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Quick Hits: NHL Expansion, Patrick Kane off NHL cover, Rangers goalie prospects

Bobby Bevilacqua

Some interesting stories from around the league have come out in the past few days, including some news about the Rangers goalie prospects.

NHL Expansion takes another step forward

Gary Bettman

Gery Bettman has invited the ownership groups in Las Vegas and Quebec to enter Phase Two of the expansion process. Photo courtesy of Trevor Hogan/Associated Press.

As many people know, the NHL is looking to expand the amount of teams in the league for the first time since 2000, when the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets played their first games in franchise history.

While 16 separate groups/individuals were interested in creating a new team, only two cites had filed an application; Las Vegas and Quebec. Las Vegas has never had an NHL team before, while the small Quebec City was host to the Nordiques from 1979 to 1995, when they became the Colorado Avalanche. Read the rest of this entry

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Dylan McIlrath: What can the Rangers do with you?

Bobby Bevilacqua

dylan mcilrath

Dylan McIlrath is in a bit of an odd situation. He’s one a one way deal, there are already four right-handed shots on defense, and seemingly no room for him. Photo courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

Perhaps the most criticized Rangers draft pick in recent history, Dylan McIlrath, is in a bit of an odd situation in his career. He is 23 years old, and has just finished up his fourth season in the AHL in Hartford. This year, he turned heads after Christmas, really playing well and taking on some tough minutes in the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

But now is not a good time to be a defensive prospect down with the Wolf Pack. There is currently a logjam of talented, reliable defensemen with the NHL, and practically no chance for someone like McIlrath to finally break in with the big club. There are also four right-handed shots on the blue line, which makes his chance of breaking into the NHL even smaller.

There’s even more of a concern about this because Gorton re-signed him to a one-year, one way contract. If McIlrath doesn’t make the team out of training camp, or after the pre-season, he would need to clear waivers in order to re-join the Wolf Pack. Any of the other 29 teams can claim his services off of waivers. Read the rest of this entry

Dominic Moore’s Smashfest IV a huge success

Bobby Bevilacqua

New YORK, USA - MARCH 26TH : Philadelphia Flyers VS New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden: New York New York Rangers center Dominic Moore #28 is all smiles after Rangers right wing Derek Dorsett #15 scores a goal during the first period. (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

Dominic Moore’s fourth annual Smashfest tournament was a huge success this year. Photo courtesy of Anthony J. Causi.

This past Thursday, Dominic Moore hosted his fourth annual Smashfest IV, a ping pong tournament with current and former NHL stars, including some Rangers players, to raise money for charity, including research into concussions and rare cancers.

This year, Kevin Klein, Emerson Etem and Derick Brassard all came to support their teammate, with former Rangers Michael Del Zotto, Cam Talbot, John Mitchell and Eric Lindros joining the tournament as well.

Many people know that teams will kick around a soccer ball as a warmup before a game, but what most people don’t know is that many locker rooms have ping pong tables for the players. This inspired Moore to create a charity tournament to benefit the Katie Moore and Steve Moore Foundations. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers re-sign Mat Bodie to one year deal

Bobby Bevilacqua

mat bodie

Photo courtesy of Elsa Garrison/Getty Images.

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton announced this morning that the team had re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mat Bodie to a one year deal. He rejected his qualifying offer, but used that as the basis for his new salary.

Mat Bodie agreed to a two-way deal, with an $80,000 salary at the AHL level, and a $575k NHL cap hit. The potential NHL salary is actually less than his last contract, but he got a $10,000 raise in the AHL, which is realistically where he will spend the entirety of next season. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers agree to terms with defenseman Dylan McIlrath

Bobby Bevilacqua

dylan mcilrath

The Rangers re-signed defenseman Dylan McIlrath to a one year deal, a “show me” deal for him to prove to management that he’s ready to be an NHL defenseman. Photo courtesy of Jim McIssac/Getty Images.

Shortly after signing Oscar Lindberg and Emerson Etem to deals, New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton announced that the team had signed RFA defenseman Dylan McIlrath. The deal is for just one season with a cap hit of $600k.

Like Oscar Lindberg, McIlrath will need to clear waivers this year, so this is the year that he needs to prove himself to the Rangers management.

McIlrath is the highly criticized first round pick from the 2010 draft, mainly due to who the Rangers passed up on (Cam Fowler, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nick Bjugstad). McIlrath showed improvement in his first fully healthy season since 2011-12. But he is yet to crack the Rangers roster, and needs to work on his game more.

At the age of 23, McIlrath needs to make an NHL roster soon, or he may find himself a career AHL player. Unfortunately, the Rangers have an absurd amount of depth on the blue line, as well as another top defensive prospect in Brady Skjei.

The Rangers need to create cap space, and the easiest way to do so is by trading a defenseman, but I really doubt that will happen. Nonetheless, McIlrath needs to prove to Rangers management this year that he is capable of being an NHL defenseman, or he may find himself stuck in the AHL or on another team.

This past season with Hartford was probably the biggest jump in progress that McIlrath has ever made, and perhaps his best season as a professional. Jeff Beukeboom, assistant coach for the Wolf Pack and long-time Rangers defenseman, served as his mentor throughout the season. And it really showed.

Beukeboom was known as a fierce hitter and physical force in his days, but also as a reliable defenseman. And slowly but surely, McIlrath is starting to take on that same form. He’s still an intimidating presence on the ice, with the ability to throw crushing hits and clear the front of the net, but he’s developed the more central aspects of his game.

The biggest improvement this year was in his skating. Beukeboom said that at times, McIlrath would fall and have his feet slip out from under him.

When discussing the steps taken for his development, Beukeboom said, “we had a great skating coach here and we came up with a game plan and did stuff with his skates that I did as far as balance and not only that, Dylan has worked really hard and consistently working on his skill set and everything, his skating and it’s the first season that he stayed healthy. It all came together at the right time for him.” (SNYRangers)

From December, McIlrath showed big strides, shouldering heavy minutes and tough assignments in the AHL. He played very well in the playoffs, a plus player in every series, and playing well defensively. He finished with 17 points (6-11-17) in the regular season, adding two assists in the playoffs.

Personally, I would trade a defensemen and make room for Brady Skjei, or in this case, Dylan McIlrath on the roster. The team needs more cap space to sign their core players and continue to add depth players, and investing so much money on defense and in net has really handcuffed the team. It’s time to start trusting these young defensemen and giving them NHL time.

It’s now or never, make or break for first round draft pick Dylan McIlrath.