Now that the Rangers are officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s time to start pondering the off-season. Martin St. Louis is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the Rangers will have to decide whether or not to cut their losses with the veteran winger.
Before I dive right into it, allow me to make myself clear, I have nothing but the utmost respect for St. Louis as a hockey player. He struggled to find himself a spot in the NHL as a rookie, but his persistence paid off and he currently sits 70th in the NHL in scoring with 1033 career points. That being said, I think number 26 has started to decline as a player and the Rangers need to move on from the veteran pivot.
St. Louis finished the post-season with only 7 points, despite averaging 2:51 on the power play per game, and 16:30 overall. He just never got it going, and as the playoffs drew on, St. Louis’s age became more and more apparent. St. Louis was struggling to stay on his feet, much less create a play. Despite the wingers struggles to generate any kind of offense the Rangers coaching staff stuck with St. Louis, which played a big role in the Rangers power-play struggling to score when needed most.
The play below is a stunning example of everything that was wrong with St. Louis’s game this past post-season.
As you can see, the puck comes to St. Louis on the point during a 5 on 3 advantage. He fails to control the puck and loses it to Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In his pursuit of Johnson, St. Louis knocks Henrik Lundqvist, and the rebound, into the net. Now, some people might say it was bad pass by Boyle or that it was just an unlucky play, but it seemed like every time the puck came to St. Louis, he just couldn’t settle it, or create separation, which is critically important for a small winger. St. Louis told Larry Brooks of the New York Post that he too thought his game could have been better, “I mean, the work was there, but the execution, on my part, probably could have been better, for sure.”
Despite the Rangers disappointing end to the post-season, St. Louis still managed to speak well of his team’s effort, he told Stephen Lorenzo of the Daily News, “I’m proud of this group. This group played hard. It’s a tough group. They played through the injuries, they played through a lot of stuff. We can hold our head high. We played hard. We just came up empty. It’s a tough feeling for everybody.” No one can say anything about the kind of leader that St. Louis is, it was simply his play on the ice that was lacking.
St. Louis was making 5.625 million last season, so for him to have any chance of staying with the Rangers he would have to take a massive pay cut. The Rangers don’t have much money to play with this off-season, and they still have to work out new deals for Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller and perhaps Matt Hunwick, before deciding to send some cash St. Louis’s way. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman say’s he expects the NHL salary cap to reach 71.5 million for next season. If that projection holds true then the Rangers should have about 12 million dollars in cap space for the coming year, and it’s really hard to see St. Louis fitting under that budget with the raises that will be coming for players like Hagelin, Stepan, and Miller.
Aging With Grace
St. Louis told Allan Kreda of the New York Times back in early October about his career going forward from that point, and made mention of other veterans who have been around the game, “I look at Jagr and Selanne guys who played into their 40’s and I say the same thing: ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’ ” St. Louis hasn’t spoken about where he stands as an athlete since being eliminated. And one can compare him to Jagr and Selanne all they want, the fact is, these guys are different players with very different styles so age will affect them differently.
It’s nice to think of a legend like St. Louis playing well into his 40’s , but the fact is, he simply looked over matched in the playoffs. St. Louis was often taking heat on social media, and during intermission reports, and the fact is, he deserved it, because his game just looked so far off. Can he still play? I mean he certainly looked done against the Lightning. I don’t want to see a legend like this just stay around the game because of his name and reputation, and turn into the butt of everyone’s jokes. The Rangers need to think about where St. Louis will be as a player next season, after such a poor finish.