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The Rangers need another Russian forward with Buchnevich, and here are some options

Bobby Bevilacqua

Pavel Buchnevich SKA

Photo courtesy of Claus Anderson/Getty Images.

A few days ago, Jeff Gorton inked Russian prospect Pavel Buchnevich to his entry level contract, a three year deal with performance bonuses and a $925k cap hit. Buchnevich is poised to be an impact player pretty early into his NHL career, but he’s missing one thing; a mentor.

Just about every big name Russian NHL prospect has had another player on their team, also Russian, to help the transition to the NHL and serve as a translator on the ice and in the locker room. Most recently, Artemi Panarin had Artem Anisimov to help him with that, and guys like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have all had a mentor from their homeland.

The Rangers are fortunate that Chris Kreider speaks fluent Russian, and that will certainly help ease Buchnevich’s transition onto the smaller ice and into North America. And we all know that chemistry between the speedy Kreider and Buch, an excellent passer and playmaker, would be absolutely fantastic. But to make the move as easy as possible, it would be wise for the team to go out and get a native Russian to mentor their newest player.

With that in mind, here are some options for the Rangers this offseason.

ALEXANDER RADULOV – CSKA MOSCOW

alexander radulov

Photo courtesy of foxsports.com

Radulov is a former NHL player with the Nashville Predators, playing in a total of 154 games with the team and racking up 102 points (47-55-102). He last played in the league back in the 2011-12 season, scoring seven points (3-4-7) in nine games.

The good thing with him is the fact that the Rangers wouldn’t be taking a chance on him. Radulov is a proven player with a ton of experience, and the skillset to be a dominant and potentially star forward in the NHL. In this past season with CSKA Moscow, he racked up 65 points (23-42-65) in just 53 games, and has amassed an incredible 492 points (169-323-492) in just 391 KHL games.

We all know the Rangers are still searching for someone to be a consistent star in the forward group, and Radulov fits the bill. He’s big (6’1”, 205 lbs), he’s an excellent playmaker with good puck control, and he has one heck of a wrist shot, as well as some other moves in his repertoire. Check out this goal from his Nashville days;

Radulov does have some baggage though. He left the Preds while still under contract because he said that the KHL was offering better conditions. He played there, returned to the NHL in 2012 at the end of the season, and was suspended by the team for being spotted at a bar at 5 a.m. before Game 3 of the team’s series against the Coyotes. He also lost his captaincy with CSKA Moscow prior to the 2013-14 season.

Is it worth bringing in Radulov for his incredible talent despite his history? Is this the player you want mentoring Buchnevich? All questions that Gorton has to ask.

VIKTOR TIKHONOV – UFA, ARIZONA COYOTES

viktor tikhonov

Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Another attractive option is Viktor Tikhonov, a winger that played on the Chicago Blackhawks and the Arizona Coyotes last season. Prior to being claimed by the Coyotes, Tikhonov served as the on-ice interpreter for Artemi Panarin.

The 28 year old forward was drafted 28th overall by the Coyotes in 2008, but never really panned out, scoring 16 points (8-8-16) in 61 games of his rookie season before returning to the KHL during the 2009-10 season. This year with the Coyotes, he scored six points (3-3-6) in 39 games.

Tikhonov has a decent offensive ability, and can both score as well as set-up plays. He’s smart on the ice, rarely making mistakes, and he skates very well. Combine his skating with his big frame and his solid defensive play, and he’s ideal for a fourth line role. He can also play wing and center, which would be helpful considering Oscar Lineberg, the ideal candidate to take over the fourth line center role, will be out until November.

Tikhonov is a perfect replacement for Tanner Glass, if Vigneault smartens up and finally takes him out of the lineup. He will also be a really cheap signing, almost definitely under $1 million, and would be a fine addition to the fourth line alongside Jesper Fast and whoever gets placed on the other wing/center. Chicago thought enough of him to sign him, which does say something. Tikhonov has experience as a mentor and translator to a talented Russian prospect, making him an ideal candidate for this role.

NIKITA NIKITIN – UFA, EDMONTON OILERS

nikita nikitin

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Nikita Nikitin is coming off of a pretty poor season with the Edmonton Oilers, skating in only 11 games, recording just one assist, and serving mostly as a healthy scratch despite his $4.5 million contract. Granted, the team was giving playing time to youngsters like Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart, but it’s not a good sign for Nikitin.

The 29 year old defenseman is a left-handed shot and would likely serve as a spare defenseman, especially since Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath need to play over him. Nikitin did have a 53.5% corsi for in limited action this season, and owns a 49.4% CF for his career. He’s had some success in his career, recording 32 points (7-25-32) in two separate seasons. He’s known to have good mobility and puck skills and does have a hard point shot.

