Rangers Offseason Outlook: Defense and Goalies

Lundqvist and Boyle (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Lundqvist and Boyle (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

FullTilt Rangers continues with their offseason outlook and focuses on defense and goaltending. While it may seem that this group would be easy to analyze, think again. All 6 regular defensemen from this past year are currently under contract for next season, yet it seems unlikely that we will see the same six dressing for the Rangers when October arrives. 

DEFENSE

Ryan McDonagh: At 4.7M per year, this is an absolute steal being that other top defensemen in the league such as Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban are making north of 7M per season. We know what we have in “Captain Mac,” so look forward to another solid year from the him.

Dan Girardi: No player on the Rangers has had his contract debated so much as Girardi. In my opinion, the deal really handicaps the Rangers and their ability to make necessary moves. 5 Million dollar contracts are reserved for top pairing defensemen, and Girardi may not be one. He’s not the two-way player like McDonagh is, and once again he looked a step behind at times in the playoffs. Whoever the Rangers GM is will have a tough time trying to move that contract, but if there is a willing taker the Rangers need to entertain the possibility. Don’t get me wrong, I love Girardi, but not at 5.5M per year.

Dan Boyle: It bothers most Rangers fans to see the consistent play of Anton Stralman down in Tampa Bay. Last year, management made a decision that they wanted Boyle more than Stralman, and that decision has looked horrible in hindsight.

Boyle has 1 year remaining on his contract that will pay him 4.5M. He was actually one of the better defensemen for the Rangers in the playoffs, despite some horrible games defensively. I don’t see a situation where Boyle doesn’t return next year, but if the Rangers can wiggle their way out of that contract, it should happen.

Marc Staal: In January, he signed a new 6 year deal worth 5.7M per. Staal has been a solid two way defender ever since he came up in 2007-08. Once again, he did a fantastic job against the opposing top player in the playoffs as he has done throughout his career. Being that he just received a new contract, I don’t see him going anywhere, nor do I want him going anywhere, as he has been consistent year in and year out. Now that he is entering the prime of his career, there is still much to be seen from Staal.

Yandle (Bruce Bennet / Getty)

Yandle (Bruce Bennet / Getty)

Keith Yandle: This trade has been the subject of much debate ever since Yandle came over on March 1. The package the Rangers sent back to Arizona including top-prospect Anthony Duclair and next year’s first round pick was quite the price to pay. As we found out last week, Yandle was playing with a bum shoulder ever since the Pittsburgh series, yet he was a major offensive factor in the ECF vs. Tampa Bay.

Having him on board for 2.75M for one more year is a steal, just like McDonagh. Yandle should be much better next year, benefitting from a full training camp and season with the Rangers. He will be there to anchor the PP from the start. Also, don’t be surprised if the Rangers discuss an extension with him during the season because I find it hard to believe that Yandle will be let go so quickly after the price they paid to get him.

Kevin Klein: Rounding out the top-six, Klein was having a career year offensively, which took a major hit after he broke his arm, blocking an Alex Ovechkin shot on March 1. It caused him to miss the remainder of the regular season and the entire first round. Klein has 3 more years on his contract which pays 2.9M per season, a pretty expensive price for a 3rd pairing defensemen. Of the defensemen possibly on the move, Klein is the most likely because of his great season, ability to be a top 4 defender and very attractive contract.

As to what the Rangers can get in return, it depends on where he is going and if anyone gets packaged with him. (See later). With Brady Skeji ready to make the jump to the big club, next year, Klein’s spot is the most likely to become open.

Matt Hunwick: After being in a battle with Mike Kostka for the 7th defensemen spot, Hunwick ran away with the race and became a really consistent option for the Rangers in case of injury. He was fantastic in the series vs. Pittsburgh in Kevin Klein’s absence. It would seem reasonable that Hunwick would look for full time duty somewhere else around the league, but the Rangers should do everything they can to keep him in the fold for next season.

BLUELINE PROSPECTS

Brady Skeji: As was just mentioned, Skeji (first round pick 2012) left Minnesota to begin his professional career. He joined the Hartford WolfPack on a PTO just in time for their Calder-Cup run. In the playoffs, he posted 3 points (1G, 2A) and was a -3. Skeji has been compared a lot to Marc Staal, as he is a big kid (6”3, 206) and has great defensive instincts. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, expect Skeji to be on the opening night roster.

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Dylan McIlrath: The 2010 first round pick has had a tough time cracking the big team, and time might be running out. Keep in mind that this pick was made during the John Tortorella era, when the Rangers played a more rugged style of play and relied on bigger defensemen. Now in the Alain Vigneault era, the Rangers rely on more up-tempo hockey and McIlrath doesn’t fit that mold.

Still, the Rangers desperately need a crease-clearing defensemen, something which he does well. However, with Skeji about to make the jump this year and the rest of the defense under contract I find it hard to believe McIlrath will every make the big-club this season. Perhaps he gets a shot on a call-up basis, or next year when Dan Boyle’s contract is up. Or he could be moved for a pick at the draft.

Another twist in this whole saga is the impending free-agency of Mike Reilly, a teammate of Brady Skeji at Minnesota. This is the same situation as the Kevin Hayes saga last year, as Reilly and the Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t come to terms on a contract. They have until June 15 to do so, and after that he will become a UFA.

According to Elliotte Friedman, 9 teams are rumored to be meeting with him, one of which is the Rangers. That meeting is supposedly scheduled for this coming Thursday. Reilly cites the reason for wanting to leave Columbus as their blue-line being too crowded, something which is also an issue with the Rangers. Yet, as we have seen in the past (Kevin Hayes), the Rangers can try and find a place for him and let him flourish.

Reilly has tremendous offensive upside, and bring a big shot from the point, something which the Rangers have lacked for many years. Let’s hope this situation turns out like Hayes and we land another first round type talent at a relatively low cost. For a more in-depth coverage on Reilly and what we brings to the table, be sure to check out this article by our very own Russell Hartman.

GOALIES

Henrik Lundqvist: He is going nowhere, in case you didn’t realize. One of the best in the league and will retire wearing Rangers Blue unless he asks to be moved.

Cam Talbot: The story of the off-season. It’s well documented how well Talbot played in Henrik Lundqvist’s absence in February and March. This all but means Talbot will be traded, most likely at the draft.

Cam  Talbot Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports

Cam Talbot Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports

There are several teams looking for goalie help, the two most talked about being Edmonton and San Jose. Talbot has one year remaining on a contract that pays him 1.45M. As for what the return can be, it’s tricky. History dictates that young backup goaltenders usually fetch a 3rd round pick in return (maybe low 2nd), which is what I believe the Rangers will get if they trade Talbot by himself. Should they package Talbot with someone else (Kevin Klein most likely), then I think the Rangers can get themselves into the top of the 2nd round, maybe the 1st round. Edmonton, one of the teams rumored to be interested in Talbot has two first round picks, so they might be willing to send the Rangers back a first round pick a little more easily. With this year’s draft so deep, an early 2nd round pick could also be good enough.

Now, as for Talbot’s replacement (assuming he gets traded), some people thought MacKenzie Skapski was the guy, but that very small possibility was put to rest when it was announced that “the little red Ranger” would be shelved for the next 4-5 months. Now that the Rangers will end up having to look for the external replacements most likely via the Free-Agent market, the top possibilities are Viktor Fasth, Jonas Gustavsson and Jhonas Enroth. All have mostly been in the league as backups, and should come at relatively cheap prices.

 

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