2014 NHL Free Agency: The Kids Are Coming, Like It Or Not

Bruce Bennett

You might not like it, but it's true.

The kids are coming.

Depending on where you stand when it comes to the New York Rangers' farm system, that statement might scare you. Or it might make you happy. Or it might do both.

We don't know which kids are going to be tasked with making an instant impact yet, but we do know we're going to see a couple of them next year. The Rangers don't have very many selections left on the open market -- if they wanted to dip their feet into the pond -- and there aren't any reasonable players reportedly available for a trade. That can change of course, but right now the trade market is pretty bare.

That means the Rangers have a couple of holes to fill internally. Brian Boyle, Brad Richards and Benoit Pouliot still have yet to be replaced. There have been rumbles the Rangers are looking to make one more addition to their lineup -- a bottom-six depth add -- and depending on who they bring in, that player would fill either Boyle or Pouliot's role above. For example, David Booth (offensive potential and a top-nine player) would replace Pouliot while Ryan Carter (defensive responsibility for the fourth line) would replace Boyle.

Internally the Rangers do have some options. The biggest name -- and the player expected to make the biggest splash next year -- is J.T. Miller, who Glen Sather already alluded to being penciled into the third line center role. Miller has shown flashes of a high offensive ceiling, and could certainly replace some of Richards' 51 points from last year. Especially if he's paired with names like Martin St. Louis and Carl HagelinThere are risks to this strategy, but right now it might be the only choice the Rangers can make.

Oscar Lindberg seems to be the most popular Boyle replacement. The Swedish forward was nominated for the SHL MVP award two years ago, scored 44 points in 75 AHL games and is known for his defensive ability. All indications point towards Lindberg's defensive game translating well to the NHL, with his offense playing the role of the wild card. If Lindberg does jump into a bottom six role with defensive responsibilities some will look at it as a waste of his talent, but it might be an area he excels at. Especially if given meaningful minutes and some opportunities to showcase his offensive potential.

Jesper Fast -- who saw 11 regular season and three playoff games with the Rangers last year -- is a very speedy option who might slot in well on the team's third line. Last year Fast's limited opportunities (which was also his first taste of professional hockey in North America) were mostly spend in defensive roles, although that might be forced to change this year. His speed makes him a very attractive option to pair alongside Carl Hagelin on a checking line, but he's also shown real flashes of offense scoring 17 goals and adding 17 assists for 34 points in 48 AHL games.

There are other names as well. Danny Kristo finished the season third on the Wolf Pack in scoring last year with 43 points in 65 games and might also slot in as a potential Pouliot replacement. Kristo is a little older (he's 24) thanks to spending a full four years in college before going pro. While his totals aren't exactly eye-popping for a player that old in the AHL, there is one thing you need to remember: The Wolf Pack were so bad last year it became an organizational need to improve them this summer via free agency. How much of that impacted his totals? We'll likely find out this year.

Then there is Anthony Duclair, who at this point seems like a long shot but he might impress enough in camp to warrant a nine-game NHL look (the limit before the Rangers would need to burn a year off his ELC or send him back to Juniors). Markek Hrivik has come close to making the team out of camp twice but has never gotten over the hump. Sadly for him, it does appear as though the players above are a lot closer than he is. Ryan Haggerty is one of the two NCAA free agent forwards the Rangers brought in last summer, although you would have to think he's much closer than Chris McCarthy is. Still, I don't see either of them making the team out of camp.

We don't know which names from the above you will see this year, but we do know you'll see at least one of them.

Like it or not.

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