Taking a look at Pavel Buchnevich’s future with the Rangers

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The New York Rangers are right where I predicted they’d be, bottom of the division and treading water towards the bottom of the standings.

There are plenty of positives that can be taken out of this dreadfully long season we have in front of us but let’s focus on next year. I know what you’re thinking, “next year?? Geez man, we just got back!” Well, it’s never too early to jump back into predictions and hopefulness of a fresh season where the Rangers could potentially be good. This time is the wonderful case for Pavel Buchnevich’s future.

This is the last year on his entry-level contract and he will become an RFA for the first time at the end of the season. The big question is: do you re-sign him? The third round pick from the 2013 draft hasn’t really shown a consistent scoring ability throughout his tenure with the Rangers. You could make the case that he didn’t really get many consistent opportunities under the AV system, but Buch didn’t really give AV a reason to sway those decisions otherwise.

Pavel averages, throughout his first three seasons, this year included, about 14:30 of ice time. This could be partially due to the fact that Buchnevich doesn’t kill penalties; but if you take a look at his last full season, he was towards the bottom in the team in average time on ice (ATOI) with 15:01, of players who played 50 or more games last season. The only person below Buch was Paul Carey who rode the fourth line longer than he did. Now this can be argued in two ways, Firstly, less time on ice means the head coach doesn’t trust you in defensive or critical situations. Alternatively, the 47 career points Buchnevich has produced with subpar ice time could mean he can produce more with more opportunities. The problem with the latter is that it’s theoretical, whereas the first option manifests itself pretty clearly.

If you watch the games, you see Buch is hardly on the ice when the faceoff is in the Rangers defensive zone, unless there is an icing called. Personally, I’m more of a ‘prove it’ kind of guy. Give him some consistent top line minutes with the best players on the team and see how he adjusts under Quinn’s leadership. If the points aren’t there or he can’t handle the pressure by giving away the puck more and being reckless, then the answer is obvious. Remember, this year is for the Rangers youth to develop, and Pavel Buchnevich doesn’t turn 24 until the end of this season. Three years is a small margin, especially since his first year was half a season’s worth. He has a high ceiling and the talent is there, you can see it.

This season we will be seeing some familiar faces leave the organization either by trade or by electing to go to another team, and Pavel could be one of the players that gets Jeff Gorton and the Rangers something of significance in return. Jeff Gorton will probably have his ear to the ground for potential trades to help his team develop a solid core of youthful and significant pieces to drive this team back into the playoffs. Trading Buch might be one of those situations where the ends justify the means. Again, this is a double-edged sword situation; if he plays poorly, then he’d most likely lose his job to a better player (or at least his ice time). But if he plays well, he’ll make fantastic trade bait for a contending team.

there is a third scenario however I’m sure you’ve thought of and that is he improves just enough to make him less desirable for a big trade but also enough that his arbitration contract doesn’t break the bank. The talent is there, but he hasn’t discovered how to unleash it. The way the Rangers have been playing, surprisingly well for a patched-up team, he might find that stride that takes him to the next level.

To end this whole thing, I’ll give my little prediction. The Rangers will still sit towards the bottom of the standings, as we all expect. Zuccarello and Hayes will be traded at the deadline for a few solid pieces and picks and Buch will most likely stay. He’ll end up with a modest pay increase for a new one-year deal as he tries to fill the “big” shoes of Mats in the 2019-20 season. A fresh set of faces will ensure a fresh start for Buch as Gorton isn’t ready to give up on his young Russian just yet, especially with 2018 first round pick Vitali Kravtsov most likely joining the Blueshirts next season.

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