Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rumor: Drury, Prospal, Avery All On Way Out; Will Anyone But Biron Be Over 30?

The 2010-11 New York Rangers were a team built around a young core with very few “veterans” on the roster.  By the time the season ended the team only had six players that were over 30-years-old left around the team.  The question right now is other than Martin Biron, who is under contract for next season, will any of them survive the summer and still be Rangers next year or will the organization go even younger in building around their core. 

Andrew Gross at the Bergen Record doesn’t seem to think that any of captain Chris Drury, left wing Vinny Prospal and Avery will be back.
“Listening to John Tortorella, you got the strong feeling captain Chris Drury, left wing Vinny Prospal and Avery had played their last games as Rangers. The coach, of course, doesn’t have final say but it will be no surprise if Drury is bought out, Prospal not re-signed and Avery somehow moved, through a buyout, demotion to the AHL or trade. Avery does have a full no-trade clause from July 1 to Aug. 14, otherwise he can list 10 teams he wishes not to be dealt to.”
Add to that the certain departure of Bryan McCabe that would only leave Ruslan Fedotenko as possibly returning to join the over 30 crowd with Biron.  None of the names that Gross mentions are surprising in possibly being gone next season.  There has been talk about a Drury buyout for months given the $3.33 million the team can save making the move and the albatross that is contract compared to what he currently brings the team.  The idea of the Drury buyout is something that was discussed here back in January and I fully support the move, but much like the Redden demotion last summer, until it happens I will not be banking on that money.  There is still a lot of respect within the organization for Drury and buying out the captain of your team is never an easy move to make.

Prospal is an interesting case to make to stay or go because despite his injuries this year he was productive when on the ice.  In 29 games this season, Prospal scored nine goals and had 14 assists to give him the second highest point-per-game average on the team (.793), trailing only Ryan Callahan.  There were times where the amount of struggle Prospal was having to skate was painful to watch and showed how bad the knee might really be, but his experience and guile allowed him to get by and produce.  In addition it is impossible to understate the value of his attitude and work ethic around a young group of players.

In terms of Avery, despite his playoff performance, there is no surprise he would be on the list of players potentially headed out of town.  He was ineffective for much of the year because of the style he was playing at.  The skill level is still there to be an effective distributor and so is his ability to agitate, but it was his reluctance to play the agitating role this season that caused a decline in his effectiveness.  Where Avery is concerned, I think the most likely scenario is a demotion to the AHL because a buyout to eat some, even if only marginal cap space makes little sense for the Rangers when they could send him down for nothing.   It is unlikely that given the issues he had in Dallas, and the decreased effectiveness of his game that someone would trade for him, but it is certainly possible someone would take the risk for a cheap price and have the ability to send him down themselves.

The Rangers have been transitioning to more homegrown players over the past few years and if these three, along with McCabe are shown the door it will open more spots for youth, but at some point there also have to be some veterans sprinkled in around them.  Then again, much of the Rangers core has been around long enough that despite their status as being under 30-years-old they are veterans of the league.

Prust (Shoulder), Girardi (Hernia) Have Surgery To Fix Injuries

For anyone that followed the New York Rangers during the 2010-11 season, it should come as no surprise that according to Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants forward Brandon Prust went under the knife yesterday to have work done on his shoulder.  The shoulder was an issue for Prust since December and caused him to consciously not fight at times just so he could get some rest for it.  To see it was as severe as a torn labrum only reinforces the fact that Prust was the clear choice for the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award this year.  The fact that he played and even fought with a shoulder that bad only increases the respect level for the kind of warrior that Prust is.

Defenseman Dan Girardi also underwent surgery on hernia surgery Friday.  There was no word on when Girardi sustained the injury, but given how many nagging injuries he played through and his willingness to continually sacrifice his body it is no surprise that he needed some sort of operation when the season ended.

According to the Rangers, both procedures were successful and both players will be ready for training camp.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Brian Boyle: Breakout Year or One Year Wonder?

The play of Brian Boyle during the 2010-11 season was one of many pleasant surprises for the New York Rangers that allowed the team to overachieve.  Boyle, 26, came into the season with only 12 goals and 16 points in his 107 career NHL games.  Boyle disappointed in his first season in New York to the point that he entered training camp on the outside looking in.  In order to ensure his place with the Rangers Boyle worked on his skating last summer with Barb Underhill.  The work paid immediate dividends as his improved skating allowed him to make better use of his size and strength on the ice.  The final result this year was 21 goals 14 assists while being one of only four Rangers to play in all 82 games.  The question now is with Boyle due for a new contract was he a one year wonder, or a player growing into his own as an NHL player?

