Competition for the third defense pair’s left-back spot will be a major focus when the Eastern Conference Finals Rangers hit the ice for the first day of training camp on Thursday. Barring the late veteran addition, either through tryouts or discounts, the figures for the role are to come down to Libor Hajek, Jack Jones or Matt Robertson.
But I’m also deeply interested in how the Blueshirts aim to fill the right wing on the Mika Zibnejad-Chris Kreder first-line connection in the wake of Frank Vetrano’s free-agent exit from Anaheim.
I suspect Gerard Gallant will want to keep the Alexis Lafrenier-Philippe Chitil-Capo Kako Kid line even though he will My Like. Heck, the head coach broke them for Elimination Game 6 against Tampa Bay to shoehorn Dryden Hunt—a healthy scratch for the last 16 contests—into the lineup.
Therefore, it is likely that Lafrenier, whose 25 games with Jibenejad and Creder last season were the most of any winger, will get first crack On plum assignment. Yes, that would mean a permanent switch to his off-wing for the lefty shooter, who turns 21 on October 11th, the day the season against Lightning in the Garden begins, but I feel like the issue has escalated significantly. Has gone .
Players change sides all the time. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. If somehow this becomes an issue, the 2020 first-overall pick will remain the third-row left wing, as long as Kreider and Artemi Panarin remain at the club.
Gallant has shown that it is ready to experiment with the Zibenzad-Kreider line. In addition to Lafrenier’s 25 games, Kako got 23 cracks. And then Vatrano acquired Florida five days before the deadline for the deal price of a fourth-rounder, tied for 17 regular-season games and 18 playoff contests with numbers 93 and 20.
You probably don’t remember it, because I didn’t until I checked my notes, but Gallant broke up Zibnejad and Creder for Game 6 in Tampa. Lafrenier opened with Zibnejad and Vatrano on the left, while Kreider slipped into third unit with Chittil and Barclay Gudrow. The combination later went through a blender when Ryan Strom’s pelvic injury limited his ice time before taking him out of the game after the second period.
But you will certainly remember how Galant initiated the fact that Vatrano provided Zibenejad and Kredder a shooter on their right side. The coach talked about it over and over again. And the numbers bear him, for a team that was ranked 30th in the NHL on five-for-five shots per game, Watrano led the Rangers with 9.94 shots per 60 minutes among players who played at least 10 matches. did.
Lafrenier clocked 5.53 per 60, just ahead of Gudrow’s 5.3, Kako’s 5.16 and Sammy Blass’s 4.95. Blass’ season, of course, ended on November 14 when he was Bitten by PK Subban, currently unemployed,
Now, Lafrenier’s numbers were undoubtedly affected by almost half a year playing with Chitil, who is hardly a master dispatcher. But No. 13 isn’t a shoot-first, ask-question-later player in Vatrano’s mould. Obviously, Kakko isn’t either.
So if the Rangers are looking for that spot, Lafrenier will either have to change their game a bit, or the team may have to consider… who?
Vitaly Kravtsov, Brennan Othman or Will Kuyle? Not likely, though I’d be fascinated to see what Othman (or Kyul) can do there if given the chance. This would also require each to go off-wing.
By the way, Blass remained on top in his last three matches. And also, about No. 91: in the 15 matches he has never played on the fourth line.
the bitter reality of the hat
Tyler Motte, such a valuable fourth-line component during the playoffs, seeks a multi-year contract for a top-nine forward for upwards of $2.5 million apiece on the open market in the summer. This eliminated Rangers from day one. You must have noticed that the other 31 teams of the league have also passed. The flat cap and the CBA extension that enabled it have knelt on players like Motte.
By the time the 27-year-old signed his one-year, $1.35 million deal with Ottawa late last week, the Blueshirts were locked in, even though he was given the opportunity to match it. Rangers are calculated to have around $1 million in cap space with a 22-man roster that includes one extra forward and one extra defenseman.
No, they couldn’t swap him for Hunt ($762,500) and Julian Gauthier ($800,000) for the simple reason that Hunt/Gauthier would be an/or offer. Barring injury, both of them will not be in the team. That is, if someone makes . Gauthier enters as the longest shot, while Hunt will face competition from Jimmy Vesey in the PTO (professional tryout) camp for a spot.
Vesey’s edge is his ability to hit the penalty. The Rangers lost three PK specialists to free agency in Coop, Motte and Kevin Rooney.
By the way, we have a good right that Mote’s camp never discussed the possibility of signing a one-year deal with GM Chris Drury in the $1.35M price range, and that talks ended early in the summer.
Next stop, Hartford?
Swedish free-agent signer Gustav Rydal, 28, who can compete for the role as fourth-row center and/or 13th forward, does not need a waiver to be assigned to the AHL Wolf Pack. We are told that they have expressed their desire to go to Hartford if necessary.
The Blueshirts signed veteran defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a PTO on Monday. The 34-year-old physique-oriented lefty has a total of 256 NHL games on his resume but only three in the past three seasons, while being a member of the Minnesota and Pittsburgh organizations. Bartkowski spent the entirety of last season playing for AHL Wilkes-Barre.
If Hajek and Jones can’t beat Bartkowski at camp in the competition for that spot on the left, something will go wrong.