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THN’s 2017-18 Season Preview: New York Rangers

Sep 23, 2017
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The Rangers’ signing of Kevin Shattenkirk was one of the summer’s biggest splashes and followed it up with some roster shuffling. New York’s hope is that a busy off-season allows them to keep their window open.

The Hockey News is rolling out its 2017-18 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of Stanley Cup odds, until the start of the season. Today, the New York Rangers.

Stanley Cup odds: 24-1

Key additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, D; David Desharnais, C; Anthony DeAngelo, D; Ondrej Pavelec, G; Neal Pionk, D

Key departures: Derek Stepan, C; Oscar Lindberg, C; Antti Raanta, G; Dan Girardi, D; Kevin Klein, D

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BURNING QUESTION:
Is this Rick Nash’s final season on Broadway?

The veteran power forward is on the final year of a contract that carries a $7.8 million cap hit and a modified no-trade clause. With the Rangers in position to make another playoff run, there probably isn’t much fear in him being approached about a trade during the season, but whether Nash returns to New York in the future is obviously an important debate point.

By all accounts, the big sniper wants to remain in New York, but his performance this season will go a long way in determining whether it’s feasible from the Rangers’ point of view. Nash’s production has slowed down and considering he’s 33 with a lot of NHL miles on him, that’s not surprising. Possession numbers weren’t great last season either, so there is definitely all the motivation in the world for Nash to come back and make a splash in his contract year.

While the Rangers do have some nice young forwards pushing up on the roster (Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson), they also didn’t have a single player crack the 60-point mark last season. If Nash can somehow return to earlier form, he’ll help his team – and perhaps earn himself another run in Manhattan.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO:
The last time we saw Henrik Lundqvist, he was backstopping Sweden to a gold medal at the World Championship, defeating Canada in a shootout. This was a good omen, assuming ‘Hank’ has recovered from William Nylander’s celebratory tackle. If Lundqvist can get back to his perch in the top echelon of NHL goalies, New York is in a great position. The Rangers landed the biggest free agent of the summer in puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and, along with his own talents, he’ll help captain Ryan McDonagh unlock another level to his blueline game. With Brady Skjei and Nick Holden coming into their own, the Rangers have a very strong and diverse blueline, with veteran Marc Staal and Brendan Smith rounding things out. In short, New York will be tough to score on.

Up front, the Rangers have an array of weapons, led by Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash. If youngsters Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich can continue the trajectory they established as rookies, New York will give opponents all kinds of matchup problems thanks to its depth of talent.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO:
The Rangers traded away Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona in the summer, and both moves could stagger the franchise. Lundqvist showed big cracks in his armor last season, and if that happens again, the team no longer has Raanta to clean up the mess. Is Ondrej Pavelec the answer as backup?  No. He was Winnipeg’s third-string goalie in a non-playoff year. In a division featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares and Artemi Panarin, goaltending cannot be a weakness.

Losing Stepan also exposes a hole in the depth chart at center. Can Zibanejad take on enough responsibility to mitigate the departure of the two-way stalwart? The only pivot addition was David Desharnais, and he’s a depth guy at best. Perhaps Hayes and J.T. Miller can step into bigger roles, but again: there are some fantastic centers in the Metro, and New York can’t afford to be outgunned. The offense was dynamite last season – fourth overall – but did so by committee. No player hit 60 points, so the ceiling is low with this group. In a tough division, the Rangers could struggle to make the playoffs.

THN’s PREDICTION: 4th in the Metropolitan. The Rangers have enough talent to be one of the top-end teams in the division. Once they get to the playoffs, the fun really begins: can Lundqvist make one more magical run, or has that window closed?

