In today’s New York Post, Larry Brooks explores the possibility of the Rangers selling off assets at this year’s deadline.
To my eyes, the decision to sell or not has never been less clear, for reasons outlined below.
The Rangers are in the playoff picture
The Rangers currently sit in a wildcard position, and are currently only a single point out of 2nd place in the Metro division. Metrics suggest the Rangers have been a bit unlucky to be only there. The Rangers have a PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage) of 97.6% in close 5-on-5 situations, which is only higher than only Florida, New Jersey and Buffalo. PDO has a tendency to regress to around 100%, meaning the Rangers are likely a debit in the puck-luck column. If you think the PDO reflects the Rangers poor shooting ability rather than poor puck-luck, it’s a reasonable assertion, but consider the Rangers PDO in 5-on-5 close situation in the previous three seasons is 100.0%.
Here’s a look at how the poster-boys for PDO regression, the Leafs, have seen their drop in their unsustainable PDO mirrored in the standings this season:
By the same principle, it’s reasonable to expect the Rangers to experience an upswing in their standings status based on their low PDO. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest they should end up in 2nd place in their division.
The Rangers are in an awkward spot with Callahan and Girardi
I’m not going to bore you again with a recital of my reasons why I would be hesitant to give Callahan and Girardi market rate on their next contracts. I’ll just say that there’s some reason to suggest that their value in a trade may outweigh the value of keeping and re-signing them.
Callahan is the captain of the Rangers and his influence is not negligible, but his on-ice usage is declining as Mats Zuccarello (ES), Carl Hagelin (PK) and Benoit Pouliot (PP) have been cutting into his ice-time:
Girardi, as a right-defenseman who can play tough minutes in the top-four, would be extremely tough to replace in the immediate future, but that doesn’t mean I would be unwilling to try rather than keep him and sign him to a six year extension that I think would outlast his body’s usefulness.
So, what then?
To this point, I’ve only pointed out problems without offering up a solution. So what would I do?
If you hate trade proposals (and I don’t blame you one bit), you may want to conclude your reading here.
Please consider these trades as a mold of the path I desire. I’m not sure if the opposing teams would accept these deals, only that they are the structure of deals that I would seek.
The Bruins have been rumored to be interested in Girardi. If you recognize this package, it’s because it’s the package they traded to Calgary last year for Iginla before Iggy decided to exercise his no-trade provision and go to Pittsburgh instead. Bartkowski has found himself in the Bruins lineup 31 times this season, being practically even in both puck possession and offensive/defensive zone starts. He’s been a regular on the Bruins’ PK unit when he is in the lineup. Khokhlachev, the Bruins 2nd rounder in 2011, has 7 goals and 15 assists in 29 games so far in his first AHL season. No Wolfpack player has scored at a higher points-per-game rate than the 20 year old center this season. The Bruins first round pick should be towards the end of the round, but it could prove useful in trading up the Rangers own pick, or acquiring an offensive defenseman in the summer (possibly Byfuglien?). No, I will not stop suggesting Byfuglien.
The Canucks are in the most competitive division in the league, but are currently sitting in a playoff spot. They’ve been playoff underachievers since going to the Cup Finals in 2010-11, so they may be looking to add a piece to their core. Of the seven Canuck players with more than two minutes of powerplay ice time per game, only one is a right-handed shot so he’d fill a need there. The Canucks have six players who have played more than 50 minutes on the Sedins’ wing this season, however none have played more than one third of the ice time. That suggests they are struggling to find the right fit for the Sedins (or maybe it’s just standard Tortorella line juggling). Ryan Callahan, as a right-handed shot that drives to the net and can finish, fits the mold of a successful winger for the Sedins. Jannik Hansen has been a strong even strength scorer, with virtually zero powerplay production (3 points in his last 4 seasons). That’s fine, because the Rangers haven’t been able to find powerplay time for Callahan, anyways. Hansen is only one year younger than Callahan, but is signed through the next four seasons at a modest $2.5 million cap hit. One variable: I’m not sure about how the relationship between Callahan and Tortorella is, given that Tortorella was upset at some Ranger players going over his head leading to his firing. But as I’ve said, consider this an outline. If Vancouver isn’t an option, I’m sure there will be some team willing to pony up a top-9 forward and a high draft pick.
I’m not comfortable with shipping Girardi out of town without some semblance of a replacement, so I’d be in the market for a patch now, and make a stronger effort to replace him in the offseason. Tallinder is a strong candidate to be moved as he’ll be a UFA this summer, and Buffalo’s playoff odds are none percent. I suspect he may be undervalued, because not every team could fit in his $3,375,000 cap hit, and he has an ugly -12 rating. However, his +/- is damaged by Buffalo shooting 5.6% when he’s on the ice while their opponents shoot 7.6%. The Sabres acquired him in the offseason in exchange for 2010 7th rounder Riley Boychuk, who played the 2012-13 season in the Central Hockey League, so they acquired him at virtually no cost. Tallinder’s Corsi-For% is an ugly 46.2% this season, but that has a lot to do with the team he plays on (CF%-Rel is +1.7%). Playing on a good possession team last season, he posted a CF% 69.3%, albeit only a 25 game sample. He wasn’t a negative possession player in any of his three seasons in New Jersey. He handles tough minutes for Buffalo (playing 19:20 per game), and has experience playing the right side.
So after all the dust is cleared my “plan” sees the Rangers replacing Ryan Callahan with Jannik Hansen, and Dan Girardi with Henrik Tallinder and Matt Bartkowski, with 2 1st round pick and Alexander Khokhlachev as cherries on top (less a 3rd round pick). Up front, I don’t see it as much of a downgrade, as Hansen should be able to replace Callahan’s even-strength play, which at this point, is Callahan’s only tangible contributions. Defense would definitely take a hit, but I wouldn’t feel too sheepish about having Stralman and Tallinder eating the big minutes on the right of McDonagh and Staal.
I believe the Rangers can stock up their cupboard while remaining competitive, in the style of San Jose last season. Of course, it’s more wishing than expecting from me at this point.