What Next For the New York Rangers?
What next for the Rangers following yesterday’s front-office purge? Could Rasmus Sandin’s emergence on the Leafs’ blueline lead to a Morgan Rielly trade? Which Sharks forwards could end up on this summer’s trade block? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker believes the New York Rangers replacing team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton yesterday with Chris Drury indicates ownership wants the current roster reconstruction wrapped up quickly. Drury will be expected to turn the Rangers into a Stanley Cup contender as soon as possible. Reaching the playoffs was a goal this season but will become a requirement in 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Rangers GM Glen Sather will be working with Drury in a consulting role. Sather was well known for his wheeling and dealing during his long management career. He would prove useful if ownership pressures Drury to explore this summer’s trade and free-agent markets to accelerate the rebuild.
The incident earlier this week with Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson showed a glaring need for more grit in the New York Rangers’ lineup. The club is expected to address its lack of experienced and heavy skaters in the offseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have considerable depth in young players and prospects to use as trade bait to address that need. Cap Friendly indicates they have $55.6 million invested in 17 players, giving Drury sufficient cap space to target teams looking to shed salary this summer or to pursue unrestricted free agents.
Walker also reported former Rangers captain Mark Messier yesterday told ESPN NY radio he’s ready to help the club any way he can. He believes “One thousand percent” he could coach despite having no prior experience.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I admire Messier’s confidence. However, the Rangers will need an experienced, respected bench boss if they replace David Quinn as head coach. Messier doesn’t tick that box.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently suggested the emergence of Rasmus Sandin on the Maple Leafs’ blueline could make things a little uncomfortable for Morgan Rielly. If the club develops faith in Sandin, trading Rielly and his $5 million cap hit for next season to free up money to re-sign Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen could become an option.
McGran feels Rielly could fetch a return comparable to the first-round pick and prospect the Leafs got for shipping Kaspari Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the blueliner would be safe if Andersen isn’t re-signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McGran’s just spitballing here. I don’t think Rielly’s got anything to worry about. I’ll be very surprised if the Leafs bring back Andersen. They’ll likely stick with Jack Campbell as their starter and seek a reliable, affordable backup for him in the offseason.
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz suggests San Jose Sharks forwards Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc could become expendable after being pushed out of the top-six at times in recent weeks. He speculates one or both could be moved out this summer, perhaps in pursuit of an effective third-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier’s got a $6 million annual salary-cap hit through 2022-23 while Labanc’s is $4725 million annually through 2023-24. Those contracts could prove tough to move with the salary cap staying around $81.5 million next season. It’s not impossible to move them but it could be more of a dollar-in, dollar-out scenario or perhaps the Sharks will have to retain some salary in the deals.
The New York Rangers fired team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton. Chris Drury has taken over for Davidson and Gorton but it’s uncertain if that’s on an interim basis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gorton had been general manager since July 2015 while Davidson became president in May 2019. Under those two, the Rangers had engaged in a rebuilding program, bringing in younger players.
Reports indicate this move is unrelated to the Rangers issuing a statement yesterday regarding the incident involving Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson on Monday. Davidson and Gorton apparently sought to distance themselves from that statement.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cited sources saying a difference of opinion had emerged between those two and Rangers CEO James Dolan. Davidson and Gorton were taking a patient, long-term view while Dolan apparently wants the club to take the next step in the process. It’s also reported Dolan was unhappy with the Rangers’ performance this season, particularly after their two recent back-to-back shutout losses to the rival Islanders.
That “next step in the process” could mean Drury goes shopping in this summer’s trade and/or free-agent market. Perhaps veterans with a year remaining on their contracts, such as Mika Zibanejad or Ryan Strome, get peddled in the offseason. Maybe Drury attempts a blockbuster move by offering up some promising prospects and/or young players for a young impact star.
It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for current Rangers coach David Quinn. While he kept his job there’s no certainty he’ll be back next season. Drury could prefer to bring in a more experienced NHL bench boss or could be directed by Dolan to do so.
