Pavel Buchnevich

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers
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Rangers bet on themselves at Trade Deadline

The New York Rangers were prepared for any which direction the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline could have played out.

Instead of selling off expiring contracts such as Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo, the Blueshirts re-signed Chris Kreider to a seven-year deal and shipped Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2020 first-round draft pick.

“You have to keep your eye on what the big picture is,” Rangers president John Davidson said shortly after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline. “You have to make decisions with that in mind. We have a plan, and that’s what we are trying to implement.”

New York has won seven of its past eight games and currently sits six points outside the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the 2020 postseason seems unlikely, the Rangers are looking to build a winning culture and did not want to trade influential players for the third straight season.

“He is a unique player and very hard to replace,” Henrik Lundqvist said of the Rangers alternate captain. “It’s definitely the right decision to lock him up. I think he is developing to an even better player, more consistent, the type of leader that you need in the locker room.”

From the moment Davidson came aboard last summer, he wanted to prioritize a winning locker room that would help young players mature at an optimal rate.

“We are young and getting younger, we need people that can lead the way,” Davidson said in reference to Kreider. “If it didn’t make sense to us (the dollars), we would have had to move in a different direction.”

The Rangers considered trade offers for Kreider over the last few weeks and NHL insider Bob McKenzie reported he was the No. 1 target for as many as eight teams.

“When you weigh all the options of having him leave vs. keeping him, it became more evident that we wanted to keep him,” general manager Jeff Gorton said.

In order to keep options open, the Rangers moved Skjei’s $5.25 million cap hit to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the short term, Brendan Smith will slide back to his natural position on the blue line, but the organization has several internal options that are almost ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Where do the Rangers go from here?

The Blueshirts will try to compete for a playoff spot but more importantly, they are looking to cultivate a winning identity. That change does not happen overnight and trading significant pieces this time of year over and over again has a cumulative effect.

Losing is infectious and the front office felt this was the time to start turning the ship around.

Kreider has developed chemistry with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Over the past 14 games, that line has recorded 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists).

While that combination has blossomed into a top unit, Artemi Panarin and Strome have created a strong secondary punch. New York has not reached its final destination, but the front office is installing their plan which will take them on the most direct route to sustained success.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Rangers’ Shesterkin, Buchnevich injured in car accident

Rangers Shesterkin
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Along with announcing a new contract extension for Chris Kreider on Monday, New York Rangers team president John Davidson said teammates Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

According to Davidson, Shesterkin was driving when a vehicle did a U-turn in front of them resulting in the collision.

Fortunately both players were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Buchnevich was “quite shaken up” according to Davidson, but will only be out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

Shesterkin has a non-displaced rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Shesterkin has emerged as the Rangers’ starting goalie in recent weeks and has a 9-1-0 record with a .940 save percentage since his re-call. His performance has been one of the biggest factors in the Rangers’ recent hot streak that has seen them climb back to within striking distance of a playoff spot this season.

The Rangers are currently carrying three goaltenders, while Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist will take over the goaltending duties in Shesterkin’s absence.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Kreider, Panarin push Rangers past Blackhawks

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The New York Rangers don’t want to see key pieces sold off at the NHL Trade Deadline in the coming days.

The Blueshirts have seen impact players such as Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and others shown the door this time of year the past two seasons and hope their 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday can change Jeff Gorton’s mind.

Chris Kreider had three points and Artemi Panarin recorded his 30th goal of the season in the Rangers’ fourth victory in the previous five games.

“We got to make the GM’s job tough and wins like this will do that,” Ryan Strome told Bryan Boucher on NBCSN following the game.

Dominik Kubalik scored twice and Drake Caggiula added another, but the Blackhawks fell for the second consecutive game and for the seventh time in the last eight games.

Value of Rangers assets keeps increasing

Kreider is the top rental available and the Rangers’ front office hopes a bidding war develops over the next few days. The speedy power forward converted a slick breakaway midway through the third period which turned into the eventual game-winner.

NHL insider Bob McKenzie reported on the pregame show that five teams were interested in Kreider’s services. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals have expressed interest, according to McKenzie.

In addition to Kreider, the Rangers have several other commodities that could intrigue playoff contenders. Ryan Strome netted his career high 51st point, Pavel Buchnevich scored, and Tony DeAngelo returned to the lineup.

“Honestly, we have been doing a pretty good job,” Strome said when asked about the potential movement. “We have got some guys that have been around and some young guys that are probably a little bit oblivious. That probably helps a little bit.”

The playoffs are a longshot for New York this season, but the question they need to answer internally is, how far away from the postseason are they?

Keith’s milestone assist

The alternate captain has been the foundation of the Chicago Blackhawks defense since arriving in the NHL for the 2005-06 season.

In the second period against the Rangers, Keith delivered a beautiful no-look, cross-ice pass to set up Kubalik’s game-tying goal. It was Keith’s 500th career assist.

Keith became the seventh player in franchise history to reach that accomplishment and joined Doug Wilson as the only defensemen in that group.

The 36-year-old was rightfully included in the 100 Greatest Players in NHL History announced during the League’s centennial celebration and continues to ensure that his No. 2 will float in the rafters with his three Stanley Cup championship banners at the United Center.

 


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Rangers move Kaapo Kakko to top line

With only 19 goals in seven games and a five-game losing streak heading into Thursday night, the New York Rangers are doing some line shuffling against the Buffalo Sabres in an effort to kickstart their offense.

