Devils re-sign Coleman and Noesen

Today, the Devils announced the re-signings of restricted free agents Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen. Two pleasant surprises who contributed to the team’s surprising return to the playoffs, both were revelations under second-year coach John Hynes.

Used primarily in checking and penalty killing roles, both excelled. Unproven entering ’17-18, they each scored 13 goals, establishing career bests, including points with Coleman totaling 25 while Noesen finished with 27. Their diligent work as secondary scorers, who outworked opponents, was appreciated by Devils fans.

Coleman, 26, signed for three years at an average of $1.8 million per season. Noesen received $1.725 million over a year.

With Brian Gibbons gone, the importance of Coleman and Noesen cannot be underestimated. They are key cogs that Hynes grew to trust along with Brian Boyle and Travis Zajac.

Secondary scoring shouldn’t be a issue for the Devils. They should get solid production from the depth forwards. It’ll be up to Pavel Zacha to elevate his game. He remains a question entering his third year. That must change.

A healthy Marcus Johansson and Miles Wood should help. It’ll be interesting to see if basically, the same roster can have similar success in a division that improved. There will be more pressure and expectations.

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A good bridge deal for Vesey to prove himself

Today, the Rangers announced the re-signing of restricted free agent Jimmy Vesey. One of four players who filed for salary arbitration, he took a very fair bridge deal worth a reported average of $2.275 million through 2020.

In his first two years as a Blueshirt, Vesey has posted 33 goals and 22 assists totaling 55 points over 159 games. The production per season is a little underwhelming given the hype around the former Hobey Baker winner. However, former coach Alain Vigneault didn’t use him consistently. A problem that led to his dismissal.

Vesey spent four years at Harvard University playing in the ECAC. New coach David Quinn knows him well. Hopefully, that will translate to a more defined role for the 25-year old Boston, Massachusetts native. He’ll have the next two seasons to prove himself.

That means improving from a inconsistent scorer to a more dependable option. It’s not like the 6-3, 206 pound Vesey is afraid to use his size. He will drive the net for garbage goals. His speed is good enough to be a effective forechecker, who can become a 20-25 goalscorer. Now, it’s up to him.

More should be expected from Vesey under Quinn. We’ll see if he’s ready to fulfill expectations.

In related news, Cristoval “Boo” Nieves accepted his qualifying offer. He’ll compete for a spot on the fourth line. John Gilmour was also re-signed for another year. Whether he makes the roster on the blueline remains to be seen. He possesses great speed and a good shot, but needs work defensively. Not the biggest in stature, he’ll have a uphill climb in training camp. The competition should be fierce with vet Brendan Smith, Fredrik Claesson, Steven Kampfer, along with prospects Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren.

Steven Fogarty, Rob O’Gara also accepted their qualifiers. Both likely ticketed for Hartford.

The projected top four looks like restricted free agent Brady Skjei with Shattenkirk. Then Marc Staal with Neal Pionk. Afterwards, it becomes anyone’s guess. You’ll have Tony DeAngelo also vying for a regular spot in the top six with the aforementioned names. A long shot is Sean Day, who at only 20, enters his first pro season. He will probably need time in Hartford to develop.

As far as the remaining three unsigned Group II free agents, expect the Rangers to get something done with each soon. Skjei could be a long-term contract in the neighborhood of five years. Kevin Hayes is the most tricky due to his price tag, which could now be around $5.75 million AAV. What will the term be for the soon to be UFA? Ryan Spooner should get a year to prove he belongs with unrestricted status in 2019.

The Rangers finally completed their coaching staff, officially adding Greg Johnson and David Oliver as assistants on Quinn’s staff. Hopefully, this staff is on the same page and does a better job.

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The reaction to Cody McLeod re-signing

I never would’ve expected it. However, Cody McLeod will return to the Rangers in ’18-19. The veteran fourth liner re-signed for a year at $750,000.

The 34-year old spent most of his career with Colorado before playing parts of the last two seasons with Nashville. After the Predators waived him, the Rangers put in a claim. He got into 25 games tallying two assists with 39 penalty minutes and a minus-11 rating.

Why did they bring him back? Eh. Probably because the Rangers didn’t want to commit to a better character player such as Antoine Roussel, who got four years from the Canucks. Even Ryan Reaves did better. But he can still skate and contribute. Something he proved in the 2018 Playoffs with his two goals for Vegas.

