The Olympic break is almost upon us, and the New York Rangers have a number of questions that need to be answered.
The Rangers are winners of nine of their last 12 and have climbed up the Eastern Conference standings. But that doesn't mean they don't have a number of things lingering over their heads.
What are the Rangers' five biggest questions heading into the Olympic break?
Read on to find out.
The Rangers are in a real predicament here.
On the one hand, it seems nearly unfathomable that the Rangers would trade their captain in the middle of the season.
On the other, if they can't re-sign him, then they would be wise to get some assets back.
Here's what we know on the Callahan situation.
The Rangers want to get this resolved before the Olympic roster freeze. As Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports:
Sources have told The Post general manager Glen Sather has established Friday's 3 p.m. pre-Olympic roster freeze, rather than the March 5 trade deadline, as the time of decision regarding Callahan's future. The Rangers want the situation resolved before the captain travels to Sochi, Russia, to play for Team USA and risks injury in The Games.
Katie Strang of ESPN reported that the Rangers have given Callahan's agent, Steve Bartlett, permission to speak to other teams.
That may be a bit rich for a player who is not having a great year and is quite injury-prone.
So what do we make of all this? It could all be a negotiating tactic, a way to get Callahan to lower his demands. Or it could be real. We don't know.
What we do know is that Callahan is a third-line winger with 21 points in 39 games. He doesn't play on the power play anymore, and he's been demoted to the second-unit penalty kill. His time on ice is down nearly four minutes from a year ago. He will be 29 next month.
Still, Callahan is the captain, and trading your captain is always a sign of giving up. The Rangers are hot right now, winners of three straight and nine of their last 12. The Eastern Conference is weak, and the Rangers have established themselves as the third-best team in the conference. A run to the Eastern Conference Final is not out of the question.
If you trade Callahan, you break up the chemistry and signal to the team and fanbase that you don't care about this season.
Then again, if you let Callahan walk with no assets in return, the Rangers might set their franchise back.
It's a no-win situation for Glen Sather. But it's a decision that will set the tone for the remainder of the season.
While the rumors surrounding Dan Girardi are not as hot as the ones surrounding Ryan Callahan, they are still out there.
Girardi will also be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported that the two parties aren't far off in terms of numbers:
Sources have told The Post that though Girardi is seeking a six-year deal in the neighborhood of $5.5 million per season, the Blueshirts have countered with a six-year deal in the neighborhood of $5.2 million per season or a five-year contract worth approximately $5.7 million per season. In this case, it seems as if there is a deal to be made.
The Rangers also have a big decision to make on Dan Girardi, who is an unrestricted free agent. Multiple sources believe Anaheim, with legit Stanley Cup aspirations, is interested and he'd be a very nice fit there. Same with Boston, now that Dennis Seidenberg is out. The Bruins want to take a look at internal options, but have a great shot in the weaker East.
I find it hard to believe that the Rangers would trade Girardi and the nearly 23 minutes a game he plays. Who would replace those minutes? The Rangers are in the hunt, even after their disastrous start, and trading Girardi would kill those chances. He's essential to the team's success.
It's prudent for Sather to see what's out there, but trading Girardi would be a massive mistake.
Derek Dorsett is set to return from a broken fibula after the Olympic break, according to Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record.
In his absence, however, Dan Carcillo has filled in admirably. The pugilistic winger has scored two goals, including the game-winner against the New York Islanders in the Stadium Series.
But more importantly, the Rangers are 9-3 with Carcillo in the lineup. Coincidence? Maybe. But Carcillo and the fourth line have become indispensable to the team, providing energy, checking and offense.
So what do the Rangers do when Dorsett comes back?
They're similar players, and Dorsett plays on the penalty-kill. But it's not wise to break up a team that has been so hot.
Look, Carcillo has wildly exceeded expectations, becoming a really important and physical player for this team. It's possible that he'll lose his game, at some point.
But right now, I think it would be foolish to shake things up .
Remember when some Rangers fans were clamoring for Cam Talbot to take over the starting job?
Yeah, you don't hear that anymore.
Lundqvist has been dominant in January, posting an 8-2-1 record, with a .938 save percentage. In December, in contrast, Lundqvist posted an abysmal .888 save percentage.
Lundqvist's play is a big reason the Rangers have skyrocketed up the Eastern Conference standings.
Now, here's the big question: Is this the real Henrik Lundqvist?
It's easy to say yes, but he's only a month removed from playing some of the worst hockey of his career.
If Lundqvist continues to play like this, then not only will the Rangers make the playoffs, but they will make a deep run. In my estimation, they are the third-best team in the conference, behind only Pittsburgh and Boston. With a hot goaltender, anything can happen.
Unless he gets completely bogged down with his Team Sweden responsibilities, I expect Lundqvist to play like this for the rest of the season. That's great news for Rangers fans.
In 14 games in December, Rick Nash scored three goals.
In 15 games in January, Rick Nash scored 11 goals.
So which Rick Nash are the Rangers going to see going forward?
He's been absolutely dominant in the past few weeks, using his size and speed and wicked shot to embarrass opposing defenses. He has looked like the player the Rangers gave up so much to get.
But will it continue? This is more in line with what he's done in his career.
I expect this to continue, and his sojourn with Team Canada will only help. The Rangers are on a roll, and Nash is a big reason why. If he keeps this up, the rest of the league needs to watch out.