Rangers’ fourth line in desperate need of a makeover
When the Rangers went to the Stanley Cup Final in June of 2014, their fourth line was one of the best in the league.
In the last two off-seasons, Rangers’ management has been faced with the task of navigating under and around the cap ceiling while still fielding a Cup contending team. Such is reality in the National Hockey League these days.
One of the ways that successful teams have managed to do this is by finding dirt-cheap depth players to fill out the bottom six. The combination of paying no money for good fourth liners and, well, finding good fourth liners hasn’t come easy to the Rangers lately.
The New York Post reported that The Rangers and Dom Moore are splitting ways. Perhaps a move that signifies a fourth line makeover.
With that in mind, I buzzed through some potential fourth line avenues the team could explore. (Comment some of yours if you’d like)
Fourth line option A: The Swedes
This is far and away my personal favorite. Also very realistic.
The three Swedes referenced are Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast and Viktor Stalberg.
There are some holes that would need to be filled as a result of this trio, namely Fast’s right-handed replacement in the top nine forward group. Stalberg is a UFA, but could presumably be had for cheap if the Rangers had interest. If that series of moves were made, a fourth line of Stalberg-Lindberg-Fast would not only be very Swedish, but also very good.
You hear people reference fourth liners as “grinders,” whether that is or is not what you or I think is the correct mold for a fourth liner, that’s what AV thinks. His favoritism of Tanner Glass confirms this.
That is what Fast and Stalberg really are though, grinders. You don’t have to be the biggest guy to be a grinder. Watch Fast for 5 minutes and you’ll see the type of player he is: a disrupter.
“He can read the game really well, and he works like an SOB. He works and he works and he works. He just doesn’t stop, and that’s what makes him a really effective player.”- AV on 24-year-old Jesper Fast (via CBS sports)
You’ll find similar praise for Stalberg.
Stalberg was fifth on the team in hits. The type of “grit” that both Fast and Stalberg bring consists of a series of smart, hard checking plays. They don’t throw hits just to wear down the opponent, they hit to gain possession of the puck.
Young Lindberg would be placed in a full time center role and would be relied on in all three zones—indeed a perfect match.
Fourth line option B: the status quo.
This what I hope doesn’t end up happening, but probably will.
In the most Vigneault-esque sequence of events ever, the Rangers could roll out a fourth line once again featuring two decent players and Tanner Glass. If history gives points us in any direction, it’s that Glass will be on the roster come opening night.
I don’t want this to turn into a pile-up on Glass. He’s a hard working player that gave his all for the club over the past two seasons.
But the fact is, there are cheaper and better players available this off-season than Glass. Both within the organization and via the UFA market, they could no doubt find a well-rounded player under $1 million per.
Maybe he’s a Hartford call up, maybe he’s a savvy free agent signing. An upgrade will be available to the Rangers. The question is, do they really want to change?
Fourth line option C: Oscar Lindberg and some guys from Hartford
If the Rangers are in an epic cap crunch (which they will be) they could opt to go the route of the youngsters. A fourth line featuring any three of Oscar Lindberg, Niklas Jensen, Marek Hrivik, or Jesper Fast would be a couple of things: 1. Cheap 2. Experimental 3. Fun to watch
The enticing part of this trio is that the combined cap hit would be less than $3 million. The would-be savings would be clutch considering the Rangers’ cap crunch.
It very well may turn out that Marek Hrivik and Niklas Jensen are just not that good. Being unknown commodities, throwing both of them on the same line out of training camp flanking Lindberg probably isn’t the smartest idea, but fun to envision nonetheless.
If these three did find some continuity though, it would be a nice mix. Lindberg—the two-way center—flanked by Hrivik, who we saw was great in the corners and along the walls in his short stint with the big club, and Jensen, who has enough skill to play as a bottom six forward but hasn’t been able to put the whole package together just yet. Intriguing for sure.
Fourth line option D: free agent market
Maybe Jeff Gorton looks to the free agency market for potential pieces to next year’s fourth line.
Here are some UFA options that could be had for cheap:
- Riley Nash-LW (9-13–22)
- Mike Santorelli W/C (9-9–18
- Sam Gagner-C (8-8–16)
- Brad Boyes-LW (8-16–24)
- Justin Fontaine-LW (5-11–16)
Give us your thoughts below.