Vigneault: “You’ve got to Bring Some Youth”

Alain Vigneault, at Monday's Ranger "breakup day" (blueshirtsunited.com)

Alain Vigneault, at Monday’s Ranger “breakup day” (blueshirtsunited.com)

One of the points that New York Ranger head coach Alain Vigneault emphasized at the team’s “breakup day” Monday was that he is looking for some young prospects to spark the team’s roster next year.  Even though the Rangers have a strong core of key players who are still in the prime of their careers, Vigneault feels as though an infusion of young legs is critical for his club to push itself over the top.

“You have to,” Vigneault said to the assembled media of bringing prospects along. “Just look at L.A. Probably one of, if not their most, effective line was the one with the two kids (Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson) and (Jeff) Carter. You’ve got bring some youth. Veterans help them out. They bring you enthusiasm. You have to do that every year and, hopefully, we’re going to have a couple guys pushing at the door, knocking to get into our dressing room.”

This has to be music to the ears of the young players who have been apprenticing with the Wolf Pack, and should motivate them to put the absolute utmost effort into their offseason preparations for training camp.  In the past, the default mode for a team that got as close to a championship as the Rangers did this year was pretty much to stand pat, but in this salary cap era, that seems no longer to be the mindset.

“Next year’s team is going to be different,” Vigneault said.  “It’s going to be a challenge to make the playoffs again. If you take players individually, most of them had . . . close to their best season. There’s a working relationship that should get better. We’ve got a good young foundation, we’ve got a good core group that I’d like to see if we can keep together, but there’s financial restrictions that come into the process.”

Foundational players Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Marc Staal, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis are all under contract (according to capgeek.com), for 2014-15, but other key contributors like Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot are unrestricted free agents, and it appears more than possible that the parent club may use its remaining compliance buyout on Brad Richards.  Also, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and John Moore are all restricted free agents.

It’s pretty much impossible to sign all of those guys, and it certainly sounds like the organization may decide not to re-sign some, purely to open up a slot or two for a youngster to try and grab.

So who are the leading candidates to be the Rangers’ versions of Toffoli and Pearson next season?

Danny Kristo

Danny Kristo

Being that six of the above-named eight free agents are forwards, and that a buyout of Richards would open up another forward spot, my guess would be that J.T. Miller and Danny Kristo should be the most excited for next season.  If Boyle isn’t re-signed, that would leave a hole in the middle that Oscar Lindberg, although he is not nearly as big as Boyle, might be able to fill.  Ryan Bourque, despite being even smaller than Lindberg, has really sunk his teeth into a penalty-killing role in the AHL, and that is an area in which Boyle excels as well.

On the blueline, it sounds like Stralman is going to cash in on a big payday, and if his number goes high enough that it doesn’t make sense for the Rangers’ cap situation, I would look for Dylan McIlrath and Conor Allen to be given every chance to grab an NHL spot.  It will be interesting, too, to see how big a bump John Moore will be looking for from the  $810,000 he made this year in the last year of his entry-level deal.

 

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