Bruins edge the Rangers, Blues down the Coyotes, plus the latest on Steven Stamkos, Matt Murray, Zach Werenski and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins extended their points streak to 10 games by blanking the New York Rangers 1-0. Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves for the shutout while Nick Ritchie scored the only goal in a chippy affair that totaled 58 minutes in penalties with most of those in the second period. Earlier in the day, the Rangers announced winger Artemi Panarin would miss this game due to a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins (22 points) opened a four-point lead atop the East Division and moved to within a point of the first-overall Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers, meanwhile, have just three victories in their last 10 games.
Justin Faulk scored twice (including the game-winner) and collected an assist as the St. Louis Blues rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Brayden Schenn had a two-point night for the Blues. The Coyotes played without John Hayden as he was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Earlier in the day, Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko surprised his teammates with an appearance during an optional practice. He’s recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and his return to action is still weeks away.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning placed captain Steven Stamkos on the COVID-19 protocol list. The development is unrelated to the lower-body injury that sidelined him from Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
TSN: Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury and won’t play in today’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators will need a better effort from backup Marcus Hogberg. He’s winless in five appearances with a 4.86 goals-against average and .836 save percentage.
CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski returns to the lineup today against the Chicago Blackhawks after being sidelined for three games with a lower-body injury.
TWINCITIES.COM: Matt Dumba and Mats Zuccarello joined a depleted Minnesota Wild roster in the club’s first practice since their schedule was paused by COVID-19 10 days ago. Dumba could be ready to return to action for the Wild’s game on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews could be ready to return to the lineup after being sidelined since Jan. 28 with an injured foot. The Avs are slated to play the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday in their first game since their schedule was paused by the coronavirus.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The list of Flyers on the protocol list grew to seven as Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton were added yesterday.
THE SCORE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the league is working on changing the draft lottery. While Daly didn’t divulge details, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports there were a number of people around the league who felt it unfair that the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings, who finished dead last in 2019-20, ended up with the fourth-overall pick in last year’s draft rather than selecting first overall. Changes to the draft are expected to be discussed with the league board of governors at a future date.
USA HOCKEY: announced New York Rangers associate general manager Chris Drury has been named the general manager of the 2021 US National Men’s Team.
Recaps of Friday’s action, the league faces criticism as it looks at rapid testing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Third-period goals 27 seconds apart by Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly lifted the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. James van Riemsdyk was the lone scorer for the Flyers, who played without goaltender Carter Hart (back spasms, day-to-day) and defenseman Philippe Myers, who has an upper-body injury. Forward Oskar Lindblom left the game in the third period following a hit from Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton.
The Detroit Red Wings’ winless skid stretched to eight games (0-6-2) after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Barclay Goodrow tallied twice for the Lightning, including the game-winner.
Second-period goals by Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe gave the Florida Panthers a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators. The Panthers extended their points streak to eight games (6-0-2) as they’re the only team that hasn’t lost in regulation. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 34 saves.
The Vegas Golden Knights scored five straight goals in the opening 27 minutes to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Nicolas Hague each collected three points for the Golden Knights, who were playing their first game since their schedule was paused on Jan. 26 by COVID-19.
Shootout goals by Ryan Donato and Kevin Labanc lifted the San Jose Sharks over the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The Sharks overcame a 3-1 deficit on third-period goals by Logan Couture, Evander Kane and Brent Burns but Max Comtois tied it for the Ducks.
TSN: The NHL and NHLPA are investigating rapid testing for players and team staff on game days to flatten the COVID-19 curve after five teams had their schedules paused and games postponed over the past two weeks. A total of 26 games have been postponed, 17 in February alone.
The Buffalo Sabres were among those teams. They were reportedly furious that they were apparently forced to play games last weekend against a New Jersey Devils team that was going through an outbreak of COVID-19. Five Sabres players have since wound up on the NHL’s COVID protocol list while Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive. The Sabres had no players on the protocol list prior to the series against the Devils.
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports Eric County executive Mark Poloncarz believes the NHL should have taken greater action to ensure the safety of the Sabres and Devils and everyone around them. “It seemed they were more interested in playing a game,” he said.
