The Rangers 2011-2012 roster is all set. It looks like our team is all signed and ready to focus on the season ahead. Or is it?
The current roster, as it appears courtesy of our friends at CapGeek, includes 14 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies. Given this particular scenario the organization comes out $702,166 under the salary cap. This includes Tim Erixon among the team's defense – we'll see if he makes the team out of camp, he definitely has a good shot at it. However, that is with no Del Zotto. Do you agree that the team is more likely to go with 13 forwards and 7 defensemen? I believe Michael Del Zotto will get another chance and have a solid comeback year this year. The kid's only 21 years old, he's just getting started, and the organization believes he has a bright future in the NHL. But in order to take on DZ's $1,087,000 cap hit, someone else will have to go. Despite his hefty $3,800,000 contract, I think Wolski stays. It comes down to Zuccarello or Christensen.
Except for a few positions, the forward lines will change around all season long, as we all know. The left wing will likely move around the most as I believe we'll see Wolski, Fedotenko, Dubinsky, and Avery all skate on the first line with Richards and Gaborik at some point. Barring a surprise performance from a prospect in camp (such as Hagelin or Thomas making the team) I believe these are lines we will witness this season:
Wolski – Richards – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan
Fedontenko – Stepan – Prust
Avery – Boyle – Rupp
+ an alternate forward
Richards, Gaborik, and Callahan are the only guys that will really stay put. Everybody else will move around. Rupp and Boyle will probably alternate between center and wing a little bit. Stepan and Anisimov will change lines depending on match-ups and how their game is going. Given these lines, it would come down to Zuccarello or Christensen as the alternate forward. So the question is, which guy do you move?
Christensen comes with a cap hit of $925,000, and Zuccarello commands a $1,750,000 entry-level contract and they are each moving into the final year of their respective contracts. Zuccarello will be a Restricted Free Agent next summer and Christensen will be Unrestricted. If the team wanted to go with their current 14 forwards and add Del Zotto, they'd be caught 384,834 over the cap ($64,684,834). Either of those forwards could be moved one way or another, and the club would be safely under the cap. Move Christensen and there's $540,166 remaining; move Zuccarello and there's $1,365,166 remaining. That's a significant difference, but while the numbers play their part in determining the outcome, other factors including what kind of game they bring to camp, where they are in their careers, and how they fit in with this year's squad will all be considered.
Christensen brings to the team an unquestionable abundance of skill including skating and hands, but he has sorely lacked consistency, has been unable to fill the top center position, and generally seems to lack confidence. He bounced from the Penguins to the Thrashers to the Ducks before we picked him up and he has never played a complete NHL season. This past season he played the most games he's played yet with 63. He was a +3, and put up 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points. Tortorella and the fans seemed frustrated with him last year while waiting for him to find his game and some consistency. I really thought he might come into his own last year with a fresh start and a chance to play with Gaborik. It never happened. Christensen will turn 28 this December.
Zuccarello did well his first year, with so many injuries sustained by the Rangers Zuccarello saw more ice time with the big club than he was expected to. He handled himself well, for the most part, and seemed to adjust to the smaller American rinks and the harder game quicker than expected. However, Tortorella expressed concerns about his diminutive stature and couldn't use him in all situations. In 42 games he was a +3 and put up 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points. That's a .540 points per game average. Not bad. He'll be 24 years old before the start of next season.
Playing 21 fewer games Zuccarello had only 4 points less than Christensen. They were both the go to guys on the shootout, each scoring 5 shootout goals last season, Zuccarello on 9 chances, Christensen with 8.
Unless they make some other deal, I think the team goes with Christensen as the 13th forward. Let me explain. If Zuccarello made the big club he'd be sitting on the bench a lot. Sending him down to the Whale will give him a lot more ice-time and he'll be a key guy every night. That's great experience for a guy that still has a chance to make it in the NHL. Also, Zuccarello would again be called-upon should the Rangers need a fill-in due to injuries (and let's hope there are a lot fewer of those this year).
Going on 28 years of age, many wonder if Christensen will ever find the confidence and consistency to stay in the NHL. He displays flashes of brilliance and despite slumps his skill has been just enough to keep him around. However, he's a veteran of the bench! But that might be just what we need in an alternate forward. Taking the pressure off him to produce every night could alleviate some of his inconsistency and he could be a good utility player for us. He could put his skills to use to help the team in key situations and in games where Mike Rupp's physical presence may not be needed. Christensen could come in to make the Rangers a little more dangerous. Plus, keeping Christensen and moving Zuccarello leaves the team with $1,365,166 which is plenty flexibility during the season.
It's great to have all the free agents signed so everybody can focus on a healthy and successful season ahead. I think the roster will change very little from what it is today. Again, I believe the team will go with 13 forwards and 7 defensemen, which means a change to the current roster. I think Del Zotto gets another shot with the Rangers and Zuccarello will be back with the Whale.
I'm really liking the look of this team!
