Early Season Rangers Mailbag

It’s our pre-Halloween Rangers mailbag!

Now that the 2018-19 New York Rangers season is underway it’s time for another edition of Blueshirt Banter’s Mailbag with Mike and Shayna!

@TomUrtzJr: Who is the one prospect that no is thinking about that could be the best to emerge from rebuild? Is it possible they haven’t been drafted yet?

MM: Well, K’Andre Miller is not someone who no one is thinking about, but I love him because of his high ceiling. Before the season began I was talking a lot on the podcast with Joe about Brett Howden and how I expected him to surprise us, and thus far he has made me look a lot smarter than I am when it comes to prospects.

With that being said, I’ll go with Tim Gettinger as my dark horse prospect of the moment. He’s off to a great start in his first year of AHL hockey and it’s hard not to get excited about a guy who has good hands and great size. He’s the guy I find myself keeping the closest eye on in Hartford outside of Lias Andersson and Libor Hajek.

SG: This is a really good question. I’m echoing Mike with Miller. Adam noted the other day how his ceiling is astronomically high, and I think his development will be something to watch from now, until he’s on the Rangers’ blue line. Along with his skill, his athleticism and drive are unbelievable qualities to have, and something that every general manager searches for in players — which may be what inclined the Rangers to trade up for him. On top of that, he seems like a fantastic person that could easily become a fan favorite.

Gettinger is another good pick because he’s skilled and has size, and is learning to find the balance that most player strive for. I also really like Nils Lundkvist. He’s an undersized defenseman that was selected in the first round, showing the shift in priority for skill over size. He’s a two-way defenseman that’s elevated his game to fill the needs of his team, Luleå, and I think has a great opportunity to grow in the SHL, where so many currently NHLers have developed over the years.

@hangonasecdude: Kreider to BOS trade rumors? What could a deal look like?

SG: First of all, I’m not sure how much weight I even put in these rumors. The Rangers are rebuilding and teams around the league, especially the Bruins, saw how players were moved out of New York last year. Even if this particular rumor is just smoke, it’s no surprise teams are kicking the tires on someone as valuable as Kreider.

But if this was a trade that could come to fruition, the Rangers could try for young players at the NHL level or prospects. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk could be one of those young NHLers the Rangers may want to include in a package deal, although whether they need another left-handed defenseman when they have at the NHL level right now and in their pipeline has to be asked first. Danton Heinen is a versatile depth forward that could be included in a deal as well since I don’t see them being able to attain some of their more valued young forwards like Ryan Donato and Jake DeBrusk.

As for prospects, if the Rangers are looking to continue building their defensive pipeline, Jeremey Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakub Zboril are options to explore. If they’re looking to bolster their forward group, Jack Studnicka may be the best option available (and as a result, the most unattainable). Otherwise, they can look at Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is an option (if they have the room for another center) or winger Anders Bjork.

Kreider will likely be the best player in the trade though, which is why it’s tricky. It isn’t always easy to get the better return when they’d be moving the best player in the trade. Without him, their winger depth gets even thinner — especially if this trade can’t replenish what they’d be losing. Would it require moving another play to fill that gap if not? It’s a lot to consider.

MM: Like Shayna I’m also not convinced that there’s much to this rumor. If Kreider is on the market, Gorton needs to get picks and the right prospects in return for him. The Rangers’ greatest organizational need is young, scoring wingers and unfortunately the Bruins are not exactly overflowing with prospects who fit that criteria.

Jakub Lauko is one Bruins prospect who might be worth taking a closer look at. He has outstanding speed, but Corey Pronman and others have concerns about his hockey sense. What makes him so intriguing as a fit for the Rangers is his familiarity with fellow countrymen Filip Chytil and Libor Hajek. Another prospect winger in the Bruins’ system is Zach Senyshyn. Senyshyn — who is often compared to Kreider — has blazing speed and was Boston’s 15th overall pick in the 2015 Draft. He had 26 points in 66 games in the AHL last season. Those numbers don’t really jump off of the screen do they?

@HintzTrevor: Any predictions/potential solutions for the current defensive logjam?

