The Rangers should go out and “Gryba” defenseman
The Rangers look to be heading into the upcoming season with potentially the following seven defenseman:
McIlrath is in a shade of red because he’s heading for arbitration and I fully expect the Rangers to have him signed for the season.
As you can see, the lefty/righty combos that Alain Vigneault is in love with are in place. Immediately you can see the problem that Dan Girardi is still a top pairing with Ryan McDonagh. Dropping him down to the second pair and moving Kevin Klein up creates a disastrous pairing with Marc Staal. Even if Dylan McIlrath improves from last season, he isn’t ready for top 4 minutes and it is unlikely that AV will feel comfortable moving Skjei off the 3rd pairing early on.
There is an answer out there however, and it could be free agent blue liner, Eric Gryba. The 6’4″ 228 lb beast of a defenseman injured his knee last year and was limited to just 53 games. He still shockingly posted a decent 49.2 CF% while playing in Edmonton. His career CF% is 48.4 in 4 seasons, 3 with Ottawa including a 51.1% in 2013-14. In other words, these numbers indicate that the guy can hold his own in the NHL, playing on bad teams.
He’s a stay at home blue liner that can deliver the big check and clear the crease. What he lacks in foot speed he makes up for in size and nastiness. What he could provide the Rangers with is a stop gap measure this season on the top pairing as he is a right handed shot. Plus the Rangers may be able to add him at a great cost, since he’s coming off a cap hit of only 1.25M and a knee injury.
Get this straight, Gryba is NOT a top pairing defenseman, but neither is Dan Girardi at this point. His stay at home style could allow McDonagh to feel free to join the rush more often, ala Jeff Beukeboom to his Brian Leetch. If Kevin Klein and Ryan McDonagh should find comfort as a top pairing, Gryba could maybe stabilize Marc Staal and allow Girardi to play 3rd pair minutes with rookie Brady Skjei.
The Rangers probably have enough cap space to offer Gryba a 2-3 year contract with an AAV of around 2.5M. Should he want another year or two added to it, I think the Rangers can live with it. The ultimate end game would be that next season, he would land in a more comfortable position in the bottom 4.
That is of course if the Rangers can shed the contracts of either Girardi or Staal, maybe even both. Whether that be by trade, expansion draft or buyout, the Rangers will have options. Jeff Gorton may not be able to revamp the defense this offseason, but he could at least make moves in preparation for the real overhaul coming next summer.