I decided on doing two "bulk" posts for former Rangers that will not be with the club next season and split them up in a way that featured the two key departures among Rangers' skaters; Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis
Marty St. Louis retired this offseason after a devastatingly disappointing 2015 Playoff performance and a regular season that most considered to be more than a little bit lackluster. St. Louis' 52 points were still good for 4th on the Rangers last season, but for many it was about 20 points shy of what was expected out of St. Louis given his production in the 3 previous seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Production before last season.
The Rangers needed St. Louis to be the complimentary stud scoring forward to main gun Rick Nash that he had been to Steven Stamkos for the past several seasons, but things didn't quite turn out that way last season. As per Dobber Hockey, St. Louis was used predominantly on the Rangers' second line with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan at even strength and before Keith Yandle arrived for the last 21 games of the regular season, St. Louis was on the ice more than any other Ranger during the power play. St. Louis was given plenty of opportunities to succeed last season and build on his heroic efforts in the 2014 Playoffs that won the hearts of even the most skeptical Rangers fans, but his inconsistent production and the ease with which he was knocked off of the puck quickly had the Garden Faithful losing patience with him.
From January 13th to February 12th Marty failed to score a goal in 15 games. There was little doubt that he was really struggling and his competitive nature almost certainly made him harder on himself than even the most cutthroat Rangers' fans were. He also had 2 other noteworthy goal scoring slumps last season, each of which was 7 games long. Thankfully, when St. Louis was on his game he was putting pucks in the net and his greatest impact for the Rangers was on the power play where he picked up 13 points to finish 2nd on the club in that category.
Although ultimately a disappointment, MSL was still a weapon on the PP.
The statistic that most jumps out to me from St. Louis' 2014-15 campaign is his 144 shots on net which was 14th on the Rangers and 56 fewer than his total from 2013-14. The last time St. Louis had a shot total that low in a full season? 2001-02 when he played in just 53 games and put up 105 shots in his second season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. A 56 drop in shots on net helps to paint the story of St. Louis' offensive struggles.
Red = bad. Blue = good.
So, why weren't the shots there for MSL last season? The fact that Marty was skating around on 39 year old legs probably had something to do with it and it should not have been a shock to see his production drop without Steven Stamkos to set up on the power play. St. Louis has made a career out of being a monster on the man advantage and the Rangers' 16.8% success rate, which St. Louis was partially responsible for, played a key role in his drop in productivity. Although Derek Stepan and St. Louis did find some chemistry, he was a very different kind of player than Chris Kreider is and that didn't help his production or scoring chances at evens. St. Louis was the guy in the lineup last season that everyone knew was capable of doing so much more but couldn't find his groove for a litany of reasons.
Grading St. Louis was not an easy task because despite his inconsistencies and the significant drop in his production he still finished tied for 2nd on the team in goals (21) with Kreider and was one of the few players to leave a mark on a perpetually toothless power play. Despite those bright spots, St. Louis failed to live up to the lofty expectations that came hand-in-hand with his name and legacy for his first full season with the Blueshirts and what he cost the team back on deadline day of 2014. It's amazing that a "bad" year for St. Louis saw him put up 21 goals and 31 assists, but I suppose that is what bad years look like for Hall of Famers in the twilight of their hockey careers.
If you want to read some more analysis and critique on St. Louis' last season with the Rangers, feel free to read this piece I wrote at the end of May.
Hunwick took to the ice for 55 regular season games in 2014-15 for the Rangers thanks largely in part to the injury woes of Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein last season and the coaching staff's lack of confidence in John Moore. Hunwick spent most of his time in the Rangers' lineup paired with Kevin Klein on the team's third pair but he did also log some significant minutes playing with both Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle.
At 29 years old and with only 306 NHL games under his belt prior to 2014-15 the expectations for Hunwick were very low. There were no guarantees that he would even dress in a single game for the Blueshirts last season given the competition to fill the role of the Rangers' 7th defenseman, but he found a way to skate in 55 regular season games and take the ice for the Rangers in the 2015 Playoffs. Hunwick had to earn every minute of his ice time from the moment after he signed his 1-year, $600,000 contract.
