2010-11 NHL season preview: New York Rangers

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for lundqvistpads.jpgLast season: (38-33-11, 87 points, 4th in Atlantic Division, 9th in Eastern Conference) The Rangers fell a shootout win short of making the playoffs then watched as the Philadelphia Flyers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Ouch. The team depended a lot on young players, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist and that formula wasn’t strong enough to win them a cup.

Head coach: John Tortorella is the hot-headed type who’s a great fit for New York … at least from an entertaining press conference standpoint. The jury’s out on him as a coach, though, as that Lightning Stanley Cup victory is looking more and more like an anomaly as every year passes.

Key departures: D Wade Redden, F Olli Jokinen, F Aaron Voros, F Donald Brashear. Technically Redden isn’t out of the Rangers organization, but let’s face it, he won’t play with the big club again at that $6.5 million annual cap hit. If GM Glen Sather looked at Olli Jokinen as an expiring $5 million contract, then maybe Sather deserves a little more credit for being with it.

Key arrivals: F Alex Frolov, F Derek Boogaard, D Steve Eminger, F Todd White. Frolov isn’t the most consistent player, but the Rangers got him on a solid, one-year deal. He could pay dividends at his price while Boogaard is wildly overpaid at $1.6 million. No big improvements in the Big Apple, but that’s what happens when your salary cap is managed so poorly.

gaborikanddubinsky.jpgUnder pressure: The Rangers’ training staff is under pressure, because if Gaborik goes down with his typical array of injuries, New York’s offense is shot. Gaborik played an unusually high amount of games last year, but can he do it again?

Protecting the house: Lundqvist is a truly elite goalie. The Swedish netminder keeps the Rangers afloat despite the fact that they’re rarely strong in any other area. The team historically leans on him too much, though, so it’s great to know that they added a solid backup in Martin Biron. Maybe Lundqvist won’t suffer from his annual tough patch if he can have a little rest here and there.

Redden isn’t an enormous loss, but this defense is far from elite. Marc Staal is a nice player, but he might not be a great choice for a No. 1 guy. Really, the team is a collection of second and third pairing blueliners beyond Staal, with Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi and Mike del Zotto being the other prominent defensemen.

Top line we’d like to see: Frolov-Brandon Dubinsky-Gaborik. Boy, are the Rangers weak up the middle or what? Some might put Chris Drury on the top line, but Drury plays better against second or third pairings (something you love to hear about a guy who makes $7 million per year, naturally). Frolov and Gaborik might skate a lot with each other in reality, unless the team wants to spread its offense out.

Oh captain, my captain: Drury carries Bobby Holik’s torch as a character guy getting paid like a megastar in New York. He is above average to great in the “little things” categories like winning draws, killing penalties and blocking shots. That might not make him worth the money, but it earns him clout as a leader.

Thumbnail image for boogaardparros.jpgStreet fighting man: Boogaard is the ‘Boogey Man’ for good reason; he is huge and terrifying. Sure, his punching ability doesn’t warrant a $1.6 million salary, but he should beat a lot of people up in the suddenly staggering Atlantic Division.

Best-case scenario: Lundqvist wins his first Vezina Trophy because Biron lets him avoid the occasional back to back game. Gaborik stays healthy and helps Frolov enjoy a 30-goal rebirth. Sean Avery impedes the progress of other people rather than himself and his own squad. The team makes a nice run to the Eastern Conference finals as some of the favorites are upset by underdogs.

Worst-case scenario: Gaborik struggles with his usual injury troubles while Frolov drifts in and out of relevance. Avery alternates between self-destructing and getting injured. The Rangers defense cracks in front of a beleaguered duo of Lundqvist and Biron. The Rangers end up missing the playoffs but aren’t bad enough to earn a good draft pick, either.

Keeping it real: Lundqvist is strong enough to help the Rangers remain competitive, but the team around him is very weak. I think the most realistic outlook is a slightly peachier version of the worst-case scenario. Chances are they’ll end up just a touch better than the Islanders, with a fourth-place finish in the Atlantic and a 10th or 11th spot in the East.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale of 1-5, with one being the worst and five being the best, having talent like Lundqvist and Gaborik bumps you up one point in my eyes, so let’s give the Rangers a 2. The splendid Swedish stopper will have to play out of his mind for the Rangers to be a serious contender, though.

Seidenberg expected to sign with Islanders

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Four of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Dennis Seidenberg is expected to sign with the New York Islanders after the World Cup, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

It’s a one-year, $1 million deal, per Dreger.

Seidenberg is currently playing a significant role for Team Europe, a surprise finalist against the heavily favored Canadians.

The 35-year-old defenseman was unexpectedly bought out by the Boston Bruins over the summer. He had two years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.

Seidenberg was a key part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup champion team in 2011, but injuries limited him to just 61 games last season, and his average ice time fell below 20 minutes for the first time since he was with the Hurricanes in 2007-08.

He’ll likely take on a bottom-pairing role with the Islanders, below Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, and Calvin de Haan. He may even be the extra defenseman, pushing the likes of Thomas Hickey, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield for a spot in the lineup.

Related: Seidenberg shocked by Bruins’ decision

Devils bolster defense, ink Quincey to one-year, $1.25M deal

Detroit Red Wings v Columbus Blue Jackets
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New Jersey needed some blueline depth after this summer’s blockbuster Adam Larsson-for-Taylor Hall trade and now, they’ve addressed it.

