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Keep him or Dump him: New York Rangers edition

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers skaters (awesome pic) 11-6

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

It’s been addressed many times before, but there’s going to be quite a lot of changes this offseason for the Rangers. Alain Vigneault addressed it on breakdown day, and some of the players alluded to it as well.

This team as it stands has a lot of problems. There was the rapid decline of some of the players, seemingly a lack of a full 60 minute effort from the players on a consistent basis, and what Vigneault described as a “puck-moving problem.” All of that, coupled with the defensive breakdowns, atrocious penalty kill and lack of line chemistry was all evident in the team’s five game series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

Part of the change the Rangers will experience will come in the form of a new lineup. There are A LOT of upcoming free agents, both RFAs and UFAs, and not a lot of salary cap space to sign all of them. Some tough decisions will have to be made, and it could potentially help shape the next era of Rangers hockey – for better or for worse.

With that in mind, here are some of the key players that Jeff Gorton will have to make decisions on. Be sure to share your own opinions and vote in the polls!

KEITH YANDLE

keith yandle full body 12-6

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Yandle was the best defenseman on the Rangers this season, hands down. He was consistent, led all NYR players in assists (42) and all defensemen in points (47), as well as playing a much better defensive game than he was given credit for. And when AV finally handed him the keys to the power play, Yandle turned it around, finishing with two goals and 20 assists on the man advantage.

But just like there was with many other players, Vigneault had some usage problems regarding Yandle. For a majority of the season, Yandle was sheltered on the third pairing, kept on the second power play unit, and given less minutes and opportunities than guys like Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. For someone that has consistently been one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, that has to be discouraging.

But despite all of that, he still had a great season on both ends of the rink, and he still managed to outperform all other Rangers defensemen. Yandle has said numerous times how much he loves this organization and loves playing for the team, even writing an article for The Players’ Tribune before the playoffs started. It really seems like he wants to stay here, but can it work under the Rangers’ cap?

If Jeff Gorton lets Yandle walk, it will be one of the biggest organizational mistakes in the past decade or so, especially if Anthony Duclair continues to trend upward in the desert. Yandle needs a new contract to stay in New York, but it depends on the fate of two other players…

MARC STAAL/DAN GIRARDI

dan Girardi and marc staal and kreider

Marc Staal pictured with Dan Girardi (L) and Chris Kreider (R). Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The two Rangers defenseman have aged about 10 years in the last two seasons. The problem came to a head this year, particularly in December, when the team began to fall apart, starting on the blue line. Staal and Girardi were the two biggest culprits, consistently missing defensive assignments, making mental errors, getting beat and not contributing much in the way of offense or puck moving.

Dan Girardi is probably the most concerning, and he had the biggest step down. Couple that with his multiple injuries, including ankle/knee problems and a concussion, and he has little to no trade value. But Marc Staal isn’t unmovable. His NMC makes a trade very hard, but not impossible. Gorton would be wise to try and move him, free up some cap space for Yandle and make room for young defensemen like Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath. For the team to move forward, at least one of these guys needs to go.

RICK NASH

rick nash full body 10-22

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Following a long injury and some inconsistent play, Nash returned to form in the playoffs, scoring four points (2-2-4) in the five games, playing an outstanding two-way game while being one of the only players to give his all for every shift.

Nash has two years left on his contract with a hefty $7.8 million cap hit, which is the biggest gripe amongst fans and critics. Before his injury, Nash was playing pretty well and scoring near his career average. Unfortunately, he wasn’t scoring at his 42 goal pace like he was last season. But it was still good, and he did step up in the playoffs.

Nash is counted on to be a superstar, but that’s a lot of pressure and his two-way game serves well in a complementary role, like how Phil Kessel is better suited complementing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. Nash has a modified NTC and could be moved to get some good prospects or draft picks in return, but that would likely signal a full-on rebuild and wouldn’t make the team better right now. And that may not be the best thing for the Rangers right now.

ERIC STAAL

eric staal full body profile 2-29

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The trade for Eric Staal wound up being a failure. Jeff Gorton traded away two second round picks and prospect Aleksi Saarela in exchange for six points in 25 games, including none in the playoffs. Granted, Vigneault really misused him and gave him such a small role, but Staal could have been better.

This should be an easy decision, and the Rangers should move on from Staal. This team needs a bona fide superstar, and while Staal used to be one, he is not anymore. Staal will command too much money and will be loking for a long term contract, so this is an “avoid at all costs” situation. Move away from the aging veterans and inject some youth.

VIKTOR STALBERG

viktor stalberg full body 11-23

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Jeff Gorton made the wise decision of signing Viktor Stalberg, who was just bought-out by Nashville, to a one year, $1.1 million contract. Stalberg played with a chip on his shoulder, trying to prove that he is an NHL player again. He did exactly that, playing well in many roles and scoring 20 points (9-11-20) in 75 regular season games this season.

This is exactly the kind of guy you want on your team, and the perfect fourth line player. He can score, his speed is dangerous, he’s good defensively and on the forecheck, and he is a solid possession player. Plus, his skills translate well to a top-six role in case a player gets injured or if there needs to be some in game adjustments. If Gorton can sign him to another affordable contract, he should jump all over that.

DOMINIC MOORE

dominic moore full body profile 10-18

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Dom Moore made his return to the team that drafted him two seasons ago, anchoring a dominant fourth line that helped guide the Rangers to a Stanley Cup Final. Last year, he wound up scoring 10 goals and 27 points in the regular season despite having Tanner Glass (1-4-5) as his winger that season, and having some weak wingers in the playoffs as well. This year, Moore took a step back and wasn’t as effective as he was in recent years.

Moore’s latest contract came in at an annual cap hit of $1.5 million, and for the most part, he’s been worth every penny. But Moore will be 36 by the time next season rolls around, and Oscar Lindberg is ready to step into that fourth line center role, with a more affordable contract too. Moore is an excellent veteran presence, a solid depth player and a consummate professional, but it may be time to move on in the name of developing youth and prospects.

ALAIN VIGNEAULT

alain vigneault on bench 12-2

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

It’s pretty amazing that after three seasons with two Eastern Conference Finals appearances and one visit to the Stanley Cup Finals, we are talking about the potential of firing Alain Vigneault.

Vigneault came under fire for his lack of adjustments, lack of accountability with veterans, his lineup decisions and more. There were quite a few head scratchers throughout the season, and maybe some legitimate concerns as to whether or not his problems from Vancouver are following him to New York.

Honestly, I don’t think any coach could have done much with this Rangers squad with the way that they were playing. A lack of effort, decline from veterans, defensive miscues and more plagued them from the start of the season. But that could be blamed on AV for not doing enough to fix those things, making the same mistakes and putting out the same lineup every night.

We’ve seen the success he has had in the past and we’ve seen that he is a capable coach. Despite a bad season this year and more than a few mistakes or questionable decisions on his part, it may be too early to pull the trigger and fire AV.

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Posted on April 28, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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