Previously: Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Carolina Hurricanes | Colorado Avalanche | Detroit Red Wings | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Montreal Canadiens |New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | Ottawa Senators | Philadelphia Flyers | San Jose Sharks | St. Louis Blues | Vancouver Canucks | Vegas Golden Knights | Winnipeg Jets 

From The Hockey News | http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/thn-s-2017-18-season-preview-new-york-rangers

 

Prospect Victor Mete opening eyes at Canadiens camp

Sep 16, 2017
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BROSSARD, Que.— The whistle blows and Victor Mete pivots backwards, collects the puck, turns 180 degrees on a dime and fires a cross-ice bank pass off the boards to Max Pacioretty to start a 3-on-2 rush drill. In another sequence, he straddles the blue line at full speed, playing pitch and catch with his defence partner before taking a one-timer, and then he sneaks down into the crease and finishes off another pass—this one into the opposing corner of Michael McNiven’s net.

On breakout drills, Mete’s motoring, his skates crossing over frenetically as he transitions the puck efficiently to the forwards. On break-ins, when the puck’s coming towards him, he’s well-positioned to defend the rush, punching his stick into the passing lanes, his head swivelling to ensure he’s marked his opponents.

Two days into Montreal Canadiens camp, the 19-year-old defenceman from Woodbridge, Ont., who has shown considerable improvement in each of his three seasons with the OHL’s London Knights, is offering everyone in attendance a glimpse of why he’s become one of the team’s most intriguing prospects. He has an NHL skating stride, makes confident decisions with the puck, and he hasn’t looked remotely out of place on a pairing with superstar Shea Weber.

It’s not a stretch to say that there isn’t another defenceman in attendance at this camp that fits Mete’s profile, and therein lies the rub. While this kid may very well prove over the next three weeks that he’s prepared to be an NHL-calibre player, the chances that he’s prepared to log over 20 minutes a night, play in all situations and play against the best opposing forwards on every shift—as he’d have to do as Weber’s partner—are astronomical.

“It’s really good to play with him for the reason of being able to compete against top guys on other teams and see how I can do against them,” said Mete after Saturday’s workout.

But no simulation—not an intra-squad scrimmage like the Canadiens will have on Sunday, or an exhibition game like they’ll have on Monday—will give Mete a true sense of what that challenge will resemble when the puck drops on the regular season and the games begin to matter. And while Canadiens coach Claude Julien said after the team’s first on-ice session Friday that you always want to evaluate a player by putting him in a position where you can best evaluate him, it seems apparent that part of the reason Mete’s stationed where he currently is has to do with the fact that his skills fit well (probably better than anyone else’s) with what Weber brings to the table.

“Ideally, if you had a player who’s a puck carrier, that’s always nice to pair with a guy like Shea, who’s capable of moving the puck well and is capable of being so reliable that his partner won’t be scared to start the rush because he knows Shea is there,” said Julien.

Mete might be the Canadiens’ best fit to skate alongside Shea Weber. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

You look at David Schlemko, who the Canadiens acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights, and it’s hard to say he fits that description—even if his advanced statistics suggest he’s a reliable puck mover. Ditto for Karl Alzner, who signed as a free agent and will likely serve as a defensive anchor for the more offensive Jeff Petry.

Joe Morrow was signed to be a depth puck mover and is currently practising alongside Brandon Davidson. Both of them appear to be on the fringe of the roster.

Eric Gelinas is on a tryout and is currently paired up with Zach Redmond, who spent the majority of last season as a member of Montreal’s AHL affiliate. And Jakub Jerabek, a prolific offensive defenceman who signed out of the KHL this summer, has also been paired with an AHL regular in Brett Lernout.

And while Mark Streit was signed to show he can still be a valuable contributor at this level, it would be inconceivable that his 39-year-old body could handle the rigours of being a top-pairing defenceman on a nightly basis. That’s probably why he’s started camp on what most have presumed would be the team’s third pairing, alongside Jordie Benn.

“We want to see different players play with [Weber] and we’ll go with the best combination,” said Julien.

When Weber was asked on Saturday who the ideal fit would be, he smirked and said, “Bobby Orr.”

Ryan Dixon and Rory Boylen go deep on pucks with a mix of facts and fun, leaning on a varied group of hockey voices to give their take on the country’s most beloved game.

