NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the New York Rangers.
The New York Rangers are confident they’re entering training camp with the blueprint for how they need to look and play to be a Stanley Cup Playoff contender.
“We found that balance toward the end of last season, the last two months, from playing with a defensive conscience and also being productive offensively,” Quinn said. “That’s what we have to be. We found some continuity with lines and [defenseman] pairings, and that was really the first time that had happened in the last two years. I think for the first time going into training camp we have a little bit of a clearer picture of what we’re going to look like.”
The disappointment of the Rangers’ quick exit from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season — they were the first team eliminated, swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in three games — hasn’t stolen from their belief that they’ve grown into a contender to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It starts with familiarity with who they have returning, a list that doesn’t include Henrik Lundqvist. They bought out the final year of the goalie’s seven-year contract, making the Rangers’ leader in wins (459) an unrestricted free agent to solve the three-goalie issue they dealt with last season and pave the way for Igor Shesterkin to be their new No. 1.
Shesterkin was 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 12 starts last season after being recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Jan. 6. New York also re-signed goalie Alexandar Georgiev to a two-year contract Oct. 15.
“I just love his demeanor,” Quinn said of Shesterkin. “I just love how confident he is.”
Artemi Panarin proved last season, when the left wing had 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) in 69 games (1.38 points per game), that he’s comfortable in the New York spotlight, solving one of the questions the Rangers had going into last season.
Panarin, entering the second year of his seven-year contract, is expected to start camp playing with center Ryan Strome, who re-signed with a two-year contract Nov. 5.
Quinn is eyeing 19-year-old Kaapo Kakko to be the right wing with Panarin and Strome, replacing Jesper Fast, who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes as a free agent. Kakko, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 66 games last season.
Mika Zibanejad delivered as a No. 1 center last season, scoring 41 goals in 57 games, including an NHL-high 23 in 22 games from Jan. 30 to the end of the regular season. He is again expected to have Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich on his line, giving the Rangers continuity in their top six forwards.
“No final decisions have been made, but certainly you want to start that way and hit the ground running,” Quinn said.
The Rangers expect Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, will be an impact player in his rookie season. Lafreniere is penciled in as the left wing on the third line, likely playing with 21-year-old center Filip Chytil.
Lafreniere arrived in the New York area from his home in Saint-Eustache, Quebec, in November and is training and living with a billet family in Connecticut.
“He has the whole package,” Rangers assistant general manager Chris Drury said. “His skating, his sense, his shot, his passing, you name it, it’s all very elite. His internal drive is exceptional.”
The Rangers are comfortable with their returning defensemen, even if there are issues to iron out, namely filling an opening on the left side they created by trading Marc Staal to the Detroit Red Wings.
Quinn said the Rangers could move a right-handed defenseman (Jacob Trouba, Tony DeAngelo or Adam Fox) to the left side.
DeAngelo, who led New York defensemen with 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) last season, is the most likely candidate, but Quinn said he knows Fox would be comfortable too. It’s unlikely they ask Trouba to switch.
K’Andre Miller and/or Tarmo Reunanen, two of New York’s top defenseman prospects and each a left-handed shot, could play well enough in training camp to win a job and remove the need to move a righty to the left side.
“That probably is the one position that we’re going to have to really let it play out,” Quinn said.
The Rangers have far fewer uncertainties than they’ve had entering the past two seasons, fueling their optimism.
“We feel real good about where we are,” New York president John Davidson said. “We’ve come a long way. There’s been some very difficult decisions, but to get to that end, to the championship, this is what you have to do.”
FRIESEN: Jets failed with Laine, top to bottom – Winnipeg Sun
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He didn’t mention he never did find a centre that would best utilize Laine’s talents until, ironically, the day he traded him.
Dubois might be that player. We’ll never know.
Cheveldayoff was quick to point out Laine played with No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele last season, but it was an analytical failure. OK.
It doesn’t take an advanced stats whiz to see Cheveldayoff has constructed a roster that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for Laine’s next contract. Instead of finding a way to make it work, he sent him packing.
Down on the dressing room floor, Wheeler was asked about his leadership role through all this, acknowledging, perhaps a little vaguely, he could have handled the rising star better on occasion.
“If I have any regrets, my regrets would be some of the frustrations that took place over the years,” the captain said, quickly adding he and Laine never fought, never yelled at each other.
So the regret?
“Maybe I could have communicated a little better instead of just getting frustrated,” Wheeler said, explaining when he did get frustrated with Laine, he just clammed up.
In the next breath, he says if anything he coddled the kid.
Ultimately, Wheeler didn’t think he could have made things better.
If the captain and the GM didn’t want to bear the brunt of the responsibility, the head coach claimed to be more than willing.
“That’s the environment that you’re trying to create for each player is for them to feel like they have the opportunity to be at their best,” Maurice said. “We were constantly trying to work on that, trying to constantly get to the point where Patrik appreciated who he was playing with and the opportunity he was given.
