next season and the leadership group the team has going forward.

On retaining the restricted free agents, expectations for next year:
It means a lot to us players to see management backing up what they have been saying that they are trying to build something here, starting with the core, and signing us all to multi-year deals. It shows us that we are the ones they want to go into the future with, so now we have to live up to that on our end. Next year looks really good for us, and we have to enter the year thinking we are top competitors who can go out and win this year.
Callahan is exactly right that organization did their part in committing to the young core that gave the fan base hope last season, while adding the pieces around it to allow the team to take the next step.  The key now, as Callahan said, is for all of those players they committed to with new contracts to live up to their end of the bargain.

On the captaincy:
We have a lot of leaders on this team, though there is a bit of a void there losing Chris (Drury) and what he brought to the table. But at the same time we have great group of guys in there where so many of them could be named captain and lead the way and do a great job at it. For me, the C, an A, whatever, I am going to continue to do what I do---go out there and work hard every night and set the right example. And for the other guys, whether you have a letter or not, we still need them to lead.
Callahan is going to wear the 'C' for this team, but he is right that the letters are not what makes leaders and the Rangers are going to have a series of different leaders with different styles on the club next season. Callahan, Staal and Richards are more of the quiet, lead by example types where Dubinsky and perhaps Boyle have the more outspoken style, at least with the public. 

Rumor: Alex Kovalev Heading To KHL?

After 18 seasons in the NHL as a supremely talented offensive player who was often frustrating for not playing to his talent level, TSN is reporting that Alex Kovalev will leave for the KHL.  The deal will see Kovalev play with Atlant Mytishchi where he will hope to show there is still something left in the tank after a 16 goal, 18 assist campaign. 

For his career Kovalev has scored 428 goals, tallied 596 assists for a total of 1,024 points in his 18 seasons. 

Rangers First Rounder J.T. Miller Signs With Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

According to Chris Johnston New York Rangers 2011 first round selection J.T. Miller has signed to play with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).  After Miller signed his entry level contract with the Rangers yesterday there was a lot of speculation about where he would be playing next season, but at least for now the intention is to have Miller spend the year in the OHL and let him develop without using up his entry-level contract.  While each prospect is different, spending the year in the OHL working on his game is likely the best thing for Miller long-term as opposed to being rushed to the professional ranks and competing with men in the AHL.