Tag: Mike Kostka

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers

Boyle appears ready for Rangers return

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From Newsday’s Steve Zipay:

Boyle (broken hand) was hurt in the Rangers’ first game of the season and hasn’t played since. The 38-year-old joined the club in the summer, signing a two-year, $9 million deal after spending six seasons in San Jose.

A right-shooting defenseman, Boyle was brought in to replace the departed Anton Stralman and also to help the Rangers’ power play, which currently ranks 21st in the NHL, converting at just 14.2 percent.

Last night, the Blueshirts earned an impressive 5-0 victory over Pittsburgh, two days after an “unacceptable” home-ice loss to Edmonton.

If Boyle does return tomorrow versus the Avs, the Rangers will still be without injured defenseman Ryan McDonagh. But compared to the blue line they were forced to ice a short time ago — minus Boyle, McDonagh, Kevin Klein and John Moore — things are looking decidedly up.

P.S. — Expect Mike Kostka to be the one coming out of the lineup if Boyle plays.

P.P.S. — Not sure what the future holds for Tomas Kaberle, but given all the returnees, it may not be with the Rangers.

Risk Factors: New York Rangers edition

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Four

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

New York Rangers

1. Depth at center, or lack thereof. Two key middle men from last year’s Stanley Cup Finalist are gone: Brad Richards (bought out, now in Chicago) and Brian Boyle (free agent, signed in Tampa Bay). A third, Derek Stepan, will miss the first 4-6 weeks with a fractured fibula. Even prior to the injury, New York’s center depth was going to be an issue; the Blueshirts had Stepan, ideally a No. 2 guy, masquerading as a top liner and Derick Brassard, who thrived as a No. 3 last year, playing as a No. 2.

So now what?

Head coach Alain Vigneault could be forced to open the season with Brassard, Dominic Moore and a trio of 22-year-olds — J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg — vying for minutes at center. (Veteran Matthew Lombardi, signed out of the Swiss league to provide depth down the middle, is sidelined indefinitely with a groin injury.)

Vigneault admitted he has a tall task at hand, especially trying to replace what Stepan brought to the table.

“When you think of Step, you think five-on-five, you think penalty kill, you think power play. Someone else is going to get those minutes,” Vigneault said, per the New York Daily news. “We’ll see who steps up.”

How the Rangers deal with their center situation will be a two-part act. The first part is surviving the length of time Stepan is out, and it’s fair to suggest he could miss all nine games in the month of October. It’ll be tough, but not impossible; the Rangers can band-aid the problem (heck, Marty St. Louis already offered to play there) and even if they do struggle, no biggie — the Blueshirts won just three of their first nine games last year, and rebounded fine.

The second act, though — a season-long lack of center depth — will be a problem. New York didn’t have a bonafide No. 1 last year but advanced to the Cup Final with a committee approach; problem is, that committee was exposed against the Kings, and now it’s thinned out.

More importantly, the Rangers still lack an elite center and don’t have anybody to match the likes of Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. Just how crucial is having top-end talent atop your depth chart?

“If you want to be one of the elite teams,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the CP, “you have to have it.”

2. Can they still roll four?

Last year, much of New York’s success came from its ability to roll four forward lines — especially in the playoffs. From the New York Post:

“I think if you look at the teams that have had success and have won the Cup since the [2004-05] lockout, you see those teams have had depth and have been able to play their depth,” Vigneault said Saturday.

“From personal experience, I know when we [the Canucks] lost the Cup to Boston, Boston was a four-line team — probably the best fourth line, I felt, in the league,” the coach said, referring to the unit that generally featured Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. “We didn’t have four lines.

“From that experience, if you can play four lines and manage the minutes, I think you can play at a higher tempo and faster paced game.”

Depth up front really was the Rangers’ calling card last postseason. Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot were arguably the postseason’s best third line and in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, it was the fourth line of Boyle, Moore and Derek Dorsett that scored the series-winning goal while providing countless shifts of dynamic forechecking.

Cap issues and free agency hurt New York’s depth. Boyle, Pouliot and Dorsett are all gone and the Richards departure bumped Brassard into a different role. Without much money for replacements, the Rangers acquired the likes of Lombardi, Ryan Malone, Tanner Glass, Lee Stempniak and Chris Mueller on the cheap; there’s experience in that group, but also a large number of question marks.

3. That blueline… is not fresh.

Perhaps nobody’s reputation took a bigger hit last spring that Dan Girardi, who opened the Stanley Cup Final with an egregious mistake — and things didn’t get much better from there. The knocks on Girardi by the end of the five-game ouster all sounded the same: he looked slow, fought the puck and lost too many physical battles, leaving many to wonder if 1) years of heavy minutes under John Tortorella wore him down, and 2) if the Rangers made a poor decision inking Girardi to a six-year extension in February.

So then they went out and got even older on D.

New York’s big free agent acquisition was Dan Boyle, signed from San Jose to replace the outgoing Anton Stralman. The irony was that Boyle, 38, was allowed to walk from San Jose following a playoff series against — guess who! — the Los Angeles Kings, in which Boyle looked a step slow and unable to contain the Kings forwards.

(For Boyle, replacing Stralman is no small task; the Swedish rearguard averaged nearly 20 minutes per game during the regular season, then finished fourth among all Rangers in playoff TOI.)

