BREAKING!!!!!! The Rangers and GM Gorton have made the statement of making Mika Zibanejad the #1center by extending Zibby to a 5 YEAR CONTRACT FOR $5.35 MILION CAPHIT AAV!
On July 1st, 2015, the Rangers organization turned over the General Manager decisions to Jeff Gorton, and in his 3rd season has almost totally transformed the NHL roster and has made decisions on everyone in the oranization. There are only 5 NHL contracts that he inherited that are left in the names of Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Rick Nash, and Adam Tambellini. GM Gorton has cut ties with many draft choices, veteran players, and core players while keeping the team in it's yearly playoff battles to contend for the Cup which hasn't come to fruition, even though coming close with a homegrown core. When GM Gorton took over, the Rangers had a future Hall of Fame goalie between the pipes, a shot blocking defense, and forwards that played well defensive hockey. The Rangers now still have their future Hall of Famer in declining years while they finally have a quick-puck moving defense with a top 4 that can rival any top team in the NHL, and a young fast group of forwards that are starting to reach their best years.
Players that GM Gorton has traded away to make sure that the Rangers would transform into the team he has envisioned and to be in the NHL Cap Compliant rules have been Carl Hagelin, Cam Talbot, Derrick Brassard, Derek Stepan, and Antii Raanta while he has brought in Nicklas Jensen(who many thought would battle for an NHL spot this year but signed in the KHL this season-hopefully to get experience for the NHL next season), Mika Zibanejad, Brendan Smith, Anthony DeAngelo, Steve Kampfer, Tyler Wall, Ryan Gropp, Sergey Zborovskiy, and this offseason brought in Chris Drury as GM of the Hartford Wolfpack and signed many college free agents to rebuild a depleted Wolfpack team with Alexander Georgiev, Chris Nell, Vince Pedrie, Vinni Lettieri, Alexei Bereglazov, Neal Pionk, Dawson Leedahl, Paul Carey, Cole Schnieder and signing draft choices Gabriel Fontaine, Sean Day, and Tim Gettinger. Day and Gettinger could be slide condidates and go back to Jr's for another year. Players that were let go from the Rangers depth in this transition were Hrivik, Brown, Summers, Paliotta, Hellberg, Hughes, Beck, Skapski, and Donnay. Gone from the NHL are Tanner Glass, Adam Clendening, Dan Girardi(bought out warrior), Pirri, Lindberg(lost in NHL expansion).
The Rangers made the boldest moves this summer with the trade of Stepan and Raanta to get the #7 overall pick in Lias Andersson (who might be able to slide in as the 3rd line center after playing pro overseas last season) and Anthony DeAngelo who is an offensive right dman that the Rangers have followed the last few seasons and feel that he is a perfect fit for a 3rd pairing shared with a slowed down Marc Staal who will be utilized to mentor the young and sometimes undisciplined DeAngelo. The Cap space that was opened with this huge trade that netted the Rangers an extra almost $7 million in caproom, got the Rangers the #1 right defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk who took less years and money to become a Ranger. They were also able to have the room to resign Brendan Smith and with Brady Skjei and Captain Ryan MCDonagh already top 4 on the blueline, the Rangers will compete with the top teams in the NHL once again. The Rangers will also have Nick Holden, Bereglazov, Pionk, Graves, and Kampfer battling for the7/8 spot.
With the forwards, the hole of losing Stepan weighs on the other centers stepping up and reaching their potential. Zibanejab, Kevin Hayes, Miller, and UFA signee David Desharnais, Zuccarello, Nash, Kreider, Buchnevich, Vesey, Fast(who starts the season on IR while recovering from surgery), and a battle for the last 2 spots between the most likely candidates of Puempel, Nieves, Andersson, and Gropp. Of course there is still time and cap room to sign a player to fill the 3rd line center role if the Rangers feel that what they have in the system isn't ready yet.
All the pieces in GM Gorton's gameplan is falling into place while still being a team that can compete for the Cup. Hartford will be a team that will have a few players at each position that the Rangers can dip into the depth pool when injuries happen throughout the year for a change. Even looking into next season....the chips are in place with cheaper options to replace players most likely to leave in backup goalie $1.3 cap Pavelic to be replaced for 1/2 the price in Georgiev, Nell, or Halverson. 7th dman Holden and his $1.65 cap will be replaced by Bereglazov, Pionk, Graves, or Pedrie for at least $700k savings. Desharnais will probably be replaced by 7th overall pick Andersson at almost same price. Grabner will be replaced for 1/2 the price in Nieves or Gropp. The biggest question is who to replace Rick Nash and his $7.8 cap. Of course this money needs to be shed because between Miller, Hayes, Vesey, and Skjei the Rangers will have to add between $7-$8 to extend them all on top of their salaries already being paid.
The Rangers are one faceoff specialist from being able to make a serious run at the cup. The transformed Rangers are closer than they have been in the last few years, but the last pice needs to be put in place. Whether the player is Bozak, Nash, or Kovulchuk next season on an over 35+ cap friendly bonus options contract....... we'll see what the Gorton vision is. The pieces may have to be shuffled, but they all seem to be in place for amazing things to come on broadway under the leadership of head coach Vigneault and new defensive coach and ex-NHL head coach Lindy Ruff. LET'S GO RANGERS!!!!