In all aspects of the game that don’t revolve around scoring it appears that Boyle has become a top level checking line center in the league.  His ability to block shots, kill penalties, hit and use his size on the forecheck are valuable assets for any club.  The area that is less certain is the offense, especially the goal scoring.  Boyle started the year with tremendous production as he accounted for 18 goals in the 52 games before the All-Star break, which would put him on pace to score 28 goals over an 82 game schedule.  If Boyle could put up that kind of offense to go with everything else he brings, then his value would be critical to the Rangers.  Brian Boyle becoming a legitimate two-way threat would be a huge boost to the Rangers inconsistent offense even if it means having to pay him more down the road.  The problem is that in the 30 games after the break Boyle scored only three times.  So which Brian Boyle is the real one?

Did Boyle have one tremendous half of the season offensively that was really just a fluke?  Did Boyle wear down in the second half and that is why his goal scoring seemingly dried up again? 

That question of which half is the real Brian Boyle is what will plague Rangers’ management to some extent this summer as they have to decide what he is worth.  Expect the answer to that question to be giving Boyle a contract in the $1.5-1.8 million dollar range for next season on a one year deal for him to show which version is real.  .  If Boyle and his agent(s) decide or an offer sheet is given that is worth significantly more than that, as valuable as Boyle was to New York this year, one would have to consider walking away from him.

It is rare that you get a center the size of Boyle who can score 25-30 goals in a season, kill penalties and be a tremendous influence in your locker room.  Boyle has yet to prove he can be counted on for the goal scoring aspect of that list and until he proves it again next season he will be a one year wonder in a contract year offensively. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video: Chris Kreider Scores For Team USA in Exhibition Against Austria

Dubinsky Wants Contract Done Quickly; What Price Is Right For Him?

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The last time Brandon Dubinsky went through contract negotiations with the New York Rangers the process dragged into training camp and had him holding out while the team was getting ready for the 2009-10 season.  The two sides finally compromised on his current two-year deal that paid Dubinsky $1.85 million per season and expires this summer.  According to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News Dubinsky wants the negotiation process to play out differently this time.
"I'd like to get it done as quickly as possible," Dubinsky said Monday at the team's practice facility in Greenburgh. "I think the Rangers want me, and I want the Rangers, so at the end of the day we might as well not waste each other's time and draw it out as long as it was (two years ago). The sooner it's done, the sooner I can focus on putting all my energy and efforts to this organization."
Those words show intent to get a deal done early and not have it be a distraction like last time and should encourage Rangers fans.  The problem with that is it assumes the way Dubinsky and his representatives perceive his value in a similar way to what the Rangers’ organization does.  Clearly that was not the case last time.  Dubinsky has more leverage in the negotiations this time as he is coming off a breakout season in 2010-11 and has arbitration rights this time, which he did not during the prior negotiations. 

Dubinsky led the Rangers’ in goals and points by putting up a 24 goal, 30 assist, 54 point season.  To go with that he took a larger leadership role both on and off the ice.  Prior to this season the criticism of Dubinsky has been for his inconsistency to produce.  Even in his career year those questions still exist to a certain extent as he notched 38 points in the 47 games he played prior to the All-Star break, but only 16 in his final 30 games of the season.  During the playoffs, Dubinsky was absent for the first two games of the series, but played very well in the final three games against the Capitals.  Overall he scored twice while adding one assist and scoring the game-winning goal in Game 3.

The question left for the Rangers is whether they think that Dubinsky is the player who helped carry the team early in the season and looked like he could put up 30 goals, 70-80 points or will he continue to be a streaky player that ends the year in the 50-60 range.  The difference in contracts based on that assessment is massive.  You can bet that Dubinsky’s representatives will push for a contract in the range of a player who will put the higher end of those numbers while the Rangers will try to keep the number as low as possible.

One would expect Dubinsky’s people to point to the David Backes extension which pays him $4.5 million over the next 5 seasons as similar to what Brandon is worth.  Their career numbers and ratios are similar and so is the way the two play, but that kind of contract would be overpaying Dubinsky.  A big difference in the two deals is Backes would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer while Dubinsky has two years left to reach that mark.  Using those two years I would suspect that Dubinsky gets somewhere around $3.2 million for the next two years and $4.1 million for the following two years to come out with a four-year $14.6 million dollar deal with an average cap hit of $3.65 million.

There is no doubt that Dubinsky is a build block type player for this organization because of the numerous roles he plays for this team.  The question is what dollar value can be placed on those various things he does to get a contract that both sides can be happy with and how long it takes for that to happen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Video: McDonagh, Stepan Discuss Rookie Season's



Have to love the composure of these two young players and it is their character as much as their skill that should give the fans so much hope for the future with men like these leading the way.

