The New York Rangers directed much of their offseason focus to building up quality depth at the forward position, adding free agents Michael Grabner, Josh Jooris, Nathan Gerbe and Jimmy Vesey while also acquiring center Mika Zibanejad via trade. However, besides deepening their forward group, another intended consequence of their moves was to get younger across the board, as Steve Zipay of Newsday notes.
The team dealt 29-year-old pivot Derick Brassard to get the 23-year-old Zibanejad while also waving goodbye to free agent centers Eric Staal, 31, and Dominic Moore, 36. New York will be adding the 23-year-old Vesey to its lineup and expect Pavel Buchnevich, 21, to make a run at a regular role up front.
On the back end, 40-year-old Dan Boyle opted for retirement while the Rangers were forced to trade the rights to Keith Yandle for salary cap reasons. In their places, the Rangers acquired 29-year-old Nick Holden and will give 22-year-old former first-round pick Brady Skjei every opportunity to win a spot in the top-four.
All told, the team shaved about 2 1/2 years off the average age of the players on their roster from a year ago. Whether or not this infusion of youth will manifest into a deep playoff run after a disappointing first-round exit this past season remains to be seen, of course.
More notes from around the NHL:
- As expected, Arizona’s Dave Bolland failed his physical and will be placed on LTIR to start the season, tweets Craig Morgan of AZ Sports. Bolland, who was acquired from Florida along with prospect Lawson Crouse in a deal motivated largely by finances, appeared in just 25 contests last season with Florida. Back and ankle problems will keep the veteran forward off the ice for the foreseeable future and could jeopardize his playing career. Bolland is due $5.5MM over each of the next three seasons but if placed on LTIR the Coyotes would be able to clear the cap hit from the books. Additionally, since the contract is insured, the club will only have to pay out $1.1MM in actual cash with insurance covering the balance.
- The Philadelphia Flyers, under general manager Ron Hextall, have assembled one of the best prospect pools in the NHL and a few of those kids will have a chance to earn a roster spot this season, as Dave Isaac writes in his preview of three potential roster battles. Hextall was quoted as saying that, “whoever comes in, has to come in and make us a better team.” Isaac mentions that blue liner Ivan Provorov has the skill to make the Flyers better but also acknowledges it won’t necessarily be easy to beat out one of the veterans already on the roster. Up front, Isaac suggests Travis Konecny, who like Provorov was a first-round draft choice in 2015, could make the club as a bottom-six forward. Konecny potted 30 goals and tallied 71 assists last season in the OHL, splitting the campaign between the Ottawa 67’s and the Sarnia Sting.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins impressive run down the stretch of the regular season coincided with the promotion of three relatively unheralded young players. Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes how just 12 months ago Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl were three rookies eager to make a good impression in training camp. Now a year later they are Stanley Cup champions with each having played a role in Pittsburgh’s dominant run through the postseason. The trio contributed 12 goals and 24 points during the playoffs while adding speed and tenacity to the lineup for the Penguins. As they enter what would be their first full seasons in the NHL, each player hopes to prove they can play at a consistent level throughout an 82-game schedule.