Ramblings: Rick Nash, Richard Panik, Rangers Blue Line, Caps Collapse (May 12)

by Neil Parker on May 12, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Rick Nash, Richard Panik, Rangers Blue Line, Caps Collapse (May 12)
Rick Nash - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Rick Nash had a solid postseason. He skated well, as both his speed and power were on display. There were a couple nice goals, and he finished with five points through 12 games. Not impressive, but Nash also played with an injured right knee. He's no longer a go-to scorer, but he's still capable of being a big piece of a contender.

Next season is the final year of his current contract, and he'll hit unrestricted free agency at age 33. Considering he'll have spent six seasons chasing a cup with the Rangers, it's hard to envision Nash returns to New York, and depending on how the Blueshirts fare leading into the 2018 trade deadline, he could be a rental for next year's playoffs.

Of course, Nash has a no-movement and modified no-trade clause, so that is an issue.

Looking ahead, and this is something I suggested last year in this space, Nash projects as an ideal fit for a shut-down line. He can still score in that role, and more and more, teams are realizing that good defensive forwards have to be capable of eating clock in the offensive zone. If chasing a cup is the goal for Nash, he would be best served to take a pay cut and accept a supporting role with a contender. It wouldn't probably be the best-case scenario for his fantasy stock, too.

 

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It's actually surprising more athletes aren't hurt in similar incidents to how Tyson Barrie was injured. He's been ruled out for the remainder of the World Championships with a leg laceration sustained while wrestling with a teammate in a hotel room.

Barrie was off to a solid start in the tournament, and after a disastrous regular season, this was a chance to end his year on a high note. Unfortunately, this was just another disappointment. 

There are going to be plenty of trade rumors surrounding Barrie leading into the expansion draft and NHL Entry Draft, but his $5.5 million salary isn't going to be easy to unload. It's also not out of the question to suggest he isn't worth it, either.

During his two best offensive seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16), Barrie posted horrible Corsi For percentages, and then this past year, he posted a solid 50.0 mark but also started 58.2 of his shifts in the offensive zone. Despite the offensively tilted role, his offensive numbers plummeted. The other concern is that a new location could mean Barrie isn't the go-to offensive defenseman anymore and could see fewer power-play minutes.

Still, his skating ability and proven scoring track record should make him a high priority, and it seems odd the Avalanche are even considering moving Barrie. If he sticks in Colorado, it will be harder to post a notable bounce-back showing, but the right fantasy setting could lead to a monster rebound next year.

 

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Chicago re-signed Richard Panik to a two-year, $2.8 million contract extension Thursday. The 26-year-old winger turned in a solid season with career-high marks in goals (22), points (44) and shots (155). It was also his first real shot at a full-time opportunity in a top-six role, and he delivered.

There is some sneaky peripheral coverage with Panik, too. He posted a plus-14 rating, recorded 58 PIM and threw 147 body checks. The power-play production is never going to stand out because he'll be relegated to the No. 2 unit. However, nine PP points while averaging 1:42 per game with the man advantage tilts the scales to a degree.

With Chicago's contract situation, it's likely Panik remains in a significant role next year. So, considering he's in the heart of his offensive prime, repeating — and potentially improving on — last season's numbers isn't out of the question. He falls into the boring but reliable category, and his peripheral fantasy numbers will likely go underappreciated in most circles. Often taking a high-floor asset late pays off, especially if you've swung for the fences earlier in your draft.

 

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Nail Yakupov expects to play in the NHL next season, and the ideal landing spot has to be Las Vegas, right?

Yakupov is talented, can skate and is still just 23 years old. He already has 292 NHL games on his resume, and many players struggle to reach the highest level until they're in the mid-20s. For comparison sake Jonathan Marchessault played four NHL games before logging 45 with Tampa Bay last season at 25.

With a prove-it contract likely, Yakupov should have a chance to make an impact next year. It might not be with St. Louis or Las Vegas, but a team is going to take a calculated gamble on Yakuov, and it could pay off handsomely.

