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Nation Notebook: Rangers possibly selling, Vegas finally cooling, and possible Houston expansion

This a weekly feature that rounds up news, rumours, and interesting things happening around the NHL. 

Rumours and speculation

According to Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, the New York Rangers are possible candidates to re-tool their roster. Last summer, they began the trend of moving towards the future by sending Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for a prospect and first round pick, and they could continue to do so this year.

The most obvious move, it seems, for the Rangers to make would be selling on 33-year-old and impending free agent sniper Rick Nash. Michael Grabner, who’s found his scoring touch the past couple of seasons and is also an impending UFA, would also make a good rental sale option. Friedman also reported earlier in the week on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 and discussed the possibility that New York could go so far as to shop Chris Kreider, a good two-way forward with two more years left on his contract after this one.

The Rangers are 5-7-2 through their first 13 games and boast poor underlying numbers. Though it isn’t difficult to come back from a start like that and the season is far from over, the Rangers play in the league’s deepest division and it won’t be easy to climb over teams like the Hurricanes, Flyers, and Islanders and into a playoff spot.

Both Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin, the general managers of the struggling Oilers and Canadiens, are reportedly working the phones to find upgrades. The assets the Rangers have would certainly help both teams that are struggling to score goals, but it’s difficult to say if New York is ready to sell this early into the season.

Multiple members of the Rangers’ front office were present at a Canadiens-Senators game earlier in the week and the teams are reportedly talking. The dots seem to connect to the Rangers and Canadiens pulling some kind of deal involving the struggling Alex Galchenyuk that can help Montreal in the present. That said, Pierre LeBrun suggested this is more of a down the road kind of thing, and the Habs likely won’t be making any major decisions until Carey Price hits his stride. At this point, the Habs start goaltender has posted an .883 save percentage through 10 starts, which has been key to Montreal’s struggles.

A couple other players worth paying attention to, according to Friedman, are Florida Panthers defenceman Alex Petrovic and Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

Petrovic is a physical, shutdown defenceman who shoots right handed, but has fallen down the depth chart in Florida. He’s been scratched three times this season and is only averaging 13:42 minutes per game. He isn’t a game breaker by any means, but Petrovic is a solid player that can provide depth down the right side. He’s also set to become a free agent next year, so you have to figure the Panthers would be looking to get something for him before he can walk for nothing.

If teams are looking for goaltenders, Winnipeg and Ottawa both have options. Both Michael Hutchinson and Andrew Hammond cleared waivers prior to the season but are putting up strong numbers in the AHL. Chris Johnston reported that the Jets have already received calls on their third string goalie.

News and other things

The Vegas Golden Knights have consistently been an interesting team to follow this season. They got off to a hot 7-1 start, which is pretty incredible because it meant that through one month they had already won half as many games as the Atlanta Thrashers did in their entire inaugural season in 1999-00. They also already have as many wins than the Washington Capitals did in their expansion season in 1974-75.

Their underlying numbers are poor and their percentages are good, meaning the Golden Knights are going to crash eventually. They’ve lost three games in a row to the Rangers and Islanders and a big part of that has been absurd injury luck with their goaltenders. The Knights are on to Maxime Lagace, their fourth string goalie, as Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban, and Oscar Dansk are on the injured reserve.

Sticking with Vegas, the Vadim Shipachyov experiment has come to an end. After inking a two-year, $9 million deal in the summer, far and away Vegas’ biggest free agent splash, the skilled winger is waiting for word on his contract to be terminated.

Shipachyov started the season in the AHL and everyone assumed that it was because the Knights were trying to navigate around the roster limit and simply sent him down because he didn’t require waivers. After finally getting called up, he got into just three games, and was sent back down. It seems likely he’ll go back to the KHL, where he’s played for the past nine seasons, and represent Russia in the Olympics, but another NHL team could feasibly offer him a contract.

Speaking of expansion teams, the league is eventually going to move to 32 teams. That much has been known since Vegas became team No. 31. But while we’ve all assumed it’s going to be Seattle, but new Houston Rockets (NBA) owner Tilman Feritta has said he wants to bring an NHL team to the city that currently boasts a team in all other major sports.

At the other side of the spectrum in the Pacific Division is the Arizona Coyotes, who finally won their first game of the season earlier this week in Philadelphia. It was expected after a busy off-season that Arizona would take a step forward, but they’re somehow even worse than before. Craig Custance of The Athletic did an interview with general manager John Chayka about the team’s unique approach and many other things. While the team is a disaster, it’s still very interesting.

And finally, here’s a video I can’t stop watching.

  • Oilers8597

    When Sekera gets back we won’t need Petrovic, We already got a good young right handed defencemen in Benning and to trade a bunch of picks or who ever to get Petrovic doesn’t make much sense, Krieder is an interesting one cause he’s still got a good contract for 2 more seasons and the Oilers need some upgrades on the wing, it’s all about cost though I guess, I don’t wanna give up a good prospect like JP, Yamo, Bear, or Jones for a winger that’s gonna maybe be here for 2 seasons then leave, never mind giving that up for these “rental” players that will leave the very next season like shattenkirk did in Washington.

  • Rangers turn to re-tool on the fly. There will be endless chatter, by experts, why it won’t work.

    Re-tool on the fly can and will work, but several elements have to work out in favor.
    1 – Injuries can kill the re-tool. This happened in Van.
    2 – Young players have to be ready to step in. Not premature like in Edmonton.
    3 – Gots to have adequate depth.
    4 – Deep prospect pool with A prospects. You can’t re-tool if you don’t have youth to introduce to your lineup. Youth that is ready.
    5 – A successful re-tool brings young players into a winning environment.
    6 – There is more, but I’m not writing a novel.

    • apr

      IMO, the most important of re-tooling on the fly (especially watching the Nucks) is you have to have the coach on the same page (opposed to a win now at all costs), and you have to have kids that are ready to play. There was nothing wrong with Benning’s desire to do this, but he neither had the coach with the same vision, nor enough young players (outside Horvat) who were ready and mature enough to play meaningful (and developmental) minutes. It can be done (see Tampa, Philly, San Jose) – but you need to have those pieces first. Benning had the right intentions, but not the right pieces.

      • The Real Slim Brodie

        Yeah vans coach should have told his players to lose just enough to get 3 or 4 first overall picks so they can trade them for spare parts. Oil your re tool