The New York Rangers made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final utilizing a game plan built around speed, and finesse. For the club to take the next step they will need to add a bigger body, or two.
When the Rangers were successful, they were getting bodies to the net and making it hard on the net minder, the issue for the Rangers was that so much of their roster was composed of smaller speedy type players, that they were too often kept out of the goalies line of sight. Adding a big body that is harder to move, could give the Rangers more diversity in their attack, and perhaps push them to the next level as a club.
Alain Vigneault spoke on the Michael Kay show about the Rangers not having enough of a physical element, “I believe and sort of agree with the assessment that we probably could use a bit more physicality, you know in a 7 game series. When you can wear down the opposition through speed and through check, it makes it very tough on them and that is definitely one area that were probably gonna take a look at during the summer and see if we can deal with it internally, if not maybe we will go on the outside.”
The free agent market isn’t full of talent, but there are definitely some guys out there that can give the Rangers a bit of size, grit, and skill.
Below I will lay out some of the options that the Rangers have. If you notice some players missing (Matt Beleskey), it’s because I left out players that the Rangers will not be able to afford.
Weight: 231 lbs
Numbers: 14 Goals, 22 Assists, 88 PIM’s
Analysis: Stewart is a thick player who can get to the front of the net, score, and he will even drop the gloves when need be. He’s cracked the 20 goal plateau twice, both times posting 28. But those numbers came during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 campaigns. Since then his numbers have been somewhat average. Despite his thick frame Stewart skates well, and has soft hands, his issue is that he has been known throughout his career for being too streaky. If the Rangers brought him on board he would likely assume a role on the 3rd line, and might even see some time one the power play considering he’s a right-handed shot. Both camps could benefit from a one year deal; this way the Rangers get their big body, and Stewart gets a chance to put up some impressive numbers to command a better pay-day next off-season. Stewart is one of the few big guys in the game who can really skate and make plays with the puck, and the video below is a great demonstration of his ability.
Weight: 207 lbs
Numbers: 9 Goals, 25 Assists, 27 PIM’s
Analysis: Winnik has been a journeymen depth player for 8 years in the NHL and is coming off a career season where he posted 34 points. His game is based around using his frame and being a presence along the wall, and in front of the net. Last year he was a highly sought after player around the trade deadline, until he was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2nd round pick, a 4th round pick, and Zack Sill. Despite his sound regular season, his post-season was unimpressive. He posted no points in 5 games and was a minus 6, still he could help a team in a reduced role. The big man can also be a sound penalty killer, last year he was averaging 3:16 per game with his team short-handed. Winnik shouldn’t command too much money, so the Rangers should be able to afford him to beef up the bottom 6. The video below shows Winnik screening the goalie and eventually slamming home a loose puck.
Weight: 247 lbs
Numbers: 14 Goals, 21 Assists, 30 PIM’s (2013-2014)
Analysis: Penner didn’t play in the NHL for the 2014-2015 campaign, but the enormous forward has had success in previous years. He has 3 Stanley Cups to his name, has been able to score 310 points in 589 career regular season games, and in the post-season, The big forward has put up 35 points in 78 career games. The criticism of Penner has always been that he is streaky and gets into trouble when he stops moving his feet. Still the Rangers could probably get Penner very cheap, and in a reduced role he could be a nice add. The winger has been known to say some foolish things, but perhaps a season off has done him good, both on and off the ice. Below is a great example of how Penner takes goalies eyes away, and hangs around the net.
Weight: 223 lbs
Numbers: 18 Goals, 9 Assists, 16 PIM’s
Analysis: Matthias is a big center who has some great hands and skating ability for a guy his size. He could stand to play a grittier game, but there is no doubt that he uses his frame to his advantage in the offensive zone. Matthias hasn’t seen much playoff action which can kind of hurt him if the Rangers are looking for a seasoned veteran. Still the big man can kill penalties, and provide some depth for the bottom 6, Matthias has good offensive instincts, so he can be moved around the lineup. The big center should get a healthy raise from the 1.75 million he was making last year. If the Rangers can make some space, they may be able to squeeze the big man onto their roster. The video below shows how Matthias can score in different ways, in this particular game he has a hat trick.
Weight: 210 lbs
Numbers: 4 Goals, 8 Assists, 24 PIM’s
Analysis: Moss is a big guy, he can skate well, and even chip in on offense when he has some space. The knock on Moss is that he could stand to be more physical. Still he would come cheap, and there is reason to believe that, Coach Vigneault could find a way to get him to tap into his physical gifts in the same way he’s helped players like Chris Higgins and Benoit Pouliot. Moss has found the net in the past cracking the 15 goal plateau twice in his career. He averaged 1:21 on the ice short-handed last season, and can play all three forward positions if need be, so he definitely brings some versatility to the table. Moss only made $800,000 last season so he wouldn’t be very expensive to add, and could bring a big reward to the team if he pans out. Below is a great example of what Moss can do, notice how he pressures the puck and creates something out of nothing by using his feet.
Weight: 215 lbs
Numbers: 16 Goals, 16 Assists, 28 PIM’s
Analysis: Bernier is coming off a year in which he reached 32 points for the second time in his career and he will likely get a raise from his base salary of $600,000. Last season Bernier averaged 1:19 on the power player per game and finished the year with 123 hits. The big man will drop the gloves when need be, and has the ability to excel in both an offensive and defensive role. I chose the video below because it has a little bit of everything, we see his work on the wall, followed by him getting back to the front, beating a defender, and getting a good shot off.
The Rangers have their main roster set for next year, and they aren’t expected to shake things up to much. After all they did win the President’s Trophy, and were 1 win away from their second Stanley Cup appearance in as many years. If the Rangers are going to improve with limited cap space, they will need to find a diamond in the rough.
I graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism. Shortly after, I began writing for the Full Tilt Hockey Network, where I still contribute, covering a broad range of topics across the NHL.
I have been contributing to The Hockey Writers since February of this year focusing on the New York Rangers. My articles tend to focus on analysis of players, and possible directions that the organization could go.