If the Rangers could get him for dirt cheap considering his past play with Edmonton, it might be a good low-risk move. But honestly, there are better options out there.

YEVGENI MEDVEDEV – UFA, PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

yevgeni medvedev

Photo courtesy of Amy Irvin, 38 Photography.

A more attractive defensive option would be free agent Yevgeni Medvedev, who played this last season with the Philadelphia Flyers as a 33 year old NHL rookie. He skated in 45 games and recorded 13 points, as well as posting the second best Relative 5v5 CF% (4.43) among current UFA defensemen, second to only Brian Campbell.

Medvedev is also a strong option on the back end because not only is he big, he’s mobile. At 6’3” and 198 pounds, he’s an imposing force on the blue line with smooth skating abilities. He’s also a good passes (needed on defense for the Rangers right now) and has a very hard shot.

But of course, he too has his baggage. Medvedev is currently facing charges of driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance and use or possession of drug paraphernalia (per philly.com). The Flyers are not expected to sign him again.

The Rangers aren’t strangers to giving people second chances, signing Ryan Malone and Jarret Stoll in the past two seasons despite their drug charges. They didn’t pan out, but the moves were cheap, low risk, and ultimately didn’t negatively impact the team at all.

After this whole fiasco, Medvedev is going to be hard-pressed to get a deal near his $3 million salary from last season. That’s good for the Rangers, because they can’t afford big contracts. If the Rangers could trade or buyout Dan Girardi or Marc Staal, Medvedev would be a good replacement for them, and an upgrade at the position.

Gorton has to ask himself here if the positives outweigh the negatives, and if Medvedev would be the player he wants watching over Buchnevich and feeding him advice.

VADIM SHIPACHYOV – SKA ST. PETERSBURG

Vadim shipachyov

Photo courtesy of Darko Bandic/AP.

Vadim Alexandrovich Shipachyov not only has the coolest name on this entire list (sorry Nikita Nikitin), but he’s the best option out of everyone in my opinion.

Shipachyov, a KHL All-Star, is an excellent playmaking center that just completed his second consecutive point-per-game season in the KHL (17-43-60). He’s tallied 335 points in 395 regular season games in the KHL, and he has a ton of talent.

He’s a strong and skilled skater, a fantastic playmaker that see’s the ice well, and he’s better when the puck is on his skate. Shipachyov’s all-around play could improve and he probably won’t blow you away with goal scoring, but his playmaking and his ability to create chances on offense are extremely valuable.

He’s also been a very clutch player, and one that has won a lot in his career. Shipachyov won the gold medal in 2014, the silver medal in 2015 during the IIHF World Championships, and he was a big part of SKA’s Gagarin Cup win last season. He has also scored 13 goals and 24 assists in 32 playoff games over the last two seasons.

Shipachyov also has chemistry with Pavel Buchnevich. Both players are natives of Cherepovets, Russia, and would be the first ever NHL players from that town. He has also played with Buch on the Severstal Cherepovets, on the same line at times, and they also played together on SKA this season.

That makes Shipachyov an ideal candidate to join Buchnevich and play together on the Rangers, maybe even on the same line together. Shipachyov could potentially provide the Rangers with that extra punch they’ve been lacking at the center position, and his skills translate well to a top-six role if needed.

He won’t be cheap and other teams are interested, but he is probably the best option here. He’s immensely skilled, already knows Buchnevich and has played with him, and could really spark the Rangers offensively and give them another high level talent.

In Conclusion, I would probably go with either Tikhonov or Shipachyov. Tikhonov would be very helpful on the fourth line and could help out the team while Lindberg recovers from hip surgery, and he would be very affordable and easy to fit under the cap. Shipachyov comes with all the talent that Radulov has, but without the baggage and with familiarity with Buchnevich and his playstyle. Medvedev would be a good defensemen, but the team might want to play McIlrath or Skjei over him anyway.

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Posted on May 16, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Alexander Kudryk

    Chris Kreider is not fluent in Russian. He speaks very broken Russian with poor pronunciation. In this video he seems to not even understand at more than a basic level.

    Like

    • According to sny.com and the Rangers media guide, he’s fluent in Russian. That’s what I went by. Either way, they should bring in a Russian even if Kreids is a good speaker

      Like

      • Alexander Kudryk

        It’s possible he has improved his Russian since this video was taken. Either way I agree, they need a native Russian speaker, but it doesn’t hurt that others may be able to communicate.

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      • Yeah a native speaker and someone who can ease the transition to a new country. Partially why I like Tikhonov as the mentor. Cheap and easy to fit in the lineup. Having Kreider able to communicate too makes it that much better

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  2. Granted, I believe you need a Russian to help out with the language but also how about teaching him to speak some English, a little at a time, day by day. I’m sure he’ll pick it up.

    Like

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