The Rangers Might Actually Get This Summer Wrong
At this point I'm really not sure what's left to be said.
Sitting on the edge of the most important summer in recent memory, you'd hope to see the New York Rangers saying the right things. Only they're not.
I stayed away from the Larry Brooks story that broke Rangers Twitter, but there have been a few passing mentions since then that seem to back this up:
The Post has learned the Blueshirts do not intend to buy out the remainder of Dan Girardi’s contract, which has four years remaining at an annual $5.5 million cap charge.
In addition, sources report management has not requested the alternate captain to waive his no-move clause (which will be replaced by a modified no-trade following 2016-17). Further, no such request is expected.
The series of injuries the 32-year-old played through last season was a factor in his stark decline. A summer of rest should prove beneficial.
Like it or not this is a very alarming statement, coming from a team that fell on its own sword because of their refusal to swallow their pride and admit their mistakes. To double down on Dan Girardi because the Rangers want him to play better would be akin to driving with your gas light on because you want to have more gas in your car. Time won't make anything better; actually it will make it much worse.
You can pass this off as Brooks just speculating, but that would be missing some of the point. Brooks is the most in the know of all the beat reports, and more often than not his speculation isn't coming from the woodwork but from well placed sources or information. He's not making this stuff up for clicks -- although he sure does know how to stir the pot.
SNY translated an article from Alain Vigneault at a golf outing. The biggest takeaways are the below:
"You have to know which players to keep and which players to move on from. The core of the team "are good people. They are people who work hard and who gave much to the Rangers. That said, we have not managed to win the last series, the most important series..."
Dan Girardi is a "warrior" but he was limited this past season with many injuries.
The contrast here is astounding. Actually, it's so astounding that it's almost like it's not coming from the same team.
I know this is just Vigneault talking at a golf outing, but it's pretty clear the Rangers do believe they need to shuffle the deck and bring in some new blood. To talk about needing to know which players to keep and which to move on from, and then in the same breath talk about how Girardi was "limited" and how you think he's going to improve with rest this summer?
It's that type of thinking that should strike fear deep into your heart. If that's the true decision making process going on in the Rangers' war room, do you really have faith they're going to make the right decisions on both who they bring in and who they ship out?
The Rangers are listening to offers on nearly everyone. That means a guy like Kevin Hayes -- who, let's be honest, is permanently in Vigneault's doghouse it seems -- might be dangled away. Or maybe the Rangers don't want to pay up when it comes to Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller or Dylan Mcilrath (the latter being the most likely of the three in this scenario, of course).
Obviously I'm doing quite a bit of worst-case speculating here, but the way the Rangers approach this summer is going to have lasting effects on this franchise.
Jeff Gorton might be able to pawn off last year as flukes for Girardi (injuries) and Marc Staal (just an off year) this summer. If the Rangers elect not to move one or both of them? They'll be stuck with them.
Conventional logic tells you that Girardi will get worse with age, at a potentially accelerated rate. Even if Girardi was hampered by injuries and improves, he would still more than likely be the worst defenseman on the team by a wide margin. A Staal turnaround is far more likely, but it doesn't mean it should be expected or banked on. Both players have a very solid hockey reputation outside of New York, Gorton should be using that leverage as long as he has it.
Change is coming in New York one way or another.
Ulf Samuelsson accepting a job as the Charlotte Checkers head coach might be the start of that. This move helps Samuelsson in his goal of eventually becoming a head coach, but the two sides might have been heading towards a separation anyway.
With the reported James Dolan mandate for the team to get younger, things are going to happen to this team. Brooks speculated in the above-linked story that you might not recognize the team next year. With Derek Stepan reportedly drawing interest from Minnesota, Rick Nash reportedly already on the block and the Rangers taking offers on almost everyone it's going to be a hectic summer.
And if the Rangers make the wrong choices, it's going to be a costly one.
We reference the 2014 summer a lot in this space. That's because the decisions the Rangers made leading up to and during that summer paved the way for the disaster that was this year. Losing Anton Stralman to keep Girardi? Inexcusable. Losing Brian Boyle might have happened anyway, but replacing him and Derek Dorsett with Tanner Glass was also inexcusable.
The impact of those moves was felt for years to come and are still being felt today. With Henrik Lundqvist continuing to age, it's not breaking ground to say the Rangers' Cup window hinges on his ability to remain an elite goaltender. The Rangers don't need to re-build they need to re-tool, but it's very fair to say if Girardi, Staal and Glass are all on the team next year the Rangers will be entering a full re-build, intentionally or not.
And that impact will also be felt for years to come. Only this time it might bring with it another round of the dark ages.