Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trade: Rangers Acquire Oscar Lindberg From Coyotes for Ethan Werek

The New York Rangers and the Phoenix Coyotes have made yet another trade with one another.  This time the deal is a prospect for prospect swap with New York sending 2009 second round pick Ethan Werek to the Coyotes in exchange for 2010 second round forward Oscar Lindberg.

At this point Werek looks like the more offensive of the two prospects.  This season he recorded 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points in 47 games played with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL this season.  The problem for Werek has been injuries as he has had various injuries in his two seasons since being drafted which made making the decision on signing him more difficult.  Seeing as how the Rangers had to sign him this summer or lose his rights they decided to move him for another prospect who would not require that decision this summer or a contract against the 50 contract limit next year.

Lindberg, 19, played 41 games for Skelleftea HC, in the Swedish Elite League (SEL) this season, scoring five goals with nine assists.  Lindberg is considered a very good defensive forward who is excellent on faceoffs, but has developing offensive skills.  To speak to his faceoff skills he was tops in the SEL at 69.6% this season.  He can be left over in Sweden to develop next year or be brought over to develop here, but the flexibility is very appealing.

Here is's profile of Lindberg:
A very smart two-way center. Takes care of his defensive responsibilities, but also contributes offensively with good speed, technical skills and playmaking ability. Not an overly physical player, but he gets involved. Pretty good shot, but not a natural scorer. A team player who is good at face-offs.
Lindberg also participated in the IIHF World Juniors tournament for Sweden this year and despite playing a third line center role was tied for the team lead with when he had four points in six games played.

Rumor: Rangers Intersted In Goalie Viktor Fasth?

One of the few things considered a need, at least at the NHL level, for the New York Rangers this offseason is goaltending.  Having perennial Vezina contender Henrik Lundqvist installed as the starter and backbone of the team along with excellent backup Martin Biron there is little need to look for a goalie.  However, things are murkier beyond the NHL level.  To add to the confusion, according to a Swedish website, the New York Rangers are among five teams interesting in signing Viktor Fasth. 
Fasth is the 28-year-old Swedish goaltender who many saw play against Team USA in the World Championships.  This past season while playing for AIK in the Swedish Elite League (SEL) Fasth won the Honken Trophy as the best goaltender in the league.  The SEL is widely considered the second best league in the world behind the NHL. 
Fasth would be added to recently signed Jason Missiaen along with Chad Johnson, Cam Talbot, Dov Grumet-Morris and potentially Scott Stacjer.  Chad Johnson is a restricted free agent this summer and while he showed potential in his first year in the organization both at the AHL level and as a potential NHL backup he lost his job this season to both Cam Talbot and free agent Grumet-Morris.  Johnson is definitely a candidate to move on this summer. 
Talbot is under contract for next season so he will definitely still be around with the Whale while Grumet-Morris is another goalie they will have to make a decision on.  He came to the Whale this year on a try-out and by the time the season was over he was the playoff goalie. 
If the Rangers are seriously considering Fasth it would likely be for the AHL next season with an eye to making him the backup for Lundqvist after next season if Biron moves along.
Hat-tip to Blue Line Station for finding this story.

Chris Kreider Doesn't Think He Is NHL Ready Yet

Chris Kreider has been pretty clear that he wants to be an impact player when he comes into the NHL and not just another player on the ice.  At times during the 2011 IIHF World Championships Kreider has looked like he could be that player as soon as this coming season.  The problem is that has been against the lesser competition and against the NHL caliber players he has struggled.  The Rangers are still trying to convince Kreider to sign this summer, but according to Arthur Staple of Newsday Kreider seems set on going back to Boston College.
"I don't feel like I'm ready for the NHL," the Rangers' 2009 first-round draft pick told Newsday by phone from Kosice, Slovakia, where he's playing for the U.S. team in the World Championships. "Another year [at Boston College] can't hurt."

Kreider thinks what's best for him is to stay put. "The view I take is, if I'm there, I need to be ready and feel confident in my game," he said. "Whether it's trying to make the team out of camp or being the next guy called up from the minors, I have to be ready or they'll just go with someone else. I don't feel I'm there yet."
It is certainly possible that Kreider could make the adjustment from college to the pro level as smoothly as Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh did this year, but both Stepan and McDonagh showed more consistency in college than Kreider has to this point.  It is very encouraging to see Kreider want to be that kind of impact player and not, at least to this point, be swayed by the amount of money he could make as a professional.  Another year at Boston College is likely the best thing for him so he can dominate at that level before moving on to the professional ranks.

2010-11 Rangers Player Review: Marian Gaborik

Following a career year in his first season with the Rangers, Marian Gaborik declined heavily in his second year with New York.  After lighting up Broadway with 42 goals in the 76 games of his initial campaign he would only find the twine 22 times in 62 games during the 2010-11 season.  What made the struggles of Gaborik worse this year is that the secondary players on the Rangers stepped up in ways they did not the year before and a similar performance from him would have seen the team rise to potential contender status.  After getting a pass for much of the first half of the season because of his shoulder injury and 2009-10 season, the fans began to turn on Gaborik during the second half and were all over him down the stretch and during the playoffs.
It might not be fair to claim that the injury bug came back for Gaborik this season just because he missed 20 games, but between a separated shoulder (12 games), concussion (6 games), flu (1 game), groin (1 game) the Rangers were without their biggest offensive threat for one-quarter of the season.  Of those injuries the only one that could be conceivably be blamed for his drop in production would be the shoulder.  Players return from shoulder injuries with regularity, but this injury was the first one that Gaborik had to this portion of his body and I do believe that he rushed himself back.  In his play he was tentative to take a hit along the wall and avoided contact at different points in front of the net.  There was also some difference in the quality of his tremendous wrist shot.  So while the shoulder only officially had him out 12 games, the amount of time he spent ineffectively trying to play through that and his concussion was just as significant.  

Let us take a look at the breakdown of Gaborik's numbers by month.

Games Played

Gaborik's overall numbers were inflated by a series of huge games, but that is not unusual for the highest point producers in the league.  The difference is the lack of consistency for Gaborik in putting up numbers, especially goals this season.  As one of the leagues best snipers to have him go through three different stretches of at least seven games with no goals.
The most consistent thing for Gaborik this season was his lack of consistent linemates.  He had games this year where he would click with a new set of partners and then lose it again as there was no sustainable chemistry for Gaborik to find as he had in year one with Prospal and Christensen.  The lack of a true number one center is certainly a valid criticism of the organization, but that is not an excuse for the decline Gaborik had this year because he has produced without a true top line center in the past.  In addition to that fact, if you are a star you find a way to produce for your team and Gaborik simply did not do that enough this year.

The reality is Gaborik made himself easy to defend by not being aggressive and using his skating enough.  When Gaborik skates he puts pressure on the opposing defense and gets many of his “vulture” goals in the slot instead of hanging on the outside.  He got back to skating more towards the end of the season, but still was not finishing.  The fact he was skating again made him more impactful for the team because his threat level increased even without the production going with it.  While that is somewhat comforting on the surface and to look forward to next year, at $7.5 million dollars, Gaborik is paid to score.  Next year he will have to get more than 22 goals or those that started to turn on him this year will grow louder next year.