After making a couple of decent additions to the fourth line bringing in forwards Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe on the cheap, the Rangers added some defensive depth by inking a pair of 23-year old defensemen to one-year two-way deals.
First, they signed Adam Clendening from the Oilers. He wasn’t qualified by Edmonton making him unrestricted. A former 2011 second round pick of the Blackhawks, Clendening split this past season with the Pens and Oilers totaling one goal and six assists in 29 games. That included a goal and five helpers in 20 games with Edmonton. Interestingly, he was part of the Carl Hagelin trade that sent the ex-Ranger to Pittsburgh for David Perron. Now with Perron returning to St. Louis and Clendening being claimed by Edmonton and signed by the Rangers, Anaheim wound up with nothing from a deal that saw Hagelin help the Pittsburgh win a Stanley Cup. Great asset management.
The second blue liner the Rangers inked was Westport, Connecticut native Michael Paliotta. Another former 2011 Chicago third round pick, he spent four years at the University of Vermont before debuting with an assist in one game for the Blackhawks in ’14-15. Part of last year’s blockbuster that sent Brandon Saad to Columbus for Artem Anisimov, ex-Hawk Marko Dano (traded to Winnipeg to rent Andrew Ladd), Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin and a 2016 fourth round pick (Anatoly Golyshev), who was selected by Islanders in a pick swap with Chicago (Lucas Carlsson) and a 2017 sixth round pick, Paliotta spent most of ’15-16 with Lake Erie of the AHL tallying eight goals and 15 helpers for 23 points in 68 contests. He got into one game for the Blue Jackets with four penalty minutes.
Neither signing looks substantial. On paper, both Clendening and Paliotta should be part of Hartford. With the trade for former Avalanche Nick Holden, the Blueshirts current top six looks like Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Brady Skjei and Holden with Dylan McIlrath still blocked. With general manager Jeff Gorton unable to find takers for either Girardi or Staal, it’s a good bet both will be back. What that means is they’re counting on the two blood and guts vets to be much better. A dicey situation.
McIlrath is restricted like forwards Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller. Given what he showed in his rookie season, McIlrath needs a coach who’s willing to play him consistent minutes. I don’t have much faith in Alain Vigneault.
In a move that took longer than it should have, Jeff Beukeboom was hired as the new assistant coach replacing Ulf Samuelsson. Beukeboom worked with both McIlrath and Skjei down in Hartford. It should’ve been a no brainer. Instead, it’s painfully obvious he wasn’t Vigneault’s first choice. God forbid they have someone who can coach up the D and alter the strategy.
As for the rest of the summer, it’s gonna be focused on re-signing Hayes, Kreider, Miller and McIlrath with the latter taking a cheap deal. Hayes should probably be around $2-2.5 million. Miller could get higher based on his career year. I wish they could lock him up. As for Kreider, it’s anyone’s guess. He earned $2.6 million this past year and had basically identical numbers with the same amount of goals (21), three less assists (22), three less points (43) and 30 fewer penalty minutes (58) in 79 games. He finished strong and had two goals in the five-game first round loss to the Pens. If I were to estimate, I’d say the next deal is between $4.5-5 million on average. But for how long?
The Rangers have approximately $11 million left to spend. We know where most of it is going. Can they bring in a center to replace Dominic Moore? Or is the plan to have Oscar Lindberg anchor the fourth line with Hayes remaining the team’s third line pivot despite his lack of face off acumen and defensive deficiency? That one is hard to figure.
Considering that they subtracted Viktor Stalberg and added Grabner and Gerbe, figure those two speedsters to be part of the fourth line. If only Jesper Fast wasn’t asked to be a third line right wing. He is a tireless worker cut from the same path as Hagelin. But isn’t nearly as dangerous and struggled killing penalties.
If Gorton is unable to change the roster, then it’s pretty much the same group they had. What does that mean? Basically, the lines would be similar with a couple of new guys sprinkled in. Here’s what the potential 12 forwards could look like:
The fourth line would at least be faster. Speed is something they lacked. Obviously, with Tanner Glass not the fleetest of foot and Moore slowing down. However, Glass gave a solid effort. So, take nothing away from him. If he’s an extra and used sparingly for games where a little toughness is called for, that’s fine.
Consider that Pavel Buchnevich isn’t a lock for the Opening Night roster. From reading Leslie Treff’s rookie camp review on New York Sports Day, he didn’t distinguish himself from some of the other young prospects who were more noticeable.
At times yesterday and today, [Robin] Kovacs played on a line with Pavel Buchnevich, who was clearly the most hyped player in development camp. It did not seem like there was any chemistry between them though.
A dilemma may be coming this fall with Buchnevich, who has excellent offensive skills. The Rangers need him to play in New York, however, he was far from dominant this week and made quite a few defensive and offensive mistakes. Buchnevich speaks little to no English and needs to adjust, but it was far from clear that he will be NHL-ready this fall. He gave a small presser earlier in the week and indicated that he will be working out most of the summer in New York, and that he believes that he is ready to play at the NHL level, but he may need some adjustment time in Hartford.
Buchnevich believes he’s ready. Time will tell. It is positive to know that other players such as Robin Kovacs, free agent addition Malte Stromwall, Adam Tambellini and 2016 seventh round pick Ty Ronning stood out. Goalie Brandon Halverson and defenseman Ryan Graves also made good impressions as did 2015 second round pick Ryan Gropp.
At the very least, the club can feel good about its future. With Halverson turning pro this year, Igor Shestyerkin overseas, Adam Huska and Tyler Wall all in the system as goalies, there appears to be a bright spot should Henrik Lundqvist ever get traded. A lot would have to happen for that to change. He’s got five years left and signed thru 2021.
Of course, with almost everyone improving, the Rangers don’t have much maneuverability to upgrade the roster. We’ll see if there are any surprises.