Brady Skjei

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Chance the Rapper plays clueless hockey reporter on ‘SNL’

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Chance the Rapper hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night and in skit he played Lazlo Holmes, a New York Knicks reporter for Madison Square Garden network filling in for the usual New York Rangers reporter who’s on paternity leave.

Holmes quickly discovers that the temperature for hockey is a tad different than that of a hoops game, and that some of the names in the sport are pretty tough to say for an outsider, like Brady Skjei, for example.

It’s not quite Tim “Little Hockey” Meadows bemoaning the 1994 NHL lockout, but it was good for some chuckles.

Hopefully next time NBC has a coach mic’d up for a pre-game speech, he lets fly with “let’s do that hockey!”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

McKenzie: What Rangers, Bruins want to trade for

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With the Matt Duchene trade taken care of, could the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers make some moves of their own?

Hockey insider Bob McKenzie discussed what the Rangers and Bruins would look for on the trade market in the video above, and if nothing else, it seems like both teams want to make additions.

McKenzie notes that the Rangers were in on discussions regarding Duchene, but the asking price – which might have required brilliant young defenseman Brady Skjei going the other way – was far too rich for their liking.

Now that the Rangers are on a bit of a roll, McKenzie believes that any “rebuild” talk is put on hold. Instead, New York is hoping to add in immediate ways rather than planning for the longer-term future.

[The argument for a rebuild in New York]

The Bruins are open to a wide variety of possibilities to try to improve their team, according to McKenzie. Boston would like to improve at both forward and/or defense, and they’d be willing to do a player-for-player move or trade away prospects/picks. So just about anything.

At the same time, McKenzie notes that management would also like to get a better idea of what the Bruins might actually be capable of with all hands on deck. Patrice Bergeron ranks among players who’ve missed time while Brad Marchand (day-to-day), David Krejci (week-to-week), and David Backes (indefinite, possibly quite some time after colon surgery) are currently injured.

Some hurdles

So, it’s great that the Rangers and Bruins want to improve. Still, a few things must be considered.

For one thing, the Bruins might need to accept that injuries could be a consistent headache with core members. Bergeron, Rask, Krejci, and Backes are already past 30 and Marchand isn’t far behind at 29. Considering their careers, these guys have accrued a lot of mileage, and wear-and-tear is to be expected.

Beyond that, the Bruins don’t have a ton of cap space to work with, as you can see from Cap Friendly. A move would likely require some creativity and maybe a patient, open-minded GM on the other end.

The Rangers have more options, but it’s up to management to weigh options properly.

Rick Nash‘s massive contract is set to expire, but New York needs to decide if they’re better off taking another swing or two at a window that might be closing or if they’d benefit more from “reloading.”

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Both the Rangers and Bruins want to do something, and from the looks of McKenzie’s update, that means pushing for immediate returns rather than future considerations.

Easier said than done.

As a bonus, enjoy this clip of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones sharing memories of being traded:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Why are there so many empty seats at Red Wings games?

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Brady Skjei had an impressive rookie season, but he’s struggled this season. His sophomore slump isn’t even really his fault. He hasn’t seen much ice time on the power play and his defense partner keeps changing. (bluelinestation.com)

–The Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season. They’ve been able to generate offense because their blue liners get involved in the attacking end too. “That’s what makes us successful when we are getting guys in and out letting our D get in because they can see (forwards) are supporting them and being behind them. It creates confusion on the defense,” center Brandon Dubinsky said. (Columbus Dispatch)

–The Capitals have played just five games at home this season and they haven’t looked very good on home ice. One of the big reasons they’re  struggling in Washington is because their special teams play has been brutal. (Washington Post)

–The Ottawa Senators have come up with a couple of new hats, and it’s safe to say that the fine folks at welcometoyourkarlssonyears.com aren’t big fans of the new merchandise. (welcometoyourkarlssonyears.com)

