Henrik Lundqvist

2011-2012 season preview: New York Rangers

2010-2011 record: 44-33-5, 93 points; 3rd in Atlantic, 8th in East

Playoffs: Lost to Washington 4-1 in Eastern quarterfinals

Much like in previous seasons, the Rangers landed the big prize in free agency. Only difference is that this time it’s a guy (Brad Richards) that makes them immediately better and they didn’t give up on their farm team to fill out ranks. Has Glen Sather finally figured it all out? We’ll see, but the Rangers figure to be a strong team in the East.

Offense

It all starts with Richards and Marian Gaborik. With these two stars paired up on the first line, it gives the Rangers a definitive offensive threat for all situations. Worries will surround their collective ability to stay healthy, but when these two are on the ice, opponents will have to be ready. They’ll also have an outstanding second line with equally maturing and improving studs like Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.

If the Rangers can get more out of Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov they won’t need to make Henrik Lundqvist crazy by forcing him to hold opponents to one goal a game. Guys like Mike Rupp, Brian Boyle, and Brandon Prust will make sure they have lockdown forwards again. If Boyle can score 20-plus goals again, they’ll have offensive threats on all four lines.

source: Getty ImagesDefense

Marc Staal’s health will be an issue to watch all season as he’s the guy that makes it all go there. Dan Girardi has morphed into the Rangers’ best defensive blue liner, absorbing pucks like he’s a mobile goalie. Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer provide solid depth and Steve Eminger is an OK veteran. How they round things out could be an issue, however. Young guys like Michael Del Zotto, Tim Erixon, and Brendan Bell will all get shots to stick around. If the Rangers have a weakness it’s that they don’t have a true power-play quarterback.

Goalies

Lundqvist is one of the best in the league and he’s the guy that makes it all happen for the team. He’s calm, cool, and confident and has been ever since becoming a star in the NHL. Having a healthy Martin Biron to back him up again will help keep Lundqvist from getting worn out. Lundqvist is a Vezina threat any year and with the Rangers’ improvements in offense, he can help make any defensive deficiencies go away.

source: Getty ImagesCoach

If you didn’t know John Tortorella already, you haven’t been paying attention. Don’t worry, with the Rangers being in the Winter Classic and also set to be on HBO’s 24/7, you’ll get to know a lot about him. Tortorella’s the best guy to have in New York and he’s done a solid job of keeping order in Manhattan. With his old pal Richards (they won a Cup together in 2004 with Tampa Bay) expect Tortorella to have things rolling just how he wants. If he doesn’t, bring on the profanity and press conferences.

Breakout candidate

The Rangers had a host of these players last year in Stepan, McDonagh, and Zuccarello. This time around, if there’s a guy that’s going to breakout it’ll be Erixon. With the Rangers essentially holding an open audition for the sixth defenseman spot, someone’s going to show they’ve earned it and the former Flames draft pick has all the upside to do it. Del Zotto still struggles defensively and Bell needs to do more to show he can cut it in the NHL. Let Erixon get a shot and see what he can do and he could surprise everyone.

source: APBest-case scenario

Richards’ arrival helps get Gaborik back above the 40-goal mark and ignites a power play that was mostly feeble last season. Dubinsky and Callahan continue to lead the way and give the Rangers the second-line push to create more offense. Wojtek Wolski avoids slumps and plays the kind of hockey the Rangers need — to score and set up goals. Lundqvist wins the Vezina as the Rangers bully their way deep into the playoffs and help make Sather look like a psychic.

Reality

The Rangers have things in place to be a very good team. They should absolutely be a playoff team and stressing out at the end of the season shouldn’t happen again.  As long as Richards and Gaborik stay healthy and keep the offense rolling, they’ll be a tougher team to handle. The forward roster is deep, and while there’s still questions on defense, Lundqvist makes it all stand up. The question for New York is just how they can manage as a playoff team.

