Getting to The CENTER of The Rangers Issues

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The Rangers lack depth at the center position this season, and it is no secret. Mika Zibanejad was promoted to the role of number-one center after Derek Stepan was traded to The Arizona Coyotes. Zibanejad has 13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points and carries a 51.46 FO% in his 33 games played.

Kevin Hayes, who’s jumped from winger to center and back his entire career with the Blueshirts, was given the opportunity to secure the second line center position. At the season’s halfway mark, Hayes has produced nine goals and eight assists for 17 points and has gone 50% on faceoffs this year.

J.T. Miller, a true left winger, in my opinion, has seen plenty of ice time in the center position due to the lack of depth. He has eight goals and 19 assists in 42 games with a 54.08 FO%. This additional “fill in” was mirrored with the signing of David Desharnais. Desharnais, has gone above and beyond anyone’s expectations. With four goals and 15 assists in 39 games played, he actually leads all Rangers centers with a 56.1 FO%. And we’ve also seen promising, consistent performances from young gun Boo Nieves. His fourth line presence has been noticed. Going back to December 5th we’ve seen Nieves’ strong play when the Rangers were able to steal a win in the Steel City.


“Nieves had the goal, a hit, a blocked shot, and was 60% on faceoffs. His strong play was rewarded by head coach Alain Vigneault, who had the youngster on the ice in the waning moments of the game, taking faceoffs against Sidney Crosby.” – ZC

To put it lightly, so far, we’ve been lucky. Halfway through the season, the Blueshirts have been able to work with this group of centers, even through Zibanejad’s injury.

Now or Later?

With the trade deadline coming up soon (2/26), there really hasn’t been much talk about trading for a true #2 or #3 center. Max Pacioretty has been mentioned, but we haven’t seen any real push or promise on the rumors. Why isn’t the Rangers Twittersphere buzzing about acquiring a true, top 6, goal scoring center? It’s simple. Acquiring one now would be too pricey. And the New York Rangers already have one or two waiting in the wings. If both Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil make the roster next year, it changes everything.

Potential 2018-2019 Center Depth:





Wing Strong

The New York Rangers have a plethora of Wingers. With Andersson and Chytil both down the center, it relieves both J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes of their center duties. This opens up a whole new list of line pairings and options. I personally would like to see both Hayes and Miller back at full-time wing Positions. Keep in mind that with the new and over-regulated face off rules in full effect, having wingers with extensive face-off experience can only benefit the team.

Kreider’s return?

Chris Kreider is still out indefinitely but has undergone successful surgery required after he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm.

Anthony J. Causi

The future depth up front will hang heavily on Chris Kreider’s healthy return. The 6’3”, 224-pound left-winger, who tallied eleven goals and eleven assists in 37 games played this season, has already been missed. His speed through the neutral zone and presence in front of the net, especially on the power play, are vital to this team’s production and game plan. We can only hope for a successful and quick rehab and recovery for Chris Kreider.

Looking Forward

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And here’s my point. Are both Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson ready for the big league come the 2018/2019 season? Yes, and this would give the Rangers Zibanejad, Andersson, Chytil, Nieves and/or Lettieri all down the middle. We’ve already seen Nieves play wing as needed, same with Lettieri, which means the depth chart is even deeper. Add this center depth to the already abundant winger selection, and Jeff Gorton and company may already be looking to next year. I’m not suggesting a tank but letting this season fizzle out with more of the same. While the fan in me wants to predict a deep Stanley Cup run, a wildcard playoff spot and a mediocre playoff run are more likely. But with the depth up front that I’ve suggested and a few tweaks on the blue line, I have confidence in the future.

Dead Trade Deadline?

If the return includes young speed and early picks, maybe selling a soon to be UFA like Rick Nash is worth it. But with the future looking bright, and quickly approaching, be patient and get excited. And, don’t expect any major moves between now and the trade deadline.

