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New York Rangers: What is Vlad Namestnikovs future?
27 2019 . https://bluelinestation.com. By Steve Paulus.

Vlad Namestnikov is going into a crucial year for his future with the New York Rangers?   Theres no doubt he plays hard and is an asset, but at what cost?
Last summer, the New York Rangers signed Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year contract at four million per year.  He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season so it is decision time for the team.  Should they sign him to an extension or let him play out the season and trade him at the deadline?

Namestnikov was the one proven NHL player who came to the Rangers in the blockbuster trade with Tampa at the 2018 deadline.  For Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, the Rangers got a first and second round draft pick, two prospects in Libor Hajek and Brett Howden along with Namestnikov.

At the time, Namestnikov was a 20-goal scorer, playin on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.  With 44 points in 62 games for the LIghtning, it looked like his acquisition was smart and would offset the loss of Miller.

Upon arriving in New York he didnt do well.  He scored only two goals and added two assists in 19 games.  Alain Vigneault gave him a full opportunity to strut his stuff, as he averaged just under 16 minutes per game.   Namestnikov struggled and was overshadowed by another deadline acquisition, Ryan Spooner who had 16 points in 20 games.

In the off-season, Jeff Gorton signed both Namestnikov and Spooner to identical $8 million two-year deals.   We all know what happened.  Spooner was a total failure and was flipped to Edmonton for Ryan Strome. Namestnikov rebounded with a much better performance.

Namestnikov was one of the first recipients of rookie coach David Quinns tough love philosophy and was also one of his first successes.  After an early scratching, Namestnikov came back and played the rest of the season in the Quinn style.

He finished the season with 11 goals and 20 assists.  He bounced around the lineup, getting some top line minutes, but mostly playing on the second and third lines.  A natural center, he played most games on the wing.  It was a good season for the Russian, but with his contract expiring soon, where does he fit in the rebuild?

What is his upside?
If anyone thinks that Namestnikov is a 20-goal scorer, think again.  In that one offensive explosion, he clearly benefited from playing with two All-Stars.  How much did he play with Kucherov and Stamkos?  He played 507 minutes with them at even strength.  The time with the next set of linemates?  48 minutes.  He played on the top power play line with them as well and he scored the most power play goals in his career.

The bottom line on Namestnikov is that he is not a big goal scorer.   Look at his career stats:

Season    Team             Lge     GP   G     A    Pts
2010-11 London       OHL      68   30  38   68
2011-12 London       OHL      63   22  49   71
2012-13 Syracuse    AHL      44    7   14    21
2013-14 Syracuse    AHL      56  19   29   48
2013-14 Tampa        NHL        4     0      0      0
2014-15 Tampa        NHL       43    9     7    16
2014-15 Syracuse   AHL       34  14    21   35
2015-16 Tampa       NHL        80   14  21    35
2016-17 Tampa       NHL       74    10  18    28
2017-18 TB-NY       NHL        81   22  26    48
2018-19 Rangers    NHL       78   11   20    31

In junior hockey his best year was 30 goals.  He was a 20-goal scorer in the AHL.  Except for 2017-18, his top NHL season as a goal scorer was 14 goals in 2015-16.

Its clear what you get in Vlad Namestnikov, a hardworking forward who will get his share of goals, but is not an elite goal scorer.  In other words, he is a third or fourth liner on a good team.

Cap considerations
In the salary cap era, the common make-up of an NHL team is a handful of highly compensated stars, accompanied by a cadre of moderately priced veterans and a bevy of young players on entry level contracts.

The Rangers have five NHL players who are potential UFAs in 2020-21 including Namestnikov.  Matt Beleskey will not be signed.  The others are Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast. Each player presents the team with a different challenge.

Weve debated the Kreider issue ad nauseum.  The team has to decide to extend him or trade him and that decision will come this summer. Fast is a player the Rangers will want to keep if they can, but he is coming off a bargain $1.85 million contract and at age 27 he will be looking for a bigger payday.

What the Rangers do with Namestnikov may well hinge on Jimmy Vesey.  Like Namestnikov, he is 26 years old.  He is a hard nosed forward who is willing to gointo the dirty areas of the ice.  He has had better offensive production than the Russian. If the Blueshirts are going to extend one of their impending UFA forwards, it may come down to a decision between Vesey and Namestnikov.

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