Flyers sign Brayden Schenn to four-year deal

Philadelphia Flyers' Brayden Schenn reacts after scoring during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
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The Flyers won’t require today’s scheduled arbitration hearing with Brayden Schenn. They’ve agreed to terms with the 24-year-old forward on a four-year contract with a reported cap hit of $5.125 million.

Schenn had a career-high 26 goals and 33 assists in 2015-16. His 59 points were the third most on the Flyers, behind only Claude Giroux‘s 67 and Wayne Simmonds‘ 60.

The Schenn signing leaves the Flyers with just over $1 million in cap space for 2016-17, but no major free agents remaining. RFA defenseman Brandon Manning still needs a contract, but that’s it, per General Fanager. Manning has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 2.

Scrivens signs in KHL with Dinamo Minsk

Montreal Canadiens' Devante Smith-Pelly , center,and Brendan Gallagher, left, celebrate their victory over the Carolina Hurricanes with goalie Ben Scrivens at an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Ben Scrivens is off to Belarus. The 29-year-old goalie has reportedly signed with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

Scrivens made 14 starts for the Montreal Canadiens in 2015-16, failing to really take advantage of his opportunity with the Habs and finishing 5-8-0 with a .906 save percentage.

In total, Scrivens made 144 appearances (130 starts) in NHL games, his best season coming in 2013-14, which he split between Los Angeles and Edmonton. The Oilers gave up a third-round draft pick to get him. They eventually acquired Zack Kassian when they dealt him away.

Related: Maple Leafs reportedly close to signing Jhonas Enroth

Small world: Flames prospect Phillips drawing comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau

Johnny Gaudreau
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Johnny Gaudreau has proven that smaller players with exceptional talent can excel in the National Hockey League.

In only two full seasons with the Calgary Flames after a career at Boston College, the five-foot-nine-inch tall Gaudreau has emerged as an offensive dynamo, finishing tied with Blake Wheeler and Joe Pavelski with 78 points last season. Only five players in the entire league had more points.

He could also act as a source of inspiration for Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, taken in the sixth round, 166th overall, by Calgary in last month’s NHL Draft.

Phillips is actually smaller than Gaudreau. He’s currently listed at five-foot-six-inches tall and 137 pounds. Yes. That’s 137 pounds.

Despite the lack of size, Phillips had 37 goals and 76 points in 72 games with the Victoria Royals in the rugged Western Hockey League.

“My first good look at him was at the World Juniors when he won gold [in 2012 with the United States],” said Phillips, as per NHL.com. “Every game I watched, he lit it up. Then I found out he was a Flames prospect. My eyes blew open there. I’ve been glued to his games ever since.

“I just like watching his focus. When he has the puck, I watch how creative he is. He doesn’t shy away from making the bold play with the puck that if it works, it’s high reward. Not just that, but his focus on the ice, from what I hear around the rink, is pretty special. I like watching his demeanor on the ice and how he approaches it all.”

Because of their respective but similar statures, Phillips has already garnered comparisons to Gaudreau, who went to the Flames in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

“Goalies and forwards are kind of going in opposite directions but the game has changed a lot in the past 10 years with the new rules,” said Phillips, as per Global News. 

“And it’s a faster pace of play and there’s more and more space for the small player.”

Related: Flames ‘have every confidence’ they’ll be able to re-sign Gaudreau, Monahan

Report: Maple Leafs closing in on deal with Jhonas Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs held on to Garret Sparks, signing him earlier this month to a two-way contract.

But they may not be done there, as they look to find someone to fill the role of back-up to Frederik Andersen.

On Sunday, a report from Expressen in Sweden — and put through Google Translate — began circulating that the Leafs are closing in on a deal with free agent goalie Jhonas Enroth, who turned 28 years old last month.

It’s one report and the team has not confirmed or announced anything. But it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few days.

Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last season with the L.A. Kings, appearing in only 16 games behind starter Jonathan Quick.

Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the Kings, his playing time was a source of contention, however, because Enroth seemed to be under the impression he would play more than he did in L.A.

The back-up position in Toronto became available when the Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks.

Related: UFA of the Day: Jhonas Enroth