With the New Jersey Devils already being the oldest team in the league (the only team whose average cracks 30), according to reports, it appears that they may be willing to go a little bit older, with a reclamation project of sorts, in signing free agent Alexei Yashin, a player who has actually been a free agent in NHL terms for the last five seasons, as he has been playing in Russia ever since he was bought out by his then-current team, the New York Islanders. Though his play was not terrible, he was accused of not trying his hardest on a perpetually mediocre squad, and because of the buyout, will actually still be receiving payment from the Islanders another next three seasons, to the sum of more than $2 million per year. With the Ottawa Senators earlier in his career, he had put up superstar numbers before leaving for Long Island due to a contract dispute. From there, his totals went nowhere but down, which led to his eventual demise. He is now 37 years old and coming off his worst Russian season since he embarked on the journey in 2007.
If Alex Frolov was fifteen years younger, perhaps an Amber Alert would have been sent out. Teams of policemen would have been assembled to talk to the family about where young Alex may have ventured off to by himself, or worst case scenario, may have even been kidnapped. But this case is a little bit different—Alex Frolov is alive and well, and is making pretty good money to play a sport that he loves. My only question is, where did he go?
After strongly opposing his signing during the summer, the preseason gave me something to smile about as Frolov showed great chemistry with Marian Gaborik. But even when he was playing without him he still looked good. With Gaborik going down to injury, I did not bat an eye because I figured he would still be able to maintain his play. Maintain what, exactly? I do not know, because in the two games he played with Gaborik he did not look so hot.
The fact is, Frolov has been a missing-persons case since opening night. He started the season registering an assist in each of the first two games then went silent on the score sheet for two when he scored his first goal of the season, which was on a lucky bounce in itself. Frolov came down on a two-on-one in a game against Colorado and by the time he was near the crease he attempted to pass the puck and it hit off the defenseman’s skate and went into the net past Craig Anderson. Fluke goal #1.
His next goal came two night later in a game against Boston. With the puck bouncing all over the place, Frolov would get lucky. A shot was stopped by the Bruins goaltender and bounced up in the air, and with a lucky swing, Frolov batted the puck out of mid-air and into the net. Fluke goal #2.
Those are the only two times this season that Frolov has found his way onto the goals section of the stat sheet. He has not once shown anything at all that would make me think he is worth being on this team. I am not going to complain about his $3 million salary, because what he got was fair at the time—fair if he scores 25 goals this season, something the Rangers need him to do. But there is not one thing he has done this season that could not have been matched by a cheaper, younger forward from Hartford, such as Dale Weise had he not broken his hand.
Frolov is currently on pace for around 15 goals and 40 points. The Rangers can only live with those 40 points if 30 of them are goals (not likely), and if 15 goals is all he nets this season, then the Rangers are going to finish right where they did last season, out of the playoff picture. Comparisons have been drawn between him and Chris Higgins. These can be looked at partially, because both struggled to score. But at least Higgins had decent speed, a good work ethic, and was great on the penalty kill. Frolov’s skating ability has not caught my attention, his worth ethic is (obviously) questionable, and he does not kill penalties.
I think better comparisons can be drawn to Nikolai Zherdev, as in he is a player who has a tremendous amount of talent but only uses it from time to time. But so far this season, aside from two lucky goals, what has Frolov really shown us? Has he even created scoring chances? What we have here may be another case of a reclamation project gone wrong. The 30-goal scorer who the Rangers thought they were acquiring only put up 19 last year, yet we automatically expect him to correct it. Maybe it’s our fault. Nevertheless, I am not expecting 30 goals from him and never did. But 25 is not too much to ask, and if we don’t ask it, then we might as well not even bother watching this season.
Because I will be swamped with the World Series this coming weekend, I am going to give out the New York Rangers’ monthly awards for October a few days prior to the end of the month, but the rest of the awards for the season will be given when the month is over—these are just special circumstances. (And due to my bad luck, I’m sure all these players will reverse themselves before the end of the month.)
“Keystone Cops Award” for Bad Defense
Winner: Michael Del Zotto
This award really could have gone to any number of defensemen on this team, namely Steve Eminger. But because Del Zotto plays more and is counted on for better play, the award goes to him. He has really struggled thus far and has looked out of place at times. It’s hard to believe that he is a +4 on the season.
“Banana Boat Sun Burn Award” for Bad Goaltending
Winner: Martin Biron
Though Henrik Lundqvist has had his share of clunkers this season, Biron’s performance against the Thrashers last night gives him the win for this award. It was not entirely his fault, but Biron has been exposed for what he is—a semi adequate backup goalie. I think we can strip him of the Vezina that we bestowed on him after his first game.