Does it really matter? Not at all. McLeod isn’t taking a roster spot from a good prospect that belongs. Under new coach David Quinn, fans want to see the kids play. I don’t mean a minimal role on the fourth line. McLeod will be a part-timer for rivalry games like the Islanders, Devils and Flyers. He’s not going to play a lot under Quinn.

Naturally, there’s been the all too predictable overreaction on NYR Twitter. It’s pointless. So, McLeod comes back to play a small role, adding team toughness. The funny part is these same people complain if Ryan Callahan returns as part of a salary dump by Tampa, assuming Erik Karlsson ever gets moved. Callahan is a much better hockey player than McLeod. Even now, he still can forecheck and play regularly in a supporting role.

I don’t get our fans. They constantly find something to whine about. McLeod’s signing means nothing. My reaction is indifferent. It doesn’t bother me either way. I understand what they’re trying to do.

Arbitration dates were set for Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Vesey.

I’m sure almost all will come to some sort of agreement prior to the potential hearings.

The Rangers announced the addition of Greg Brown to Quinn’s staff. He was an associate head coach who worked on the penalty kill at Boston College. That’s the type of player he was in the NHL. So, one more coach maybe and that’s it.

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Summer of calm for Hudson rivals, Rangers and Devils

It’s now been over a week since all the fireworks 🎇 were fired on the first day of free agency. Following John Tavares’ impactful decision to go home like Dorothy to Kansas Toronto, leaving a gaping hole for the Islanders to fill (they haven’t), most talk centered around Erik Karlsson.

However, a few days after a few writers made it seem like he was a foregone conclusion to the Tampa Warriors Lightning, nothing has happened yet. If they’re really going to execute such a blockbuster trade, they need a third wheel to help offset salary. Ironically, both the Rangers and Devils were mentioned as potential partners. But nothing came of it. Ryan Callahan isn’t coming home. Maybe it’s for the best considering all the crying bitter Ranger fans have done on social media. The insanity borders on pathetic.

Whatever Tampa GM Steve Yzerman decides, he has even less margin to work with following a eight-year extension with Nikita Kucherov for $76 million. Basically, a whopping cap hit of $9.5 million beginning in ’19-20. He will earn $5.5 million in ’18-19 and only be on an AAV of $4.77 million. So, the Bolts even with Ryan McDonagh deciding to forgo unrestricted free agency in 2019, agreeing to a seven-year extension worth an average of $6.75 million through 2026, are a shade over $70 million currently. They could still try to acquire Karlsson and add his $6.5 million salary to a blueline that boasts rating Norris winner Victor Hedman, McDonagh, Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn and Mikhail Sergachev. Jake Dotchin too if he counts. 😮

Why can they do this? Aside from the tax advantage, which allows players to take less knowing they’ll make more due to playing in Tampa, Yzerman is aware that the contracts of Girardi, Stralman and Coburn are expiring next summer. He’ll put a priority on re-signing Yanni Gourde, while looking to dump salaries such as Callahan or Alex Killorn.

There’s also this. A worthwhile note about the contract extension Kucherov agreed on yesterday.

Mind numbing. Any way to take full advantage of the rules under the current CBA. Tampa will be responsible for the next lockout in 2020. Not that they care. It’s all about getting as many big name players as possible and fitting them in for a run at a Cup.

If you’re the Rangers or Devils, why would you help the Lightning? Unless they’re willing to include a good prospect or two draft picks in either of the first two rounds, I hang up the phone and tell Stevie Y, “Go find someone else to use.”

Most fans knew the Blueshirts strategy this summer. They weren’t gonna be in on any big names. It doesn’t mesh with what they want to do. It’s not a big deal that top pick Vitali Kravtsov won’t make his Broadway debut until the following season. He will fulfill the remaining year of his contract with Traktor of the KHL. They gave him a bump in salary. It’s a professional league which should further his development. Even if it means he might need some seasoning in Hartford next year, Kravtsov will arrive at some point.

Right now, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton will focus on re-signing his restricted free agents. He took care of Russian Vladislav Namestnikov, giving him a nice raise on a multi-year deal worth an AAV of $4 million. We’ll see if he fares better on the wing under new coach David Quinn.

Group II’s Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, Ryan Spooner, and Jimmy Vesey all filed for salary arbitration last week. Hayes and Skjei looking at considerable bumps in salary. Especially if Hayes is retained, and Skjei gets a long-term deal that could benefit both parties. John Gilmour remains restricted as does Ryan Sproul.

