Just a quick note- I decided on doing two bulk posts for former Rangers that skated with the club last season and split them up in a way that featured the two key departures among Rangers' skaters; Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis. Enjoy!
Thank you, Haggy. Thank you.
The swift-footed Swede that had been with the Rangers since the 2011-12 season will be playing his hockey with the Anaheim Ducks next season. Hagelin entered the 2014-15 season looking to build on a 33 point effort in 2013-14 with the Blueshirts. Hagelin was one of only 3 Rangers that played in every regular season game last season and that is one of the reasons why he was able to accumulate 35 points, the most since his rookie year with the Rangers. He did all of this with no significant power play ice time to speak of and while playing a largely defensive role. We have heard it often, but the case for Hagelin being one of the best third line players in the game is a pretty strong one and he certainly played that way for stretches of last season.
Hagelin's offense was once again inconsistent despite matching his career-high in goals with 17 last season (3 ENG, 1 PPG). In the last 25 games of the season Haggy scored just 3 goals, the last of which was an empty-netter against the Devils on April 7th. There were times when it felt like he might finally eclipse the 20 goal mark but going cold in the last quarter of the season put an end to Hagelin's hunt for 20. He certainly didn't make the kind of impact that puts him on the radar of fantasy hockey devotees, but Hagelin's penalty killing, speed, and possession-driving play made him a very valuable player in the Rangers' lineup for yet another season. However, as Kevin Power pointed out back in late January most of us knew that Hagelin was quickly becoming an expendable player on the Rangers because of the contract he was due, his questionable offensive instincts, and his struggles to translate all of that hard work into goals and assists. Without the puck he might have been the best Rangers' forward last season, but when it was on his stick there was a lot to be desired from the Michigan graduate.
Uh, yeah, he drives possession.
Hagelin's 15:03 TOI/G put him at 7th among all Rangers' forwards last season and his 1:57 SH TOI/G meant that he was the second-most used penalty killing forward, behind only defensive archmage Dominic Moore. Hagelin's cap hit for 2014-15 was $2.25 million and the Rangers were hoping that his hands might gain some ground in the dead tortoise and hare race that exists between them and his legs. Although the offense came in fits in bursts and earned Hagelin some criticism, it is not where his true value lies. At even strength Hagelin both drove possession and helped to generate scoring chances. To get a deeper look into the numbers behind Haggy and his real value, check out Dave Shapiro from Blue Seat Blog's piece predicting Hagelin's next contract back in June.
Hagelin was solid and dependable in his big contract year and was never a detriment to the club when he was on the ice.
If those hands ever catch up to those feet Carl Hagelin will end up being a bargain at $4 million AAV for the Anaheim Ducks.
It's clear that the Blueshirts would not have been able to afford him even if they brought in a shaman to try and trick some of the other numbers on the Rangers' salary cap to suffer from identity crises and change who and what they were. The Rangers are going to miss his speed in a big, bad way but they would have missed the cap space that trading him opened up even more, especially when next offseason rolls around with the next harvest of key RFAs that need new deals. The departure of Hagelin will most likely be felt most in the possession game, the Rangers' exceptional play at evens, and on the penalty kill. The Rangers were one of the best team at evens last season and it goes without saying that Carl Hagelin was a big part of that.
Seriously, watch Stemp's effort and goal at 0:34. Unreal.
As of the writing of this article Lee Stempniak remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent despite being a productive player for both the Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets last season. In 71 total regular games Stempniak picked up 15 goals and most of those games were spent being poorly utilized in 53 games with the Rangers' 4th line. Stempniak was 11th among Rangers' forwards in TOI/G with 12:26 and he was most frequently on the ice with Tanner Glass and Dominic Moore (21.38%) which made for some pretty tough sledding for a guy that was expected to add some offensive depth to the Rangers when he signed a 1-year deal for $900,000. With Moore and Glass on the ice with him there weren't a lot of quality scoring chances for Stemp.
Screw it, scratch the guy.
In a 23 game stretch from December 1st to February 12th Stempniak picked up just 1 goal and 3 assists in a big slump in his production, but considering how he was deployed by the coaching staff an 18 point effort in 53 games was pretty solid for a guy that took the body, skated well, and provided the team with a right-handed shot for an insignificant cap hit. Stempniak had 8 points in first 17 games with the Rangers but that didn't save him from being a healthy scratch more frequently than Tanner Glass was before he was inexplicably traded for Finnish AHLer Carl Klingberg who jumped over to the KHL this offseason.
If not for his spotty production, which I should point out was completely acceptable for a player that was used exclusively in the bottom six and in and out of the lineup on a frequent basis, Stempniak would be getting a better grade from me. Why didn't Alain Vigneault trust him and why the hell did the Rangers trade him? Can we go sign him right now? Nope. We got Jarret Stoll.
Hopefully Stempniak will get a shot with another NHL team in a training camp in September because as he proved with both the Rangers and the Jets last year he can still be an effective and useful player, especially if he is utilized appropriately.
Obviously 14 games is not much of a sample size to give a player a grade, but Sheppard was on the roster enough after deadline day and in the postseason to earn a mention in our report card posts. Sheppard, currently an unsigned UFA, was acquired from the San Jose Sharks for a 4th-round pick in 2016 on deadline day to serve as the Rangers' 12th/13th forward after Stempniak was sent to the Jets. Despite showing that he was better than the player everyone assumed he would be replacing in the lineup (Tanner Glass) in every conceivable way, Sheppard was a healthy scratch for 4 regular season games even after scoring a game-winning goal in his second game with the club.
In his 14 regular season games with the Blueshirts Shep picked up 2 goals and 9 PIM in his 11:21 TOI/G. For those of you keeping score at home, Tanner Glass had 1 goal and 5 assists to go along with 98 PIM in 66 games last season with the Rangers. Sheppard was predominantly used on the Rangers' 4th line with Glass on his opposite wing and Dominic Moore as his center and when he was in the lineup he was trusted with more ice time than Glass was although that might have been because the coaching staff was trying to get an idea of what he could provide the club with in the 2015 Playoffs.
Sheppard simply didn't play enough games to earn a grade for his play but it goes without saying that he was a significant improvement over Tanner Glass when he was in the Rangers' lineup. Unfortunately, he was very rarely in the lineup at the expense of Glass and spent most of his time on the ice in a Rangers' jersey skating with Glass. With that being said, Sheppard was hardly an exceptional player and didn't quite feel like he would have been worth the $1.3 million cap hit he had last season if he had been with the Rangers for the duration of the season (which I only say because he would have spent an ungodly amount of time in the press box). Then again, in the 57 games he played with the Sharks last season he had 5 goals and 11 assists so I get the feeling that Shep never got a chance to show us just how good he was.
Sheppard, who is 27 years old, should find a home on an NHL roster before the 2015-16 season gets underway because of his ability to play both wing and center, his big frame, and his toughness.
As always, thank you guys for reading and let's go Rangers!
What grades would you give Hagelin, Stempniak, and Sheppard for their play in the regular season with the Rangers in 2014-15? How about Hagelin and Sheppard's play in the 2015 postseason? Did the Rangers get enough for Hagelin from the Ducks? Did the Ducks sign Haggy for too much? Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Enjoy California, sweet prince. Oh, and try not to show off the flow too much around Getzlaf. Best of luck with the Ducks, Haggy.