 

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Alain Vigneault's deployment of his defensemen during the playoffs deserved the criticism it received, and he forecasted some changes for next season. To start, the coach said Dan Girardi and Marc Staal would play a smaller role, and that Brady Skjei is expected to take another step forward and log more minutes. Additionally, The Rangers want to bring another young defenseman into the fold.

Staal is on the books at $5.7 million through the 2020-21 season, and Giradi until 2019-20 at $5.5 million, so it's going to be difficult to work with those salaries. Additionally, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein and Nick Holden are all under contract, so there really isn't room for another blue liner. Adding this young defenseman is going to have to push someone out. It's going to be interesting to see how this unfolds.

 

Turning to Skjei, he posted a really nice debut campaign with 39 points and a plus-11 rating. His 127 shots and seven power-play points hardly move the fantasy needle, but he did registered 42 PIM and 147 hits. It's also worth noting that averaging just 17:28 of ice time per game hurt his ability to pad his counting stats.

His 1.68 points per 60 minutes ranked 10th among all defenseman with at least 1,000 minutes this past season, so an extended role should enable Skjei to flirt with 40 points again next year. There is obviously upside for better production, but the 23-year-old defenseman was never a high-end scorer at lower levels. Plus, more ice time often means tougher matchups, so while an uptick in minutes might not mean better scoring numbers, it's still a boon for his shots, hits and other secondary counting statistics.

 

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After declaring Ottawa finished last week, the Senators won consecutive games and face Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Finals. In my initial prognostication, I said the series would come down to who was better between Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson was better, and part of my Ottawa obituary was under the assumption he was injured. Guy Boucher sitting the captain out of the third period of the Game 4 rout might have saved the season for Ottawa.

Ottawa has better than a punchers chance against the Penguins. Mark Stone is starting to gain some momentum, and Mike Hoffman probably has another level. That Penguins blue line is still a serious concern.

I was surprised the comments weren't littered with oppositing, though. I expected some backlash.

 

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I agreed with everything Dobber wrote in Wednesday's ramblings about the two Game 7s. However, after watching Washington, and especially Alex Ovechkin, it would have been nice to be able to say that the Capitals' best players were great. That just wasn't the case, though.

Kevin Shattenkirk didn't jive with the Capitals. If he were to re-up with Washington there might still be a slight adjustment period to start next year, but by midseason, he would be acclimatized and moving the needle. He's an excellent player, and his stock wasn't hindered by this playoff run at all.

Nicklas Backstrom was good, and he looked dangerous at times in Game 7, but he wasn't great. He didn't put the team on his back. Backstrom needed to be better.

Ovechkin was hurt, and the severity of the injury is unknown, but pain-numbing injections doesn't have a nice ring to it. Still, he suited up, and unlike Erik Karlsson and Sidney Crosby, Ovechkin scored a single goal through the final four games of the series and was demoted to a secondary role. No. 8 didn't score a power-play goal in Round 2.

Ovechkin finished the playoffs with five goals and eight points through 13 games. He wasn't able to take his game to the next level when it mattered most, again. Maybe that classifies him as a "choker," maybe it doesn't.

 

Obviously, the Capitals have a number of decisions to make over the coming weeks. How T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams are handled will be telling. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Dmitry Orlov are all restricted free agents, too. A minor tweak or two is probably all that is needed because this team is built to have another dominant regular season and contend again. The Sharks and Ducks are putting together deep playoff runs in consecutive years with their go-to players older than Ovechkin and Backstrom are.

 

Settling Ovechkin down during the regular season might be the most important tweak. He played all 82 games and threw 216 body checks. The condensed NHL schedule probably impacted him more than some other players because of his style of play. Why not begin to sit him the second night of some back-to-back sets and occasionally late in the season to ensure he's healthy entering the postseason?

Unless, you're of the belief that Nazem Kadri's hit was the lone cause of his injury.

 

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The Conference Finals are upon us. Enjoy, Dobberheads.