The only move Gorton made was minor, inking former Ottawa defensive defenseman Fredrik Claesson. He’ll compete in camp for a roster spot with Brendan Smith, Steven Kampfer, along with some of the kids. We’ll see if either Ville Neskanen or Michael Lindqvist can make it up front.

Alexandar Georgiev remains the favorite to be the backup goalie behind cagey vet Henrik Lundqvist.

As for the Devils, they’ve been mysteriously quiet this offseason. Although it’s been longstanding tradition even post-Lou Lamoriello to not make any sexy moves, you have to wonder what the thinking is. GM Ray Shero re-signed mere mortal Eddie Lack as goalie insurance due to starter Cory Schneider possibly not being ready for camp due to offseason surgery.

Hopefully, he will be ready for the start of the season. The Devils can take solace knowing backup Keith Kinkaid was instrumental in helping them reach the postseason. If not for his strong and steady play down the stretch with Schneider hurting, they wouldn’t have beaten out the Panthers. That helped Taylor Hall win the Hart Trophy, becoming the first ever Devil to do so.

So, what else have they done so far? Not much. Unless you think signing Eric Gryba for one year will help stabilize a blueline that lost Mr. Overtime, John Moore to the Bruins. He signed for five years! Good luck with that, Boston. New Jersey has plenty of D to fill the roster. Starting with captain Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen, they don’t lack depth. However, they could use another top four who could make a difference. Justin Faulk? Eh. He can add offense but his defense is a bit suspect.

Obviously, Will Butcher will be looked upon to continue his development into a top four role. He got plenty of power play time and favorable match-ups in his rookie year, which translated to 44 points (5-39-44). Damon Severson scored nine goals and added 15 helpers, but struggled with consistency in his end. That remains a weak point for a good player who the Devils invested in long-term. He’s signed for another five years at an AAV of $4.17 million through 2023. The right D turns 24 next month, entering his fifth season. He will be a key if the Devils are to improve.

Mirco Mueller and veteran Ben Lovejoy remain. They should have the inside track to the bottom pair with Gryba and forgotten man Steven Santini fighting for a spot.

Up front, Shero hasn’t been able to add another scorer who could take pressure off Hall. He, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri form a potent top line. That’s if John Hynes wants to keep them intact. He could always opt to slide Palmieri down for more balance. With Patrick Maroon turning down more money to go home to St. Louis for one year, that hurts. He was the one acquisition who worked out due to his size and grit. Michael Grabner (Coyotes) never fit in. Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes weren’t returning.

Unless there is a drastic change, the Devils will need former 2015 first round pick Pavel Zacha to become more dependable. In his first two seasons, the former sixth overall pick has totaled 16 goals in 140 career NHL games. That can’t continue. Blake Coleman and Stefan Noessen will be re-signed. Two hardworking players who overachieved, carving checking and penalty killing roles under General Hynes. They have speed and bring a lunch pail work ethic. Travis Zajac remains a Devil for another three seasons at an AAV of $5.75 million. Part of a big contract Lamoriello gave him before injuries and a decline in production caught up due to his tenacious style of play. He’s still a valuable secondary forward, who is superb on the penalty kill and solid on big face-offs.

Inspirational Brian Boyle also remains for one more year. Could it be the swan song for the lovable big man, who courageously battled cancer, becoming an All-Star and locker room leader? Boyle has always given his heart and soul wherever he played. No wonder he’s so beloved by his peers and fans. I wish he could’ve remained a Ranger. I still root for him.

Two forwards the Devils are hoping for improved performances from are Jesper Bratt and Marcus Johansson. Bratt was the surprise of last year making the roster. He was a fixture early on with Hischier due to a great start. But eventually, he cooled off considerably and even fell out of favor. But he is similar in speed and defensive acumen to Grabner. If he can improve his consistency, then he should be a good player.

Johansson had a rough first year in Newark due to injuries. None more serious than the concussion he suffered on a dirty hit by Brad Marchand following a whistle. A foolish act by a player, who has issues despite his talent. Johansson played in only 29 games, scoring five times with nine helpers. He did return for the playoffs, going without a point in three games. Hopefully, ’19-20 treats him much better. He’s a quality top six forward as long as he stays healthy. A good skater with some finishing and playmaking capabilities, Johansson was barely a factor last season. If he can get back to what he was, pencil him in for 20 goals and 25 assists. That would be a welcome sight.

