The World Cup of Hockey will help alleviate some of the dog days of summer, as we speculate and prepare for the tournament, but these next couple of weeks are likely to drag. This happens every year, of course, as most teams are totally finished with their rosters until the September training camp comes around and you start the whole thing over again.
The lull has left the Rangers in a somewhat interesting position.
They made some moves, a really smart big trade, some really good free agent signings and did some great work in their own backyard with their RFAs.
And yet, there’s been a somewhat confusing if not underwhelming aftertaste to everything the Rangers have done. It’s pretty clear the upper management targeted the bottom-six depth (although we’ll see if Alain Vigneault agrees soon enough) and created some cap space with the Derick Brassard trade. They wanted to get younger and faster, and while the trade and free agent signings mostly accomplished that goal they have yet to address the team’s biggest issue.
So what happens now? Those rumors about Kevin Shattenkirk coming to Broadway aren’t going away but it’s very rare to see a trade of such magnitude happening in August. Maybe St. Louis and New York are in the throws of deep negotiations, but to this point nothing has leaked out to the public.
The Rangers have the cap space to do something big on the back end, but again, no matter what they did it would require some type of moment on the two anchors holding the team down. Dan Girardi seems destined to be on the team opening night — although what role he will play will be a topic of discussion through the weeks leading up to October.
Marc Staal’s name hasn’t been talked about as much -- since he wasn’t a clear buyout candidate -- but it’s safe to say if the team believes Girardi will bounce back then they think the same as Staal.
Problem is: Both players can improve and still be the biggest holes on the team. In fact, Girardi was so bad last year it’d be shocking if he didn’t at least hold that level of play if not get a little better. But a little better isn’t going to fix the Rangers’ problems.
And while shoring up the bottom six and revamping the penalty kill is all well and good, that’s like modernizing and remodeling an older cruise ship; sure the things most people see at first will be prettier, but that hole in the bottom of the ship you’re ignoring will catch their attention soon enough.
It needs to be noted that we don’t know if Jeff Gorton and company are OK with where things stand. They might be working their tails off trying to move Girardi or Staal — and in fact I’d have to argue that was at least part of the original plan. The Nick Holden trade makes no sense when you realize the Rangers acquired him just so he could sit in the press box every night. Unless you plan on sitting Brady Skjei. Or Dylan McIlrath ...
OK so maybe Holden will play, but even so it created an unnecessary log jam at the position.
Are there changes coming? You’d have to think so.
Unless Gorton thinks what the Rangers did was good enough ...