The most notable change will see prized rookie and No. 2 overall pick Kaapo Kakko move to the top line where he will play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

Artemi Panarin, the team’s big offseason acquisition and one of the few players on the team actually providing some offense this season, will play on the second line next to Ryan Strome and Pavel Buchnevich.

For Kakko, the Rangers are obviously hoping that getting him next to Zibanejad, the team’s leading offensive player since the start of last season, will give him a confidence boost and get him going offensively. He has been off to a slow start with just one goal, one assist, and only 11 shots on goal in his first seven games (and five of those shots came in just one game).

He has been extremely hard on himself this week, voicing frustration with his play to a Finnish news outlet and then doubling down on it with Rangers reporters on Wednesday, saying “I’m playing bad hockey” via the New York Post.

Now he gets a chance to break out of that funk next to the Rangers’ No. 1 center for the first time in his career.

“I mean, forget it, you see Mika Zibanejad as your center, you’re automatically getting a whole new level of confidence,” said Rangers coach David Quinn on Thursday, via the Rangers’ website. “So (Kakko) is in a much better position mentally when he sees that Mika Zibanejad is his center and Chris Kreider is his left wing.”

After starting the season with back-to-back wins (and scoring 10 goals in those games) everything has kind of fallen apart for the Rangers offensively since then. They have not scored more than two goals in a game since Oct. 5 (their second game of the year) and their next four games present quite a daunting list of opponents, starting with the 8-1-1 Sabres on Thursday. After that they play Boston and Tampa Bay at home before going on the road to play the Nashville Predators.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Heavy Lifting: Five NHL lines that are carrying their teams

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Let’s take a quick look around the NHL at five lines that are doing the most to carry their teams (or at least their offense) through the first month of the season.

This is always kind of a good news/bad news situation because the good news is your team has a dominant top line that can change a game every night. The bad news is that one line teams do not tend to do very well in the long run. Balance is important!

We are focussing on 5-on-5 production with this look and right now these five teams are fairly dependent on these lines to carry the play.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

Edmonton Oilers
The Line: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian

This line might be the definition of “heavy lifting.”

This trio has been on the ice for nearly 30 percent of the Oilers’ total 5-on-5 minutes, a substantial workload even by top line standards. Individually, McDavid and Draisaitl are the top-two forwards in the league in even-strength ice-time per game (Kassian is 22nd), both averaging more than 18:30 per game (Mathew Barzal is the only other forward that plays more than 18 minutes of even-strength ice-time per game).

Then we get to the production.

In 124 minutes this trio has outscored teams by an 11-3 margin and been completely dominant. That is 60 percent of the team’s 5-on-5 goals, while the team has been outscored by a 6-8 margin at 5-on-5 when this trio is not on the ice.

It is the same story as it has always been for the Oilers where they need to skate McDavid and Draisaitl into the ground to compete. So far this season it has worked. But we have seen over the past four years that it is not really the best long-term recipe for sustained success.

Boston Bruins
The Line: Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand

When these three are together they are as good as it gets in the NHL.

Bergeron and Marchand are two of the best all-around players in the league, while Pastrnak is quickly turning into one of the most dangerous goal-scorers around. The big question for the Bruins has always been their depth around this line and if they can get enough offense from lines two through four to complement them. Through the first month of the 2019-20 season that concern is still very much the same.

This line has only played 86 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time together (about 22 percent of the team’s 5-on-5 total) and has already scored seven goals in those minutes. The Bruins have just six 5-on-5 goals in the remaining 306 minutes of 5-on-5 time that they have played this season, and two of those goals came when Marchand and Pastrnak were together without Bergeron.

As this line goes, so go the Bruins.

Winnipeg Jets
The Line: Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler

With the Jets’ defense in shambles following the offseason, the team has had to rely on the strength of its forwards to remain competitive.

The big line of Scheifele, Laine, and Wheeler has certainly done its part to make sure that happens. Not only in terms of their own production, but also in how much the rest of the team has struggled when they are not on the ice. In nearly 300 minutes of 5-on-5 play without any of these three on the ice, the Jets have managed a grand total of four goals.

Pittsburgh Penguins
The Line: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Dominik Simon

You could put together a pretty good forward lineup with the players the Penguins have out of the lineup right now. One of the biggest reasons they have kept winning through all of the injuries has been the play of their top line of Crosby, Guentzel, and Simon.

The latter member of this line is a point of much contention in Pittsburgh because he never scores goals himself, but the team loves him on the top line alongside Crosby and Guentzel and the overall numbers justify his existence on that line (it scores more goals with him than it does without him). So far this season Crosby is playing at an MVP level, Guentzel is doing his best to show his 40-goal season a year ago was no fluke, and Simon keeps making plays that keeps the play alive in the offensive zone and leads to offense. In 111 minutes together this trio has already combined to score eight of the the team’s 20 five-on-five goals this season.

New York Rangers
The line: Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad

The third member of this line has mostly been Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich at different times, but the main drivers here are Panarin and Zibanejad.

Panarin has already scored four goals in the team’s first six games and has been everything the Rangers could have expected and hoped when they signed him in free agency. Zibanejad, meanwhile, is off to one of the best offensive starts in franchise history with 11 points in six games. When that duo is together the Rangers have doubled up their opponents on the scoreboard and scored like one of the league’s elite lines.

The problem with this Rangers team in the short-term was always going to be the lack of depth around them, and so far the Rangers have looked rather punchless at even-strength when their top duo is off the ice.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.