MM: Unfortunately, all of the best options for the logjam on the Rangers’ blue line evaporated when Gorton pulled the trigger on the Adam McQuaid trade. We’re working with a small sample size, but it’s already clear that McQuaid is not a particularly valuable defenseman — which was also the case when he played for the Bruins.

It may be an unattractive solution, but Neal Pionk is exempt from waivers. Sending him down creates more of an opportunity for Tony DeAngelo and Fredrik Claesson — who we really need a better look at — but DeAngelo is already struggling to crack the lineup under Quinn. Short of demoting Pionk, the Rangers best path forward is moving McQuaid (or another defenseman) to a team that suddenly finds itself in desperate need of a healthy body for its blue line. It’s either that or let McQuaid, Claesson, or DeAngelo hit the waiver wire. Until then, the Rangers will roll with eight defenders.

SG: After signing Claesson (which I think was the right move), trading for McQuaid was a mistake, and created an unnecessary logjam. With Claesson out with injury, there’s an opportunity to rotate through the seven healthy defenders. My guess is that McQuaid is once again a mainstay and DeAngelo could rotate with Pionk, but I don’t think it’s the right move. I would give DeAngelo and Pionk a shot, just to see what they have in both without putting the two up against each other. I also give both a chance to play with Claesson once he’s healthy, to see if the defensive defenseman can balance out their games (particularly DeAngelo).

Unfortunately, I don’t think this gets solved any time soon. Like Mike said, it probably does when a defenseman (likely McQuaid) is moved when another team is in need of a right-handed shot from the blue line — especially if that team values leadership as much as the Rangers have.

@tehsuck: What are we gonna do about Staal?

@1988clapshow: Why on earth is Marc Staal never scratched??

@lightfirerob: How much longer can Staal last in New York? Will the front office be looking to buy out the remaining years of his contract next summer?

MM: It’s my belief that the Rangers’ front office and Quinn don’t want to make Staal a healthy scratch if they can help it. He’s a homegrown player who plays hard and works hard, and everyone, including Quinn, can see that. The problem is that Staal just isn’t very good anymore.

Staal is signed for two more years after this season and there’s just no way the Rangers are going to find a way to trade him. Buying him out in July would result in Staal taking up $1.2 million in space on the Rangers’ salary cap in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 season, but it would also open up a roster spot on the blue line next season. The real question here is will the Rangers have another young defenseman they want in the lineup by next year? Considering the logjam that we are experiencing this year, one would have to imagine that buying Staal out is something that Gorton has to consider after the season is over, especially if his play continues like this.

SG: I’m really not sure what the Rangers do with Staal at this point. I think they saw last year as a bounce back year and they overvalue his veteran presence this year. When he blocks some of the defensive prospects the Rangers are invested in, like Libor Hajek or Ryan Lindgren, then maybe the team will be inclined to make a change. Or maybe that happens if there’s an expansion draft in 2020, since Staal and Kevin Shattenkirk’s no-movement clauses could clog up their protection lists. Until then, they’re left without options though, I don’t think the Rangers make a change.

@TheSandmanEsq: What are the chances that Kravtsov is on the opening night roster next season?

SG: It really depends on training camp and what the Rangers think is best for his development. If he has a strong training camp, he could crack the lineup and play his rookie season with the Rangers. They could easily give him a few NHL games before making a determination for the season too. It will also depend on how he finishes out the KHL season, maybe whether he joins the team at the end of this season, and how he adjusts to North American ice. The Rangers should have the room — and if not, they’ll make the room if he’s ready — but his development has to be the priority.

MM: That all depends on what he looks like in the KHL this season and what Gorton and the Rangers’ front office want to do in regards to his development. Remember, he’ll be 19 in December and he had just 60 games of KHL experience (including playoff games) prior to the 2018-19 season. It’s been a long time since a Russian forward was taken in the Top 10 picks of the draft (Valeri Nichushkin in the 2013 Draft).

