In a surprise, the Rangers announced that forward Oscar Lindberg underwent bilateral hip labral surgery. The announcement came on the team’s official Twitter account.
It might better explain why Lindberg didn’t play much down the stretch. After getting off to a good start with four goals in the first three games of his rookie season, the 24-year old Swede cooled off considerably after the first month. He still wound up with 13 goals and 15 assists totaling 28 points with a plus-12 rating in 68 contests.
Lindberg was just under 50.0 percent on face offs going 134-and-143 in his first year. He also took the body registering 132 hits which ranked fifth among Ranger forwards and sixth overall.
What the surgery to his hip means is that Lindberg is expected to need six months to recover. That means it should take him until November to be ready. Who knows when he’ll return. But it obviously will cause him to miss the start of the season. An unfortunate break for the Rangers, who could lose depth forwards Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg this summer. Eric Staal will also leave on July 1.
Getting back to Lindberg, if he played hurt then coach Alain Vigneault gets a pass for sitting him out in favor of Tanner Glass. It’s interesting how not even one reporter who covers the team didn’t know he had a serious injury that would require surgery. I guess it speaks to the secretive nature of the Rangers and other NHL teams.
Many were frustrated with the coach for not playing Lindberg more. He eventually replaced an ineffective Hayes in the final two games of a first round disappointment against the Pens, who continue to roll. They lead the Caps 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and can eliminate the “regular season champs” as early as tomorrow.
As for the current situation, the Rangers must re-sign free agent defenseman Keith Yandle. The best offensive blue liner they’ve had since Brian Leetch. Yandle led the team in assists with 42 and all Ranger defensemen with 47 points (5-42-47). Nearly half came on the power play where he had two power play goals and 20 power play assists. The 29-year old Boston, Massachusetts native was of just two Blueshirts to play all 82 regular season games, joining J.T. Miller. They also played all five in the postseason totaling 87.
With over $55 million committed to 13 players and the cap rumored to be going down to $74 million depending on a declining Canadian dollar, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton must make every attempt to re-sign Yandle. If that means exploring a buyout for blood and guts vet defenseman Dan Girardi or taking on some salary in a cost cutting trade for Marc Staal, so be it. The Rangers are on the hook for $11.2 million for the two declining proud blue liners.
Gorton can also see what the market is for forward Rick Nash, who has two years left with a cap hit of $7.8 million. An injury riddled ’15-16 limited him to 15 goals in 60 games. Not enough production from the Rangers’ most talented forward. A bone bruise kept him out two months. He never regained his form finishing with 36 points (15-21-36). He did score twice in the five-game series loss to Pittsburgh and was arguably the Rangers’ best forward tying with Derick Brassard in points (4). Anyone who watched knows Nash put out a much better effort than Brassard, who couldn’t be bothered defensively.
A big part of the summer will be re-signing the young trio of Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and Miller, who are all restricted free agents. It’ll probably cost between $9 to 10 million for all three. That would put the Rangers around $65 million with approximately $9 million left for Yandle and Group II defenseman Dylan McIlrath.
Assuming Moore and Stalberg don’t return, that would leave Gorton searching for a affordable replacement on the fourth line. Especially with Lindberg unable to start ’16-17.
A must is getting Pavel Buchnevich signed. The 21-year old Russian who was selected 75th overall in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft, is ready to help the Rangers offensively. He totaled 37 points (16-21-37) in a combined 58 games with Cherepovets Severstal and St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL. With star Ilya Kovalchuk leaving, St. Petersburg SKA wants Buchnevich back. They can offer more money for him to stay.
It’s imperative for the Rangers to get Buchnevich locked up and over to North America. He was part of the Nash trade with the Blue Jackets that sent Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first round pick (Kerby Rychel) to Columbus. The Jackets have since replaced Anisimov with Brandon Saad.
With Vigneault assured of returning for the fourth year of a five-year contract worth $10 million, the coach isn’t changing. As for his staff, that remains to be seen. Is the up-tempo style which risks defense for offense still the right fit? Not unless the team gets younger and faster on the back end. One look at what Henrik Lundqvist had to endure and it’s no wonder he was burnt out by the end.
We’re still in the first week of May. There’s plenty of time to discuss the future of a contending club that needs changes. Without it, they can’t seriously compete.