Red, White and Blueshirts


News Round-up: Zherdev Speaks, Zubov Leaves and Potter Signs

Not much hard news today but some interesting quotes from Nkolai Zherdev to magazine Sport-Express. Zherdev talks about the Rangers, his interest in the KHL and about where he’d like to play should he not return to New York next season. To me the most telling quote from the enigmatic winger comes when he is asked about why his numbers went down after John Tortorella replaced Tom Renney as head coach.

Q: After the new head coach of the Rangers, John Tortorella, has come in, your statistics became worse than they had been over the course of the season with Tom Renney. Did Tortorella trust you less?

A: That was probably one of the reasons. I admit, that I had slump — it’s impossible to play the entire season completely evenly. During that time, at times my game was off completely.

This answer concerns me if I’m the Rangers and I’m looking to bring Zherdev back and expect him to contribute. I don’t like the fact that he believes “it’s impossible to play the entire season completely evenly”. Would we ever hear this kind of quote from Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin or Iginla? Would you want to commit 4.5 million or more dollars of your cap to a player you had doubts about whether they would bring their “A+” effort every game. This is the reason the Blue Jackets were willing to part with Zherdev last season despite his obvious talent. I think the only way to go with Zherdev is to say goodbye to him now and give his spot to a kid who will fight every shift to make an impression at the NHL level.

To read the entire translated interview courtesy of  Beyond The Blueshirts click here.

In Free Agency news, Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov, who has been linked to the Rangers in various reports told ESPN.com earlier today that he will not be returning to the Stars next season. According to his agent, Zubov wants to continue his career “in a winning environment no matter where that might be”.

My take on the Zubov story is the same as it has been from the beginning. If he is willing to take a one year deal or a two year deal with incentives to come to New York and quarterback a power play that sorely needs his presence on the blueline, then I am all for it but if Zubov is looking for any more than 2 years or for big coin, the Rangers should pass. The team has built a stable of young defensive prospects all clamoring to show what they can do at the NHL level and blocking their path with Zubov (even if he is a future Hall of Famer) would be a huge mistake for the future of this organization. The better option as I stated last week would be to package one of our many D prospects with a pick to Carolina to acquire the younger Anton Babchuk to help our power play.

In the only roster move of the day, The Blueshirts have come to terms with D Corey Potter. Terms of the deal are not immediately known. Potter had one goal and one assist in five games with the Rangers last season. Rick Carpiniello of Rangers Report has the official release here.

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Roster Reshaping Continues

In a surprising flurry of  activity after a quiet weekend, The Rangers continued their recent roster overhaul by re-signing one of their core youngsters and sending another one packing to the desert.

Ryan Callahan Signs 2 Year 4.6 Miilion Dollar Contract

Ryan Callahan Signs 2 Year 4.6 Miilion Dollar Contract

Earlier today, The Rangers agreed to terms with RFA F Ryan Callahan on a 2 year deal worth 4.6 miilion dollars. If you were to ask most Rangers fans what signing they were hoping to see sooner than later, it would be Callahan’s. The 24 year old right wing  enjoyed a breakout season in 2008-09 scoring 22 goals and posting 40 points while becoming one of the team’s most physical forwards. The signing helps the team to avoid having to go to arbitration against one of it’s up and coming stars. It also may give the team a comparable starting point in negotiations with fellow RFA and young star C Brandon Dubinsky, whom the team is also interested in signing to a long term deal. The deal also leaves Nik Zherdev as the only remaining player headed for arbitration with the club.

Later in the day, The Rangers moved one of their youngsters to Phoenix in an exchange of  players with seemingly bright futures. Lauri Korpikoski, who enjoyed a fine first season with the Blueshirts (but was recently the subject of reports linking him to interest from teams in the KHL), posted 14 points in 68 games while excelling on the team’s highly ranked PK unit was sent to the Coyotes in exchange for Enver Lisin, a 23 year old 6-1, 190 lb. right wing who scored 13 goals in 48 games last season.