So would the continued improvement of Miles Wood. He scored a career best 19 goals with 13 assists and 84 penalty minutes. However, it didn’t translate in a first round loss to Tampa. He wasn’t as effective following a dopey cheap shot that resulted in a suspension. He can be a good player when he stays in control. A bit similar to David Clarkson, Wood is a better skater, who crashes the net. Obviously, the Devils need him to become a consistent secondary scorer.

If it looks like it’s the same old, same old for Jersey’s team, that’s because it is. They’re expected to make the playoffs again. With teams around them improving, it’s no wonder Hasan is concerned. They never seem to invest much money into the roster. Taking a step back would be bad. Hall would only have a year left on a contract that pays him $6 million. He’s signed through 2020. Then can turn unrestricted.

It’s a important year for the Devils. One they can’t afford to waste.

What can be taken away is that you have the two Hudson rivals at different stages. The Rangers fully committed to a rebuild even if it means missing the playoffs a couple of more seasons. Youth will be served. The Devils looking to improve on their surprising ’17-18. Not just be one and done. Both rivals remain compelling.

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Are the Rangers in or out on the Karlsson trade?

Last night, rumors swirled that Ottawa and Tampa Bay had agreed in principle to a trade involving Erik Karlsson. Of course, it was refuted by reliable TSN source Elliotte Friedman.

Quite honestly, I’ve had enough of the Karlsson stuff. We all know he’s not returning to Ottawa due to all the distractions, which include a cheapskate owner, Eugene Melnyk. There is no chance they re-sign him next summer. He’s going to get around $11.5 million on average for his next contract.

Complicating matters, the Senators want to dump Bobby Ryan’s awful contract on someone. Might it be the Rangers, who have been mentioned as part of the process to completing a huge transaction. The Lightning need a third team involved to dump salary. Whether it be Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, or Alex Killorn, they have to find a creative way to make it work to add Karlsson to a blueline that already features Victor Hedman, recently extended Ryan McDonagh and talented Russian Mikhail Sergachev.

If the Rangers are the third team, they’d absorb salary. It could be Ryan’s nightmarish contract or former Black and Blueshirt Callahan, who has two years remaining. I’m in favor of a Captain Cally return if they’re involved due to his experience here as a former captain. While he isn’t the player he was when Glen Sather traded him in 2014 to Tampa for Marty St. Louis, he still plays the same gritty, physical style that made him so popular. Even after all the injuries, he was one of the Lightning’s best players last Spring. A strong forechecker, who hits and sacrifices the body to block shots, he’s a good example for younger players to follow on how to play the game.

I want no part of Ryan unless it means high picks and prospects. Any trade the Rangers are in on regarding Karlsson should result in them at least obtaining draft picks with whatever contract they take back. They’d be doing a solid for Tampa or Ottawa. Maybe they could even pry a good prospect. I’m not holding out blind faith that they could get Cal Foote or Taylor Raddysh like some unrealistic fans.

There was also talk of the Devils becoming the third team. Why they would want any part I don’t know. Unless it landed them a decent scoring option such as Killorn or Tyler Johnson, it wouldn’t be worth it. The Devils have done their usual, which is nothing so far. Something Hasan well documented in total frustration. He’s right. You come off a feel good year where Taylor Hall becomes the first Devil to win the Hart by carrying the team into the postseason for the first time since 2012 and do nothing?

In the event Karlsson is finally traded today to the Lightning, it would be so predictable. Another big fish landing in Tampa where they somehow make it work. Is this good for hockey? Absolutely not. As much as we mock the NBA for what it’s become, the Lightning adding Karlsson to an already loaded roster that also includes Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point is sickening. How many more big salaries can they fit in?

Pretty soon, we’ll be referring to them as the Tampa Warriors. I wish I was kidding. This is no game. Not when they’re bumping up J.T. Miller for another five years at a average cap hit of $5.25 million. And McDonagh stays for less than $7 million over the next half a decade. It’s nightmarish.

Remember all that talk from the fraud Gary Bettman about “cost certainty.” What a load of bs that was. There needs to be a different kind of cap. Or a better system because the current one is falling apart.

Tampa is about to have a super team. They’ll become the most hated in the game. Remember how much the Rangers were hated pre-lockout for all the outlandish contracts they handed out along with the creative trades that took advantage of teams? That was a different system. There was no salary cap with a floor or ceiling. This is worse. The ramifications could result in a third lockout.

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Happy Fourth of July!

On Independence Day, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July! I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday with friends and family.

