Cam Talbot has been the name thrown around the rumor mill in the weeks leading up to the draft, but the Rangers should be shopping Kevin Klein to either command a greater return in a Talbot deal, or land another asset all together.
When you consider the Rangers cap situation, and lack of young forward talent in the system, you have to think the Rangers would be willing to move a veteran. The first name that comes to mind is Dan Boyle, but Larry Brooks of the New York Post says that Boyle will be staying with the Rangers next year, so that would leave Klein as the more likely candidate. As Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Keith Yandle seem to be the core defense that the Rangers will commit to.
At the moment the Rangers have six top 4 defenseman, and, to me, they were almost in each others way last year. Not allowing guys like Yandle and Staal to eat up minutes, seems to keep them from really dipping into the game. I absolutely think that teams need depth to have success, but you also need to get your stars on the ice.
Look at last year’s champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, they played basically 4 defensemen with Duncan Keith playing an average of 31:06 per game. I’m not saying that every team should follow this model, but the Rangers have the skill to rely heavily on 4 or 5 defenders, with other players filling in, for this reason, I think the Rangers could stand to trade Klein off their crowded back-end.
Klein is coming off of a career year with the Rangers, where he posted 9 goals, 17 assists, and was a +24. He was reliable throughout the year playing an average of 18:29 per game, he blocked 115 shots, and was one of the few Rangers defenseman who was willing to drop the gloves. The fact is, right-handed, versatile defenders are hard to come by. Some teams would be best suited to trade a decent asset to grab Klein who has a reasonable contract, rather than getting sucked into the free agent market where players are routinely drowned in money.
Klein has some good hockey left in him, and if a team decides to take a chance on the grizzly veteran, I think they would be pleasantly surprised. But if were going to be realistic, as good as Klein was, it would be hard to see him having another year where he shoots 11.8% when he’s a career 5% shooter.
I’m not trying to beat up on the player, I’m simply saying that if the Rangers don’t move him now, it’s unlikely they will get a similar, or better return in the future.
Below is a video that demonstrates his decision-making last year.
Salary Cap Strapped
Klein is set to make $2.9 million per season over the next 3 years. So moving his contract would give the Rangers some breathing room; on the flip side he has an affordable cap hit, and no trade restrictions, so the Rangers could get a bunch of teams bidding for the defenders services. With the cleared space the Rangers would be able to get all of their key RFA’s signed and still be able to add another piece to their roster.
Reinforcement’s on the Way
Dylan McIlrath made some big progress this past season, according to the Hartford Whale assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom. The coach spoke to Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant about McIlrath’s progress, ” “He’s been exceptional. It’s his time line, the best way to put it. The second half has been everything we could have wanted out of the kid. He’s always competed hard and worked… He’s just come into his own.” McIlrath’s improved game, makes him a strong candidate to crack the Rangers roster as a 6th defenseman.
Aside from him are other young defensemen Mat Bodie, and Conor Allen. The latter has already played in 7 games in the NHL and was sound at last years training camp. All three players can push for a bottom pairing job right away, but it is unlikely anyone of them ends up as a 7th defenseman, just because the organization would rather them play, not sit in the locker room.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rangers look to get a younger defenseman a position, because their defensive core is starting to age. Girardi is 31, Staal and Yandle are 28, Boyle is 38, and Ryan McDonagh is 26.
Putting one of the kids in a sheltered role would allow all of the Rangers veterans to eat up ice time, while still allowing the next wave of players to grow.
Whatever happens with Klein should work well for the Rangers. If they end up staying with him, they keep a reliable defender who can excel at any role. If they decide to move him, then they will likely get a nice return, and open up a spot for one of the defenders that have been working in Hartford.
Klein is held in high regard by New York fans, because he was acquired from the Nashville Predators for Michael Del Zotto, who had some serious struggles with the Rangers. Under Head Coach Alain Vigneault, the rear-guard has been able to blossom as a player in a more offensive role. It’s now time for the Rangers to maximize the players value, and get deeper as an organization.