Picking arguably the greatest defenceman to ever play the game is obviously a comment made in jest, but in picking Orr, who was known for his explosive skating and his elite and unique decision-making ability, Weber reveals that he’s well aware of what made his previous partnership with Nashville’s Roman Josi such a success.

He can see how Mete could be a fit.

“He’s good,” said Weber. “I didn’t realize how young he was. He’s really good with the puck, he’s mobile, and at that age it’s pretty good. I thought he was older than he was. For him to be that young, he should have a good career ahead of him.”

Perhaps it’ll start sooner than anyone expected.

But if Mete isn’t ready for all that comes with playing as Weber’s partner, it seems clear the Canadiens are going to have to find someone with a similar profile who can handle that duty. And even though they have $8.4 million available to spend under the salary cap, they have no guarantees such a player will be available anytime soon.

Sportsnet.ca | http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/prospect-victor-mete-opening-eyes-canadiens-camp/

 

Penguins sign forward Jordy Bellerive to entry-level deal

Sep 16, 2017
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The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Jordy Bellerive to a three-year, entry-level deal, the team announced on Saturday.

The 18-year-old led the Penguins at the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo with four goals and three assists in the three games, including a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils.

The five-foot-10, 194-pound native of North Vancouver, B.C., put up a combined 92 points in the last two seasons with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, including 27 goals in 2016-17. Bellerive contributed 14 points in 20 games during Lethbridge’s run to the 2017 WHL championship.

September 16, 2017

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Takeaways:  The Penguins have a few holes to fill, especially the third line center not sure this does anything to address that, but may as well give your prospects a sniff of the big leagues, if only for nine games.  The reality is that it is an entry-level deal with no guarantee of making the team, but it does start the contract ticking.


Jordy Bellerive

Centre

AGE: 18

LENGTH:

3 Years

CONTRACT TYPE:

Entry-Level Deal

SALARY CAP HIT:

N/A

TOTAL:

N/A


Sportsnet.ca | http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/penguins-sign-forward-jordy-bellerive-entry-level-deal/

 

Fiddler retires after 14 seasons

Sep 14, 2017
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Fiddler announced his decision Wednesday in a story for The Players Tribune.The 5-foot-11 center says he thought the New Jersey Devils would be his final team when he signed during the 2016 offseason. But, Fiddler wrote, Nashville general manager David Poile and Devils GM Ray Shero, who launched his professional career, worked out a trade sending him back to the Predators where he started in the NHL.

Fiddler says coming full circle was special with the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final a “perfect way to finish my career.”

He finished with 104 goals and 261 points and also played for the Coyotes and Dallas.


Takeaways:  I have always liked Fiddler as a third line role-player.  He didn’t bring anything flashy to the game, just good solid work ethic and a willingness to drop the gloves for his teammates.  The hat-trick in the video was the first game I ever saw him play in, having only learned about him through EA Sports, and once I watched that, I always expected him to score more.  But, I’ll always settle for a good knuckle-duster!

 

Kelly signed to PTO with Oilers

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Edmonton Oilers signed center Chris Kelly to a professional tryout contract Sunday.

The 36-year-old Kelly had five goals and seven assists in 82 regular-seasons games for Ottawa last season,

Kelly helped Boston win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and has 123 goals and 166 assists in 833 career regular-season games in 13 seasons with the Bruins and Senators. He has 12 goals and 20 assists in 92 playoff games.


Takeaway:  Chris Kelly is a versatile center who won’t hurt you on the ice.  His best offensive days (if he had any) are behind him, and a team needing a defensive forward/penalty-killing specialist would do well to sign him!  I am not sure Edmonton is the best fit, although Kelly can still skate.  The style I saw Edmonton play last season would mean Kelly playing between six and eight minutes per night, depending on penalty trouble.  Prediction:  WILL BE SIGNED BY SOMEONE ELSE

 
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