Rangers get younger and faster with Zibanejad trade, but is it enough?

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The New York Rangers’ 2015-16 season came to an abrupt end in the first round of the playoffs when they were systematically dominated by a better, faster and more skilled Pittsburgh Penguins team.

The roster had some obvious flaws, and one of the most glaring was a lack of speed that the Penguins were able to consistently expose in the five-game series.

On Monday, general manager Jeff Gorton said one of the goals for the Rangers this summer was for the team to try to get younger and faster without having to give up too much in return. They attempted to address that on Monday with the trade that sent veteran forward Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Mika Zibanejad.

Even though Brassard has developed into a pretty solid two-way center for the Rangers, and his production was nearly identical to Zibanejad’s this past season, it is still easy to see why this trade was so appealing for the team.

Related: Rangers send Brassard to Ottawa for Zibanejad

In Zibanejad they are getting a player that is not only more than five years younger, but has also been trending upward over the past few seasons from a production standpoint and is already a strong penalty killer. He also gives them a dimension up front that they had started to lack over the past couple of years with his speed and overall skill level. With a pair of 20-goal seasons already under his belt before his age 23 season in the league it shouldn’t be be out of the question to think he could reach the 30-goal season in the coming years.

But while Zibanejad brings some much needed youth, speed and (for now) salary cap relief to the team, it is still the only significant move the team has made this summer to add talent and address the most glaring flaws on the team. And while it is a nice move, it doesn’t really do much to significantly close the gap between them and the top contenders in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.

Gorton refused to say on Monday if he had another move coming after clearing about $2.5 million in cap space.

“You can say cap space if you like, but for us this is a younger player who is almost six years younger, has two 20 goal seasons, and is a player that we think is heading to the prime of his career,” Gorton said.

“The ability to get him, a younger player, someone who is fast, plays well in his own zone, can do a lot of things for us. That is the exciting part, the fact that we have some cap space is good. We will look at everything now but even if I had a move I promise I wouldn’t tell you.”

The Rangers’ only other additions this summer have been Michael Grabner, Josh Jooris and Nathan Gerbe up front, and Nick Holden and Adam Clendening on defense.

Gorton also said on Monday that the team had no serious discussions about buying out the remainder of Dan Girardi‘s contract following a tough 2015-16 season.

That means the defense will be mostly the same one that struggled through much of the second half of the season and playoffs … minus its two best puck-moving options in Keith Yandle (traded to Florida) and Dan Boyle (retirement).

 

 

 

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.