Today is New York Rangers Day on the Pro Hockey Talk section of NBC Sports and they’ve got several posts up focusing on the Blueshirts. Included among them, Jason Brough lists the newly acquired Mika Zibanejad as the New York Ranger “under pressure” for the 2016-17 season.
Zibanejad was acquired from Ottawa in exchange for Derick Brassard, the Rangers leading goal scorer and second leading point producer. The expectation is Zibanejad, while perhaps not completely replacing Brassard’s offensive production, will be a more well-rounded player. Zibanejad played in all situations for the Senators, averaging 1:25 per game killing penalties and another 2:30 on the power play this past season. The Blueshirts struggled on the penalty-kill and it’s hoped Zibanejad will give the team another quality forward option when down a man.
Zibanejad was certainly the biggest name the Rangers have imported this summer after the disappointing end to their season. With hopes of returning to Stanley Cup contender status, the club will need Zibanejad to produce and play well in his first year on Manhattan.
More on the Rangers and other clubs in the NHL’s Metro Division….
- In the same piece, Brough discusses Rangers top prospect Pavel Buchnevich and where he might fit into the lineup, assuming of course he makes the team out of camp. Despite being listed as a LW on the team’s official roster, Brough suggests the Rangers could line up the left-handed shooting Buchnevich on the RW, opposite Chris Kreider and next to Derek Stepan. Head coach Alain Vigneault is not afraid to mix and match his lines or to give the line(s) playing well more ice time. Even if on paper Buchnevich is on the 3rd line, it’s still quite possible he’ll see plenty of ice time. As long as he’s getting top-9 minutes he should be fine. What’s more important is developing chemistry with at least one other forward (Vigneault sticks to pairs when assembling his forward units) and that his minutes are sheltered to keep him away from the opponent’s best players as often as possible.
- Staying in New York, Casey Cizikas spoke with the Islanders team website and answered questions regarding his new five-year extension, among other topics. The Islanders took a fair amount of criticism for doling out $3.35MM annually to a player who is considered primarily a 4th liner and penalty-killer. But that’s perhaps understating his actual value to the club. One, he averaged 12:41 of ice time this past season, whereas most 4th line players see about 8 – 10 minutes per game. Second, head coach Jack Capuano trusts Cizikas on the ice late in games when the outcome is undecided. Maybe we look back in a few years and see this contract as an overpay, but today, for what he brings to the club, the signing is at least defensible.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets recently inked veteran pivot Sam Gagner to a one-year deal worth $650K. In this post by Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch, Gagner says the reason he signed with the Blue Jackets is that they offered him the opportunity to “re-establish” himself as a quality NHL player. In fact, he passed on offers from at least four other clubs to take the deal with the Jackets. Gagner, who had netted at least 40 points six different times and never previously finished with fewer than 37 points in any season, slumped to a career-worst 16 points last year, skating primarily on the 4th line for the Flyers. With head coach John Tortorella seemingly preferring to use Boone Jenner on the wing and with only the oft-injured Brandon Dubinsky a sure bet to see top-six center minutes – assuming he stays relatively healthy of course – this does present Gagner an excellent chance to rebuild his value. The Jackets boast some quality talent up front – Brandon Saad, Jenner, Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson come to mind immediately – so Gagner will get to play with some skilled players. By the end of the 2016-17 campaign, Gagner might prove to be the biggest bargain of free agency.