- Rangers winger Matt Beleskey sustained a shoulder injury in a fight last night against the Devils, notes Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. However, head coach David Quinn doesn’t believe it will be a long-term issue but adds that it’s “too early to tell”. Beleskey came to New York as part of the Rick Nash trade but spent the majority of the time at the minor league level. He was already viewed as somewhat of a long-shot to make the team despite his contract and this won’t help his cause.
With the NHL season now just a few weeks away, it’s time to look at what each team has done this summer and what to watch for in the year to come. Next up is a look at the New York Rangers.
Last Season: 34-39-9 record (77 points), eighth in the Metropolitan Division (missed the playoffs)
Remaining Cap Space: $3.58MM per CapFriendly
[Related: Rangers Depth Chart From Roster Resource]
Player To Watch: F Vladislav Namestnikov – It was a tale of two seasons for Namestnikov last year. He got off to a strong start with Tampa Bay and spent some time on their front line. It was looking as if he was finally going to establish himself as a legitimate top-six forward and he was positioning himself for a nice long-term deal in the summer.
And then he got traded to New York where that momentum went in the completely opposite direction. He struggled considerably with his new team and his production plummeted as a result; his 0.21 point-per-game average with the Rangers (in 19 games) was lower than any of his averages with the Lightning. Instead of securing that long-term pact, Namestnikov wound up having to settle for a second bridge contract.
How will the 25-year-old fare in his first full season in New York? If he can show that the dip was merely a blip and not a sign of things to come, he can quickly rebuild his value and could very become enticing to other teams around the league as the Rangers continue their rebuild. If his struggles continue though, he could be dropped down the lineup fairly quickly which will certainly hurt his value around the rest of the NHL and limit his potential for a raise when he hits unrestricted free agency in 2020. Needless to say, this is a pivotal year for Namestnikov.
Key Storyline: The youth movement appears to be in full effect for New York based on the moves they made towards the trade deadline last season and their inactivity this summer. As a result, some spots appear to be open for some of their more promising youngsters to push for a full-time spot. However, there will still be some on the outside looking in.
How will those players be integrated into the lineup? Are 2017 first rounders Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson going to land top-nine spots right away? If not, would they be better served off getting top minutes in the minors? They face a similar question with young netminder Alexander Georgiev. He’s capable of being the backup to Henrik Lundqvist but with his waiver exemption, he may be better served spending time in the minors where he could see more game action.
They also have some decisions to make on their back end. Neal Pionk had a big impact after being a late-season recall while Rob O’Gara also fared well. Tony DeAngelo is only 22 but already is waiver-eligible so he will likely make the roster by default. Can they find room for the others to play a regular role or will one (or both) of O’Gara and Pionk find themselves back with AHL Hartford?
Although GM Jeff Gorton freed up some roster space through his dealings last season, they’re still facing a situation where some will be starting in the minors. Accordingly, even though the youth movement will be in effect to start the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if more veterans are moved out leading up to the deadline once again.
Overall Outlook: By punting on last season the way they did when they were still technically in the playoff mix, the Rangers are clearly prepared for some short-term pain and that will be the case in 2018-19. They have enough talent to be competitive most nights but they’ll still be among the lower teams in the Metropolitan Division this season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin is one of the more talented forwards in the NHL and every other team in the league would like to own his services. For a while this off-season, it seemed highly likely that he would indeed move to another club, after rejecting an initial extension offer from the Blue Jackets. Panarin also set an ultimatum for further contract negotiations – a date that passed last week – before which many expected either a new deal or a trade. Yet, neither has come and GM Jarmo Kekalainen has expressed that he never took Panarin’s deadline into account and planned on working through negotiations all the way until July 1st, when the scoring winger will become an unrestricted free agent. That sentiment would seem to indicate that Kekalainen has no plans to trade Panarin this season.
