New York Hockey: deadline

The Rangers' missing piece

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
12:17
PM ET
The number-crunching minds of Hockey Prospectus produced an article Wednesday (Insider) that seems to indicate that New York Rangers owner James Dolan may want to pump his brakes before he starts claiming the Cup is within the Blueshirts' grasp.

Author Rob Vollman produced a list of four teams whose success seems unsustainable given their past production levels. The team at the top of the list? Your New York Rangers.

Vollman cites higher-than-usual shooting percentages from several Rangers snipers -- including Brad Richards -- a statistic that tends to regress toward a player's career average over the course of a season. Additionally, the author notes puck-possession problems and the over-the-moon seasons of Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron, which are likely to come back to Earth during the second half.

Defensively, the Rangers are being boosted by Henrik Lundqvist's absurd .937 save percentage -- 14 points higher than his already impressive career high. He's also stopped almost 91 percent of shots while down a man. Unless he's this season's Tim Thomas, the Rangers will have a tougher second half when he and backup Martin Biron, who is also setting a career high, begin to regress from .935 to last season's more typical .922.


Vollman still projects a 104-point season for coach John Tortorella's team, which would certainly keep the Blueshirts in the conversation for the East's top seed. Still, it raises an interesting question about what the Rangers might be missing that could push them over the top.

According to CapGeek, the Rangers should have just under $5.5 million in cap space come the trade deadline. If GM Glen Sather were to make a move, how would that space best be spent? A few possibilities based on Vollman's article:

Defense

The Rangers' black-and-blue line has been battered since Day 1 this season. Michael Sauer remains out with a concussion. Steve Eminger (shoulder) is just now getting back onto the ice. Jeff Woywitka (foot) is still sporting a non-contact jersey in practice. And if Sidney Crosby has taught us anything, it's that a relapse by the post-concussed Marc Staal wouldn't be a total shock. The Canucks may have boasted the deepest D corps of any team in the NHL last season, and their run to the Cup was crushed by injuries to their back line. Adding an affordable high-end veteran (Tim Gleason, who is approaching free agency with last-place Carolina) or an affordable youngster in the doghouse who is signed beyond this season (Jeff Schultz in D.C.) could be a good investment.

Scoring

New York is third in the NHL in scoring differential but is averaging just 2.8 goals per game. What's that mean? Well, it means that Vollman may be on to something when he suggests that Lundqvist and Biron are the difference between a very good team and an elite Cup contender. To that end, the Rangers may want to add a little bit of cushioning to their scoring margin if the netminders shed their Superman capes in the second half. According to ESPN's Rumor Central, Buffalo could be looking for a shake-up, and (this is just speculation now) may be inclined to ditch underperforming forward Brad Boyes for cheap. In the three seasons prior to this one, Boyes has averaged 55-plus points. He's seen his ice time seriously shrink in Buffalo and could be one of those players who benefits from a change in scenery.

Again, a caution that those names are just based on circumstances that make me think they could be dealt and could help the Blueshirts. It's by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, what are your thoughts on late-season additions you'd like to see?

W2W4: Sabres vs. Rangers

March, 1, 2011
3/01/11
11:28
AM ET
The Rangers clash with the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden tonight. Here are three keys to watch for when the puck drops.

Point Man

The Rangers power play has been anything but spectacular this season, but it has been improving. The Blueshirts tallied nine goals in 44 chances in February (a little over 20 percent) which is above the rather “meh” season average of 16.6. It stands to improve even more with the addition of Bryan McCabe to man the point. McCabe earned some praise in his debut with the Rangers Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. On the power play, the D-man had three goals and 16 assists with the Panthers before joining the Rangers.

Surprise Scorers

Frequently knocked for their inability to put the puck in the net and without Derek Roy for the remainder of the season, you may be surprised to know the Sabres actually sit 12th in the NHL with 2.80 goals per game (ahead of the Rangers). They are particularly effective at even-strength, where their 1.12 five-on-five goal ratio is the sixth-best in the league, just behind the Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers shouldn’t sleep on the Sabres' scorers.

New Kid on the Block

The new Sabres ownership showed it is ready to spend when they acquired over-priced and underproductive Brad Boyes from the St. Louis Blues Monday. Boyes, who makes $4 million per season, has drastically fallen off his once-torrid goal-scoring pace (76 G between 2007-08 and ’08-’09). Can he get back on track in Buffalo? The Rangers will want to delay that resurrection for at least one night, as they battle to pull seven points ahead of Buffalo in the East standings.

D-Day: Part Deux for Kovalchuk contract

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
8:22
AM ET
No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. It’s Decision Day Deadline Day for Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils, when the league and the NHL Players Association will might announce a verdict on the Kovy contract and other long-term deals under scrutiny by the NHL. Or they could delay the decision. Again.

The only certainty is that, by 5 p.m. Friday, the league will announce something about the status of its negotiations with the NHLPA concerning the future treatment of long-term contracts. As reported Wednesday night by the Post, Kovalchuk’s 15-year, $100 million pact with the Devils hangs in the balance.

Tom Gulitti sets the stage over at Fire and Ice, quoting a source last night as saying it’s too early to tell if the sides will reach an agreement by the 5 p.m. deadline. Another deadline extension would almost certainly push the decision beyond the holiday weekend. That could be problematic if previous reports are accurate that Kovalchuk's camp has the Devils on a deadline of their own and that he may play the season in Russia if it is not met. The Kontinental Hockey League begins its season Sept. 8. (A little more on that in the Morning Links below.)

ESPN’s Scott Burnside had heard from another source Thursday night that the NHL and NHLPA were close to an accord that would make both sides look good.

Gulitti also notes that the NHLPA has begun preparing a grievance to be filed on behalf of Kovalchuk should the deal again be disallowed. That would send the contract back to arbitration.

Morning Links
  • SI’s Jim Kelley says that while it seems the league is muscling around the NHLPA, Commissioner Gary Bettman has a lot to lose if the Kovalchuk contract goes back to an arbitrator.
  • In Lou We Trust assigns some blame to the parties involved in the Kovy contract fiasco, and finds that the majority lies with the NHL.
  • A KHL vice president says the offer to Kovalchuk still stands, but that he expects him to remain in the NHL.

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