Hunwick was brought in as an unrestricted free agent in the 2014 offseason and eventually beat out Steven Kampfer and Mike Kostka for the role of the Rangers' 7th defenseman with his play in training camp, the preseason, and early in the regular season. Hunwick quickly proved a more reliable option than Kampfer in the preseason, who was eventually traded to the Panthers, and he made far fewer mistakes than the Chris Hemsworthian Mike Kostka in his own end which became evident early on in the regular season, leading to Kostka's demotion. In 55 games with the Blueshirts Hunwick picked up 11 points and played unassuming, solid hockey in his own end. Some have argued that Hunwick played more than well enough to challenge Kevin Klein for a roster spot despite Klein's anomalous offensive explosion last season. However, when Hunwick came into the lineup it was often at the expense of John Moore who was fighting a losing battle to earn the trust of the Rangers' coaching staff last season.
There was and is very little flash to Hunwick's game but I consider that to be a compliment of the highest order given the success he had filling his role for the Rangers last season. Hunwick will never be the guy to throw the crushing hip check or crank a 95mph slap shot past a goaltender's glove from the blue line, but he played consistent, solid hockey for the Rangers when he found his way into the lineup, which wasn't nearly often enough.
Matt Hunwick will be playing his hockey for the new-look Toronto Maple Leafs next season after he signed a 2-year deal with an AAV of $1.2 million. The fact that the Leafs were willing to double Hunwick's salary should say a lot about how well he played last season and just how solid of a third pairing defenseman he was for the Blueshirts. The only reason there isn't a little "+" sign next to his grade is because, for whatever reason, he failed to convince the coaching staff that he deserved to be a staple in the lineup. He also was, at times, hindered by his conservative, basic play even when there were opportunities to jump in on the rush or make an impact in the transition game which is why he failed to pick up a few more assists than he perhaps could have. Still, we have to keep in mind just how solid Hunwick was for the Rangers and how well he filled his role on the third pair and as the 7th defenseman. With his play in New York last season he proved to the league that he was and is a bona fide NHL defenseman.
In John Moore's 3rd season in New York he skated in just 38 regular season games before being dealt to the Arizona Coyotes on deadline day as part of the package that brought Keith Yandle to the Rangers. Just 2 seasons ago, back in 2013, Moore became a Ranger in the blockbuster deal that sent Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets. Moore had signed a 1-year deal as an RFA in the 2014 offseason with a cap hit of $850,500 to play on the Rangers' bottom pairing and to make some steps towards being a more well-rounded NHL defenseman.
Something tells me we didn't utilize him very well.
Moore didn't score his first and only goal as a Blueshirt in 2014-15 until he dressed in his 38th game of the season against the Flyers on February 26th. It just so happens that was the last game that John Moore would play as a Ranger. Prior to that final game in Philly, Moore picked up 5 assists to go along with 19 PIM in the 15:06 TOI/G he saw last season. Moore averaged just 21.4 shifts per game when he was in the lineup for the Rangers on the bottom pair, to put that into perspective Kevin Klein averaged 26.4 shifts per game. So, Moore was infrequently deployed, sheltered just like every third defensive pairing in the league, and never saw any significant time on special teams to speak of. Sounds like he didn't get a lot of chances to make his mark and carve out a role for himself, doesn't it?
In the 2013-14 season Moore skated in 74 games with the Blueshirts, which is quite a bit more than the 38 he played last season. Moore was frequently a healthy scratch for the Rangers and was suspended for 5 games after his hit to the head of Erik Haula on October 27th. Moore played himself out of the Rangers' lineup and the favor of the coaching staff with his up and down play, defensive lapses, issues with discipline, and an un-ignited offensive potential that for whatever reason didn't make itself known on the third defensive pairing. There were very modest expectations for Moore's play last season given his role on the team and his relative youth, but he fell short of them with a little bit of help from the coaching staff.
After not receiving a qualifying offer from the Phoenix Coyotes John Moore signed a 3-year contract with the New Jersey Devils at an AAV of $1.667 million. For me, Moore was pretty close to "n/a" when it came time to grade him because he was so poorly misunderstood and used by the Rangers and it hardly felt like he was in the lineup at all. If the Devils can find a way to put Moore in a situation where he can excel and maybe get him on the power play he has a very strong chance of being their best move of the offseason. To the Rangers Moore was an interesting but ultimately flawed young player that took the ice for 174 regular season games that eventually was deemed expendable in the trade that brought Yandle to New York. I can't help but feel that we might have missed out on something with John Moore, I guess we'll just have to wait and see and hope that he doesn't give us headaches every time the Rangers lock horns with the Devils.
As always, thank you all for reading and let's go Rangers!
What grades would you give MSL, Hunwick, and John Moore for their play during the regular season? What grade would you give MSL and Hunwick for their play in the 2015 Playoffs? Was the Moore signing a steal for the Devils? Would you have given Hunwick what the Leafs gave him? Let me know what you think in the comments section.