Monday, July 23, 2012

A BJ On Broadway

So the long-rumoured deal is done, the Rangers have acquired Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The cost? Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick.

First, on what the Blueshirts gave up to the Blue Jackets:

*Neither Dubi nor Arty have reached their potential and there is no telling if either ever would have in New York. Dubi could have been an Arnott-esque force but he struggled to reach that level with any kind of consistency. He got the big contract and, as is typical, struggled in the first season of the deal. In postseason interviews he acknowledged it and promised to work to be better and now, Columbus will find out if he stands by his word. Arty had multiple 'wow' moments but they came when he was paired with big, tough wingers. Without burly Blueshirts to have his back, the Russian played on the fringes and was ineffective.

*Losing Tim Erixon is the most painful part of this deal. To let Erixon go and keep Del Zaster is simply stupefying. In 18 games last season we saw Erixon improve and adapt, held back only by his size and the ice time allotted him. Meanwhile Del Zaster continues to make the same mistakes now that he did three seasons ago but Torts loves him so he avoids any accountability for his errors. That being said (through gritted teeth), Erixon is now unlikely to become the great player he could have been, as he will surely be unhappy in Ohio - a worse locale than Calgary, where he refused to play in the first place.

*The first rounder will likely be late teens, early 20s so it really isn't that big of a loss. When you consider that the kids that are in the system now, outside of Kreider, will need a few seasons of seasoning before coming to Broadway, losing one pick isn't the end of the world.

And now for Nash:

*You've seen the highlight reels; he's big, he has good hands and elite offensive instincts.

*Those instincts may be completely wasted in Tortorella's uncreative, talent-stifling, killer instinct-lacking, shot-blocking, defensive system.

*There is no denying the multiple moments of singlehanded sheer brilliance Nash has performed but, in typical fashion, the Rangers picked up a player who's numbers have decreased each of the previous three seasons.

*He is signed for the next six seasons, at an exorbitant cap hit of $7.8 million. Given that the NHL is looking to lower the cap, having a massive hit like that for what, come January and a full recovery by Gaborik, will be the second-line right winger is more than a little silly. He has a higher cap hit than Stamkos, Parise, Kovalchuk and Vanek (among many others).

*The captain of Columbus, Nash asked to be traded - a request that was made public and a sure reason to worry about his character. That being said, he stepped up his game with nine of his 30 goals in the 20 games after the trade deadline - either to make other teams more willing to increase their offers in the offseason or because there was no more pressure to carry the BJs.

*The only real centers during Rick's time in Columbus were old Sergei Fedorov and unhappy Jeff Carter, but he played alongside Joe Thornton in Davos during the last lockout (and may again in the next one!). Automatically thinking he will star alongside Richard$ may be a mistake; adding Gomez to Jagr seemed like it would be a sure thing but we all know how that worked out. Perhaps Nash can fall in with Derek Stepan, and help the kid meet his potential.

*As an outsider, it did not seem like Nash helped anyone in Columbus meet their potential. Gilbert Brule, Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov all busted under his watch (there is still a little hope for Brassard, but who knows).

*It is interesting that Hockey-Reference lists former Ranger Bun Cook as a 'player with a career of similar quality and shape.' However, the Blueshirts are hoping and paying for Nash to be more Bill Cook than Bun though, as Bill was the best winger in the game and he led the team to two Stanley Cups.

And that is what it will come down to: winning Stanley Cups. The team just choked away a prime chance and the flash of adding Nash will be long faded if the team doesn't take the next step next season.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Halpern To Help

In 1926 the front office of the fledgling New York Rangers decided to market their goaltender Lorne Chabot as Lorn Chabotsky, in the hopes of appealing to the massive Jewish population of the city. Since then a few actual Jews have played on Broadway, including Hy Buller, '94 Black Ace Mike Hartman and Mathieu Schneider. And now Jeff Halpern will don a Blueshirt as well.

As with those guys, adding Halpern is no public relations gimmick. The recent Washington Capital fills the hole left by Blair Betts three years ago - a capable, consistent center who wins faceoffs, kills penalties and works his ass off. A former captain, Halpern will add some more veteran sense to the room and add another layer between Tortorella and the kids. He helps advance my Stockholm Syndrome theory, as he played for the egomaniacal dictator in Tampa in 2008.

