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
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.
The Rangers are currently in a bit of a cap crunch. As of right now, the Rangers have $59.5 million tied up in 14 players. The salary cap for next year is expected to rise to around $71 million, potentially rising slightly higher than that figure. Using that number, Glen Sather have $11.5 million free to sign seven free agents.
For this upcoming offseason, the Rangers will have to decide what to do with their three unrestricted free agents – Martin St. Louis, James Sheppard, and Matt Hunwick, and four restricted free agents – Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Jesper Fast and JT Miller.
Its expected that Sather plans on signing all four of the restricted free agents, which he should do, as they are all young, talented players that can be counted on for the future. Derek Stepan will be the most expensive, and Carl Hagelin could also get a good raise. Hagelin, Miller and Fast could wind up getting bridge deals, something that Sather does quite often.
There is a problem with trying to sign all of the RFAs. According to an estimate by Joe Fortunato from Blueshirt Banter, re-signing Stepan, Hagelin, Fast and Miller would cost around $13.5 million, more than the Rangers would have free in cap space. It also means that there would be absolutely no room to sign St. Louis, Hunwick or Sheppard. Read the rest of this entry
Rounding out the Rangers defense is the third pairing, which at times, can be just as important as the other two pairings. For Alain Vigneault and New York, that third pairing was constantly changing. This article will evaluate what it looked like at the end of the season, including the extra defenseman.
As of March 1st, that last pairing consisted of Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein. Yandle had just come over in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes, and Kevin Klein, playing in his first full season with the Rangers and having one of the best seasons of his career.
Matt Hunwick, signed in the offseason as the seventh defenseman, wound up playing 55 regular season games, and became a very important player for the Rangers this season.
When looking at each of these players, Yandle, Klein and Hunwick are all very different. But each one of them were important to the team in their own way. Read the rest of this entry