Enver Lisin, acquired from Phoenix for Lauri Korpikoski, brings his speed to the Blueshirts

Enver Lisin, acquired from Phoenix for Lauri Korpikoski, brings his speed to the Blueshirts

As I watched this offseason play out and began formulating possible line combinations in my head, I often found myself wondering where Korpikoski would fit amongst the newly acquired forwards and most of the time I didn’t see a strong fit. It looks like the front office did not either. While Korpikoski was sound defensively, he did not give the Rangers much in terms of offensive upside (much like Blair Betts and Freddie Sjostrom, who have also been jettisoned this offseason). Lisin gives the Rangers another speedy winger with the potential to put pucks in the net either at the NHL or AHL level and another option to look at in camp (or another chip should the Heatley situation rear it’s head again) if Zherdev is not brought back next season. I think this was a good deal by Sather to get something promising for Korpikoski before his offensive shortcomings became fully realized by other GM’s around the league.

Here is a highlight video of Enver Lisin from Youtube:

 

I didn’t get the chance to catch up on much local news while in New Orleans over the weekend but there were some interesting reads on the web beginning with Larry Brooks’ artcle in the NY Post here and his interview with new Rangers sniper Marion Gaborik here. The Dallas Morning News puts in their two cents on both the Brad Richards and Sergei Zubov rumors here. The Rangers also re-signed RFA Dane Byers and G Chad Johnson over the last few days. The official releases are here and here.

I hope that gets everybody caught up. Tomorrow we will continue our Prospect Spotlight series. If anything else happens, we will have it for you right here.



Carolina In My Mind

Most of the news surrounding the Rangers search for a defenseman has centered on Sergei Zubov and Derek Morris but we want to add another possibility to the list. According to reports on ESPN, Carolina Hurricanes RFA Anton Babchuk is at a stalemate with the Canes over his contract and the team’s GM Jim Rutherford has told him “if he finds another team that wants him, they will attempt to trade him”. Enter the Rangers. Babchuck is the type of big bodied (6-5, 214) defenseman the Rangers desperately need but he is not just a big frame as he also has some offensive tools (16 goals and 19 assists and +13 rating last season) as well. More important than either of those things however, is the fact that Babchuk is still young (25) and looks to be coming into the prime of his career while Zubov (who missed all but 10 games last season with injury at age 39) and Morris (who has seen his point totals drop every year for the last 5 years) might be on the backside of their careeers. Babchuk would also give the Rangers another option for next season as both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will be restricted free agents and one of both could possibly recieve offer sheets leaving Glen Sather to make a very tough decision cap wise. Like Patrick Sharp, who we discussed in this blog yesterday, Babchuk could probably be had for a package of a prospect and a pick and would not fall into that old Rangers tradition of trading prospects for “over the hill ” “Name” players. If the Rangers could get Zubov to come on a one year deal for a discount and hope he’s healthy enough to quarterback the power play and be a mentor to some of our younger D men , i’m all for it but if he wants long term or big coin to come then I think a trade for an up and comer like Babchuk is the smarter move all around.

In other Rangers news,  the two year deal signed by Brian Boyle yesterday was worth 525,000 per.  Pierre LeBrun at ESPN has updates on Zubov and the Babchuk-Hurricanes stalemate here. Steve Zipay speculates the Rangers may be looking west for a trade partner here and SNY Rangers blog has an article on the  reported interest of some KHL teams in Rangers forward Lauri Korpikoski here. (The Korpikoski story seemed like a longshot yesterday but after Detroit forward Jiri Hudler signed a deal with a team in the KHL yesterday afternoon, this may not be just the leverage ploy by Korpikoski’s agent most believed it to be at first…stay tuned)

As always if anything breaks, we’ll have it here.



Blue Monday (Updated)

While rumors continue to swirl about whether the Rangers are interested in pursuing Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev or Sergei Zubov, nothing seems to be imminent on that front. The most interesting news out of Rangers camp is that forwards Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan have both elected to take the team to salary arbitration for the upcoming season. I believe the Rangers would like to get Callahan under contract long term and will probably be able to do so and avoid a hearing with a deal that is both cap friendly and will make Callahan feel appreciated. The bigger story is Zherdev’s status. There have been reports of Zherdev having interest in returning to Russia to play in the KHL and of possible concerns within the Rangers organization over whether Zherdev can perform and co-exist with head coach John Tortorella in his new up tempo system. There are even indications that the team may walk away from the winger (making him and unrestricted free agent) should he be awarded a contract that does not fit into the team’s salary plans for next season. There is still a chance that the team comes to terms with the enigmatic yet talented winger before arbitration but it seems unlikely and this situation may turn ugly before a resolution is ultimately reached.