Not so fast. On TSN’s “Insider Trading”, Darren Dreger reported that Kekalainen continues to field many trade calls for the talented forward. Despite teams currently focused on training camp and getting their opening night rosters set and ready to go, interest has not dropped off in acquiring Panarin. The Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and more have been linked to Panarin this summer and it is easy to imagine that all of those teams and other dark horse candidates continue to keep an eye on his status. Landing a player of Panarin’s caliber, especially with an extension attached, could be a franchise-altering move.
Nevertheless, Dreger adds that Kekalainen is not interested in trading Panarin – though time may eventually force his hand – and right now says “his principle point of interest is trying to convince him to re-sign.” It doesn’t sound as though Panarin’s mind has changed at all and it has been all quiet from his camp for some time. Perhaps he will be convinced to stay in Columbus over another successful campaign or perhaps Kekalainen will get a godfather offer too good to refuse. One way or another, the continued trade interest and extension determination from Columbus make it overwhelmingly likely that one of these two outcomes will occur, rather than Panarin walking away at the end of the year.
NHL regular season action is just a few weeks away, and as the preseason schedule gets started teams are reducing their training camp rosters. We’ll keep track of all the cuts right here:
Buffalo Sabres (per Gene Pereira of Rogers TV)
F Matej Pekar (to Barrie, OHL)
Edmonton Oilers (per team release)
F Mitch Callahan (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Braden Christoffer (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Luke Esposito (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Dave Gust (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Cameron Hebig (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Colin Larkin (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F John McFarland (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Evan Polei (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Ryan Van Stralen (to Bakersfield, AHL)
F Tyler Vesel (to Bakersfield, AHL)
D Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin (to Bakersfield, AHL)
D Logan Day (to Bakersfield, AHL)
D Jake Kulevich (to Bakersfield, AHL)
D Jared Wilson (to Bakersfield, AHL)
G Stuart Skinner (to Bakersfield, AHL)
Florida Panthers (per team release)
F Patrick Bajkov (to Springfield, AHL)
F Jayce Hawryluk (to Springfield, AHL)
D Michael Downing (to Springfield, AHL)
D Thomas Schemitsch (to Springfield, AHL)
F Blaine Byron (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
F Bobby Farnham (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
F Jake Horton (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
F Matt Mangene (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
F Harry Zolnierczyk (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
D Dylan MacPherson (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
D Linus Nassen (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
G Evan Cormier (released from tryout, will attend AHL camp)
F Serron Noel (to Oshawa, OHL)
Minnesota Wild (per team release)
New Jersey Devils (per team release)
New York Rangers (per team release)
F Dawson Leedahl (to Hartford, AHL)
F Ty Ronning (to Hartford, AHL)
D Sean Day (to Hartford, AHL)
D Vince Pedrie (to Hartford, AHL)
G Brandon Halverson (to Hartford, AHL)
G Chris Nell (to Hartford, AHL)
F Nico Gross (to Oshawa, OHL)
G Jeremy Brodeur (released from PTO)
Philadelphia Flyers (per team release)
St. Louis Blues (per team release)
G Joel Hofer (to Swift Current, WHL)
Vegas Golden Knights (per team release)
D Xavier Bouchard (to Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
F Ryan Chyzowski (to Medicine Hat, WHL)
D Connor Corcoran (to Windsor, OHL)
F Raphael Harvey-Pinard (to Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL)
F Ben Jones (to Niagara, OHL)
F Jake Leschyshyn (to Regina, WHL)
F Alex Gallant (to Chicago, AHL)
F Ryan Wagner (to Chicago, AHL)
F Matthew Weis (to Chicago, AHL)
The Athletic’s NHL Draft and prospects guru Scott Wheeler has released the first definitive list of candidates for the Calder Trophy in 2018-19, and the order may surprise some people. Admittedly, the list is in the context of fantasy hockey, but Wheeler’s rankings are true to how he thinks Calder voting will unfold if each rookie hits their stat projections. As such, it’s not this year’s first overall pick, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, at the top of the list, but presumptive top-six center for the Vancouver Canucks, Elias Pettersson. Pettersson will be put in a much better position to rack up points than will Dahlin, the next-best candidate, as potentially one of the three best scoring forwards for the Canucks and traditionally productive forwards have a better shot at the Calder than (relatively) equally productive defensemen.
