Tag: Aaron Johnson


Will New York’s youth movement be put on hold?


When most people think of key members of the New York Rangers, names like Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh come to mind.

But what about the likes of Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath, JT Miller and Brady Skjei?

Those four are New York’s first-round picks from 2009-12, and widely considered to be cornerstones of the club’s future. Kreider (23 games last year) and Miller (26) have made their marks at the NHL level — Kreider more so, thanks to his stellar 2011-12 playoff run — while McIlrath seems close to making his NHL debut, and Skjei isn’t far away.

“I think I have a legitimate shot,” McIlrath said at July’s prospect camp.

Another prospect is former Habs second-rounder Danny Kristo, acquired in a July trade for Christian Thomas. He’s got “a good chance to fill” the roster holes left by the injured Callahan and Carl Hagelin, according to director of player personnel Gordie Clark.

But will it all pan out?

Under former head coach John Tortorella, it was difficult for those youngsters to get into games (“there are just too many mistakes,” he lamented back in April.) Kreider was a non-factor in 2013 after his postseason breakthrough, and Miller was used sporadically.

Under Vigneault, that might not change.

The new Rangers boss isn’t known as someone that likes youngsters learning on the job. His time in Vancouver was marked by a preference for safe, responsible veterans over talented-but-inexperienced kids.

Cody Hodgson, Michael Grabner and Jordan Schroeder all had issues getting ice time, though those decisions were often made in part by the club’s depth.

In New York, the situation could be similar.

Since hiring Vigneault, the Rangers signed a pair of veteran presences at forward, Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot, and added defensive depth in Justin Falk, Danny Syvret and Aaron Johnson.

Considering the Rangers didn’t lose much from last year’s team — the most notable departures were Steve Eminger, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern and trade deadline pickup Ryane Clowe — it’ll be tough for New York’s kiddie corps to get in the mix.

Especially if they don’t adhere to Vigneault’s preferred style of play.

“I like my teams to play the right way, which is if you have room to make a play, make a play,” he said upon taking the Rangers job. “If you have space and time to carry the puck, carry the puck. If the other team has the gap on you or they’re playing you tight, then sometimes you have to make the high-percentage play and chip those pucks in.

“I really believe in playing the right way both offensively and defensively.”

It’s New York Rangers day on PHT

Henrik Lundqvist

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Rangers.

The Rangers are the classic “tease” team. They offer one of the best goalies in the world, top-end offensive talent, and sound defensive work. They should be a Stanley Cup contender each year. “Should” being the operative word there.

Looking at how they’ve finished the last few years, it’s been a roller coaster. In the past four seasons they’ve missed the playoffs, been bounced out in the first and second rounds and made it to the Eastern finals two seasons ago. They’ve done everything but make the Stanley Cup Final and now they’ll look to do that with a coach who was there as recently as 2011 and knows a fair bit about the sting of unfulfilled expectations.

The Rangers are young and talented but their franchise goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, is itchy to win now.

Offseason recap

The biggest news of the summer came when the Rangers fired John Tortorella and hired former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to replace him. The thought here is that Torts wore out the players with his tough ways and that Vigneault will help tap into the Rangers’ offensive potential a bit more.

As for player news, the Rangers kept it rather quiet. They acquired former Canadiens prospect Danny Kristo in exchange for their own prospect Christian Thomas in a trade. Free agency was equally low-key with signings like defenseman Aaron Johnson and forwards Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore. Moore’s story in particular is inspiring returning to hockey after the sudden passing of his wife.

Now if they can just get restricted free agent Derek Stepan taken care of and maybe start negotiating with their three potential unrestricted free agents next summer (Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi), GM Glen Sather can take a breather.

The Rangers’ core is strong (did we forget to mention Rick Nash?) and there’s no reason to think they won’t be a Stanley Cup threat again this season.


Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series

Rangers stay busy, sign d-man Falk: one year, $975,000


Just hours after signing restricted free agent forward Carl Hagelin, the New York Rangers re-upped with another RFA — defenseman Justin Falk.

Falk, acquired at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft from Minnesota, has signed a one-year, $975,000 deal, according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

Falk, 24, has solidified himself as an everyday NHL player during the last two seasons. He played in most of the 2013 regular season (36 games), although his ice time plummeted from 19:30 minutes per game in 2011-12 to just 13:13 last season.

The Wild were looking to trim salary this summer and Falk’s presence on the blueline diminished last season with the addition of Ryan Suter and emergence of Jonas Brodin.

Falk’s best season came in 2011-12, when he played a career-high 47 games and racked up a career-high nine points.

With the move, the Rangers now have eight defensemen under contract for next season — Falk, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, John Moore and Aaron Johnson.