Blue Jackets excited to add Laine, Roslovic in blockbuster deal – BlueJackets.com
Put in the difficult position of having to trade his No. 1 center, Jarmo Kekalainen hit a home run.
At least that’s the opinion of his head coach, John Tortorella, who was effusive in his praise of the Blue Jackets general manager after Kekalainen swung a blockbuster deal Saturday.
Center Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded to Winnipeg along with a third-round pick in the 2022 draft for All-Star winger Patrik Laine and Columbus native Jack Roslovic, a haul of two forwards that should quickly add some offensive punch to the CBJ lineup.
That Kekalainen could fetch such a return for a player who the entire NHL knew wanted a deal left Tortorella as perhaps the happiest man in Columbus.
“It was a hell of a spot (Kekalainen) got put into,” Tortorella said after the Jackets’ 5-2 win against Tampa Bay on Saturday. “He stood right in there. I talked to him a couple of times yesterday (about) the amount of time he was putting into things, so we’re very happy that he found a way here, him and (Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff).
“We are really excited about these guys coming to us. Jarmo is not afraid of trying to make his team better and putting his neck out there a little bit at times, so I think that’s a really good trade for us.”
Adding two big pieces — a first-line winger who has averaged 38 goals per 82 games in his NHL career and a homegrown center whose best days in the NHL are likely still ahead of him — was seen as a coup in Tortorella’s eyes, and the hope is the pair will help a team that finished 27th in the NHL in scoring a year ago and had scored just 10 goals in its first five games this season.
The offensive abilities of Laine need little introduction as exploits of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft — one spot ahead of Dubois — are known throughout the league. Laine burst onto the scene as a rookie with 36 goals in 2016-17 then added a career-high 44 a year later. The 22-year-old is coming off a 28-35-63 line posted in 68 games last year, and one of the league’s top snipers has 140 goals and 250 points in 306 career NHL games, including 52 power-play tallies.
Roslovic, meanwhile, was born in Columbus, came up through the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets junior program and played his college hockey at Miami University. The first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2015 NHL draft has a 26-41-67 line in 180 career games including career highs of 12 goals, 17 assists and 29 points a year ago. The thought is with more consistent playing time, those numbers could blossom even more for the 23-year-old.
“I think both of those guys bring offense to our team,” Kekalainen said. “Jack Roslovic, I think he had (29) points last year. His ice time increased a little bit, but Winnipeg has a lot of skilled forwards, so I think he’s going to get a more offensive role with our team. Obviously, he’s going to have to earn that.
“Patrik Laine is just a pure goal scorer. He scored 36 goals when he was 18 years old in the National Hockey League. I think his best year was 44 goals. I’ve known him since he was 16 years old, watching him play in Finland. He won a championship there, being one of the top scorers and MVP of the World Juniors when they won gold, and he came into the National Hockey League and has done what he’s done so far. He’s still very young. Those are all very exciting things.”
Roslovic was a restricted free agent this past offseason and did not report to Winnipeg, so he is yet to play a game this year. He has been staying sharp in Columbus and quickly signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jackets, so he has already entered the team’s COVID protocol program and hopes to be able to join the team this week.
Laine, meanwhile, had two goals and an assist in the one game he has played this year but has missed recent games with an upper-body injury he says he does not consider serious. Before he can report to Columbus, the native of Finland must obtain a work visa and get everything with COVID protocols squared away, so his first day on the ice remains to be seen.
Both said they’re excited to see what they can bring to the Columbus team when they do suit up.
“It’s awesome to be part of the Blue Jackets organization right now, and I’m happy that they wanted me on board,” Laine said. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s always a new chapter, and going to a new place, meeting new guys, I’m kind of scared but it’ll be fine. There’s a bunch of guys that I know and a couple of Finnish guys, too, and I’m just super excited to meet everybody and get things going.”
Added Roslovic: “I’m just really excited about the opportunity. It just makes it that much better too that it’s in Columbus. I’m super happy to be here. Obviously I grew up living here, watching the team play, and it’s definitely just an extra cherry on top.”
It was a quick end to the saga involving Dubois, who was the team’s top pick in the 2016 draft and had developed into the team’s No. 1 center the past two seasons. Dubois didn’t miss a game in his Columbus career, suiting up 239 times in the union blue sweater and posting a 66-93-159 line. He had career highs of 27 goals and 61 points two seasons ago and led Columbus with 49 points a year ago before adding 10 in 10 games in the NHL playoff bubble.
But when Dubois signed a two-year extension with Columbus as an RFA on New Year’s Eve, reports got out that he was also looking for a change in scenery. Dubois had just one goal in the team’s first five games and did not skate in the last 45-plus minutes of the team’s overtime loss Thursday against Tampa Bay, leaving a trade all but an inevitability. Less than 48 hours later, he was on his way to Winnipeg.
“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Kekalainen said. “We always said it could take a while until we found the right deal, but if the right deal is on the table, we’re ready to move fast. Everything came together, and we’re happy with the deal.”
