Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rumor: NHL Salary Cap To Rise As High As $63.5 Million

There has been speculation all season that the National Hockey League salary cap was going to rise from the current $59.4 million next season.  Much of the speculation had been about the cap rising to $62.4 million, but George Malik over at Kuklas Korner is reporting that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announced earlier today that the NHL salary cap will rise for next season to as high as $63.5 million.  If the cap does increase by the full $4.1 million next year it would be a huge boost to the New York Rangers in terms of keeping their key restricted free agents and their chase for Brad Richards.

Currently, the New York Rangers have 14 players signed for $42,612,500, which does not count Del Zotto or Zuccarello who finished the season in the AHL.  Having nearly $21 million to work with gives the organization huge flexibility which could only increase if some of the rumored buyouts actually happen.  This is going to be a fun offseason and early next week I will look at what the Rangers could do with all this money and what next season’s roster could potentially look like.

Rangers Player Review: Artem Anisimov Either Brilliant Or Invisible In Second Season

In his second season in the NHL, Artem Anisimov showed both the flashes of brilliance that give so much hope for his future and things that frustrate many fans during his present.  Offensively Anisimov registered six more goals and 10 more assists to take a 28 point rookie season and turn it into a solid 44 point second year for the 22-year-old.  The 16 point improvement between the seasons, along with the increased roles he took on the team during the season, shows the potential is certainly there for more.  His chemistry with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan gave the Rangers a line which, at times, could carry the offense for the team. 
Anisimov came out of the gates flying to start the 2010-11 season with six goals and eight assists in the first 17 games of the season.  The level was likely unsustainable regardless, but the decline for vast sections of the season is something that Anisimov will need to improve if he is to reach that high ceiling he has.  It was the fact that he could go 10 games without a point or have five different streaks of at least eight-games without a goal that frustrated many fans and had many ready to give up on the young Russian.  I am not ready to do that.
Anisimov clearly needs to work on his strength and his finishing around the net along with his overall aggressiveness.  The first two are things that need no further explanation, but the third is caused in part by how defensively responsible Anisimov is and there are stretches where he becomes extremely passive in the offensive zone.  The fact that he is so defensively responsible is a good thing, but he cannot do one at the expense of the other.
In terms of aggressiveness looking for his offense, he has a beautiful wrist shot that has shown deadly precision at times, but he predominantly uses it off the rush and not in the zone during a regular shift.  When he gains confidence in his shot within the flow of the game he will easily increase his goal scoring and with more strength he will be able to potentially become a 25-30 goal scorer in the league.
Let us take a look at the breakdown of Anisimov’s numbers by month.
Games Played
The numbers by month actually look relatively consistent, but as I said there were dips in production that are somewhat masked in splits because he had 10 multi-point games over the course of season, including a four point effort against Toronto on January 19.  Using that a single example of one month that is skewed, you can see that in the other 13 games he only had one goal for the month.
The potential is there for Anisimov to be a 60+ point player in the NHL with added strength, confidence and aggressiveness.  A summer working with Barbara Underhill on his power skating could certainly benefit Anisimov on both of the ice as it did Brian Boyle this past season.
Clearly the Rangers think highly of him given their refusals to deal him at the trade deadline, but one has to wonder how long the Rangers will give Anisimov to develop fully before looking to move on from him.  As a restricted free agent the way the Rangers handle his negotiations, both in dollars and length of his next contract, will say a lot about how long they envision Anisimov being a member of the Rangers organization.