Why The Rangers Should Think Twice Before Making Drastic Moves
By: Matt Giusti
After the New York Rangers were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in 5 games, the questions started getting asked. Are Dan Girardi and Marc Staal done? Do you re-sign Keith Yandle? Or the most popular question, is it time to trade Rick Nash? Well, the situation with Yandle was addressed when he was traded to the Florida Panthers for a 2017 4th Round pick and a 6th Round pick in 2016. Yandle would end up signing a 7-year $44 million deal with the Florida Panthers, a price tag that the cap strapped Rangers could not afford to pay.
The departure of Yandle further brought into question what the Rangers blueline would look like going into the 2016-17 season, especially with the decline in play of the aforementioned Girardi and Staal. Many fans were calling for the Rangers to trade the one of if not both of them. With the money and years left on their contracts, its almost impossible to find a taker for either of them. Personally, I think the Rangers should hold onto these two going forward. Let’s begin with Staal, who has never been known to light up the scoreboard from the backend, but plays a good shutdown game. Yes Staal looked lost sometimes out there but still managed to be a plus player on a very mediocre New York Rangers defensive team. I still think 29-year old Staal will come back with a chip on his shoulder and bounce back in a big way. His days of playing Top 4 defense numbers I don’t think are over.
The 32-year old Girardi might be a slightly different story than Staal. The one reason being is that he is now on the wrong side of 30 and there is no doubt that all the shots that former head coach John Tortorella depended on Girardi to block, have clearly taken its toll on him. No one can ever argue with the heart Girardi has, I mean the guy blocked 195 shots and dished out 168 hits. The criticism that Girardi gets is a little unfair. But with the acquisition of Nick Holden from Colorado and the need to see what youngsters Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath can do, either Girardi is on his way out or he will be relegated to a 7th defense position.
Now onto the biggest question of the offseason, what do the Rangers do with star forward Rick Nash? The 32-year old Nash suffered through a injury plagued season. Nash appeared in only 60 games and put up totals of 15 goals and 21 assists. Not bad considering he probably was never 100% at any point last year. Not to mention he was one of the only Rangers who had a decent series vs. the Penguins, finishing with 2 goals and 2 assists in the 5 games. Listen I would understand the Rangers trading Nash if they could get fair value for him, which I believe teams have been lowballing the Rangers knowing they’re looking at the possibility of moving on from him. But the belief that the Rangers should trade Nash just to trade him is just absurd. I know that Nash makes an insane amount of money ( $7.9 million per year ), but even though the numbers don’t justify it, the fact that Nash literally plays in all situations shouldn’t be overlooked. So in an ideal world, yes it would be nice to shave off Nash’s salary, but having a healthy Nash back for the 2016-17 season isn’t the end of the world at all.
The Rangers forward unit had its ups and down throughout the 2015-16 season. The good side of things was a career year by Mats Zuccarello, the emergence of J.T. Miller, and a 25 plus goal year out of Derick Brassard, who at age 28 could be starting to enter his prime years. The downside of things aren’t that all that bad. Chris Kreider didn’t have the year many people were thinking he would have and there was talk of whether he would be traded, but Kreider is a big and extremely fast forward who I think will be 60 point player sooner rather than later. Kevin Hayes definitely had a sophomore slump, as there were times that head coach Alain Vigneault benched for his lackluster play. I truly believe that these two will have a great bounce back year. Add in free agents Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe and rookie sensation Pavel Buchnevich to the mix, and Rangers will regain some speed to the lineup that they were missing since losing Carl Hagelin. Liking I said above, with the emergence of some players, the new faces and the expected bounce back years from Hayes and Kreider, having Nash around will only help.
Listen the fact of the matter is this, even though goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is 34-years old, expect him to come back more motivated than ever to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank. Everyone knows that goaltending is the most important piece to a team and I expect the man they call ” Hank” to be nothing short of brilliant this year. The Rangers as a whole will come back more rested and hungrier than ever. This team played into late May or early June, playing in some brutal series along the way. The Rangers just looked absolutely gassed towards the end of last season and that first round series vs. the Penguins. Even the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles had some short playoff runs after their Cup wins. The main point being, I think Rangers team still has what it takes to make another couple runs at a Cup before the Lundqvist era ends and that’s why the Rangers should stop and think, before they make any drastic moves.