“Chris Higgins Cloak of Invisibility Award” for Scoring Struggles
Winner: Alex Frolov
I was one of many people who did not want Alex Frolov on this team, and with two goals in eight games, he has shown to be the most invisible forward out there. Both goals he scored were flukes and we have yet to really see anything to get excited about from him. I was really hoping that he would step up in Gaborik’s absence, but he has looked the same all along. Although he is more visible than Higgins was at this point, he is being counted on for some production and the numbers he is putting up are not cutting it. If continues at this rate, we may need to rename the award after Nikolay “Don’t Call Me Nikolai” Zherdev.
“Gordie Howe Award” for All-Around Best Play
Winner: Sean Avery
Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows I am not a fan of Sean Avery, but you also know that I am a fan of giving credit where credit is due. Avery is off to a fantastic start this season and if he keeps it up, he will have a career year. With a goal and six assists so far, he has been very active on the score sheet and also getting back to his game of pestering opponents. He also leads the team in penalty minutes with twenty-five.
“Aaron Voros Award” for Streaky Play
Winner: Derek Stepan
Unfortunately, the best thing Derek Stepan did this season was also the worst. The kid has talent, there is no doubt in that, but an opening night hat trick had fans thinking that he would quickly become a superstar. He has since not scored a goal and really has not contributed much aside from two assists. I am not going to get on him, though, because he is a rookie in the learning process of NHL hockey.
“Iron Curtain Award” for Most Shots Blocked
Winner: Dan Girardi
Next to Michal Rozsival, Girardi has been this team’s best defenseman. He also leads the team in blocked shots with 24 and is showing some justification for the contract he was signed to this summer. We can only hope that he will continue to play this well for the rest of the year.
“Vasily Zaytzev Award” for Team Sniper
Winner: Brandon Dubinsky
With injuries to key players, Dubinsky has been thrust into an important role and is leading all players in ice time. He is also putting a dent on the score sheet, as he leads the team in goals (4) and points (8). Perhaps he has finally developed into the power forward we have been waiting for all along.
“Glass Balls Award” for Most Injured Player
Winner: Marian Gaborik Chris Drury (View update)
This is not meant to pick on Gaborik, but he has missed the most time due to injury this month. I just thank God that it isn’t a groin issue. Gaborik is expected to be skating and playing sometime next week.
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that Chris Drury should have won the award because he has not played a full game yet. To be honest, I forgot he was even on the team when I was thinking of these awards. I will now change the award to him, because of that reason and I thank the reader who pointed it out. (I’m just going to leave the original context of the article as it was, even with the change.)
Have an idea for an award? Send me an email at email@example.com!
Quotes from Alex Frolov himself are slowly making their way to Twitter, and we have these from Arthur Staple of Newsday:
“I probably thought free agency would go faster, maybe easier than this. I had a chance to go to Russia. It was a tough decision.”
-Maybe because nobody wanted to shell out big bucks to a player who scored 19 goals last season and was relegated to playing on the third line?
“I decided to take the 1-year deal, then next year we can talk more long-term. I know what I can bring to the Rangers.”
-Good thing it’s only a one year deal; no harm, no foul. As for what you can bring, I hope it’s a lot more than what I am expecting.
“In my whole career, I’ve been to the playoffs once. I wanted a chance to get there again and win a Stanley Cup.”
-Then why on earth would you come to the Rangers?
These next ones come from Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record:
“…I think New York is probably the best place for me to be right now.”
-Yes, cause us fans love Russian enigmas. Zherdev v2.0 is the label he is already getting, but I’m thinking more along the lines of Alexei Kovalev’s second stint on Broadway.
“I probably could have made more in Russia, sometimes you have to think about something else…”
-You could have made a lot more in Russia, and played in a stress-free environment, at least when compared to New York. And what else were you considering? I know $3 million is pocket change to some people, so maybe the lavish New York lifestyle perhaps?
Lastly, we have some great quotes from Russ Cohen who told me, “Alexander Frolov has a lot of skill but sometimes makes one too many moves on the ice and that tends to frustrate viewers. He’s not a complete player and his numbers have been in decline each of the last three seasons.”
And he basically echoes my mentality of the whole situation when he says, “He’s the type of player a team might bring in to put them over the top rather than taking a potential roster spot away from a young player.”
Just about twenty-four hours after writing about how signing Alexander Frolov is not the answer to the New York Rangers problems, it has been announced that the Rangers have reached a deal with the Russian-born left winger for one year at $3 million.
Frolov is coming off the worst season of his career, putting aside his rookie campaign, and one that saw him benched and then relegated to third line duty by head coach Andy Murray for a lack of work ethic.