18/19 Projected lineup
(I know it’s early, but it’s the Bye week- let’s have some fun!)

Kreider / Zibanejad / Buchnevich

Miller / Andersson/ Zuccarello

Hayes / Chytil / Nash

Vesey / Nieves / Fast (Letteiri?)

That’s rolling four, strong and fast lines. Where’s Grabner? You don’t see the Blueshirts top scorer on my list, as right now his stock is VERY high. The right-wing, even strength powerhouse has a team-leading 18 goals and has also tallied four assists. However, he is a UFA at the end of the season and for those reasons, I think he’s the best piece to move at the trade deadline if the Rangers are selling, as I think they should be. I predict Nash signs back with a pay cut, and settles in with Hayes and a centering Chytil on the third line.

What Do you think?

What players do you think will hold the Center Position next season? Do Andersson and Chytil both make the cut? And what moves, if any, do we see at the quickly approaching Trade Deadline?

Post your comments below, and follow me @Face_Off_Forte on Twitter.

And, as always, LETS GO RANGERS!


  • Send Nash and Holden to Edmonton for Lucic (Chiarelli is dumb enough to do this)

    • Chiarelli would love to make that move. It would open up cap space and get out of a contract that doesn’t expire until 2023. Rick Nash had the same amount of goals as Lucic and played in almost 20 less games last year. Lucic has 9 goals this year which isn’t the same as Nash. Here’s the difference Lucic has played a tremendous amount of time with Conor McDavid. His output would take a huge nose dive with the likes of Kevin Hayes as his center. The Rangers can do much better that Milan Lucic for Rick Nash. If Gorton even entertained that though for a second he should be fired! There is ZERO need to take on a 6 million dollar hit until 2023 when they should be rebuilding for the future. Milan Lucic isn’t what the Rangers need at all.

  • It time to blow up this team and do a full rebuild.FULL REBUILD!

    • Absolutely! But I don’t have faith in the front office to go through with that. They cannot afford to mess up at the draft which this team historically done. At this point do you even trust them in making the right moves at the trade deadline?

  • Get rid of Nash and Holden, sure, no worries. We have Hayes!

  • I like nash, but would prefer grabs. Zucc, mika, kreids. Miller buch,grabs ( miller and zucc our best passers, shiuld be on diff lines). Hayes chytil, vesey maybe. I like our current 4th line. Although staal and holden are better this year aftet last years atrocious showing, i wouldnt mind losing them either. None of this will happen with Av still coaching though

  • I would love to get excited but I can’t cause I don’t think the rangers will go in either direction p. They seem to make trades to get younger but not go all the way. To me it’s either rebuild or don’t rebuild. Gorton with his rebuild on the fly just seems to be doing not much of anything really. I’m not explaining myself right but my point is the front office hasn’t impressed me with any moves so it’s hard to expect anything different now

  • Id say dump Nash,Staal,Holden,Miller,Hayes and McD!! Nash would get at least a 2nd rd pick,Staal if were lucky to get a 5th or 6th rounder,Holden same as Staal, and McD trade for a true #2 center…I cant stand Hayes or Miller-neither one impresses me one bit!! This team needs a true scorer! Look at Tampa they have Stam and the Russian kid!! Zucc and Henrik cant carry the team every game!! Miller and Hayes IMO are 3rd liners at best!! McD has 1 yr left on his contract and will want 6+mill/7-8yrs!! Id rather give Brady 4-5mill over signing a 30yr old that seems out of place most games as opposed to Sjkei whos a great skater,goes in on the rush,and IMO hes like our new Leetch!! Build around him and Shatty on D!! Nash is just a waste if we resign him-I dont care if he only wants 3.5-4mill a season ITS NO!! Whether its the Cap Era or before it Nash isnt the player we traded for nor do we need more power forwards on this team!! We have MAYBE a sniper and 1 or 2 grinders on a team of 12 guy offense!! We need a Sniper or 2 not power forwards!!

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