Nikolai Zherdev

Nikolai Zherdev

In other more positive news, Zherdev and prospect Artem Anisimov were invited to participate in the upcoming 2010 Russian Olympic Orientation camp. The invitation is a another sign that Anisimov (who registered 37 goals and 44 assists with Hartford of the AHL last season) may be well on his way to making an impact with the big club this upcoming season. Former Rangers Dmitri Kalinin and Alexei Kovalev were invited as well.

If any news breaks, we will be here to report it today and tomorrow will be the first of our Prospect Spotlight series which will feature NYR youngsters that the team is counting on to make an impact in the organization’s future.

For an explanation of the salary arbitration process and which facts teams and players are allowed and forbidden to use to make their cases, check out Blue Notes here. For more on possible Rangers target UFA Alexei Kovalev and his somewhat contentious departure from the Canadiens, check out TSN here.

UPDATE (2:30 PM) TSN.ca is reporting Christopher Higgins has come to terms with the New York Rangers on a new contract. Higgins, acquired from Montreal for Scott Gomez, was a restricted free agent. ESPN is reporting it is a one year deal worth $2.25 million.

UPDATE (4:25 PM) Apparently, Alexei Kovalev will not be making a return to Broadway as he has signed a 2 year 10 million dollar deal with the Ottawa Senators. For more details click here.



New Beginnings

I decided to launch the website today because this is the perfect time to enter into the stratosphere of New York Rangers hockey. Just a few days ago, The Rangers made their selections in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft with an eye on developing young talent for the future of the franchise. Here is a rundown of their selections along with information on each of the newest members of the NHL and the Rangers and my analysis of each pick:

No. 19: Chris Kreider, C -The 6-2, 205 Forward who was ranked by many as the top skater in the draft is headed to Boston College next season. The high schooler (Andover)had an impressive 33 goals and 23 assists in 26 games last season.

 NY Rangers First Round Pick Chris Kreider (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NY Rangers First Round Pick Chris Kreider (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

My Take: Kreider is a speed demon with a lightnick quick burst. While he won’t be ready to contribute at the pro level for a few years, He is definitely a nice chip to have in our organization with terrific upside. The only concern is that he has only proven himself against high schoolers and will have to put some size on his frame to compete at the next level but you can’t teach speed and he has plenty to burn.

No. 47: Ethan Werek, C – The 6-1 center compiled 32 goals and 32 assists in 66 games for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.

My Take: From all reports, Werek is a tough player who has no problem getting dirty to make plays in the corners. He may be shifted to the wing sometime before he reaches the NHL if that becomes a bigger need for the organization. We can always use more forwards who play a gritty game.

No. 80: Ryan Bourque, C – The son of NHL Hall of Famer Ray Bourque totalled 20-26-46 in 48 games in the U.S. Development program and will play in Quebec Major Juniors next season.

My Take: Bourque is smallish but energetic and has tremendous work ethic as you would expect from the son of a Hall of Famer. He will have to prove that he can play bigger than his frame but I think this was a good risk pick for the Rangers that could work out nicely in a few years. May also be moved to wing.

No. 127: Roman Horak, C – In Czech juniors, the 6-0 forward was 16-17-33 in 31 games.

My Take: Horak is a very mature kid who has played in both international competition and in the Czech Elite League. He is considered a strong on the puck forward and like the others may be moved to wing if needed. A good character pick from Sather.

No. 140: Scott Stajcer, G -The 6-3 backstop compiled a 3.57 GAA and .906 save percentage appearing in 35 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound.

My Take: Stajcer is a project. The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist locked up for the near future so Stajcer, along with Chad Johnson (whom the Rangers acquired from Pittsburgh on Day 2 of the draft) will be vying along with Matt Zaba to one day be his backup at the NHL level.

No. 170: Daniel Maggio, D -The 6-3, 198 defenseman skated for Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League and recorded 60 penalty minutes in 44 games.

My Take: I like this pick because it gives us a defensive project with size and a stay at home mentality to go along with our already deep group of offensive D man prospects like Sanguinetti, Del Zotto and Potter.

No. 200. Mikhail Pashnin, D – The 20 year old russian played for Mechel last season and had a stat line of 4-12-16. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the KHL draft earlier this month.

My Take: Pashnin could be an absolute steal or nothing but hype. He may never come to North America after being chosen first in the KHL draft. From all reports, he is a talented offensive defenseman with strong skating and playmaking skills but may have problems with his maturity level. I think this was the kind of talented kid you can take a flier on with your last pick. Another nice pick by Sather.