On Wednesday, GM Ray Shero announced the club signed veteran defenseman Kyle Quincey to a one-year, $1.25 million deal.

Quincey, 31, spent the last four seasons in Detroit, emerging as a regular fixture on defense — but ’15-16 was hardly a positive campaign.

He missed 35 games with a serious ankle injury and, upon his return, never seemed to find his way into head coach Jeff Blashill’s good graces.

Blashill even scratched Quincey in Game 3 of Detroit’s opening-round playoff loss to Tampa, and didn’t provide a reason why — a pretty bold move for a player that, in ’13-14, appeared in all 82 games for the Red Wings, averaging nearly 21 minutes per night.

Overall, this move seems like a pretty reasonable gamble from the Devils. Quincey has his flaws, but the term is short and the money is relatively low.

(Especially considering Quincey’s coming off a two-year, $8.5 million deal that paid $4.25M annually.)

Shero could end up getting a nice return on his investment. Quincey projects  to challenge for top-four minutes in New Jersey, looking to break into a group that features the likes of Andy Greene, Damon Severson, John Moore and Ben Lovejoy.

Jon Merrill, Steve Santini and Brandon Gormley are also in that mix, though likely to be challenging for spots on the bottom pair.

Boucher: Phaneuf was ‘terrific coup’ for Sens

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 5:  Dion Phaneuf #2 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 5,2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Senators defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Safe to say Guy Boucher is a big fan of the trade that brought Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa last season.

“Phaneuf has made a huge impact,” Boucher said of last season’s blockbuster swap with Toronto, per the Citizen. “It was a terrific coup by the organization being able to bring him in. We definitely, as a team, need that type of leadership — somebody who has been there, has a lot of character, with a voice that has impact.”

Boucher then confirmed Phaneuf would serve as an alternate captain this season. The 30-year-old will wear it on the road, while Kyle Turris will wear it at home. Veteran winger Chris Neil will be a full-time alternate.

So Phaneuf is taking on a bigger role, a story in itself considering he took on a pretty large one after joining the Sens last season. In 20 games, he averaged 23:10 TOI — up from the 22:02 he was playing in Toronto — and formed a consistent pairing with young Cody Ceci, the defenseman Ottawa took 15th overall at the 2012 draft.

Of course, not everybody thought the move was a big win.

Detractors pointed towards Phaneuf’s contract — a seven-year, $49 million pact that carries a $7 million AAV through 2021. It’s one of the most lucrative deals in the NHL, and gave Ottawa two of the 12 highest-paid blueliners in the league.

Considering the Sens finished 26th in the NHL last season in goals allowed, that last sentence is a tad embarrassing.

It was also clear Toronto wanted to make Phaneuf’s contract go away. He wasn’t going to be part of the rebuild and, while he’s still a useful and impactful player, he was a ghost of the team’s past. It was difficult to envision the new wave of Toronto’s young talent taking over, especially with Phaneuf (and Phaneuf’s presence) in the room.

But that same presence is considered a big plus in Ottawa.

The hope now, of course, is that Phaneuf will be more comfortable in the Canadian capital, having adjusted to the move and his new surroundings.

The World Cup seems destined to end with a quiet thud

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Steven Stamkos #91 of Team Canada blocks Nino Niederreiter #22 shot on net during Game One of the World Cup of Hockey final series at the Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
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If Team Europe was ever going to make the World Cup final interesting, it was probably going to happen last night. The heavily favored Canadians were bound to come out a bit flat against a non-traditional opponent, and that’s exactly what happened in a less-than-electric Air Canada Centre.

But despite carrying the play for much of the first period, the underdogs trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes. They would go on to lose, 3-1.

It could’ve gone a different way, but it didn’t.

“In the first, I thought that they were better than us for large stretches of the game at times,” said Team Canada’s head coach, Mike Babcock. “I thought they executed and played fast. I didn’t think we moved the puck out of our zone at all tonight, went back and forth. We had guys out there that didn’t talk to one another so actually didn’t play fast and then turned the pack over on entry, so they looked quicker than they were and we probably looked slower than we were.”

Team Europe’s coach, Ralph Krueger, was left to bemoan what could’ve been, while trying to build on the positives.

“I thought we could have tested (Carey) Price a lot more with the chances we had, and some of them just died on our own sticks,” he said. “But lots of good things there, lots of effort, and something to build on for Game 2 for sure.”

The problem for the Europeans is that they’re unlikely to catch their opponents on another off night. Expect a much more motivated, much less sloppy Canadian side in Game 2.

“For whatever reason, we weren’t as good as we felt we were capable of being, so we’ll fix that and be better,” said Babcock. “You’d like things to be perfect every night, but it’s just not real.”

Game 2 goes Thursday in Toronto. A Canadian victory and that’s it for the tournament — one that started with a decent amount of positive buzz, thanks to a couple of spirited Canada-U.S. exhibition games and the high-flying exploits of Team North America, but seems destined to end with a quiet thud.

Unless, of course, the Europeans can find a way to push it to Game 3, but that was always an unlikely scenario. They had a chance to make things interesting on Tuesday. They probably won’t get another.

Related: Kesler was ‘really disappointed’ with World Cup atmosphere