The Rangers should try and trade for Shayne Gostisbehere

Bobby Bevilacqua

NHL: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers

Photo courtesy of USATSI.

Last season saw the emergence of many good rookies, such as Jack Eichel, Filip Forsberg, Artemi Panarin and Connor McDavid. But Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers was one of the most exciting and promising players to emerge from last year.

Gostisbehere was coming off of a 2014-15 season where he tore his ACL and played just five AHL games. The Union College grad played in a full-time role for the first time last season, featuring in 64 games and scoring 17 goals and 29 assists (46 points). The 17 goals was a Flyers record for goals by a rookie defenseman. He also had a 15-game scoring streak, which was the longest by a defenseman in the last 20 years, and also was the first rookie to score four overtime goals.

He played on the top pairing against some of the top players in the league and was certainly a strong and effective defender. He was lauded for his ability to transition quickly, easily able to recover from a turnover and get back on defense. A great skater, an excellent passer and scorer, and a power play quarter back (8-14-22 on the power play last season), Gostisbehere had the look of an elite defenseman.

That makes it all the more confusing as to why Shayne Gostisbehere will be sitting for the third straight game tonight, and a healthy scratch for the fifth time.

Gostisbehere has struggled a bit this season on a Flyers team that has had a lot of trouble keeping the puck out of his own net. According to a scout it’s a case of lost confidence and still adapting to the NHL. Looking in from the outside, it’s probably a typical case of the sophomore slump and a player that’s in a funk. The league’s compressed schedule and lack of quality practice time, there’s not a lot of chances for a player to work on what needs to be fixed.

Gostisbehere also had right hip (labrum) and abdominal surgery, which is still affecting him now. He seems a step slower and lacking a quick burst or explosiveness we saw in his skating last season. He’s still scoring at a decent clip, with four goals and 21 points in 48 games. That’s on pace for 34 points.

So even though he’s struggling, it’s surprising that he will be a healthy scratch for three consecutive games. There’s no way Andrew McDonald or Radko Gudas are better defenders than Gostisbehere, and the last thing you would want to do to a struggling young player lacking in confidence is stapling him to the bench for an extended period of time.

The treatment of Gostisbehere has me confused because I’m not particularly sure how the coaching staff and management feels about him and what their plans are for him. Head coach Dave Hakstol said that the team is, “Trying to dress the best roster possible to win hockey games. Point blank.” Does he not consider Gostisbehere part of the best possible lineup?

Because of the flux and uncertainty surrounding Gostisbehere, Jeff Gorton should give Flyers GM Ron Hextall a call and see if he can pry Gostisbehere from the Flyers.

Now this might be wishful thinking because I would be very surprised if the Flyers moved on from their Calder Trophy finalist defenseman already. But sometimes attitudes change quickly and a struggling young player on a team desperate to win and hold onto their playoff spot could be on the outside looking in.

The one issue is that Gostisbehere is a left handed shot. The Rangers have Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei on the left side already and that side of the defense isn’t the pressing problem for the team. But let’s face it, the Rangers defense is old and going to need an overhaul sooner rather than later. Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein are 32, Marc Staal is 30 and Nick Holden is 29. Girardi and Klein are seeing their production and effectiveness falling off of a cliff, Staal is dealing with lingering injuries, and Holden is having a good year, but it’s uncharacteristic and can’t be expected to be repeated every year.

The one thing holding the Rangers back from a Stanley Cup is the defense in my opinion. The current forward group is so talented, so deep and is definitely capable of leading a team to glory. But the defense is not.

If the Flyers have really soured in their opinion on Gostisbehere than Gorton might be able to swoop in and add him to the Rangers. Gostisbehere has all of the tools you want in a young defenseman and could be a building block of the future. Imagine a few years down the line where the Rangers main defensive core consists of Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Graves, Brady Skjei and Shayne Gostisbehere. Add that to an already impressive and young forward group and you have one hell of a hockey team.

This is pure speculation and wishful thinking, but the Flyers seem to be at a point where they’re valuing a wild card spot over the development and confidence of an extremely talented young defenseman. Because of that, Gorton might be able to convince them to trade him away for the right price. For the future of the Rangers defense and the franchise, it’s a shot in the dark that he has to try and make.

Posted on February 6, 2017, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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