Much was made in the past few days of the fact that the Rangers hadn’t used one of their first-round picks since 2012, when they took Skjei 28th overall. Skjei turned 22 in March, meaning that as prospects go, he’s no real spring chicken or phenom. This is the point at which a first-round defenseman really ought to be in the league, so here we are. He’s probably quite good for what he’ll be used as, but if he’s much more than that, it’s manna from heaven.
That’s really the point here: This is the Rangers raging against the dying of the legit Cup hopes. If they’re not gone already. Which they probably are. Vesey might have chosen them because they have plenty of cap flexibility coming for the end of his current two-year deal, meaning that if he performs very, very well during that time, he might be able to pull more than the inflation-adjusted equivalent of the apparent bridge deal Kevin Hayes just signed (two years, $2.6 million per). Of course, we might also be just a year away from another lockout for 2019-20 by then, so you never know when teams like the Rangers might opt for caution here instead.
It’s really tough to see why either party makes this decision. For Vesey, he would likely be guaranteed more than a chance to stick in the top-six with a team that had a little less offensive depth than the Rangers, and certainly a few would have given him the chance to actually do more than make the playoffs and get run out pretty quickly.
In terms of where the Rangers’ Cup chances actually sit, the wave has clearly already crested and is in the process of crashing and retreating back into the sea. There’s simply less hope there than anywhere else. And for the Rangers, Vesey doesn’t address any particular or clear need. Other than the one to grab headlines in August.
People think Kevin Hayes — 31 goals and 81 points in his first two NHL seasons — is a disappointment for the Rangers. (It’s mostly because Alain Vigneault seems not to recognize that the 24-year-old can handle a heavier workload.) He’s 17th in the league in 5-on-5 primary assists over the past two seasons. If Vesey can do anything close to that, it would be a minor miracle.
It is therefore difficult to see where either party really benefits here. The Rangers don’t need Vesey (not that there’s a negative here, really; they just don’t actually need him). Vesey, given that every option he entertained was going to be virtually the same, doesn’t need the Rangers.
And yet here we are. Tough to figure.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: It would be a lot easier to believe this were it not for the whole “Jonathan Bernier” thing.
Arizona Coyotes: Never have I disagreed with a headline more fervently.
Florida Panthers: Olli Jokinen is starting a year-round hockey school in Southern Florida. Man, remember Olli Jokinen? He scored 89 and 91 points in back-to-back seasons one time. There was a five-year stretch in which he missed just one game, and scored 173 goals. Dude was real good once.
Las Vegas No-Names: Jason Zucker and Deryk Engelland played in a charity game in Vegas. Boy they’re trying to grow that market in a hurry.
Nashville Predators: The team could soon overhaul their entire arenaand add more toilets. Hell yeah.
San Jose Sharks: One wonders what Timo Meier actually does with the Sharks this year. Maybe they can’t even afford to roll him out a little cautiously, given the future of the club a year or three from now.
St. Louis Blues: This seems sub-optimal.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jon Cooper is quite optimistic about Jonathan Drouin’s pending improvement. And why not, really?
Toronto Maple Leafs: Ah well, losing out on Vesey is just one of those things. Doesn’t really matter.
Gold Star Award