It’s America’s 242nd Birthday. Hard to believe that way back in 1776, the American Revolution resulted in the Declaration of Independence on July 4. Our separation from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2. However, it’s honored on this day, commemorating what Thomas Jefferson authored as part of the Committee of Five, which included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. Two future Presidents with Adams and Jefferson following George Washington.

We celebrate our freedom as a country. Whatever you do, stay safe. Who doesn’t love looking at fireworks 💥🎇🎆? There’s nothing like it. Even though they’re frequently set off before and after the special holiday. Fireworks are also used out here to honor Memorial Day and New Year’s.

Enjoy your day.

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Hello, anyone home in Newark?

For years as Devil fans all we’ve been hearing about is how the oodles of cap space we had and the improving team on the ice would both represent a more attractive destination for free agents and give us more opportunities to improve the team via trade.  Last offseason the hype was how we’d be able to use our cap space to take advantage of teams before the expansion draft, but the only team who did that was Vegas themselves, seemingly monopolizing all the cap space acquisitions.  Yet here we sit on the fourth of July, still with a ton of unused cap space and still basically at status quo – which might be charitable at best.  True, I’m not losing any sleep over the departures of John Moore, Michael Grabner, Brian Gibbons or Jimmy Hayes…but all did suit up in the playoffs for the Devils last year.

A predictable response would be ‘but it’s July 4 and they still have all offseason to do something’…which is fine, but what is that something going to be, exactly?  Overpaying Patrick Maroon to come back?  Make some mysterious trade that comes out of left field?  Building from within and from trades simaltaneously and exclusively is a very tight rope to walk, especially if you’re not going to spend to the cap which more and more seems like it’s an issue, no matter what Shero or anyone else says eventually the proof is in the pudding.  Not spending to the cap is one thing, not spending anywhere near the cap is another.  There have been multiple opportunities to make an impact improvement that have gone by the wayside for one reason or another.  John Carlson?  Didn’t even get to free agency, the Caps re-signed him after clearing cap space…fine, a RD wasn’t the most optimum fit anyway.  John Tavares?  Didn’t even take a meeting with the Devils, seemingly only torn between the Isles and Toronto and not including any other Metro teams on his interview list.  Whatever…dissapointing we couldn’t make a pitch but can’t blame the organization there.

Ryan O’Reilly?  Gets traded to another team who was around our level looking to make a tangible improvement.  A bit dissapointing we weren’t in on that one considering O’Reilly is signed the next few years and we could use a true top six center.  Calvin deHaan?  After rumored interest from us he signs with a division rival, with Mike Morreale saying after the fact we weren’t in the mix on deHaan whatever that means.  Another dissapointment considering our LHD could use an improvement.  Erik Karlsson?  Who knows, though all the rumored destinations are all good teams that play in tax-free states.  Maroon?  Still in limbo, but he’d be our worst FA loss given how he played after coming over last year and the fact he adds size and physicality our forward core otherwise lacks.

As of now the only thing GM Ray Shero has done is re-sign Eddie Lack and sign three other minor league free agents, and there’s been radio silence from Newark since late April on breakup day.  No comments after the draft, even if it was only to talk about first-rounder Ty Smith.  No comments in the four days since free agency started as everyone else around us seems to improve…Carolina signed Calvin deHaan, Petr Mrazek and acquired Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland from the Flames in a major draft weekend trade.  Florida – who we barely beat out for a spot this year traded for top six winger Mike Hoffman as part of the Sens’ liquidation.  Philly signed James van Riemsdyk, another FA we weren’t in on.  Ironically among Metro teams, only the two NY teams are probably going to be out of the mix as far as the playoff chase.  Not that I’m entirely counting out Barry Trotz improving the Isles from the tire fire they were last year but with our old buddy Lou continuing his predictable ‘overpay old role players’ strategy that failed miserably his final years here coupled with losing their franchise center (not to mention deHaan from an already terribad defense) and being in a brutal division, there’ll be a lot of long days and nights in Brooklyn this year.

While I don’t need Shero to make a move this week, it is dissapointing that for years we’ve had as much cap space go unused as has been, especially considering these same owners seem fine on spending big money for the improving Sixers in the NBA.  Perhaps they’re only going to spend relative to profit.  Even acquiring a short-bad term contract to take an asset back would have been nice – no, Marc Savard doesn’t count in that vein since no real money was spent.  More and more it seems like (at best) Shero’s adopting a pure Moneyball approach and hoarding cap space indefinitely while the top teams are proving they can create cap space seemingly at will when they need it, in no small part due to the cap increasing every year.  All we heard is how Tampa had no cap space and they just re-signed defenseman Ryan McDonagh and were in on Tavares as one of the finalists.