Rumor: Rangers Buying Out Wolski Almost Certain To Happen

The New York Rangers have a lot of personnel decisions to make this summer. A number of those decisions will revolve around players going into the final year of their contract(s) and whether the team should buy them out in order to create more cap space this summer.  Arthur Staple of Newsday writes that one such player, Wojtek Wolski, is “almost certainly” going to be bought out during the June 15-30 buyout window.  Wolski was acquired by New York in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Michal Rozsival.  The trade, regardless of how Wolski would play, was a win for the Rangers as it saved them money on the cap next season and gave them the potential for a talented offensive addition.  Wolski showed flashes of the talent, but the inconsistency that has plagued his career would be the more frequent visitor in his 37 games with the Rangers. Wolski chipped in with a line of 6-13-19 in 37 games for New York and helped secure some critical shootout wins.
The combination of his inconsistency to produce offensively and his lack of fit in the Rangers more defensive system had him in and out of the doghouse with coach John Tortorella.  The talent is certainly there, but for $3.8-million salary next season the production and fit would have to be as well, and it is not.  Add to that the rule that players under 26-years-old can be bought out for only one-third of their cap hit and not the normal two-thirds and everything adds up to Wolski getting shown the door this summer.
The move to buyout Wolski would cost the Rangers $466K next season against the cap and $666K for the 2012-13 season.  The $666K against the cap a year from now is a small price to pay to have an extra $3.33 million this summer when the team has to sign numerous restricted free agents and looks to upgrade their talent level with the potential move for Brad Richards.
The move opens up cap space along with a roster spot on left wing that someone will have to fill.  Dubinsky and likely Fedotenko would be the two main left wingers on the roster though the acquisition of a Brad Richards could push a current center out to the wing as well.  Mats Zuccarello is a candidate to take a spot on left wing along with Carl Hagelin from the current crop of players not on the NHL roster.  Replacing the talent of Wolski is not an easy thing to do, but replacing the production is not all that difficult.  Regardless of how Wolski’s personal time in New York might be viewed if the buyout does indeed happen, the trade was a win for New York as they got a talented player who helped get them in the playoffs and saved $4.5 million dollars from the cap next season.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dallas Stars Closing In On New Owner, What It Means For Brad Richards

According to Brad Richards, one of the biggest issues with him staying in Dallas has been the uncertainty of their ownership situation.  David Shoalts of the Toronto Globe & Mail is reporting that the ownership roadblock to Richards staying in Dallas is getting closer to being resolved.  Shoalts reports that Tom Gaglardi, a Vancouver businessman, has taken another step forward in the process to buy the Stars and that he could be the owner as soon as the end of May.  

One of the biggest stumbling blocks let in the process is whether or not bankruptcy court will be needed to complete the sale.  
Declaring bankruptcy is opposed by the NHL, according to the source, but it is viewed as a necessity because of the Stars’ long list of creditors. It is hoped the sale can be completed by the end of May, but that is not certain as the bidders who lost out to Gaglardi in this round could resurface in bankruptcy court.
Brandon Worley at Defending Big D, points out that this isn’t the end of the process and by no means 
indicates this is a lock to be finished.  
Two very important facts to take note of from this report, if true: This is the closest we’ve been to the sale actually going through since the team was put on the market well over a year ago, and just because Gagliardi has agreed to terms doesn’t mean that the sale is anywhere near final. He still has, apparently, a 30 day window of exclusive negotiating to narrow down the price and terms of the sale and there’s also the very real chance this thing has to go to bankruptcy court first.

While not exactly a certainty, it appears that the sale getting done prior to the unofficial “deadline” of July 1st is getting closer to becoming a very real possibility.

In terms of the Rangers pursuit of Richards, Dallas getting a stable ownership situation would certainly hinder the chances of him leaving, but it is not nearly as certain as Shoalts makes it seem.  A stable Dallas is likely Richards first choice, but the longer this process drags on the more he will start to mentally think about being elsewhere and the lure of New York, and playing for coach John Tortorella again will creep into his mind.  Certainly not a great development for the Rangers, but not a death blow just yet.

Ryan McDonagh Added To Team USA Roster for World Championships

Earlier I posted about Derek Stepan being added to Team USA for the World Championships.  News keeps changing as now Kevin Allen of USA Today is reporting that Rangers' defenseman Ryan McDonagh will also be added to the Team USA roster for the tournament.  Being selected for the tournament is a great thing for McDongah as it gives him even more experience on a big stage to add to the development he had as a rookie NHL player.  McDonagh had one goal and eight assists while recording an impressive plus-sixteen rating in 40 regular season games with the Rangers this year.  In the playoffs he did not score, but once again showed that he is not intimidated by any stage or any opponent.  He will get to do that again as a member of Team USA. 

Having Kreider, Stepan and McDonagh on Team USA will only increase the interest of Rangers fans in how the team fares and gives yet another glimpse of how bright the future is going to be on Broadway.

Stepan To Join Kreider on Team USA for World Championships; Will They Play Together?

The New York Rangers season might be over, but the team will have a presence at the upcoming World Championships.  Kevin Allen of USA Today tweeted that Derek Stepan will be on the Team USA squad along with prospect Chris Kreider.  The pair has played together before, most notably, at the 2010 U-20 World Junior Championships in which they played on the same line and helped win the gold medal.  The two have shown excellent chemistry together in the past and it would be an easy coaching move to put them on a line with one another during the tournament.

Along with Stepan, Marian Gaborik will play for Slovakia in the tournament, while Artem Anisimov, Vinny Prospal and Henrik Lundqvist all will be sitting out the festivities.