Rangers could use someone like Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck

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As for the Rangers, whose game included far too many lulls in the action after their two-week hiatus, and don’t let that 2-0-1 record against Boston, Detroit and Ottawa fool you.

1. It’s more than a small problem when Igor Shesterkin has a higher actual xGF by 60:00 than about half of the club’s strikers, don’t you agree?

The last six came to an abrupt end. The bottom six also all but stopped grinding, although they weren’t the only culprits in that department. The club’s foresight game has evaporated. Rarely is there possession under the hash or containment marks.

The Blueshirts have once again become a single team (or none) in the offensive zone. Their ineffective flush and chase game leads to easy outs followed by easy ins at the other end. It’s not at all representative of the playoff-style play encouraged by head coach Gerard Gallant.

The third line has been a dog breakfast since the first puck was dropped in training camp. It needs to be completely rebuilt and redesigned. If this is not the time, it must become a priority during the summer. The third line has become a repository for guys who don’t fit in the top six. He has no identity.

If this is meant to be a third score line, something was lost in translation. The unit has scored a total of 10 goals this season. Among its current members, Dryden Hunt hasn’t scored in his last 24 games; Filip Chytil has scored two goals in his last 19 games; and Julien Gauthier has scored one goal in his last 17 games.

When Kaapo Kakko returns in another month, more or less, it’s likely he or Alexis Lafrenière will join this unit. As if that had worked well in the past for either Lottery Kids.

2. Do you know who the Rangers could use? You know who the Rangers could have used for at least five years? A player like Cal Clutterbuck. There is a player like Clutterbuck who will be available at the deadline.

It is, of course, Clutterbuck himself.

Mind you, I recognize that I’m definitely taking you for a walk through Fantasyland here. Lou Lamoriello has never made a trade with the Rangers in 28 years as the Devils general manager. He had none with the Blueshirts in his four seasons in charge of the Islanders. Suggesting that he would send a missing piece across the East River to Manhattan is probably Looney Tunes.

The Rangers could use someone like Cal Clutterbuck (#15) of the Islanders to give their third line an identity.
NHLI via Getty Images

Additionally, the transition from being a long-serving Islander major to becoming a major Ranger overnight would be extremely difficult. I’m not sure it’s fair for either party to expect such an abrupt loyalty transfer without even an offseason to process it. Perhaps the concept of dating the historical enemy makes this a dumb proposition.

But if not, if it could be determined somehow that Clutterbuck might be the exception, then Rangers would have their third-row identity and third-row heartbeat. Of course, there would likely be a higher cost attached to such a transaction if Lamoriello even negotiated it.

As a rental property, Clutterbuck wouldn’t be worth Nils Lundkvist or Zac Jones in return. Vitali Kravtsov probably isn’t Lamoriello’s cup of tea. We would speak in terms of the draft pick motto for No. 15, who has been an Islander for nine years.

The Islanders, built to win this year before the entire fitter loses a few screws and bolts, don’t have their own second-round or fourth-round pick this year. The Rangers have a pair of picks each round, theirs plus second from the Blues and theirs plus fourth from the Jets. Perhaps business can be handled within this framework.

Why would Lamoriello want to help Rangers? Well, why wouldn’t he consider it if such a decision would help the islanders in the future? One of Lamoriello’s key tenets is: “Do the right thing for the right reason”. To refuse to hire Rangers just because of the rivalry would be doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

OK, the day pass for Fantasyland has expired. And the Rangers still have to redo this third line.

Cal Clutterbuck
Cal Clutterbuck checks Mika Zibanejad in the boards during a Rangers-Islanders pre-season game on September 26, 2021.
Getty Images

3. Yes I know. Artemi Panarin, who lasered the winner in Ottawa on Sunday, had 19 points (4-15) in his last 12 games. Who wouldn’t take that?

But I don’t think he’s been at the top of his game for a while. He seems more hesitant, less lively, less dependent on his instincts and less able to create space for himself.

What surprised me about that two-on-one at the end of the first period of last Thursday’s game against Detroit was not that Panarin dodged a shot in order to feed Barclay Goodrow, but that the pass was interrupted by Filip Hronek and didn’t get by.

Believe me, I’m not talking about Panarin, who is such a trusted creature. It’s just that the club are so dependent on No.10 (and Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome) that B or even B-plus isn’t good enough of him.

4. Do you know the byproduct of not having the puck in the offensive zone? That would be the sum of four men’s advantages over the last three games.

That’s not enough for a team that has the third-best power play rating in the NHL at 26.6% while ranking 24th in five-on-five production.

5. I don’t know what’s more frustrating, that Morgan Barron wasn’t able to make enough of an impression on Gallant to merit a longer look at the last six or that the coach didn’t give the #47 more opportunities to do so.

There’s just a little too much Greg McKegg in the lineup.

6. The Rangers are ranked 31st in shots per 60:00, trailing only Arizona. Of the 10 lowest-ranked teams in this category, the other nine are away and watching the playoffs.


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