For the past week, reports have been speculating that the NHL will be starting their next season around January 13th. The official date has not been announced yet as there’s still a lot of moving pieces. And there needs to be a vote with the Board of Governors.
Assuming that everything goes well, the focus for most teams is now to prepare for training camps.
Rangers current roster depth will make it hard for Barron to make the team
Teams will be preparing their lineups for next season to take a shot at the Stanley Cup. The Rangers are a team that is filled with amazing young talent, a lot of whom will be competing for an opening night spot. One of the most NHL ready prospects, aside from Alexis Lafrenière, is a 6th round pick in the 2017 draft, Morgan Barron.
Barron played some center at Cornell but was used the wing. The current center depth for the Rangers shows Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, and Kevin Rooney ahead of him in the middle. The current set of wings on either side is now overloaded.
Looking at that, there may not be a sport for Barron to make the team. Perhaps the Rangers give him a shot on the wing and try center later, or maybe they will let him hone his skills as a center in the AHL with the hopes of taking a center spot next season.
That is of course, there will be an AHL season. If not, the Rangers will be pressed to see what they can get him ice time.
One plausible option could be to have Barron center the fourth line and move Howden to the wing or vice vera. It would be an interesting move but ultimately it would best for Barron to get more minutes elsewhere.
Barron must first earn it, but how to make room for him?
Going off the assumption Barron starts the upcoming season in the AHL and makes the team full time next season, the Rangers could be dealing with a log jam at every forward position. Barron will have to either force a current center to the wing or force Jeff Gorton to make room for him there.
The biggest question to be answered is if Strome will be in the team’s plans long term. Most writers and analysts think he will not be, but if he continues to produce the Rangers might have to keep him around.
Another option could be to expose him at the Seattle expansion draft, but the Rangers would probably want to get something for him if possible. That’s why if they believe another option is available a trade makes sense.
What about Filip Chytil? Will he be able to fully take over as the number two center behind Zibanejad as some hope. If he’s able to take on the responsibility that opens up a spot for Barron and he can compete with Howden for the third line center role.
Anyway you slice it Barron will have to show the Rangers organization that he deserves a spot on the team whether that is replacing a current center or a spot opens up for him on the wing.
Morgan Barron could potentially be Brett Howden’s replacement
One of the biggest reasons Barron could replace Howden is the cap situation. While the Rangers will have a lot of dead money off the books next season, they will have a lot of rookie contracts up that will be up for resigning and don’t forget about those pesky performance bonuses.
There will be a total of five rookie contracts ending after next season; Chytil, Gauthier, Howden, Lindgren, and Shesterkin. Most of them could be signed to bridge deals but the Rangers could look at trading away one or two of those players for more affordable talent like Kravtsov and Barron who are still on their entry level deals.
Weighing it out
If the Rangers took this route and looked at Barron for a potential replacement for Howden, they could save one to two millions dollars the next three years.
Howden was a 1st round pick in the 2016 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning and was one of the pieces in the Ryan McDonagh trade along with Libor Hajek. Praised by the coaches for his IQ, hockey sense, defensive play, and competitiveness, Howden has showed that he can be a fourth line center in the NHL. At 22, the kid already has plenty big league experience and David Quinn loves him.
Some fans can be a little too hard on him because they expect more from a 1st round pick. His offensive numbers haven’t been great, but he has shown that he has great vision with the puck and can set up plays. What should not be lost is his acumen for killing penalties.
Barron played his last three years at Cornell University and was a captain for his last season. He had 32 points in 29 games and helped Cornell become one of the top teams in the NCAA in 2019-20. Barron was also named the best player in his conference and was one of the players being talked about for the Hobey Baker award.
There is a lot to like about the 22 year-old Barron as he is praised for finishing plays, winning puck battles, and getting to the net as well. He is also “flashier” than Howden and has shown he is capable of beating defenders with his stick handling. The biggest knock on Barron is his speed and some may see that as a red flag if he cannot keep up with the NHL’s swifter skaters.
In the end, the Rangers have two good players
Overall, both players could be great third or fourth line centers for the Rangers for years to come. What helps Howden is that he has played two seasons now in the NHL, but with an expiring contract next season the Rangers may look for cheaper options.
Barron has a bigger frame and could find it easier to win face-offs and battles for the puck if he uses his body properly. Both players have been praised for being hard working, smart, coachable players that the Rangers would love to have.
I personally think, if it came down to choosing between the two of them the Rangers would choose Barron. With the rebuild starting to end the Rangers will be looking for great value contracts like Barron’s ELC so they can use the extra salary cap space to sign players to fill the voids on their team. Barron’s size and competitiveness will benefit the Rangers for years to come and I look forward to him competing for a spot this season at training camp.
Don’t forget, an expansion draft is coming and Brett Howden may be exposed. The Seattle Kraken may help the Rangers decision along.
Editor’s Note: The article was corrected because although he played some center he is projected as a winger.
Random New York Rangers Fact for the Day
Morgan Barron is the older brother of Justin Barron who was recently drafted in the 1st round by the Colorado Avalanche.