It would be nice to at least hear from the GM this week though.  For a guy that was one of the most open and accesible GM’s in the first three years of his tenure, the recent radio silence is a bit disconcerting.  At first I was willing to believe he was working on big deals or big signings and would comment after the fact but seemingly nothing’s happened or even been close and still Shero’s in a bunker somewhere as if he was Lou.  I’ve said before I’d be dissapointed if we came out of this offseason status quo and more and more it looks that way barring a later summer rabbit out of a hat type trade.  We barely made the playoffs as is, while it probably was too much to ask this team to make the leap to championship contender just yet, taking a total step back would be a bit alarming heading into an offseason where we’re gonna need to spend to re-sign Hart winner Taylor Hall and defenseman Will Butcher (who’s an RFA).  Having this team go backwards isn’t exactly the best way to carry over the good feeling from this spring.

Not being able to improve the team in any substantial way also brings back the question marks of how much ownership is willing to spend on this team.  As much as I wanted to believe these billionaires would pour money into the team when it was appropriate, the more chances that pass by to substantially improve the team the less I’m willing to buy the company line that ‘oh, Shero can spend to the cap if he thinks it’s appropriate’.  For years as a Met fan I heard how the Madoff scandal wouldn’t affect the Mets financially even years after it was obvious it did.  Has Shero gone underground cause he knows he can’t justify the lack of moves this offseason without referencing a budget – which he has denied to this point?

While I and most of the fanbase have been patient to this point, expectations have now been raised.  Maybe making the playoffs was a year sooner than most expected in this rebuild but now that it’s happened it would be nice to see someone willing to take the next step to make this team better, whether it’s Shero or ownership.  I do have faith in Shero the GM, I just don’t know how often we can go back to the well of waiting for trades to improve.  How much can you trade and still build from within?  Even the O’Reilly trade which you could have made an argument for us to make, would have involved losing two high picks and three depth players and we don’t have a lot of either, especially after our deadline trades last year and FA losses so far this offeason.  I want to have faith in ownership, especially after they’ve shown they aren’t averse to spending entirely with the Sixers.  It’s just hard to keep making the same rationalizations over and over again in the face of mounting evidence.  Like I said I don’t have an issue with not spending to the cap, my issue is not even being in the same stratosphere of spending to the cap.

Pretty soon it’s gonna be time for this organization to show the fanbase, and show your MVP and the rest of your team something.  Especially while your rival teams are either rebuilding (Rangers) or imploding (Isles) and you have an opportunity to be the best team in town for an extended period of time.

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Islanders bring back Matt Martin, sign Lehner

The Islanders are moving on from the devastation of John Tavares leaving for the Maple Leafs. They’re doing it in odd fashion, by loading up on third and fourth liners.

After agreeing to a four-year deal with former Leaf Leo Komarov ($3 million per season) the other day, they’ve reacquired popular forward Matt Martin from Toronto for Eamon McAdam. The 29-year old energizer, who was a fan favorite, returns to the Islanders after spending the past two seasons with the Leafs. He left following ’15-16 cashing in on a career high 10 goals and 19 points with 119 penalty minutes, by signing a four-year contract worth an average cap hit of $2.5 million. Now, the Isles will be on the hook for the remaining two years.

It’ll be interesting to see what role Martin has. It probably won’t be full time considering all the secondary depth they have. He played all 82 games his first year in Toronto scoring five goals with four assists and 123 penalty minutes, helping them reach the playoffs. In six playoff games in a first round loss, he had two assists. This past season, he only played 50 games, but tallied three goals and nine assists with 50 PIM. He only played in three of the Leafs’ final 33 games, including none in the postseason.

They previously also added fourth liner Tom Kuhnackl. A former Pen, who plays tough and will drop the gloves. I’m just wondering how many of these guys they need when they already had Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.

I don’t get the move for Valtteri Filppula either. A player whose best years are behind him. He became an afterthought in Philadelphia. What role will he play? It shouldn’t be more than third line at this point in his career.

The other move today was the Islanders announcing the much rumored signing of former Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner.

While he is a decent goalie based on his career save percentage (.915), Lehner isn’t always consistent. Consider that the Sabres banked on him to become their starter. Instead, he was injury prone and up and down after coming over from Ottawa for David Legwand and a first round pick that turned into American prospect Colin White.