Overall, the Rangers’ blueline is not a young group. Boyle and Girardi are already on the wrong side of 30 and Kevin Klein gets there in December. Marc Staal, a pending UFA, turns 28 in January — meaning the young guns of the group are 25-year-old Ryan McDonagh and 23-year-old John Moore.

Now, McDonagh is a star in the making and likely the Rangers’ future captain; he’ll anchor the group for this season and beyond. But it’s the parts surrounding him which could be problematic — after the top-six of McDonagh, Boyle, Girardi, Klein, Moore, Staal, the Rangers’ reserve depth consists of a trio of journeyman NHLers in Steven Kampfer, Matt Hunwick and Mike Kostka.

No hearing for Tootoo after illegal check to head

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

Jordin Tootoo won’t receive a disciplinary hearing for his illegal check to the head penalty on Mike Kostka last night, a NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Tootoo, currently with the Devils on a professional tryout, was given a two-minute minor penalty for the check at 7:09 in the third period of Monday’s 5-4 win over the Rangers. He proceeded to take four more shifts after the call; Kostka was also able to return to the contest, logging five more shifts.

Tootoo, 31, is looking to catch on with the Devils after spending most of last year with Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. In June, the Wings bought Tootoo out of the last of his three-year, $5.7 million deal — making him an unrestricted free agent — and the Devils invited him to camp in mid-September.

Expect another year of heavy contract talks in New York

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Three

Entering the 2013-14 season, the New York Rangers boasted some huge names who were entering the last seasons of their contracts. The franchise resolved many of those issues (or, in the case of Ryan Callahan, traded those deals away) on their way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final… yet still finds itself in a similar spot as next season approaches.

Granted, nothing will really top the drama of last season — re-signing Henrik Lundqvist, opting against the same for Callahan, buying out Brad Richards — but a lot of money will still be at stake this year.

Naturally, a contract extension or two could happen in the early stages, but let’s look at the most prominent players (sorry, Mike Kostka and Matt Hunwick) entering contract years with current cap hits in parenthesis:

Martin St. Louis ($5.625 million, UFA)
Marc Staal ($3.975 million, UFA)
Mats Zuccarello ($3.5 million, UFA)
Derek Stepan ($3.075 million, RFA)
Carl Hagelin ($2.25 million, RFA)
Cam Talbot ($562K, UFA)

That’s quite the list of prominent players. St. Louis has been (relatively) underpaid for years and may very well want to “cash-in” on what be his last NHL contract (or at least close to his last one).

The rest of the list features players in their primes who are probably all being paid below market value. Staal’s had his troubles, yet defensemen are so hard to come by that a nice season could mean a huge contract. Zuccarello topped all Rangers regular season scorers, Hagelin’s a speedy gem who could easily enjoy a big jump in production and Talbot was quietly brilliant backing Lundqvist up last season.

Stepan might be the most interesting, though. He’s been a steady performer (never missed one game since hitting the league in 2010-11) with two 50-point seasons and no less than 44 points in any campaign. He’s already pretty accomplished for a guy who’s only 24. With Brad Richards gone, Stepan’s status as the team’s No. 1 center seems as secure as ever, and the American-born forward is likely to play with St. Louis and/or Rick Nash next season. Could we see a 20+ goal season in which Stepan flirts with 70 points? It’s not outrageous to ponder, and such a leap would cost the Blueshirts some serious cash, even considering the fact that Stepan will be an RFA.


This talk might leave Rangers fans a little nervous, but sometimes a little added motivation can be a good thing. Even with the likes of Lundqvist and Dan Girardi re-signed, New York benefited greatly from best-of-their-career moments from pending free agents during an impressive playoff run in 2013-14.

In other words, greed can be good … at least in the short term.

Rangers in curious cap situation after re-signing Brassard

Glen Sather, Jim Dolan

The New York Rangers perked up a few eyebrows on Sunday when they re-signed restricted free agent forward Derick Brassard to a five-year, $25 million deal.

While he was a great contributor to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup Final run last season on the third line, some have wondered if he’s worth that kind of pay out. That debate is there to be had, but the effect it has on the Rangers’ salary cap is what may have fans stressing out all season.

The Rangers have one more restricted free agent left to re-sign — defenseman John Moore. Larry Brooks of the New York Post said if he comes in at around $1 million, the Rangers could be looking at around $1.3 million in cap space. That would happen if Chris Mueller and Matt Hunwick start the season in the AHL. As it is right now, according to CapGeek.com, they have $1.33 million in cap space to get Moore signed.

Walking that kind of salary tightrope means GM Glen Sather will have to be shrewd with call-ups. It also puts some of the other signings this summer under the microscope. Tanner Glass’ three-year, $4.35 million deal with a $1.45 million cap hit stands out especially since he’s likely going to play the fourth line or not at all.

If there’s a bright side here it’s that the players battling for the final spots on the roster all come in with similar cap numbers.

Jesper Fast ($805K), J.T. Miller ($894,167), and Mueller ($600K) will battle up front while Mike Kostka ($650K) and Hunwick ($600K) will fight for the seventh defenseman job. That means coach Alain Vigneault can pick and choose out of this bunch without stressing too much about what it’ll do to the cap. Still, the Rangers are pushing the limit and not having that flexibility can cause problems if/when injuries arise.