Although this deal does not break the bank, the Rangers are really not in much better shape with him than they were without him. Frolov could give the Rangers 20 goals and 50 points, but this team was in need of a star-like player, one that they did not get and should have stood pat because of. By December, he will be labeled the second coming of Nikolai Zherdev, mark my words.
The bright side to this is the fact that he is a bit more defensively responsible than Zherdev, and is only two years removed from a thirty-goal season. This move just reeks of a good ole fashioned Glen Sather reclamation project, but because it is a one year deal, it will not harm the Rangers future.
I’m still not crazy about this, but it could be worse, like Frolov being 38 instead of 28.
Article coming later on my projected forward line combinations for the Rangers on opening night.
It seems like this week’s rumor, which is actually running pretty rampant this morning, is the New York Rangers being interested in free agent winger Alexander Frolov. Being that the Rangers have done absolutely nothing to help improve the team’s shoddy offense this summer, it almost seems like a no-brainer to bring the two-time 30-goal scorer to Broadway.
However, in a move that seems all too Rangeresque, Frolov is not currently coming off one of those 30 goal seasons, but one where he scored only 19 goals, the lowest amount since he was a rookie in the NHL in 2002, and being on the best Los Angeles Kings team since that year.
Frolov would lighten the burden of Marian Gaborik, to a degree, but it is not going to help the Rangers solve their offensive woes. At most, Frolov can be counted on for 25 goals, maybe the 30 that he has hit twice before, but what it seems we have here is Nikolai Zherdev V2.0.
Zherdev too came to the Rangers with a lot of skill, and the ability to make moves that brought people out of their seats, and score the highlight reel goal from time to time. That was all fine and dandy in October and November, but where was Zherdev has the season dredged onward? Nowhere to be found.
Frolov too has that ability, to make people go “wow”, but in coming off a season which he mightily struggled, I would be inclined to say “No Thanks”.
To show his streakiness, let’s take a look at some of his stats: He scored only two goals in November, and one in January, where the amount of games for those two months totaled 27. Twice he had ten game goal scoring droughts, and there were only four occasions where he scored goals in back to back games. He had two four-game point scoring streaks, both in October, and never matched that for the rest of the season.
Do we still think Frolov coming to New York is a good idea?
Sure he was good two years ago, but judging off of last season, he actually seems just like the player the Rangers would bring in; gauging the acquisition off of past success and not recent struggles. The Rangers must move on from this type of signing, unless they can get him at a bargain basement deal (he made $4 million last season).
The Rangers will not be worse off if they sign him, but they won’t be better either. Unless a superstar comes around, the Rangers should just put their wallet away and be patient.
Let’s start off with the smaller piece of news this afternoon, and that is Rob Niedermayer signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Way to go guys! Looks like Niedermayer is going to be your shiny new toy this season until he runs for his life next summer after spending the year in Buffalo.
Now to free agent Evgeni Nabokov, who signed a four-year deal with SKA of the KHL today. Although I originally predicted he would end up in Washington, it really only took a few hours past noon on July 1 to realize that there was absolutely no market for him in the NHL.
At 34 years old, Nabokov has never accomplished anything in the playoffs or international play, despite his 293 regular season wins. This will all but spell the end of his NHL career; if no one wanted him now, he will not find a job when his contract runs out at 38. My question is, in the distant future, will Nabokov ever find himself on the hall-of-fame ballot?
Now to the Ranger related news we have all been waiting for.
Joe and I have been saying it for days, that Kovalchuk and the Rangers were, or should be, dancing the tango together, even with no official word or rumor from anyone. But today, Darren Dreger of TSN Tweeted, “Kovalchuk should simply declare, publicly his want to play for the New York Rangers. I bet Slats would clear the deck and make it happen.”
I would not expect the Rangers to rush things here as clearly Kovalchuk is in no rush to sign a contract any time soon. The Rangers would definitely have to lock up Staal before even thinking about throwing the checkbook at Kovalchuk. And a move like this would ultimately spell the end of Wade Redden after training camp.
Also involving Kovalchuk, which is very convenient, the Los Angeles Kings are back in talks with the superstar, who probably contacted them to get a bidding war going. I would narrow his teams down to the Kings, Rangers, or back to Russia to play in the KHL. He is not going to the Islanders, the Devils would have to dismantle the team to acquire him, and the rumored Maple Leafs would be the worst possible career choice for Kovalchuk, who has never played under the intense pressure that exists in Toronto.
Finally, we have former Ranger great Nikolai Zherdev about to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. This is coming from at least two very solid Russian sources on Twitter, and I expect the signing to happen soon. With Simon Gagne already asked to waive his no-trade-clause, that will all but be the end of his career in Philadelphia.