This follows in the recent tradition of Glen Sather's signings - have one good addition, have one horrible addition. Well, after making the mistakes of Arron Asham and Micheal Haley, Sather has leveled the scales with Halpern and Taylor Pyatt. The only issue it presents is that the Blueshirts now have six fourth liners (if you include Haley as a NHLer, which he will hopefully never be again) and one first liner set to start next season. But the season is still a few months away so we just have to wait and see what Sather will do.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Taylor Time

The Rangers entered the offseason needing scoring help and defensive depth, so Glen Sather has gone out and added three bottom six soldiers. The newest addition is Taylor Pyatt, most recently of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Pyatt, on his fifth franchise at the age of 30, knows what he has to do to stay in the NHL and to be successful. As I mentioned on my free agent list, I hoped he would get signed because he is willing to pay the price and go to the net. The Blueshirts specialized in drive-by screening last season as guys (Boyle, Anisimov, etc.) would skate through the slot unwilling to take the punishment. When Cally and Kreider camped out good things happened but they clearly needed help. And now they have it.

While he is a low-line guy, Pyatt should be able to step up assist the attack. He won't score 25, 30 goals but if he contributes 15-20 and his effort gives the other guys more room - as he did with Phoenix - then the signing will be well worth it. The new guy's reputation helps eclipse the fact that his pedigree is soiled with the blue and orange of the Island. It will be his actions this fall that will keep the filth under the carpet.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Disappointing Opening Day Of Free Agency

Wow, is that a redundant headline or what? I mean, every opening day of free agency of Glen Sather's term has been disappointing to some degree or another. As the saying goes Trader Sather is a genius, Signer Sather is a fool.

And that fool continued to trouble Ranger fans as he tinkered with the team's roster. While he can't be blamed for Brandon Prust's greed, he can be hung for his idea of a replacement: Arron Asham. As he did with Donald Brashear, Sather signed one of the most loathed members of the opposition (who is all but certain to disappoint). Check that, two of the most loathed members - he also added Islander Micheal Haley.

Given that Asham has be-Deviled, be-Flyered, be-Penguined, be-Islandered the Blueshirts in the past all we can hope is that he does the same dirty, infuriating things against everyone else.

The signs are not good, especially when compared to the man he is replacing. In his career Asham has played in MSG 27 times and racked up all of one goal, one assist and 33 PIM. Asham has not played a full 82 game campaign his entire career; despite his injuries Prust did the last two seasons. Prust had nine shorthanded points in his last 164 games; Asham has three in 756. Asham blocked 40 total shots over the last three years, Prust blocked 51 this season. HOWEVER, the one good quality they share is that their teammates respond when they fight. I've mentioned the Prust stat a few thousand times and the Pens went 6-1-1 last season when Asham dropped the gloves (and he won too, going 7-1 in those bouts).

As for Haley, he is no more than a minor league neanderthal. With the group of prospects hitting Hartford this fall, it will be Haley's job to protect them. He has a long record with a good number of victories so hopefully he will intimidate the other teams into giving the kids who have futures some room.

Sadly Jonathan Audy-Marchessault won't be among them. The mite-sized scorer earned himself a spot in the Ranger franchise, earned himself a spot in the AHL All Star Game and Sather let him get away. It would have been nice to see JAM get a real shot with the Rangers, but that unlikely with Torts so at least Columbus will use him.

Another guy who had no future with the Rangers was Chad Johnson. Dos Nueve never earned the organization's trust but our old pal Maloney saw something and picked him up for the Coyotes. Like Al Montoya, he can go try to ply his trade in the desert.

John Mitchell is headed to the mountains as Colorado handed him a two-year deal. Tortorella may have loved him but few others did as he made some glaring mistakes and added virtually no offense.

Following that thread, Stu Bickel was re-signed by the Rangers. Tortorella's scapegoat, Stu will be back for two more seasons - or roughly a half hour of ice time - under the head coach's reign.

Kris Newbury also decided to return, taking a two-year, two-way contract. Heard he was a good team guy with the Whale so that will be good for the future Blue.

The near future is certain to see more moves, whether they be signings or trades. Gabby will be out for a while and, given the type of surgery, may never be the player he was again. So there is a mighty Nash/Parise/Whoever-sized hole in the lineup. It will be interesting to see which side of Sather addresses it.