Blog Archives

Brady Skjei: What to expect and how to best utilize him

Bobby Bevilacqua

Brady Skjei skating 2-23

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

When the Rangers were deciding whether or not to re-sign Keith Yandle, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said that the emergence of Brady Skjei factored into whether or not Yandle factored into their future plans.

“You need good players that are coming that don’t make a lot of money,” said Gorton. “Brady [Skjei] looks on the cusp of being an NHL player. I think that will help our decision.”

I could write a whole article about why that logic is flawed and why Skjei shouldn’t have been factored into the decision on re-signing Yandle or not, but I’ll hold back. Instead, just a concise statement on it; While Skjei is an excellent talent and performed well in his brief NHL stint, it’s not fair to expect Skjei to come close to Yandle’s offensive production, since he’s not the same type of player and he’s a rookie, and hampering him with those expectations could put a lot of unnecessary pressure on him. Read the rest of this entry

Jeff Gorton should clear cap and sign the RFAs to long term deals

Bobby Bevilacqua

jt miller goal celebration 1-16

JT Miller and Kevin Hayes (#13, far left) are both RFAs. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

There’s been a recurring theme in a lot of my articles this offseason, as well as many articles from other Rangers blogs and writers; the team desperately needs to shed some cap space. There’s not a lot of room to maneuver and fix the problems they have, and the big contracts to ineffective players will hurt the Rangers both long and short term.

On top of that, the team finally needs to undergo a youth movement. In recent memory, the team has turned to veterans and experienced players to try and propel them to a championship, trading draft picks for rentals and forgoing an infusion of youthful talent in name of a “winning pedigree” among the players. Guys like Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Dan Boyle have all been counted on to play really big roles, and it hasn’t always worked.

But this year has shown one important thing; the young talent on this team is ready for a prominent role. Chris Kreider had another 20 goal season, JT Miller posted career highs in all offensive categories, Derek Stepan hit the 20 goal plateau for the first time, and Jesper Fast took a big step up offensively, recording 30 points. On defense, Dylan McIlrath impressed with his improved skating and his ability to handle tough NHL competition, and Brady Skjei blew people away with his performance in the playoffs despite playing just seven regular season games. Read the rest of this entry

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

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.