Miles Wood took the blame for New Jersey’s loss to Calgary on Sunday night. The Devils forward hasn’t found the back of the net in eight games and pucksandpitchforks.com believes it’s because he’s putting too much pressure on himself. (pucksandpitchforks.com)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has had a couple of quiet season with the Oilers over the last few years, but he’s really turned it on of late. He’s playing more of an offensive role now, which is good for him and the team. (oilonwhyte.com)

Matt Duchene played almost 600 games with the Colorado Avalanche, so Mile High Hockey decided to take a look back at his journey with the team. From when he was drafted to All-Star games to a contract dispute, Duchene has seen it all. (milehighhockey.com)

–The Flames decided to waive veteran Tanner Glass on Monday. It’ll be interesting to see who the team recalls from the minors if Glass clears waivers. (flamesnation.ca)

–The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds will reportedly play two outdoor games at Safeco Field by 2019. The timing of all this is interesting considering there are plenty of rumors about the NHL going to Seattle in the coming years. (Seattle Times)

–The Detroit Red Wings have announced sellouts for every one of their home games so far this season, but there’s been a ton of empty seats at Little Caesars Arena. One economist suggests that all the new features in the arena have taken the attention off the game. (Detroit News)

–Jaela O’Brien is a young hockey goalie that was diagnosed with cancer a little while ago. Her meetings with some Minnesota Wild players and Jonathan Quick helped her in recovery. “He’s still my favorite player,” O’Brien said of Quick. “He’s athletic and he reminds me a lot of myself. He always makes crazy saves. He seems like a good person too.” (NHL.com)

–There haven’t been a ton of positives for the Arizona Coyotes in 2017-18. The performance of rookie Clayton Keller is one of the bright spots for them this season. The ‘Yotes can build around Keller, but they absolutely need to get him some help. (spectorshockey.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Should Rangers consider a mini-rebuild?

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Last night, Darren Dreger appeared on NBCSN to discuss possible changes for the New York Rangers, from replacing Alain Vigneault to making trades.

The video above is interesting, but it’s clear that the Rangers have more questions than answers. Allow a suggestion, then: the Rangers should make like the 2012-13 Sharks and essentially run a “mini-rebuild.”

As a reminder, the Sharks traded Ryane Clowe to the (gulp) Rangers for a bucket of picks and sent Douglas Murray to the Penguins for two second-rounders. Hot take: San Jose won those trades.

Now, the situations aren’t precisely the same (example: the Rangers employ Glen Sather, so they can’t swindle him), but New York should evoke the spirit of those trades. Rangers GM Jeff Gorton should peel off the Band-Aid for big rewards, much like Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Those decisions were braver then than they appear now.

And that is where the fun starts. Let’s ponder a few questions the Rangers must ask themselves.

Fire AV?

Under certain circumstances, the Alain Vigneault question is more complicated than frustrated Rangers fans might believe.

Still, if you’re undergoing even an abbreviated rebuild, AV might not be the right fit. And, yes, even good coaches sometimes have limited shelf lives before players sour on them.

They already began a pivot, in a way

Also, while the moves were made to afford Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers already moved Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta out of town, with futures coming back. They got a boom-or-bust prospect in Anthony DeAngelo and the pick that became Lias Andersson in that trade.

In a way, this could just be a continuation. And, hey, there’s already some talk about the draft lottery.

Easy calls

  • Rick Nash: His mammoth $7.8 million cap hit will expire after this season, making it a challenge to move, unless Gorton gets creative. The Rangers could retain some of his salary, or better yet, take on some cap hits in exchange for assets.
  • Michael Grabner: While Nash is expensive, Grabner’s deal is as thrifty as he is swift. How many contenders wouldn’t want to add a speedy scorer with some gas in the tank (Grabner is 30) when you consider his $1.65M cap hit? The greater cost would come in the picks and/or prospects that would need to go the Rangers’ way.
  • Would anyone want Marc Staal? Have the Rangers called Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, whose blind spot seems to be declining, rugged Rangers?

Tougher considerations

  • Mats Zuccarello: The pint-sized wonder always seems to sneak up on you. Many might assume he’s had a quieter season … yet he has 10 points in 13 games. Sneaky.