League commissioner Bill Daly said there were no concerns expressed regarding last Sunday’s games between the Sabres and Devils. An NHLPA representative said league and union medical advisors determined the game could go on based on the information available to them at the time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league announced on Thursday they were taking steps to reduce player-to-player transmission of the coronavirus, including removing the glass behind the benches to increase airflow, increasing the distance between players in dressing rooms, and limiting the time spent at the arena by players and coaches.
The recent postponements and reschedulings aren’t surprising. There’s a greater risk of exposure and transmissions because the players aren’t under the strict quarantine conditions they played under during the 2020 playoffs. Doing more to limit transmission at the arena is one thing but there’s little the league can do to prevent players from exposure when they have greater access to the general public away from the rink.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins defenseman John Marino returned to practice yesterday after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Sidelined blueliners Kris Letang and Mike Matheson also skated yesterday.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (leg injury) will not play today against the Vancouver Canucks.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov required stitches after being struck in the face with a puck during practice on Friday. Canadiens coach Claude Julien said Romanov will travel with the club for today’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames forward Derek Ryan has been referred to a specialist after injuring a finger during Thursday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
NEWSDAY: The New York Rangers promoted Chris Drury to associate general manager.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Justin Williams is returning to the Carolina Hurricanes as a special advisor to the general manager.
Recaps of Wednesday’s action, more game postponements, plus the latest on Henrik Lundqvist, Petr Mrazek, Blake Wheeler and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins overcame a 3-1 deficit to upset the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on an overtime goal by Patrice Bergeron. David Pastrnak tallied a hat trick, including the Bruins’ final two goals in regulation to force the extra frame. He also had an assist on Bergeron’s winner while the Bruins’ captain also collected three assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears Pastrnak is quickly returning to game shape following his recovery from offseason hip surgery. That was an impressive performance on his part in the third period. Penalties proved costly for the Flyers as the Bruins’ final three goals all came on the power play.
Three goals within the first five minutes of the first period power the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Victor Hedman and Blake Coleman each had two points. The Red Wings are winless in their last seven contests.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild’s schedule is on pause to at least next Tuesday after five more players were added to their COVID-19 protocol list. Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Johansson and Jared Spurgeon joined Marcus Foligno on the list.
THE DENVER POST: One of the postponed Wild games involved Thursday’s contest with the Colorado Avalanche, who placed forward Tyson Jost on the COVID-19 protocol list.
WGR 550: Tobias Rieder and Brandon Montour have joined Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen on the Buffalo Sabres COVID-19 protocol list. The Sabres schedule is paused until at least Feb. 8 with four games postponed.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Defenseman John Marino is the first member of the Penguins to be placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist is in good spirits and said he’s feeling well a month after undergoing open-heart surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to King Henrik in his ongoing recovery.
NHL.COM: Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek has undergone surgery on his right thumb. A timetable for his return is expected in the next several days.
THE SCORE: Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice ripped into critics of captain Blake Wheeler’s defensive play. “He’s got f*****g 11 points in 10 games,” said Maurice. While he doesn’t have a problem with criticism of Wheeler’s play, he claims he wants it to be accurate. “You’ll do your deep dives and analytics, and god, they do a horses**t job of telling you what five guys do.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wheeler has been on the ice for more five-on-five goals against the Jets than the rest of his teammates. It’s fair to note that point but Maurice is right to say it doesn’t tell the whole story of his overall performance.
CBS SPORTS: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Walker is expected to be sidelined two-to-four weeks after undergoing surgery on his nose. He took a slapshot to the face during a recent game against the Minnesota Wild.
TSN: The Ottawa Senators placed defenseman Braydon Coburn on waivers.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers assistant general manager Chris Drury has taken himself out of the running for the vacant position of Pittsburgh Penguins GM.
TSN: Hockey Canada announced St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has been named GM of Canada’s Men’s Olympic Hockey Team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Joining him will be Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland, Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis, Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney and Florida Panthers executive Roberto Luongo.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators will make a limited number of tickets available for six February home games beginning Friday.