Coming in at number three is Boston Bruins forward Ryan Donato, who led both the NCAA and Olympics in goals last season and will look to win a top-six role for Boston and continue to find the back of the net at an alarming rate. Playing alongside either Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk is an easy way for Donato to quickly become an elite scorer at the NHL level. The fourth-ranked candidate is second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes, who – like Pettersson – will be given an immense amount of responsibility right away as a top-six winger who is arguably already one of the three most skilled forwards on the team. However, Svechnikov is one of three Hurricanes rookies on Wheeler’s list, which could take away from his case. Rounding out the top five is Dahlin’s fellow rookie in Buffalo, center Casey Mittelstadt, who scored at nearly a point-per-game pace in the college ranks and in a brief stint with the Sabres to end the year. Mittelstadt should face favorable match-ups this season with the lines anchored by Jack Eichel and Patrik Berglund drawing considerable attention from the opposition.
Wheeler’s top twenty Calder Trophy candidates are as follows:
- C Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
- D Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres
- RW Ryan Donato, Boston Bruins
- RW Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
- C Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres
- RW Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings
- C Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes
- C Henrik Borgstrom, Florida Panthers
- C Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes
- D Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
- RW Dylan Sikura, Chicago Blackhawks
- RW Eeli Tolvanen, Nashville Predators
- C Filip Chytil, New York Rangers
- LW Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
- LW Valentin Zykov, Carolina Hurricanes
- RW Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers
- C Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning
- LW Kristian Vesalainen, Winnipeg Jets
- C Sam Steel, Anaheim Ducks
- RW Vitaly Abramov, Columbus Blue Jackets
Honorable Mentions: C Vladislav Kamenev, Colorado Avalanche; LW Jordan Greenway, Minnesota Wild; C Robert Thomas, St. Louis Blues; LW Andreas Johnsson, Toronto Maple Leafs; C Michael Rasmussen, Detroit Red Wings; C Lias Andersson, New York Rangers; D Sami Niku, Winnipeg Jets; D Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers; RW Daniel Sprong, Pittsburgh Penguins
What do you think? Who will be the NHL’s Rookie of the Year and take home the Calder Trophy at the end of the season? The favorite? The first overall pick? Another top candidate? Or a name not even mentioned here?
Many people took notice of the one-year deal that center Kevin Hayes signed this offseason as neither he nor the New York Rangers were able to agree upon a long-term contract. The 26-year-old scored a career-high 25 goals last season after posting 17 goals twice previously. With unrestricted free agency in front of him next offseason, many people wondered whether the rebuilding Rangers might opt to trade the center rather than risk losing him next season.
Hayes told MSG reporter John Giannone that he spoke to management and doesn’t feel worried about a trade.
“I had a great conversation with Dru (Chris Drury) and Gorts (GM Jeff Gorton) as soon as I signed my contract. I believe there’s no inclination of me being trade bait or me thinking that I’m going to be out of here. I did not sign a one-year deal to go to free agency. I love this organization, I love the city, what the city demands, the determination and hard work. This is where I want to be for my whole entire career. Obviously a long-term deal didn’t get done but I’m hopeful that come the right time, I think it’ll get done.”
- The New York Rangers might have to worry about another center as Mika Zibanejad left practice early Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Rick Carpiniello, after taking a hit to the head in a one-on-one drill from rookie defenseman Joey Keane. The bigger concern is Zibanejad’s history of concussions, including one last season. According to the New York Post’s Bree Cyrgalis, head coach David Quinn said Zibanejad is “fine,” and he just had the wind knocked out of him and might be eligible to play Monday night in Newark.
