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Rangers long-term plan on defense remains murky

John Dundon

marc staal full body profile 10-18

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers currently have something of a log-jam defensively.

With the emergence of Dylan Mcilrath, and now Brady Skjei showing that he can play at the NHL level, the Blueshirts have 8 capable defensemen to fill in six roster spots. This is certainly not an issue—quite the opposite in fact. The deep group of defenseman that the Rangers have at their disposal will help to minimize the significance of post-season injuries that come with the grind of a deep playoff run.

What can be seen as a strength now could potentially become a weakness for the Rangers if not handled properly in the coming summer. As it stands, both Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle will be leaving the team for free agency and (probably) retirement, respectively.  For the Rangers to lose two of their top three puck-movers from the back end in the same summer would be disastrous.

The good news is that Mcilrath has proven he can be a physical force on the blue line and has added a snarl to the Rangers d-core that they haven’t had in the last few years, while also being a solid right side defenseman. Brady Skjei has shown off his all-world skating ability in his opportunities with the big club. While there have been some hiccups, Skjei has all of the tools to be a really good top four defenseman for the Blueshirts for a long time.

While having two defenseman of the proper handedness to step in and fill the voids left by Yandle and Boyle is ideal, asking Skjei, 21, and Mcilrath, 23, to replicate the production or even to fill the holes that will be left on the power play would be unfair to the two youngsters. Couple this with the fact that Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will have aged another year (they’ll only be in decline from here), and you have a potential disaster defensively. Likely worse than what we’ve been subject to at times this season.

So how can the Rangers avoid being bad defensively for the foreseeable future?

The possibilities are endless as far as how the Rangers will attack their defensive outlook in the coming summer. The one thing that complicates matters most is the fact that both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi–whom the Rangers signed to similar contract extensions last season– have no move/no trade clauses that are currently in effect. Girardi has a full no-move that will turn into a modified no-trade NEXT summer. Staal is also protected by a full no-movement clause until 2017-2018, when it will turn into a modified no-trade.

Trading Girardi would require the 31-year-old—a husband, father, and by all accounts happy resident of NYC—to accept a trade to the proposed destination. Needless to say, it isn’t likely that Girardi would waive and leave one of the most lavish scenes in the NHL, displacing his young family in the process. Same goes for Staal.

The Rangers are facing a scenario in which you have a pair of declining defenseman in Girardi and Staal being mainstays while youngsters find their footing as every-day NHLers. There are going to be some rough patches and kinks to work out for both Skjei and Mcilrath. It probably will not be pretty, but there are no solutions to this problem.

Or are there? I argue that finding a way to keep Keith Yandle IS the solution to this problem. Can the Rangers do that though? It is highly unlikely

You should have already accepted that the Rangers will be losing Keith Yandle. Unless there is an extremely generous hometown discount on his part, Yandle won’t be a Ranger after the group leaves the ice for the final time in May or June.

Here is why the Rangers can’t bring back Yandle: if he was to get $5.5 million for his services, then the Rangers would have over $21 million—north of 30% of the team’s cap space—tied up in four players, two of whom are not very good and only going downhill. Obviously, Yandle is better than no Yandle, but that ship seems to have sailed.

Best-case scenario The Rangers find a suitor for one of Staal or Girardi and they agree to waive, opening up cap room to keep Yandle and bring up the kids to peg in the holes left by Boyle and the traded player.

McDonagh-Klein

Yandle-Mcilrath

Skjei- Girardi

That would be a pretty good top six any way you shake it. Unfortunately, it is growing increasingly unlikely that things will come out this way.

The realistic scenario is one that sees the Rangers losing Yandle and Boyle and plugging the holes with homegrown talent, which in itself is not a bad thing. The bad thing will be losing one of the top defenseman in the league because the Rangers two resident possession-killers were given NMC’S. Womp.

McDonagh-Girardi

Staal-Klein

Skjei-Mcilrath

Meh. Just meh.

My solution sees the Rangers doing anything and everything in their power to retain Yandle, and go from there. Girardi and Staal become easier to move as time goes on and we see what the future holds. I would suggest an attempt at trading Rick Nash and his $7.8-million-dollar cap hit, but that’s a conversation for another day. All I know is that Keith Yandle is too good to watch walk away. Even move Kevin Klein if you have to move money or open spot for the kids.

Any avenue the Rangers chose will be highly scrutinized and probably hated by fans. Should be fun!

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Posted on March 14, 2016, in In the Crease, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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