The 2011-2012 New York Rangers:
Wolski – Richards – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan
Fedontenko – Stepan – Prust
Avery – Boyle – Rupp
Staal – Giradi
McDonagh – Sauer
Erixon – Del Zotto
Spectacular and comprehensive coverage, AG_blue. The best I've seen. Thanks for very thought provoking insights. Gives me plenty to chew on. It'll be interesting to see how close you've come to when everything is said and done. Go Rangers!
Looks like you did your homework with Cap Numbers....its kind of a crap shoot between the two. I really like Zuccarello but his size and conditioning came into play last year - would like to see him stick with the team to see what he can do.
Have also always liked Christensen but his consistency troubles me at times...it might be a case of a mix and match throughout the season between the two...or better yet, Im hoping Sather can pull off a deal where we might bring in some new blood with scoring potential.
On a side note - real excited to see what Erixon and Thomas bring to camp. Very Good scouting reports on both.
I'd have to disagree and go with Zuccarello. He's a pretty scrappy player despite his size. Given his age and what he did during the 42 games he played last year, I'd say give him a chance in the NHL.
Oh and I really hope that Biron stays healthy this year; he can be great when he's in good shape.
this blog brings up some very important topics all of which im still on the fence about but leaning heavily towards the author AG Blue
With livefyre constantly e-mailing me on this conversation I can't help but jump back in the conversation and interject with this. Zuccarrello DOES NOT belong in the AHL. When he was in the AHL he was clearly better than his opponents. He needs more playing time in the NHL 23 points in 42 games isn't a bad rookie campaign at all. If he woulda played a full season he would have approached Stepan numbers. I do not see why he should be demoted to the AHL other than for cap purposes. Christensen belongs in the AHL, and Wolski should have been bought out. He doesn't not play the style at all with the Rangers, but who knows maybe he'll do well with Richards. But then that brings up another point that Richards isn't this magical player who's going to make everyone's point totals go up. The only way there point totals will go up by playing with Richards is if they can properly do that. Gaborik for sure can, and Wolski might be too one dimensional to do that.
There was a certain play that epitomizes Wolski and sums up my complete frustration with him as a player. I forget which game against the caps in the playoffs this happened but Gilroy gave Wolski a breakout pass that just missed his stick (Of course Wolski was hanging back on defense as usual you know about a solid 30 ft from the puck) and the puck travels all the way into the caps zone. Now Wolski being the fact he was 30 ft ahead of the play should go and negate the icing but no he slows down and the Caps touch up for an icing.
This is my longest post ever and I rest my case. I hope to never have to make a post of this length again.
Honestly, Erik Christensen is on a short leash. The only reason he stands a chance in staying with the Rangers is his salary. Sure, he is good in the shootouts, but how often do shootouts happen in a given season? You have to produce at full strength, on power plays AND shorthanded situations. As for Mats Zuccarello, I don't think he is ready either. All I know is, Wojtek Wolski doesn't deserve to be on the top line. No way. The guy has only had slivers of brillant play and then disappears for long stretches of a season. He had problems in his final weeks in Phoenix and now he's not in the best of favors in New York. The Rangers are going to struggle again to make the playoffs, so we'll see.
Why is everyone in love with wolski and content to let zucc play for the whale? Zucc had 6 goals and 17 assists in 42 games for the Rangers while Wolski had 6 goals and 13 assists in 37 games for them... Zucc's cap hit is 1.75 mil and wolski's is 3.8 mil.
Good post. Agree they go with EC due to cap hit, versatility and letting Zuc play in Hartford. One thing with D pairings is if MDZ/Erixon both make team, I don't think they play together. Think they go with def/off combo that looks like Erixon/McD and MDZ/Sauer. I know McD/Sauer were great but the other pairings make more sense.
i don't think they have much to lose keeping christensen on and sending zuccarello down for another season to get more ice time like del zotto.
Dubinsky - Richards - Gaborik
Wolski - Stepan - Callahan
Avery - Anisimov - Fedotenko
Rupp - Boyle - Prust
I am gonna go out on a limb here and say they drop Avery though ... I know he is fan popular but man did Prusty ever take this guys job and with Rupp we are tough enough we dont need Avery .. he really seems to just be a liability.. taking bogus ghost calls and gets no calls his way (see Ovy penalty leading to tying goal in game 1).. plus he makes nearly 2 mil ... just a thought what do you guys think?
yes good article.. only thing I would argue is the 3rd line. I dont see Torts putting feds and Prust on stepans wings if they want to get this guy going offensively personnally I have a strong belief that the top line will be filled out by more of a grinding type as Gabby and Richie will handle the offensive side of things. It always makes sense to put skill with skill but skill also needs to be distributed so I would flip Feds (familiarity with Richards and veteran presence) on the first line and Wolski with Steps and Rupp and keep Avery with Boyle and Prust.
I like zuc so i think the smart thing to do is just give both E.C and zuc a chance and see how they do and go off of that, we all know the lines and players will be scrambled and some youngens may come up up even even with a lack of room . Should be interesting.