- New York Islander fans were surprised when prospect Joshua Ho-Sang, who has said he’s turning the page on his past mistakes, missed training camp Saturday with what coach Barry Trotz said was a “personal day.” The Athletic’s Arthur Staple writes (subscription required) that neither Trotz or Ho-Sang elaborated on why he missed a key day of camp, Trotz’s first significant teaching day. “I don’t have any level of concern,” said Trotz.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have five defenseman guaranteed to be making their roster, but with the losses of Ian Cole and Jack Johnson this offseason, the team needs to find their sixth defenseman. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (subscription required) suggests that player might be Gabriel Carlsson, who has been highly touted since being taken in the first-round in 2015. However, back issues hampered him throughout his first full season in North America. Now after an offseason of conditioning on his back, the 6-foot-5 Carlsson may be ready to make the leap to Columbus.
- The Athletic’s Corey Masisak reports that New Jersey Devils forward Blake Speers broke his nose yesterday when he took an elbow to the face yesterday. He is back at it again today, however, with a face shield. The 21-year-old scored 12 goals with the AHL’s Binghamton Devils and is looking to crack New Jersey’s lineup this year.
The New York Rangers have added some help on the blue line, acquiring Adam McQuaid from the Boston Bruins. The Bruins in return will receive a 2019 fourth-round pick, conditional seventh-round pick and Steven Kampfer.
In Boston there had been a log jam on defense since John Moore was signed this summer, with eight healthy NHL defensemen on the roster. The idea of sitting at least $4MM in cap space every night never seemed appealing, and by moving out McQuaid they’ve added some flexibility for the rest of the season. That doesn’t mean the move is risk free though, as we’ve seen several of the Bruins defenders deal with injury in the past and as Stanley Cup contenders they’ll need all the depth they can take. McQuaid, though not exactly an offensive dynamo, was a warrior on the ice who could bring an incredibly physical game and be counted on to stand up for his teammates. He was also incredibly well-liked among the fan base, though it was obvious he didn’t have a full-time role going forward.
For the Rangers, the team adds a respected veteran presence to the blue line to help what will be an incredibly young club over the next few seasons. McQuaid is under contract for just this season at a $2.75MM cap hit, but it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see the Rangers re-sign him to a short-term deal before the end of the year. New York is in a clear rebuild mode, though after acquiring several impressive trade packages last year could turn things around in short order.
McQuaid is now 31 and played just 38 games last season as he dealt with a broken leg early in the season. His career-high in points, 15, is almost a decade behind him and likely out of reach moving forward. Losing his presence in Boston won’t change their outlook for the season, but he also didn’t come at much of a cost for the Rangers. Kampfer, who will return to the Boston organization that signed him as a college free agent after four years at the University of Michigan, doesn’t have a ton of NHL upside and will likely spend the season in the minor leagues. He could be depth if the Bruins find themselves dealing with multiple injuries, but there are other younger defensemen in the organization that he’ll need to battle for that right.
- The Rangers aren’t expected to bring in any veterans on training camp tryouts, reports Larry Brooks of the New York Post. New York is in the midst of a youth movement and is expected to have several key prospects contend for a roster spot so it appears they don’t want to clutter things up by having a tryout or two pushing to play as well. Among the youngsters pushing for spots are 2017 first round centers Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. Even though there is fairly strong depth down the middle already, GM Jeff Gorton told Brooks that they don’t envision shifting them to the wing which could affect their push to make the team.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot invested in their goaltender of the present and future in Matt Murray. You would think replacing Marc-Andre Fleury might be a challenging procedure, but Murray’s .923 save percentage in 49 games proved that the youngster was ready for the full-time role, one of the reasons why it wasn’t as hard to let Fleury go. However, last year’s struggles already has several fans worried about Murray’s long-term success.
