We are weeks away from camp opening and the Rangers still have a few questions about their lineup going into the season. What will the top two defensive pairings look like? Who will win the 5th, 6th, and 7th defenseman slots? Most notably the Rangers have a hole at the 3rd line Center position that looks like it will be a battle between Lias Andersson and Christoval “Boo” Nieves. Another option that has been discussed is moving JT Miller back to Center.
Where We Stand
While Miller would strengthen the depth at the Center position, there are a number of issues. Is he ready for the extra defensive responsibility? Why move a player who just had a career year? Is his skill set better suited for the wing? These are all valid questions. However, if the Rangers are able to sign a winger such as Jaromir Jagr or even Thomas Vanek, the issues would be far less impactful to the Rangers. That being said, there have been very few rumors or rumblings linking the Rangers to either player. Enter Danis Zaripov.
Who is Danis Zaripov?
Danis Zaripov, a 6’0, 163 lb, left handed shot, has played in the KHL since 1999-2000. Most of his career was spent playing for the Kazan Ak-Bars, while the past few years were spent playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg. For the past decade Zaripov has averaged around a point per game. He consistently produces and has been among the league leaders in points. In addition, his production does not drop off during the playoffs when the competition gets tougher. This past season he led the league in playoff goals with 15, while adding another 7 assists in 18 games.
As the video shows, Zaripov has great hands, patience, and sees the ice well. While not an electric skater, Zaripov is extremely talented and will help whatever team signs him.
How did we get here?
So why is the 36 year old Zaripov coming over to the NHL? Zaripov was banned by the IIHF for two years for testing positive for a banned substance, pseudoephedrine. However, the substance was not on the NHL’s banned substance list, Zaripov has never failed a test before, and he volunteered for extra drug testing throughout the year.
While adding an aging winger to a team trying to get younger and faster might seem counter-productive, there are a few reasons why adding Zaripov makes sense for the Rangers.
The Rangers still do not have a third line center. Adding Zaripov would, essentially, guarantee that JT Miller would be moved back to center. Having Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, and JT Miller as the top three centers on your team is not bad at all. While not optimal, it is far from terrible.
Secondly, this move would allow the Rangers to develop Lias Andersson at their own pace. He would not be expected to step in right away and have unreasonable expectations put upon him. He would be allowed to develop and would only be thrust into the NHL if his talent absolutely convinced the Rangers that he was ready for the NHL.
Lastly, the risk is extremely low. Zaripov is looking for a one year, prove it, type of deal. He will not be getting the money that Kovalchuk would have gotten or even what Alexander Radulov got from the Dallas Stars. A one year deal in the range of one to two million dollars with performance bonuses is not out of the question. The Rangers can easily afford this for one year. If he is a bust, so be it. Nothing hurt after this season.
Since the news broke that Zaripov would be allowed to sign in the NHL, the Rangers and the Golden Knights have both been linked to him. Adding Zaripov would improve the Rangers depth, scoring, and would move the needle a little further on the contender scale. If the deal is right, the Rangers should make a run at Zaripov for another run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.