My gut tells me that we’ll see Kravtsov in training camp next year and that we’ll see him in the lineup next October. The Rangers are going to have clear the cupboards at the deadline and there will be big roles up for grabs for young, skilled players like Kravtsov, Andersson, and Chytil.

@kevinvmead: How soon is too soon to buy a Brett Howden jersey?

MM: Just get your Derek Stepan jersey modified into a Howden jersey. What? Too soon? I think waiting for a player to sign their first non-ELC contract is a good time to invest in a jersey, but that’s just me.

Seriously though, Howden has been the best rebuild-relevant story of the season thus far. I can’t believe how good he’s been at faceoffs as a kid in his first year in the NHL.

SG: I am bitter over the first half of Mike’s response.

But seriously, I agree that waiting until he signs his first non-entry level contract may be for the best. At the very least, wait until he completes his rookie season. He’s been excellent so far and really carved himself out a role in this lineup. It’s no surprise that fans and coaches alike are intrigued to see what he does next. I’d give it some time because it wouldn’t be too surprising if he regresses, but a shirt wouldn’t be a bad idea in the meantime!

@FischKJezuz: What do you hope the plan for Chytil’s deployment is following the comments from Quinn about finding him more ice time? Is it worth it if he plays wing?

MM: Honestly, it’s hard to say because of all of the line juggling that David Quinn has done thus far. On paper, I’m fine with the idea of Chytil on the wing, but only if it means he gets more ice time with skilled players. He’s wasted on the fourth line and needs to be given the opportunity to grow and get comfortable playing against NHL competition. If the best way for him to get that chance under Quinn is by playing wing, then so be it.

SG: What Mike said. As long as he gets time and an opportunity to develop, I’m fine with it being at center or wing. I think he should get another chance at center at some point this season (whether Hayes is traded or he shifts to wing for a few games, or there’s an injury), but for now the wing is fine. If he thrives on the wing, shifting him back to center would be a good challenge to see how he adapts to the change.

@paulieggg: When does Andersson get called up? When will Chytil’s skill finally start to show on the score sheet?

MM: I think we see Andersson get called up if there’s a significant injury to a top-six forward. At this point, I’m not sure the organization wants to call him up for a few games just to send him back down again. It might send the wrong message to a kid who is already under a lot of pressure to perform and did everything in his power to make the roster out of camp.

If Andersson is not up with the Rangers before the deadline, he will definitely be with the club after it has passed. Unless he’s setting the AHL on fire, I feel like the front office should let him hone his skills in the AHL and be a first line, all situations center in Hartford.

As for Chytil, if he’s still struggling to get into the box score by mid-November it might be a good idea to re-evaluate where he’s at. This kid is too good not to be an impact player in the NHL, but he’s also only 19. We need to be patient and let the game come to him before we ask and expect him to produce like a top-six forward. The good news is that he is showing real flashes of brilliance out there. The points will come.

SG: Everything Mike just said. Obviously whether his contract slides will be in the back of the Rangers’ mind, but that can’t be what drives the decision. If it’s as a short-term injury replacement or for a minimal role, then there’s no reason to bring up him just to demote him shortly after. Andersson had enough instability last season — from Rangers’ training camp and preseason, to returning to Frolunda, back to North America for the World Junior Championship, to Hartford, to the Rangers, and then back to Europe for the World Championship.

I think it’s important to give him as much stability as possible and let him develop in Hartford until the time is right — when it’s what’s best for his development and when he has a opportunity to have a consistent role in New York with more than fourth-line minutes. If there’s a prime opportunity for Andersson to play a key role with the Rangers, then by all means promote him, and let him take the next step. But that may not be until after the deadline though, unless another player is on the move (whether via trade or someone else is demoted).

With Chytil, I think the scoring will come — if it doesn’t in the next few weeks, then maybe his role with the Rangers will be considered. He’s been shuffled around a bit in the lineup and wasn’t getting enough minutes for a time. Now that he’s getting more consistent minutes, and possibly playing in a more consistent combination, so his efforts should show on the score sheet soon. But like Mike said, there have been glimpses of his brilliance and there are bound to be more moving forward.

Salary cap information courtesy of CapFriendly.com