Kekalainen has shown he’s not afraid to make big moves before, including the acquisition of Brandon Saad in 2015, the deal that sent Ryan Johansen to Nashville in 2016 for Seth Jones, returning Saad to Chicago for Artemi Panarin in the summer of 2017 and trade deadline deals to acquire Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene in 2019.
Those trades involve some of the biggest names in the game, but you could argue none is quite as captivating as this one. How it works out for both teams will be a storyline for years, and Kekalainen hopes it’s positive for each side.
“I think the best trades are always the type of trades that help both teams, and I think in this case that’s what happened,” Kekalainen said. “They are going to get a good player and we are going to get two good players, and we both move on.”
Perry scores in debut to help lead Canadiens past Canucks – Sportsnet.ca
Midway through the second period, the veteran right-winger slid a puck through the crease and saw it glide through the pads of Vancouver netminder Braden Holtby.
“I’ll always say I wanted to shoot but I think I did see (Canadiens centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi) backdoor and I think it went off the d-man’s stick or something and in the net,” Perry said after Montreal topped the Canucks 5-2.
“But (Kotkaniemi) made a great play going to the back post and it kind of opened up a seam for me.”
Perry slotted in for Joel Armia who suffered a concussion in a hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers as the Canadiens trounced the Canucks 7-3 on Thursday.
Montreal was quick to avenge Armia’s injury on Saturday.
Edmundson and Myers dropped the gloves 3:09 into the first period. The Montreal defenceman got a few good whacks in before the pair were separated by the officials and each given a five-minute sanction for fighting.
“Our team wasn’t a big fan of the hit and he stepped up and didn’t back away,” Edmundson said of the fight. “So you got to respect that. But I still wasn’t a fan of the hit.”
After 14 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Perry spent last year with the Dallas Stars. The 35-year-old signed a one-year, US$750,000 deal with Montreal in December.
Getting back on the ice with the Canadiens felt good, he said.
“It was quick, the first couple shifts. But once you get in the flow of the game, I’ve played a few games in this league so it comes back,” Perry said of his debut. “I felt good overall. The hands felt good. I played with some pretty good players tonight so it made it easy on me.”
Saturday’s game — the third in four nights between the two sides — also saw Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Joel Edmundson score for Montreal (4-0-2). Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist.
Carey Price made 23 saves to collect his 350th NHL win.
The Canadiens now have points from their first six games of the season, all of which were played on the road. The only other team to accomplish that feat in NHL history is the 1968-69 Canadiens.
Montreal coach Claude Julien said there’s still work to be done, but there are a lot of positives to come out of his team’s first trip of the year.
“We took it one game at a time, I thought we played well and we got better as the games went on, and obviously building a little bit more chemistry along the way as well on the ice and off the ice,” he said.
“So, there’s a lot of good things that came out of this road trip and as a coach, you have to be happy when you can come up with that many points in that short trip.”
The Canucks (2-5-0) were down 2-0 heading in to the third and had been outshot 18-13 across the first two periods.
Elias Pettersson ignited a comeback 3:50 into the final frame, batting a long shot by defenceman Jordie Benn out of the air and between Price’s legs for his first goal of the season.
The marker snapped a five-game point-less skid for Pettersson, the longest drought of his short career.
Nils Hoglander tied the score at 2-2 just over two minutes later with a backhanded shot from the slot that beat Price stick side.
Gallagher put away the game winner 9:07 into the third with a wrist shot from low in the faceoff circle.
Drouin added some insurance about two minutes later, beating Holtby on a breakaway, and Edmundson scored an empty-netter with 2:54 left on the clock.
Holtby stopped 28-of-32 shots.
Despite the final score, Canucks coach Travis Green liked much of what he saw from his squad in the loss.
It was a tight-checking game where Vancouver hit some posts, saw some shots sail wide of the net but stuck with the game, he said.
“I felt bad for our group,” Green said. “I thought for 50 minutes it may have been our best game to date. A couple of mistakes cost us the game in the last 10 minutes.”
After turning heads in the Edmonton “bubble” during the playoffs last year, the Canucks hoped to take another step this season.
So far, that hasn’t been the case.
“Obviously it isn’t the start we wanted, but I don’t think anyone’s sulking and hanging their heads at this point in time,” defenceman Quinn Hughes said Saturday.
“We’re only seven games in and we’ve got a lot of hockey left to play. We’ve got time to figure it out, but hopefully sooner rather than later.”
The Canucks will host the Ottawa Senators in the first match of a three-game series on Monday. The Canadiens are headed back to Montreal where they’ll host the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
NOTES: Suzuki has a point in all six of Montreal’s games this year, tallying two goals and four assists to start the season…Tyler Toffoli was credited with an assist on Perry’s goal, extending his point streak to four games (five goals, three assists)…A pair of veteran defencemen returned to Vancouver’s lineup… Alex Edler slotted back in after missing Thursday’s tilt with an undisclosed injury and Benn made his season debut after sitting out the start of the year due to COVID-19 protocols.
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