Zuccarello has two years left, but at $4.5M, plenty of teams might view that at as plus. Really, it comes down to keeping him if you expect to contend again soon or shopping him if you see this as a “process.”

  • Young forwards who need new deals: J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, and Kevin Hayes are three players in their mid-20s. They might be the sort of guys who are integral to your future, assuming this is a blip rather than a longer rebuild. Maybe you decide to keep two and trade one. Perhaps they’re all players you can sign to team-friendly deals.

Either way, the Rangers need to at least consider the futures of those three, among other young (and young-ish) players.

  • Ryan McDonagh – I wouldn’t do it, but his bargain $4.7M does expire after 2018-19.

Do not move

Let’s just use this as an opportunity to mention that Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Brady Skjei shouldn’t be moved unless there’s an offer of just astounding quality. (In other words, unless Peter Chiarelli calls?)

There are also guys you wouldn’t be able to trade: Henrik Lundqvist and probably Shattenkirk. Also, probably Staal, but the Rangers should send a call to Tampa just to make sure.

Long story short, the status quo isn’t tenable for the Rangers. With that in mind, they should take a bold approach, ultimately aiming higher than merely trying to make the playoffs.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Vigneault firmly on hot seat with Rangers

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The good news is that the New York Rangers are in a position to steal at least a few headlines in New York.

The bad news is that they’re not really making the positive headlines that you’d hope for, as Alain Vigneault probably nods sadly at the phrase “no news is good news.” With each loss – and Saturday’s defeat against the Montreal Canadiens was another tough one – the speculation about Vigneault’s job security continues to boil over.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks penned a column with an ominous headline “Alain Vigneault may have one game left.” Brooks provides some interesting perspective therein, speculating that Lindy Ruff would take over in the short-term, while noting the Rangers’ slow starts with amusing specificity:

The Rangers have been outscored 3-0 in the first 2:00 of games; 5-1 in the first 3:00; 6-2 in the first 4:00; 8-3 in the first six minutes; 10-4 within the first 10:00; and 13-4 in the first 12:00 of the first 12 games.

That is inexcusable. The Blueshirts have been chronically unengaged both mentally and physically coming out of the room for the drop of the first puck. If the athletes believe they are working hard enough, they are delusional. They are doing the minimum, and poorly, at that.

It’s actually an earlier piece from Brooks that might be the most fascinating/tough on the heart. Vigneault put himself in the shoes of now-former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, and it felt a bit like he was going through therapy. Via Brooks:

“I can put myself in his shoes and really feel the pain he’s going through,” Vigneault said of Girardi on Friday. “But one thing I understand is the business part of it. As much as I’d like to say I don’t, I do.”

Yikes, that sure seems dismal. It’s also understandable that he’d feel some kinship to Girardi. Both have been able to enjoy success in the standings, even if their decisions are always under a microscope. Part of that is the nature of the beast while coaching in New York; some of the criticisms are, of course, also valid.

Hardball Talk: What are the Yankees thinking letting Girardi go?

This isn’t a matter of one beat writer railing against Vigneault. If it wasn’t enough to hear about fans booing the team – never a great vote of confidence, often a strong message to ownership – the prevailing criticisms seem to be about a perceived lack of effort.

Then again, when you charge a team with a lack of “compete,” sometimes you’re maybe ignoring other problems.

Is AV just not the right fit for a team with quite a few young players of increasing importance, from Brady Skjei to Pavel Buchnevich to J.T. Miller?

There’s also the possibility that the Rangers are merely falling off the tightrope after walking it perilously last season. Much was made about this team’s style overcoming shot metrics that didn’t always lean their way, but with Henrik Lundqvist possibly showing his age and a few key scorers coming up dry so far, maybe this team is merely facing the reality of a so-so roster?

Whether you want to place a lot or a little of the blame on Vigneault, it’s often the coach that goes when a team is in a miserable situation. Sometimes problems fester to the point where that coach might welcome the reprieve, and it wouldn’t be shocking if AV may feel some if that day comes.

Sadly for Vigneault, it feels like that threat might not be far away.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.