Lehner was good in ’16-17 winning 23 games in 59 games with a 2.68 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage. He wasn’t good in ’17-18 going 14-26-9 with a 3.01 GAA and .908 save percentage. Granted, his defense wasn’t good in front of him. It took time for Buffalo to improve under first-year coach Phil Housley. They were more competitive the final couple of months.

Lehner will turn 27 later this month. The interesting thing is he won’t have to carry the burden with Thomas Greiss still having a year left on his contract. Unless they dump him and take a further look at Christopher Gibson. I don’t know what the new Isles brain trust is thinking.

The Islanders are said to be involved in discussions for Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson. They’re one of three of four teams depending on who you believe. I don’t buy for a second that the Rangers would ever consider it. It doesn’t fit with their commitment to a rebuild. Plus the cost would be too much in terms of prospects and picks.

Whoever acquires Karlsson assumes the risk of signing him long-term. He can become unrestricted next summer. Good luck with that.

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Rangers re-sign Namestnikov, add defenseman Claesson

Day One of free agency is in the books. It went as expected if you’re a Ranger fan. They didn’t do much. Committed to a rebuild, it appears there will be no quick fixes or overpaid stars coming to Broadway.

Instead, it looks like GM Jeff Gorton is staying true to his word. Something he and Team President Glen Sather promised following a public letter to the fans before the trade deadline. They vowed to make changes for the foreseeable future. It was time to revamp a paper thin farm system minus any blue chip prospects, aside from Russian goalie Igor Shestyerkin. A player who’s a year away from coming to North America.

Hopefully, ninth overall pick Vitali Kravtsov works out sooner than later. Especially if you go on what he said during a promising rookie camp. That he wants to be a Ranger sooner rather than stay in the KHL. There’s much to like about defense prospect K’Andre Miller, who Gorton moved up four spots to grab at number 22, even parting with the 48th pick. Some classified it as overpayment. But the mature Miller has a good head on his shoulders, and might be worth it. He is passionate about giving back to the community and speaks very elegantly. Hopefully, the package he’ll bring down the line will make Garden Faithful happy. Nils Lundkvist is a smooth skating D with puck handling skills and offensive potential. So, that first round was pretty good even without Oliver Wahlstrom, who was outspoken about the Rangers making a ‘mistake.’ Even with John Tavares gone, the rivalry between the Islanders and Rangers should be exciting for both fanbases to debate in the future.

Gorton made a pair of moves on Canada Day. One was re-signing forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a multi-year deal worth $8 million. Four million seems a bit high for the still unproven 25-year old Russian the Rangers acquired as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning. We’ll see if he can do better than the underwhelming two goals and two assists he picked up in 19 games under ex-coach Alain Vigneault. We know he can skate and make plays. There’s untapped potential. Hopefully, he can figure it out for rookie coach David Quinn.

The second move was one of those depth signings to possibly address some toughness on the blueline. Gorton signed former Senator Fredrik Claesson to a one-year contract for only $700,000. It’s a low risk move. The left shooting defenseman isn’t flashy, but physical. He’s only totaled 113 NHL games over three years with Ottawa, going 4-16-20 with a minus-eight rating.

This past season, he played in a career high 64 contests, registering a goal and six helpers with 35 penalty minutes and a minus-seven rating. He had 158 Hits and recorded 84 blocked shots. The glaring negative is his 33 giveaways as compared with 15 takeaways. For his career, Claesson has totaled 62 giveaways with only 28 takeaways. Yikes. Hopefully, he’s better than those statistics indicate. He averaged a shade over 15 minutes of ice time in ’17-18.

The 25-year old Swede will compete for a job in camp. If Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Marc Staal are the incumbents with sure jobs as the established leaders of the back end, then Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Smith, John Gilmour and Steven Kampfer should all have the inside track to the remaining four spots. Four because I figure they’ll only keep seven D and go with two extra forwards. Something they’ll be able to do much easier with so much cap room.

The Rangers currently rank third from the bottom with over $48 million on the salary cap. That’s with a estimated $78 million max. Once Gorton gets Skjei and Kevin Hayes taken care of, that should comprise at least established eight million. If they keep Jimmy Vesey and I don’t see why not with a college coach in town who’s familiar with what he brings, pencil him in for approximately $2 million.