I think feds may be a decent fit on that 1st line even though hes not as skilled. i think a tougher grinder maybe fit better. I don't wanna break up that 2nd line but i think dubi would also work very well on that top line. He would defend gabbi and richards as well as add hits and be the guy that goes into the corners hard. but as I said before I dont wanna break up that 2nd line but knowing torts that 3rd spot on that line will be played by a lot of players. I also think prust is on the 4th line. That 4th line would be NASTY.
Great article. I would have to go with E.C. He's playing for a contract, and while it probably isn't going to be with the Rangers, he's going to want to prove that he is going into his prime. Look at Jose Reyes and what he's doing for the Mets in his contract year. Zucc is still young and still has a lot of adapting to do. Keep him down/send him down, and use him as your injury back up (like AG_Blue said).
@ldichiara Got it. Thanks.
@LorenStillman Don't think you're in the minority on that statement.
@KingBadaBing , I got say, I really appreciate your view on this - that Zuccarello does not belong in the AHL. It's not like he's one of the kids, he's 24 already and he did pretty well. I think he beat some expectations in his time with the big club, even if Torts worried about his size sometimes.
Unless Christensen accomplished some major soul-searching this summer, I gotta think this is his last year with the club and I don't expect a complete season out of him. Maybe he will see some ice-time in Connecticut this year.
As for Wolksi... he's another guy that needs to turn it around. I just think there's a little more hope for him. I also think Sather &co. wants to make good on their investment. Looks like it may wind up being chalked up as another Sather error, but I'm sure they want to give him another chance. Maybe starting the season here will be good for him. Maybe it will feel like a fresh start. While I don't especially have my hopes up, I gotta root for him while he's a Ranger.
Again, my blog entry doesn't necessarily reflect what I want or believe should be done, rather I wrote what I think is going to be done.
@Matty_12 Not in love with Wolski but think he gets first shot due to having to clear waivers to go to AHL. If he doesnt work out, then you trade him or send him down and bring up Zuc who has been playing first line minutes with the whale, continuing his development
@Dimey44 , good point about the D. Makes a lot of sense. Especially for the upcoming season.
One reason DZ and Erixon could work, perhaps down the road, is because DZ is so offensive minded and Erixon is more conservative, a smart player, like his old man, that makes few mistakes. Erixon would cover for DZ taking some chances.
@andrewstamant29 I think avery should play with gabs and Richards. He is quick, has decent hands and will distract the opposition but also go hard to the net...
@andrewstamant29 Camp will be very big for Avery. He is definitely on the bubble.
@andrewstamant29 , thanks Andrew.
Again, all of the left wingers will see time on the first line.
Good point pairing Stepan and Wolski. That's bound to happen some nights too.
@ChrisP , like I said, both Dubi and Feds will see time on the 1st line, along w Avery. I agree with you that Dubi could be a really great fit up there.
@KingBadaBing , ready to see those lines in action?
@AG_Blue Wolski was not an error at all. Anything was an upgrade from Roszival. A bag of pucks was an upgrade from him.
@Ranger Dave I think that he has skills to play up there, just worried his antics will steel a lot of offensive chances.. picture this Richie feeds Gabby for a breakaway but the whistle is blown because Avery slashed a guy when no one (except the ref) was looking...
@AG_Blue Yea i say they see how that core 2nd line plays and try dubi up there when they can. also feds played with richards in tampa so that may work and avery also has great passing skills as we saw last year with gaborik, should be interesting
@AG_Blue I would flip Avery and Prust, and if Wolski doesn't work in the top spot LW he has no place in the lineup and should be sent down. I would like to Christian Thomas or Zuccs in Wolski's spot but since we didn't buy him out already i'm gonna guess management is gonna put him there.
@KingBadaBing , Wolksi not an error? but you just expressed your "complete frustration with him as a player." I guess I see your point though. We needed a way out from underneath Rozsival's inflated contract and Sather found a way.
Totally agree about Avery. Its just too much time for him to be out there. He has shown what a liability he can be with his play/decision making at times....
@Ranger Dave the main reason I DO NOT WANT Avery on any top line is the ammount of ice time we need to start giving our top line ( a major concern for me last years especially in the playoffs when Bolye and Prust were playing 25 mins and Gabby was playing 14) dont get me wrong Ives said this before I love Boyr Prust and the other grinders who work so hard but man if we need goals we need to ice goal scorers especially when they are slumping...can break out of a slump on the bench.. you put avery on the ice for 20+ mins every night and he is bound to take at least 2-3 penalties ....no question he plas there..!!
@KevinDeLury - Kev will be the only one to possibly back me up on this, but Wolski is no first line player....Mr. Sean Avery is. Keep him up there with Gabs and Richy (that's what Torts prob calls brad now) and let him agitate the other teams first line, take the heat off our guys, and dish the puck like we know he can. This is the last year for Aves to really show what he's got and Torts needs to recognize that. And so do the people on the rest of this blog...hahah - now bring on the negative feedback!
This was a very good read. Tough call but I'd go with EC as well. @KevinDeLury