New York Rangers: Off-season moves don’t do much for the mediocre penalty kill

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Michael Grabner
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Michael Grabner /

The New York Rangers added players in the off-season who will improve the team’s power play. However, the moves have not helped their penalty kill.

The penalty kill unit finished 19th in the league last season, with a 79.8% rate. The Rangers did score nine shorthanded goals, tied for the sixth most in the league. But too often they were unable to kill key penalties and it cost them.

Offensive Additions

Kevin Shattenkirk, the team’s marquee off-season addition, is an offensive minded player who excels on the power play. He is a solid defender who has been a solid penalty killer, but was not used much on the PK last season.

Shattenkirk played over 150 PK minutes in 2011-12 and over 130 minutes in 2015-16.  But according to Puckalytics, Shattenkirk played fewer than 25 shorthanded minutes last season. I expect his PK minutes to increase on the Rangers.

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Anthony DeAngelo, the defensemen acquired in the Stepan trade, is a smooth skater with loads of potential, but comes with defensive deficiencies. Recently acquired center David Desharnais is another player more known for his offense. Neither will play on the penalty kill.

Penalty Killer Subtractions

Derek Stepan played the second most minutes of the forwards on the PK last season (after Michael Grabner) and was often deployed on the first unit with Rick Nash. Stepan and his 107 shorthanded minutes will be killing penalties in Arizona next season.

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Girardi played the second most PK minutes to Ryan McDonagh. In shorthanded situations, Girardi had the second lowest GA60 (goals against per 60 minutes) among Rangers defensemen (who played at least 50 PK minutes) after Brendan Smith. Although Girardi is not the player he once was, he is still a useful penalty killer and will be missed when the Rangers are in the box.

Remaining PK Forwards

Of the forwards who had over 50 minutes of PK ice time, Grabner and Nash were the team’s best penalty killers statistically, with GA60s of 3.80 and 6.10, respectively. Jesper Fast, who will not be available to start the season, was the next best with 6.23. All three will be back, but they are all wings who will not play together.

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Mika Zibanejad was effective in limited duty, securing a 4.66 GA60 in 39 minutes of PK ice time. Expect to see him much more on the PK next season.

Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller had the worst GA60s of the penalty killers, both coming in above 10. As the roster currently stands, Miller would likely play center on the PK. The top six forward penalty killers are likely to be Zibanejad, Nash, Hayes, Grabner, Miller, and Fast.

Remaining PK D-Men

On defense, McDonagh and Smith are in line to play the most. Brady Skjei was not used much on the PK last season, but he performed well when given the chance. With a 2.62 GA60 and a year under his belt, I would expect Skjei’s 23 minutes of PK ice time to increase.

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Marc Staal was ineffective with a 9.08 GA60, highest among the team’s defensemen with over 50 minutes of PK ice time. Nick Holden was better with a 6.75 GA60. Holden has a chance to be moved, but if they’re both back I would expect to see one or both on the PK unit.

On the back end of the glut of defensemen on the roster, Russian import Alexei Bereglazov is an intriguing option. He is a big, shut- down defensemen who can move the puck. With a physical game and a long reach, prospect Ryan Graves has been an effective penalty killer for Hartford.

Some External Options

The free agent pool is dwindling rapidly and the marquee names are gone. Jussi Jokinen had been linked to the Rangers, but he signed with the Oilers. His offensive production has been dwindling, but he is an effective penalty killer.

Jokinen had a 4.58 GA60 for Florida last season. He only cost the Oilers $1.1 million, and he is a center. But the Rangers may be looking for a center who can help more on the offensive end.

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Predators Captain Mike Fisher has a ton of PK experience and is still available. Fisher could slot in as the second or third line center for the Rangers.

Though Fisher has been an effective penalty killer in his career, he’s 37 and had a poor season last year with a 10.17 GA60. The Rangers could try to make a push, but seems likely to return to the Predators or retire.

Ex-Ranger Viktor Stahlerg is another effective penalty killer who is still available. Stalberg was second on Ottawa last season with a 5.46 GA60.

Bringing Stalberg back would help on the PK, but would likely necessitate a J.T. Miller move to center. At present, Stalberg seems likely to return to Ottawa.

Final Thoughts

The Rangers are undoubtedly looking to trade from their overabundance of defenders for a center. Ideally, a center who can help on the penalty kill.

Lindy Ruff replaced Jeff Beukeboom as the coach of the defense. While Ruff has a long track record, his teams were not known for their defense. Unless he can work some magic or some new players can thrive on the PK, the unit is likely to finish in the middle of the pack again.

Next: Rangers 2017-18 Season Hanging on One Transaction

The Rangers off-season acquisitions have improved the team and the power play should be much better. However, they have not done much for the penalty kill, which was not very good last season.