Should Jeff Gorton Examine The Russian Pipeline For Pavel Buchnevich Support?
There's a few Russian veterans who might be making the jump to the NHL this summer. Should Jeff Gorton be interested in any of them?
Now that Jeff Gorton's biggest priority is taken care of, it's time for him to officially turn his focus towards fixing the mess that was the 2015-2016 New York Rangers.
There's a few things he's going to have to deal with -- or at least make a decision on -- right away. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal being the biggest of those decisions. Rumors are already circulating the Rangers are going to be shopping Rick Nash -- there's some logic there, but we'll get into that at a later date -- and there's a reported directive from way up top (Jim Dolan's level) that the Rangers are to get younger.
That makes a lot of sense, since many of the Rangers' issues this year stemmed from their under-preforming veterans and their coach's inability to adjust to that. This theory will be tested, both with the above names and also with the players the Rangers look to bring in via free agency or trades. Obviously we'll have to wait for the draft before we can any real progress on figuring out the direction on this team.
One thing the Rangers might want to do, though, is investigate the Russian pipeline for prospects. Alexander Radulov is the hot KHL name that's expected to make the jump to the NHL this summer, but hes probably not the player the Rangers should be focusing on if they go in this direction. Yeah, I've always been an advocate for skill trumping nearly everything, but this situation is the exception to that.
Part of the reason why the Rangers might want to bring in a Russian player from the KHL would be to help ease the transition for Buchnevich. Chris Kreider speaks fluent Russian, which should help a little, but it always makes things easier when you have some familiarity going through a difficult adjustment.
If Radulov even wants to come to New York (at this point it seems like this isn't the case) then there'd have to be some pretty serious discussion about the impact he would have on the Rangers' touted prospect. Especially since Radulov has a list of off-ice incidents about as long as his on-ice achievements (a lot) and got away with more than a little of his madness in Russia because of his name/skill.
So let's put him aside and move on to two other players who I think might really fit the bill to both make the Rangers better and help ease the Buchnevich transition to North America. Both of these players (mined out of the ground for me by Blueshirt Banter foreign corespondent Alex Nunn) are free agents from the KHL expected to make an NHL move.
Vadim Shipachyov | 29-years-old | Center | 17-43-60 in 54 regular season games, 7-9-16 in 15 playoff games
Shipachyov is probably the more attractive name of the two, mainly because of his strong track record with multiple seasons of KHL dominance under his belt. He's a center, which would throw things for a loop since Kevin Hayes is much more comfortable down the middle, but his stats can't really be denied.
Shipachyov has been with SKA for the past three years (before that he spent parts of five years with Buchnevich's old club Severstal) and played with Buchnevich a little this year once he was traded there.
Through his KHL career Shipachyov has notched 336 points in 395 games with 225 of those points being assists. While the Rangers could probably use more pure shooters, it might not be the worst idea in the world to pair Buchnevich and his lethal shot up with a pass-first center.
There's something to be said about his numbers being slightly inflated. Not only was he playing on a powerhouse offensive team, but with the bigger ice surfaces you do have to take them with a grain of salt.
I'm going to get into this later in the story, but Shipachyov and Radulov seem to be the two hottest names on the market from Russia, so they might already be priced out of New York (not that the Rangers are linked with anyone in this story officially).
Yevgeni Dadonov | 27-years-old | Left Wing | 23-23-46 in 59 regular season games, 3-6-9 in 15 playoff games
Dadonov is a bit of a different type of player. As a winger he has a more obvious fit because it would allow Hayes to slide back to center -- I'm assuming both would get third-line roles if they came to Broadway -- and Dadonov to fill the left wing role.
Dadonov comes with some vital North American experience as well, which would help ease his transition into the fold. The former 3rd round pick from Florida (drafted in 2007) has played in 55 NHL games and 155 AHL games in his career. That's more than enough experience to understand what he's in for.
While not the best player defensively, that third line (assuming it's with Hayes and Buchnevich) could be sheltered and simply asked to provide a much more offensive role. It would be a hell of a punch after opposing teams deal with the Rangers top-six.
I'm not totally sure the commitment the Rangers would need to make to any of the players bolting for North America. For a team so close to the cap as it is, the Rangers probably want to keep things as flexible as they can. In both cases that's going to play a pretty major role.
As a form of comparison, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Leo Komarov from the KHL ranks after a 12-22-34 campaign in 52 KHL games. That contract cost them four years at just over a $2.9-million cap hit.
It's fair to say Shipachyov would be far more expensive with his experience and production, and Dadonov (who probably won't be as expensive as Shipachyov) would be more expensive than Komarov.
In his 30 Thoughts Column Elliotte Friedman noted that there were a slew of teams interested in Shipachyov, which means he's probably going to get priced out of New York. I could easily see him getting a $5-million cap hit, if not more.
Dadonov has sort of flown under the radar a bit, though. While I don't expect him to come to the NHL for super cheap, grabbing someone like him at $3-million or so could be a great depth signing. Not that the Rangers have that money now, mind you, but they might have the ability to make that room with some roster moves.
Either way, this might be a really good way for the Rangers to fix some of their issues, solidify their lineup and clean out some bad cap contracts to do it.