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.
With the current goalie situation on the Rangers, what do you think will happen with Henrik Lundqvist? Do you see the Rangers buying him out now? — Chris McKessy
I expect Lundqvist to be bought out, with the Rangers going with an Igor Shesterkin-Alex Gerorgiev tandem in nets.
The club will need to get a veteran goaltender under contract for 2021-22 to expose in the Seattle expansion draft. J-F Berube, who finished the AHL season with Hartford after the Rangers acquired the 28-year-old from Philadelphia leading up to the deadline, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Management might want to consider signing the one-time Islanders third goalie to a two-year deal with substantial minor league pay.
Your list of Rangers draft busts was excellent — could you give your picks that should have been made in each of those drafts? — Darryl
Context is always critical in assessing draft choices. Picks are not made in a vacuum. That is why the Caps’ selection of Darren Veitch fifth overall in 1980 is likely the worst pick in the history of the draft even though the defenseman played six seasons with Washington and played a total of 511 games. Why? Because Paul Coffey was still on the board, there to be scooped up next by Glen Sather and the Oilers.
I cited Jeff Brown (1996), Pavel Brendl (1999), Hugh Jessiman (2003), Al Montoya (2004), Bobby Sanguinetti (2006) and Dylan McIlrath (2010) as noteworthy first-round misses, so let’s take them in order.
1996: Brown, a defenseman who never made it to the NHL and actually played only the sum of 72 AHL games throughout an eight-year pro career, was selected 22nd overall. Daniel Briere, chosen two slots later by the Coyotes, was the slam-dunk pick, the center carving out a career in which he recorded 307 goals and 696 points in 973 career games.
1999: The mistake was trading up specifically for Brendl, who was so out of place on his first day of training camp that management, after the fact, claimed the winger had had the flu. It never got much better than that. There was a second trade, too, on that draft day, in which GM Neil Smith moved from No. 11 to No. 9 in order to select Jamie Lundmark, who recorded 11 goals and 30 points in 114 games for the Blueshirts before he was dealt to the Coyotes for Jeff Taffe. If anyone in the world remembers Taffe suiting up for two games in late October with the 2005-06 Blueshirts, come forward and collect your prize. If not Lundmark, maybe Barrett Jackman, who went 17th overall to St. Louis. It was a slim-pickings first round, that’s for sure.
2003: Seriously, the best first-round in the history of the draft and the Rangers came away with Jessiman, the big winger from Dartmouth who never played a game with the team. But he did grow up a Rangers fan. The Blueshirts had a dozen better options, but the one staring them in the face was Zach Parise, who went to the Devils 17th overall. Other options included Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Brent Burns, Mike Richards and Corey Perry. In a can’t-miss situation at 12th overall, the Blueshirts whiffed like the Whammer.
2004: Drafting Al Montoya at sixth overall with Henrik Lundqvist in wait in Sweden was odd enough, but Sather was infatuated with the goaltender out of Michigan who had led Team USA to the World Junior championship. Not, however, infatuated enough to give the goaltender the entry level cap in order to get him to leave school and get him into Hartford, where he would have played under the tutelage of Benoit Allaire during the NHL’s Owners’ Shutdown of 2004-05. Montoya returned to Michigan, became much less of a hot commodity, and never played a second for the Blueshirts. This, too, was a down draft, but winger Drew Stafford, who recorded 428 points in an 841-game NHL career, was there for the taking and should have been taken.
2006: Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti played a sum of five games with the Rangers following his 21st overall selection. Slam-dunk alternative Claude Giroux, he of the 257 goals and 815 points and counting, was chosen next by the Flyers.
2010: It was the wrong time for Dylan McIlrath, a physical defenseman who would have been at home in any era except the one into which he was drafted, the league moving into an accelerated speed game. McIlrath had his moments: He stepped up when Matt Beleskey broke Derek Stepan’s ribs in Boston with a blindside hit, and did the same when Wayne Simmonds suckered Ryan McDonagh. But injuries didn’t help at all, and though he should have gotten more ice time in 2015-16 at the expense of the aged Dan Boyle, the Rangers should have selected Cam Fowler at 10th overall, who went two picks later to Anaheim, for whom the mobile defenseman still works.
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Have been hearing a lot of rumors about trading for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Is it easier trading the two upcoming first-round picks than trading one of the picks and two prospects for RNH? — Rob Jasmin
The Blueshirts surely will seek to bulk up down the middle and could be in the market for a second-line pivot depending upon Ryan Strome’s contract status and the staff’s opinion of Filip Chytil’s readiness to assume that responsibility. Tony DeAngelo could be the bait. But though the talented Nugent-Hopkins would fit nicely, he has only one year remaining on his contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, so the answer is no on RNH.
Why don’t the NYR have a captain yet? You would think that with such a young team having a captain would only help the young guys learn the game. — Don McClellan
Mika Zibanejad was the obvious choice to be named captain before the start of the season, but management apparently believed that would put undue pressure on No. 93. It would be shocking if Zibanejad does not wear the “C” next year.
How do the Rangers expect young players to play up to their abilities when stuck on a fourth line with less-than-average players? — Roger Saltamach
Players need to be put into positions to succeed, and playing on a fourth line that features a Micheal Haley (or a Cody McLeod) and a Brendan Smith probably isn’t going to bring out the best of a talent-oriented youngster. But players have to earn their time, too. Though there are exceptions to the rule, being a top-liner in Hartford rather than a fourth-liner in New York is generally better for a prospect’s development.