Murray struggled with both injuries as well as the death of his father during the 2017-18 season in which he still played in 49 games, but didn’t fare as well, posting a .907 save percentage as well as a 2.92 GAA. However, Murray as well as the team’s other backups, Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry, have worked hard with goaltending coach Mike Buckley, who challenged each one of them, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Buckley feels that Murray has put too much pressure on himself to replace Fleury and needs to accept that he’s the “guy” now.
“The next step for him is to take it all in and enjoy it. ‘Hey, I’m the guy now. I can accept that. I don’t have to be Marc-Andre Fleury, but I can be tighter with my teammates and really open up to them.’” Buckley said.
Buckley added that Murray has worked hard on his conditioning and hopefully should be able to avoid injury, although some injuries like concussions are just unavoidable.
“In terms of how he takes care of his body, he’s meticulous,” Buckley said. “The problem is the things that you can’t control. A concussion, for example. Someone coming down and landing on you the wrong way. There’s really very little you can do about that.”
- Sam Carchidi of philly.com writes that Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall says that No. 1 center Sean Couturier will be “absolutely” 100 percent at the start of the season in October and is already ready to resume skating. Couturier, who was expected to miss four weeks on Aug. 22 with a lower-body injury, is coming off a career-best season in which he scored 31 goals and 76 points and was a key part to the Flyers’ late-season success on a line with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny.
- Shayna Goldman of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that this will be a challenging season for New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is coming off two poor seasons and now finds himself in the middle of a rebuilding project. Lundqvist has endured a very physical workload over the course of his career and didn’t get significant rest last season from then-head coach Alain Vigneault. One thing is imperative. The 36-year-old needs rest, which will be a key for new head coach David Quinn. The problem is that the team lacks an adequate backup as the no longer have either Cam Talbot or Antti Raanta serving behind him. The team now has a number of prospects, including Alexandar Georgiev, Dustin Tokarski and Marek Mazanec. However, unless one of them can step up, none seem likely to provide Lundqvist the kind of rest that he needs.
- With the possibility that the team could lose star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to another team when he hits free agency next season, the Columbus Blue Jackets are placing more emphasis on the future suddenly, according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (subscription required). While the team has their immediate goaltender of the future in their backup Joonas Korpisalo, the team is focusing their long-term hopes on Elvis Merzlikins, their third-round pick in 2014, who has been a dominant prospect for Lugano of the Swiss League. The 24-year-old has been one of the top goaltenders in the league, posting a .924 save percentage last year and is ready to come to North America next season.
There is one less restricted free agent remaining unsigned. With training camp opening up next week, the Detroit Red Wings have re-signed their lone remaining free agent, forward Matt Puempel. The team announced a two-year deal with Puempel, which will make the 25-year-old an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires after the 2019-20 season. No salary details have been disclosed.
Puempel came to Detroit early last season in a trade from the New York Rangers, a one-for-one swap for defenseman – and current free agent – Ryan Sproul. Although Puempel never suited up for Detroit in 2017-18, he still had an impressive season. The hard-working winger was an AHL All-Star and scored at nearly a point-per-game pace, with 57 points in 62 games. Among forwards with 60+ games played, Puempel had the sixth-best scoring rate in the league. The 2011 first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators has not panned out as expected, and likely won’t, but showed some impressive ability last year and can be a strong depth option for the Red Wings.
Of course, the question raised by any Detroit signing is how it impacts the salary cap. Most likely, Puempel has signed a two-way deal since he did not log and NHL game last season. The bigger question is his salary at the NHL level and whether or not it is a comfortable fit within the Red Wings’ cap crunch. Detroit’s payroll for a 22-man roster, which doesn’t include a seventh defenseman, is currently projected to be $82.77MM, almost $3.5MM over the salary cap. The team will gain cap space when Johan Franzen and likely Henrik Zetterberg are placed on long-term injured reserve, but after a defenseman and at least one replacement forward are added, much of that space will be used up. Whether or not Puempel can then fit into the roster remains to be seen.