NEW YORK, NY – After trading Derek Stepan to Phoenix. the Rangers needed a top line centre (Canadian Spelling). They locked one up for the next five years, shelling out a cool $26.75 million in the process. They didn’t have to look very far. They found him on the second line. Now its on Mika Zibanejad, the beneficiary of that lucrative contract, to play like a first line centre.
Mika is a strong player through the middle. He wins faceoffs and sets up goals – 23 last season – to go along with his 16 goals in 56 games. He will need to do more in the coming seasons if the Rangers are to have any hope of making a run at the Stanley Cup again. Zibby will probably need to be in the 80-point range as the Blueshirts first line centre.
The trade of Stepan made it was clear that New York would need to bring in some hefty reinforcement at centre. They are banking on Z-jad developing into that guy. It’s a risky play but The Mikarooney is only 24 years-old and has improved over the last three seasons. Hopefully he can stay healthy and continue the upward trend.
Rangers Brass are expecting big things out of the newly-minted second line centres JT Miller and/or Kevin Hayes. Hayes especially will need to show some more maturity and less laziness. If he doesn’t he could (should) be trade bait come the deadline. Miller had a stellar season, registering 56 points and a +17 rating, while playing in all 82 games. Both players will need to improve on their face-off percentages. It has been a problem for the Rangers for several seasons.
However, M-Zib is the only reliable face-off man on the team. He won over 52% of his draws last season. Miller and Hayes were in the mid-40s in face-off percentage. That will need to improve. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a bit of new centre and first round draft pick Lias Andersson. The pundits all seem to think that Andersson will be a solid NHL player. We’ll see if the 18 year-old makes the senior squad out of preseason. If he does, he’ll probably centre the fourth line. David Desharnais will slot in somewhere between the third and forth lines in an attempt to get his career back on track. Desharnais is a good face-off centre if nothing else. Alain Vigneault may deploy him in those important face-off situations to win a draw and get off the ice.
Rangers training camp should be interesting with all of the new faces. The team has addressed their defensive issues and are hoping that promoting from within will be the answer at centre.
There. All hockey. No mention of the Mutts or Yankees. Wait…