That would leave about $20 million for Ryan Spooner, Gilmour and Ryan Sproul, who would be in Hartford. Gorton could always try to find a couple of bargains in a weak free agent class. Anthony Duclair is still available. Calvin de Haan is fielding offers from the Islanders, Devils and Rangers. I’m not surprised. I thought they would have interest in the defensive defenseman. I doubt he’ll sign with them. I believe the Devils will land him. It’s a good fit.

There’s really not much more to say. It’s going to be fairly quiet on the Ranger front. I’m okay with it. I want the kids to get a chance to compete for roster spots. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, Sean Day, Brett Howden, Ty Ronning, Ville Meskanen, and Michael Lindgren all look.

It’ll be very different this Fall. Enjoy the World Cup.

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Tavares says goodbye to Islanders, chooses the hometown Maple Leafs

John Tavares is going home. It sounds like it was a difficult decision for him to make. Shortly after Russia pulled a huge upset of Spain in the World Cup, he told the Islanders he was leaving via The Athletic.

The heavy rumors were true about Toronto last night. The 27-year old center is officially a Maple Leaf. He agreed to a seven-year contract worth a reported $77 million with his hometown team. He released a couple of tweets to the Islanders and the fans, who are not taking this bad news well.

It’s impossible to put yourself in Tavares’ shoes. He had six teams bidding for him after narrowing down his list. I’m sure the Islanders, Bruins, Lightning, Sharks, and Stars all made great offers. Ultimately, it came down to the Mississauga, Ontario native wanting to go home and play for the team he rooted for as a kid. He’ll turn 28 in September before his first game as a Leaf.

I can understand why he chose them. He described it in his tweet, hinting at a strong core that features Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Nazem Kadri. That’s a scary thought when you add the talented Tavares to Toronto, who don’t care that they lost James van Riemsdyk to the Flyers and Tyler Bozak to the Blues. They also have a good supporting cast that includes Patrick Marleau, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev and Frederik Andersen.

If the Leafs can figure out a way to improve the blueline, they’ll be serious contenders. Andersen had to do a lot for them last season. The pressure is on coach Mike Babcock to deliver now that they added Tavares to a young nucleus. No more first round exits.

As far as the Islanders are concerned, what can they do? The remaining list of free agents isn’t good. They’ll save money losing Tavares after making a max offer of eight years at over $11 million per season. It’s not like he gave the Leafs a discount. Eleven million is not chunk change.

The former Islanders first overall pick in 2009 finishes with 272 goals, 349 assists, totaling 621 points in 669 career games. In three postseasons, he went 11-11-22 over 24 playoff games. Hardly enough in the time he’s been there. That had to be a factor in his decision despite new management doing the right thing for a change, bringing in Lou Lamoriello, who hired Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz.

With uncertainty in net and on defense, it had to impact Tavares’ decision. Even following a great draft that saw them net future NHLers Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde, it wasn’t enough to sway Tavares. The Isles have a good pipeline with Kieffer Bellows and possibly Linus Soderstrom a year away. The goalie will take longer to develop than the scoring forward and son of former NHLer Brian Bellows.

The interesting thing is the Islanders don’t necessarily have a bad roster. Featuring Calder winner Mathew Barzal, who only put up 85 points (22-63-85) to lead the team in scoring and assists, the heir apparent is ready to lead a team that still includes Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, and Jordan Eberle.

The back end needs work. However, they were able to re-sign Thomas Hickey to a affordable four-year deal worth an average of $2.5 million. That’s great value for a underrated player. Assuming Calvin de Haan leaves, they still have Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield. Pulock is a restricted free agent due a raise following a breakout season. He went 10-22-32 in 68 games. Sebastian Aho could challenge Mayfield for the sixth spot.

Maybe having a better coach will help. Trotz has a good defensive system, which his former team executed to perfection to stun the hockey would in winning the Stanley Cup. Holding players accountable and making them more defensively responsible should be beneficial.

Don’t rule out Lamoriello making a trade for either Ryan O’Reilly or Jeff Skinner. I’m sure he’s working the phones with so much cap space available. I wonder if he’ll look to dump Boychuk, who can’t stay healthy. Andrew Ladd could be another candidate if they can find a team to take the contract.

Finding a starting goalie is important. It’s not going to be Christopher Gibson starting on Opening Night. I don’t believe Thomas Greiss is starter material. It’s slim pickings. Perhaps they’ll go and sign Steve Mason after the Canadiens didn’t waste any time getting rid of him.

It’ll be interesting to see the direction the Islanders go in. Don’t forget 40-goalscorer Lee is unrestricted in 2019. They need to get him locked up. The summer just became more interesting.

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