You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Rangers.
Do you see any new forwards being on the opening night roster next year that weren’t this year? — David Zuckerman
Uncertainty over the 2020-21 cap (and season, itself) makes this one a little bit tricky, but from within, I would expect Julien Gauthier, who was in the lineup for the final 12 games following his acquisition from Carolina, to get a legit shot at a top-nine role. Morgan Barron likely would need some time at Hartford, but if the Cornell junior winger leaves school to sign, he could compete for a spot. Vitali Kravtsov will be in contention, as well.
We always hear the NHL has changed but do you still need a player like a Mark Messier, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews — skill plus deep leadership — to win a Stanley Cup? If so, do the Rangers have that player in their organization? If not, what players should they be looking to outside the organization? — Jason
Yes, I do believe that leadership inside the room and on the ice remain critical components of a championship team. Funny, though, that you cite Ovechkin, whose leadership and ability to get it done in the biggest spots were questioned until he led the Caps to the Cup in 2018 after a decade of disappointment and, perhaps, underachievement. The Rangers have such a person in place in Mika Zibanejad, though he is not alone.
If the players are bigger, stronger, faster, why not expand the rink size, bring back non-standard rink sizes for true home-ice advantage [and] for player safety do away with the two-line pass? — Peter S. Berezney
I love the concept of allowing each team to design its own rink dimensions, with minimum/maximum standards applied. There was nothing like watching games at Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium and the Aud in Buffalo in which the neutral zones were all but nonexistent and play, therefore, was always in one end or the other. The way the corners were curved at the Aud, the puck always seemed to be in front of one goaltender or the other.
I think player safety would be served by doing away with the two-line pass, but an entire generation of youth hockey players has grown up knowing no other way to play. It would take a major adjustment in the game.
What do you think are the Rangers’ all-time worst trades? I’d put Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge at the top of the list. — Michael Diamond
This is the stuff of a column that should be coming in the not all that distant future, but if this is not the worst trade in franchise history, I have no idea what is.
With respect to [Henrik] Lundqvist, even with his no-trade clause; do you think the Rangers even quietly checked with some playoff-caliber teams in need of a goalie to put together a package that they could show him, and see if he’d be happy with that trade over being benched? — Charley Duffy
No, I don’t believe so. It is generally a fundamental waste of everyone’s time to engage in talks about a player with a no-trade/no-move clause who has not agreed to waive it. That is not exclusive to Lundqvist.
I keep reading that the Panthers may want to make changes and cut salary. Is there any chance Alex Barkov would become available? What do you think it would take to get him and what do you think the Rangers would be willing to give? — Craig
Let’s take into consideration that Barkov will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2022. That’s the same timeline on which Mika Zibanejad is traveling. Barkov also has a no-move clause that kicks in this July 1 (or the equivalent date) and a modified no-trade for the following season.
BUT … if the Finnish center is willing to waive and the Panthers make him available, I’d mark Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko as the only two untouchables on the Rangers roster (other than the guys with no-move clauses, including Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider).
With all the talk about players whose numbers should be retired (most recently Brad Park and Dave Maloney), I don’t understand why Ron Greschner is being neglected. He broke most (if not all) of [Harry] Howell’s defensive records and held them until [Brian] Leetch broke them. He’s also a lifelong Ranger. I think this is a great injustice. — Sammye Coker
With all due respect to my friend Dave, this is the first I have heard talk of retiring No. 26 in his honor.
I think Greschner, a very good player for a very long time for one organization, falls more into the Ed Kranepool category. As I have previously suggested, I would like to see the Rangers create a team Hall of Fame. No. 4 would belong … as would another No. 4, Bill Gadsby.