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End of the road for Glass in New York?

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Glass’s three year, $4.35 million contract is finally expiring this offseason. The question now though, is whether it is the end of Glass career in New York or if the Rangers will find a reason to extend him.

As it stands, the Rangers are not exposure eligible for the 2017 Expansion Draft. The Rangers need to expose a minimum of two forwards that are signed through the 2017-18 season and played at least 40 NHL games in the 2016-17 season, or 70 games in the last two seasons. If the Rangers proceed by protecting a combination of seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender – with the seven forwards being Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Mika Zibanejad, it will leave Michael Grabner, Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, and Glass exposed (Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich both exempt from the draft since they are first year professionals).

Of those exposed forwards, Grabner is the only one that meets the parameters, since he is signed through the 2017-18 season. Therefore, the Rangers must either acquire an eligible forward or re-sign one of their pending free agents.

Unfortunately, this is an opening for the Rangers to inquire about Glass returning to the team. While he may be known for being a positive influence in the locker room and a key player in the eyes of coach Alain Vigneault, Glass’s contract expiring should end his time in New York.

The Rangers signed Glass to a three year contract worth $1.45 million per season. Prior to joining the Rangers, Glass earned 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 377 career games. Although the gritty forward is not known for his offense, his defensive play did not merit that contract either.

Glass never performed to the level of his cap hit – especially not on a team as cap-crunched as the Rangers, which only increases the magnitude of his salary. Not only can his lackluster offense be quantified throughout his time with the Rangers past his point totals (six points in 66 games in 2014-15, seven points in 57 games in 2015-16, and two points in 11 games in 2016-17), but through varying statistics.

In analyzing Glass’s career numbers as a member of the Rangers, nothing indicates that he was the best player to be utilized on either side of the ice. Below are comparisons to Glass’s Rangers teammates (considering all skaters that played at least 50 minutes of 5v5 ice time that season) from each respective season.

By the numbers:

2014-15

  • Second lowest CF% (43.37), SCF% (42.39), and xGF% (42.54).
  • Lowest GF% of 33.33.
  • Second lowest Rel.CF% of -7.68.
  • Second lowest P60 of 0.5
  • Sixth in individual takeaways (6)
  • Most hits for (208)

2015-16

  • Fourth lowest CF% (42.32) and SCF% (41.18).
  • Third lowest xGF% (41.58)
  • Fourth lowest Rel.CF% of -6.78.
  • Tied for second lowest individual takeaways (2)
  • Sixth lowest blocks (17)
  • Most hits for (221)

Glass’s 2016-17 numbers are not the best metrics to compare to since it was such a small sample (only 11 regular season games). In his short stint with the Rangers this season, in both the regular season and postseason, there were glimpses of Glass that were impressive. Those glimpses are not convincing enough, after 511 regular season games (69 points) and 67 career playoff games (six points) – both of which are much more indicative of the player that Glass is.

Overall, it is evident that Glass was not the Rangers greatest asset in his three seasons here. As an essential lock for a fourth line spot on Vigneault’s team, he should have been a force defensively – with more blocked shots, takeaways, or as a more effective shot suppressor. His aggregate numbers from his time in New York quantify how he was not the player he was viewed as by the coaches or management (60.44 Corsi against per 60, 32.07 shots against per 60, 10.27 scoring chances against per 60, 2.75 expected goals against per 60, and 2.4 goals against per 60).

It is not only imperative that the Rangers do not extend Glass because he does not improve the team, but because of his coach’s reliance on him. Skilled options have consistently been scratched in favor of Glass, including Anthony Duclair, Emerson Etem, Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, J.T. Miller, James Sheppard, Viktor Stalberg, Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel, and most recently Pavel Buchnevich during his time in New York.

In 2015, Glass discussed his coach’s mentality and said, "He holds everyone to the same standards, whether you're Rick Nash or Jesper Fast or Marty St. Louis, and I think guys appreciate that. In some places, it's not the same for every guy. It's important for the room that every guy is held accountable . . . He lets his coaches run their part of the game plan, but it's his ship, make no mistake.”

In theory, this sounds like a fair coaching tactic. However, this was clearly not the case when it came to a number of players other than Glass. If a player like Buchnevich, Hayes, or Miller made a mistake, they would be penalized and demoted ­– whether they were moved to a lower line, benched for the remainder of a game, or scratched for the next game.

Most recently, this was seen in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Buchnevich was scarcely used in Game 2 of the Rangers second-round series against the Senators, only playing 5:47 of a game that went to double overtime. He was then replaced by Glass for the following game. Then in Game 5 against the Senators, Glass was on the ice for three goals against. In fact, for the game-tying goal in the final moments, Glass was specifically moved up to Stepan and Zuccarello’s line, after already being on the ice for one goal against. After being on the ice for the game-tying goal that forced the game to overtime, he was still utilized in overtime – when the Senators scored the game-winning goal.

Vigneault has a tendency for being lenient and loyal to his veterans even when they do not earn their ice time, particularly with Glass. Had this been a less experienced forward, there’s a chance they would not see the ice again had he been on the ice for a goal against in such a crucial game – let alone two goals against.

In fact, prior to Glass re-entering the lineup in Game 3, the Rangers had the top fourth line in the playoffs of Grabner, Lindberg, and Fast. Nevertheless, Vigneault changed the line that was facilitating his teams’ success to re-insert Glass, stifling the fourth line.

One of the greatest strengths of the Rangers this season was their forward depth. And this was without Glass, as he played in the AHL until March. Once he returned though, the team’s identity did shift somewhat from one that rolled four skilled lines to one that featured a grinder.

Unfortunately, that grinder often sacrificed offensive opportunities with his physical play. As much as hitting can help a team succeed, it must be done strategically to make a play. Far too often, Glass would hit without anticipating how the play would turn. And while many find Glass to be an important player because of his physical play and role as a deterrent, it has been proven how ineffective deterrents are on the game.

The onus is not just on the coaches for Glass’s usage, but on management as well. With Glass in the AHL, the Rangers finally experimented with their fourth line past its potential with Glass on it and demonstrated how effective a speed and skill fourth line could be.

Even though the fourth line was able to succeed without Glass, he was still recalled – even though his role is no more than a fourth-line player. By this point, Gorton and management should have anticipated how Vigneault would proceed with the team once Glass was recalled, since he reliance on him has been glaring in recent seasons.

If the belief is that the Rangers are going to need forward depth, especially if they lose a key player in the expansion draft or others to free agency, then they must look elsewhere because Glass is not the answer – not for forward depth, not as a deterrent, and not to make them exposure eligible.

Unless the Rangers want to make the same mistake for the fourth consecutive season, they cannot extend Glass, and must end his road in New York.

*Data via Corsica.hockey.