Player: Dylan McIlrath
Cap Hit Outlook: $600,000, contract ends this summer
Status: RFA, Potential Top 4 Defensive Defenseman
2015-2016 G-A-P: 2-2-4 in 34 games
The “Undertaker” may indeed be preparing to bury something this upcoming offseason. Unfortunately, it may be himself. Since being drafted number 10 overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft, Dylan has had a long road to the NHL atypical of such a high draft pick. Who is to blame for his lack of NHL experience? Is it McIlrath himself? Management? The coach? We can’t really know the true reason for why he has such little NHL experience, but what we are now faced with is whether or not the organization thinks its worthwhile to keep him around.
It is blatantly obvious that AV does not trust McIlrath on the ice. The most obvious case was the insertion of Brady Skjei in the first round against the Penguins. Although the move ultimately paid off with the emergence of what seems to be an NHL ready, rookie defenseman, what does that say about the future for McIlrath? To choose Skjei, with a limited AHL experience and only 7 NHL games under his belt over McIlrath, who has given his blood, sweat, and tears in the AHL and was solid in his 34 NHL games this year, only adds to his ominous future.
To be fair, McIlrath has shown defensive lapses in his spotty starts throughout the year. I believe much of this is due to the lack of consistency in which he played. With the aging Boyle and extreme decline of Dan Girardi, McIlrath should have been given more time to develop in the NHL, instead of frequenting the luxury box. What he offers is a fearless defenseman who isn’t afraid to throw the body around, something the Rangers have been without for years. The energy, for fans at the Garden and for the team, was always highest after a big blue line hip check from 6 foot five 5 inch, 220 pound wrecking ball. As long as management and AV try to tweak the roster with more speed and skill (Dan Boyle? Tanner Glass?), McIlrath will find himself playing off-Broadway.
McIlrath is a RFA who is arbitration eligible, currently making $600k. It seems from management on down that his contract, likely to be $1.2 to $1.7 for 3-4 years may be too much for the organization to take on. McIlrath may receive offer sheets from other teams that the Rangers are simply not willing to match. Or maybe more likely, they trade him before the shit hits the fan. It’s a shame for the organization to waste such a high draft pick and not allow him to play and develop in the NHL. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but if you look back to the 2010 draft you can see all the talent that was missed out on by the NYR. Now superstar Vladimir Tarasenko was taken 6 picks later than Dylan, emerging goal scorer Jaden Schwartz 4 picks later, and Cam Fowler just 2 picks after. Show me a fan who isn’t upset we didn’t draft Tarasenko, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand hockey. I digress. The reality that management missed out on top-notch talent, currently producing in the NHL makes swallowing the potential loss of McIlrath even more painful.
If it were up to me, I would hold onto McIlrath and allow him to develop. Not often do you come across such a large defenseman who can intimidate a team and make them think twice about crashing the net. The cap-crunch poses a problem, but I would rather pay McIlrath to play solid defense at a reasonable rate than watch the defenseless, aging Yandle get overpaid for way too long and further ruin the future of the Rangers. But then again, maybe I just want to see more fighting in the NHL.
Do you think McIlrath will be moved at the draft? Or will they hold on to the gritty defenseman? Comment below.