You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Rangers.
Will the Rangers go after a two-way center who is a veteran with Cup credentials? A leader and good faceoff player to take the pressure off the younger forwards. I think Jesper Fast is a solid player and person … however teams are more loaded offensively these days, one through nine. The Rangers need a solid third-line center and to rebuild the fourth into an aggressive forecheck and penalty killing unit. — Anthony
I don’t think the Rangers lack veterans up-front. Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome are examples of guys whose production does in fact relieve much of the burden on the younger forwards.
The question is whether the team believes third-line center Filip Chytil, who turns 21 in early September, will be prepared to assume more responsibility as a top-six. If so, and he is given the shot to center Panarin, would Brett Howden move back to the middle on the third line while Strome moves to the right?
If Strome shifts to right wing on the line with Panarin and Chytil, then where is the opportunity for Kaapo Kakko to move up? I don’t envision Strome, in line to earn somewhere around $5 million next season, as the third-line center.
So, sorry, but more questions than answers.
I do think, however, that management would likely target a top-six center in his mid-20s with term remaining on his contract if the Blueshirts opt to trade Tony DeAngelo.
Why is there dead space in a contract that counts against the cap and that person is no longer on the team? — Frank Michael Pellegrino
Sixth Avenue would say it is to protect low-revenue teams who would be at a disadvantage if the revenue-generators could simply buy their way out of bad contracts without an impact on the cap. Truth is, it is a punitive measure.
Some have suggested an expanded playoff scenario if and when the season resumes. If we included every team that is not eliminated from the playoffs what would we be looking at? — Jeff Garrigan
I doubt the playoff field would be increased beyond 24, at the most. That could be a somewhat credible cut-line considering that every team in the top 24 is at NHL .500 or better and those below are not.
But if the league can somehow get back on the ice this summer, the NHL and NHLPA both want to complete the regular season before moving into the playoffs. Don’t ask me. There is no indication that the field would be expanded if the season is in fact completed in Fargo, North Dakota.
Why did the Rangers stick with Kaapo Kakko for the entire season when it was clear to almost every Rangers fan that he belonged in Hartford? — Peter Clarke
You begin (or end) with a false premise. My social media interactions lead me to believe that a majority of Rangers fans preferred Kakko being elevated to a top-six role rather than being demoted to the AHL.
Larry, why is it that when discussing the last Rangers offseason and the Shattenkirk buyout … you NEVER mention that buying out Staal was clearly the better move for the team? — Eddie Iacobelli
Maybe because I did not think that buying out Staal would be the better move? Yes, that’s probably why.
What Finn did you want to help Kakko? — Michael Cosby
I’d have liked to see the team attempt to acquire Nashville’s Eeli Tolvanen. I don’t think Kakko necessarily needed an elder to act as a mentor — though it couldn’t have hurt — but I do believe it would have been beneficial for him to have a peer who spoke his language and shared life experiences.
From all reasonable consideration Kreider should have been named CAPTAIN soon after new contract was signed. Why is it that he is not even considered? He is most mature and already takes care of his teammates. Last to exit ice. — Mark Peters
I think Kreider would be a fine choice and I am certain he will be in the mix for the assignment. I have been touting Zibanejad as the natural choice, but he has only two years remaining on his contract before he is eligible to become a free agent. Kreider has seven years to go.
So I wonder if that might be taken into consideration when management mulls its options. I would expect one or the other to wear the “C” next year.