Assessing the NYR Defense Situation in 2016

Girardi watches Lundqvist save (Getty)

McDonagh needs to lead the D (Getty)

McDonagh needs to lead the D (Getty)

The Rangers have a good (or bad) issue to deal with over the next few months. Since their game on November 25 vs. Montreal, the Rangers were amongst the top teams in the league for Goals Allowed- meaning least amount given up. Since then, the levies have broken and the goals are being scored against the Rangers like free candy giveaways on the street corners of whatever city the Rangers find themselves playing in that night. The play of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal has been much maligned throughout this slump, and sometimes rightfully so. However many times it isn’t warranted.

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On the current roster, the Rangers have seven defenseman who all can play NHL level hockey. Having one of them sit in the press box might not be in the best interest of the organization, especially if it’s Dylan McIlrath, who is still in a critical stage of his development. As we have seen throughout his time as coach on Broadway, Alain Vigneault does not make lineup changes very often unless there is an injury or someone needs a wakeup call (i.e. Kevin Hayes). For all those calling for a trade involving Dan Girardi or Marc Staal, don’t get your hopes up because both carry high cap hits for at least the next several years (Staal for 5 more) and both have no movement clauses attached to their contracts. Dan Boyle‘s contract expires at the end of the year, as well as Keith Yandle‘s.

McIlrath (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

McIlrath (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Could you trade Dylan McIlrath? I doubt it, as he doesn’t have much of a sample size to show other GM’s what he’s really worth. One thing I don’t understand is why people are advocating for a Keith Yandle trade? Does nobody understand that the organization gave up their best forward prospect (not named Pavel Buchnevich) AND a 1st round pick to get this guy? There’s no way they would have done that knowing that they had no plans to re-sign him. Give me some more of that assist on Boyle’s goal the other night vs. Tampa.

Kevin Klein has a very favorable cap hit for the next 2.5 seasons, which could make him a trade chip, but coming off an injury doesn’t help Gorton’s chances. Besides that, he may be the Rangers best defenseman this season. Finally, McD isn’t going anywhere unless Gorton gets Stamkos and “The Triplets” return; that’s not happening.

So what’s the solution?

Boyle and Girardi are getting older and have loads of hockey under their belts. If the Rangers have any hopes of making another deep run into May/June, they will need to keep those players fresh. Having McIlrath as your seventh defenseman is a luxury right now, as it gives AV the ability to sit one of those guys periodically and not have to worry about inserting some journeyman defenseman into the lineup. Boyle, however has proven over the last few weeks that his presence on the PowerPlay is critical to the Rangers scoring.

Boyle wins it Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP

Boyle wins it Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP

For all the heat the Rangers defense has taken over the last few months, they show small signs that things are coming around. In two of the last three games, the Rangers played relatively well defensively compared to the debacles we saw in Edmonton, Calgary and vs. Washington. Avoiding those “3 goals in 10 minutes” letdowns game after game will only help the Rangers as the calendar turns to 2016.

In Tampa, the Penalty Kill almost let them down, but they held strong in the third while protecting a one-goal lead and of course some puck luck and posts helped too. It was refreshing to see the kind of defense we have been accustomed to watch over the last few seasons. One way to make sure that keeps happening is to ensure that your last line of defense before Henrik Lundqvist is rested properly.

C’mon AV do something you’ve never done before, and make the necessary changes on a game to game basis. Of course, benching/resting your goto players is never easy to do.

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