Random Thoughts: A boring NHL summer


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It’s not often there’s so little activity following Day 1 of the July free agent frenzy. Honestly, this is probably the most boring NHL summer in existence. Nothing is happening. While the NBA off-season rumblings continue to make noise with Carmelo Anthony likely moving to Houston, there’s literally a odd quiet in the dead of the hot and sticky New York summer bummer.

Even as the skies threaten to open up the floodgates of thunder and lightning with a much needed cool rain to follow, I wish the same could be echoed for the hockey off-season. We are in mid-July and there’s not much happening. With that clearly stated, here are some random thoughts on a ho hum summer:

-It’s wait until Mika Zibanejad re-signs with the Rangers as a Group II free agent before salary arbitration. Then see if GM Jeff Gorton can use what leftover money remains due to Kevin Klein’s retirement and add one more forward.

-I’ll continue to hope a team signs Jaromir Jagr for one more year. He still has something left. Even at the ripe old age of 45, the ageless future Hall of Famer is likely a better option than what’s out there. Number 68 can still drive possession and make teammates better even if they’re half his age. Part of me hopes he gets to finish with the Pens where it began for him as a teenage phenom winning back-to-back Cups with Super Mario. It’s hard to believe he’s outlasted everyone. The other part of me would love to see a Jagr Broadway reunion playing on the third line with

J.T. Miller and some combo of Pavel Buchnevich or Jimmy Vesey.

-What makes P.K. Subban special? Try this video of him around kids for his foundation earlier today post ESPY’s!

A post shared by P.K. Subban (@subbanator) on

If you cannot love P.K., something’s wrong with you. This man clearly gets it. I ❤️ him.

-A big congrats to newest Ranger Kevin Shattenkirk, who not only took less term and money to come home and play for the team he grew up rooting for. But how about getting engaged!

-Even better, as one Twitter user noted in response, Shatty Deuces has replaced Derek Stepan in the baldness department of Blueshirts.

Now that’s what I call a perfect trade off.

-I will definitely be looking to acquire a Stepan jersey or new Coyotes shirsey once I am reestablished. Step remains a favorite player of mine and I wish the future captain of Phoenix/Arizona the very best. Ditto for Antti Raanta. I’ll miss his interviews along with Stepan Behind The Mic which produced fun moments like this:

Of course, Garden Faithful will always remember Stepan for this:

-Kudos to Connor McDavid on taking a million less on his new extension that starts in 2018-19. The Oilers superstar who took home his first Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay signed on the dotted line for eight years at an average cap hit of $12.5 million per season once his rookie contract expires. A noble gesture than can help Edmonton keep key restricted free agent Leon Draisaitl. I can’t wait to see what he gets. I’m also curious as to what the Sabres will give Jack Eichel.

-A big reason summer free agency has dwindled is that teams are locking up their young stars over the long haul. That way they don’t have to worry about losing them or paying more. Had Glen Sather taken that hands on approach with Stepan instead of bridging him, he might still be here for about a million and a half cheaper. Bridge deals are a thing that’s dying. Say Miller and Kevin Hayes have even better seasons in the final year of their bridge contracts. How much more is it gonna cost to keep them? That’s why I’ll continue to suggest giving Zibanejad a five-year deal in the neighborhood between $4.5 to 5 million AAV. It saves money.

-One player the organization must concern themselves with is captain Ryan McDonagh. A big reason for why Shattenkirk chose Broadway, the 28-year old top pair left defenseman has two years remaining on a contract that pays him an affordable $4.7 million AAV. He’s set to earn $5.1 million in ’17-18 and $5.3 million in ’18-19 at which time he’ll be 30 and a potential UFA. Clearly, he’s not the same dominant player he was during the 2014 NHL Playoffs. Injuries have been a factor. However, McDonagh remains a good skating D who came within a point of his career best 43 established in ’13-14. His 36 assists were a career high in ’16-17. He paced all NYR D in assists (36), points (42) and plus/minus (20). His seven points (2-5-7) in the playoffs tied him with Mats Zuccarello for second in team scoring trailing only Zibanejad (2-7-9). If you’re the Rangers, how much are you going to commit to McDonagh to keep him? It’s not a easy answer. Ditto for Zuccarello whose $4.5 million AAV thru ’19 is one of the NHL’s best bargains. It all could depend on where the team is in two years.

-The suggestion of Tyler Bozak to New York makes no sense. Sure. The current Maple Leaf remains a good playmaking pivot who wins face-offs. But with a year left on a deal that pays him a $4 million AAV, there’s not a fit. Especially once Zibanejad signs. Do they really want to part with younger assets for a 31-year old who can hit the market next summer? I would prefer Leo Komarov, who earns just a shade under $3 million. He’s feisty and plays the physical agitating style the Rangers lack.

-Ryan White remains unsigned. On a one-year deal for a million or $1.5 million, he would be a good addition. He is 29 and plays a gritty physical game. Something needed. If he doesn’t sign by September, maybe the Rangers could give him a PTO.

-Former Ranger Nicklas Jensen left the NHL signing with Jokerit of the KHL for theee years. Best of luck.

-I kinda wish they had kept Marek Hrivik. Instead, he’ll get a shot to make Calgary.

-Alain Vigneault said all the right things about adding proven NHL coach Lindy Ruff to his bench as a assistant. The former coach of the Sabres and Stars takes over the D in place of Jeff Beukeboom. Top assistant Scott Arniel’s relationship in the past with Ruff played a significant role. Arniel interviewed for the Sabres and Stars. Vigneault indicated he’s open to Ruff’s suggestions at improving the defensive system but made sure to mention Shattenkirk’s addition which can alter the strategy. He’s certainly not concerned about Ruff taking his job. It’s about improving the bench and team.

-It is interesting how Gorton told Larry Brooks it’s a matter of when. Not if for Miller moving to center. However, Vigneault countered the GM with how much he prefers Miller’s versatility on the wing. As long as he doesn’t fall in love with David Desharnais and overuse him in a third line role, we are good.

-The Rangers signed first round pick Lias Andersson to an entry level contract. It’s obvious they want to take a long look at what they got with the seventh overall pick, who was part of the Stepan/Raanta trade with the Coyotes that landed defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. If Andersson isn’t ready, he can play in Hartford and get valuable pro experience in North America as opposed to going home.

-The Devils center depth is pretty solid. They have Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle, Pavel Zacha and top pick Nico Hischier. Perhaps Henrique shifts to left wing or Boyle does on a checking line. Don’t forget the big addition of Marcus Johansson, who should along with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri and Hischier improve their offense.

-It’s July 13 and the Islanders still have been awfully silent on John Tavares. All indications are he wants to stay. What will be the cost? Have to figure north of $10 million. They’ve only added Jordan Eberle. But a full year of Joshua Ho-Sang awaits. Maybe they even get to see what Matthew Barzal can do. I still dislike the goalie tandem of Jaro Halak and Thomas Greiss. At least Garth Snow got Las Vegas to take Mikhail Grabovski.

-So the Coyotes are basically Rangers West with Stepan, Raanta, Anthony Duclair and Corsica darling Adam Clendening. Emerson Etem will also be vying for a spot. They should be fun to follow. A lot of talent there with Max Domi, Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Jakob Chychrun.

-It looks like the Hurricanes are staying put in Raleigh. With them being bought by former Texas Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg for $500 million, they’re not going anywhere. Too bad for Quebec.

-Yet another great deal by the Lightning re-signing center Tyler Johnson for seven years and $35 million. That’s a very good AAV of $5 million for a superb two-way second line center. I don’t know how Stevie Y does it.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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