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Retain Or Release: Dominic Moore

Glen Sather played “Retain or Release” with Dominic Moore after the 2005-2006 season and ended up picking “release.” Moore was traded to Nashville (who then sent him to Pittsburgh). In return, the Rangers received Adam Hall, a young, big, gritty forward who had put him double digit goals consistently and had upside as a true power forward. Instead, Hall fell flat on his face in New York, scoring 4 goals in 49 games, slugging around the ice and rarely making himself useful on the forecheck or really anywhere else. He was unceremoniously shipped to Minnesota for six games of Pascal Dupuis.

Moore, meanwhile, bounced around from team to team, being swapped for a second-round pick three times and a third-round pick twice. Altogether, though, he proved to be a perfectly capable third-line center. Glen Sather has not outright lost many trades since the 2005 lockout, but this is one of them. Moore returned to New York last season, and now Sather has a chance to play the game again with Moore. Will he make the right choice? Time will tell! But let’s try to figure out what the “right choice” is.

 

Vitals:

Age: Turns 34 in August

Previous Contract: 1 year/$1M AAV

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 73 Games, Six Goals, 12 Assists (25 Games, Three Goals, Eight Five Assists in Playoffs)

Irrelevant Info Pierre McGuire Would Enjoy: Moore, who spent four seasons at Harvard University, was named to Eastern Conference Athletic College (ECAC) All-Decade Team for 2000-2009.

 

Why You Keep Him:

I don’t think there was anyone who was upset when the Rangers announced Dominic Moore’s return to the franchise. He’s an intelligent, well-spoken guy. There was the whole Katie Moore situation. He was a former Ranger draft pick and was a part of the magical 2005-2006 season. And he had proven to be a pretty good two-way player over the years. Plenty of reasons to like Moore as a person and hockey player. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding him, though. Thirty-three isn’t exactly young by hockey standards, and Moore had taken off the entire 2012-2013 season. There were no guarantees that he’d still have his legs.

Moore was never a liability, but he was kind of just there for the ride in the early parts of the season. An oblique strain in November shelved him for seven games, and he was a healthy scratch at times. By December 10th, he had played in 24 games and accrued just one miserable point – an assist.

He got much better, though. Eventually the Rangers had gotten to the point that they were healthy-ish and weren’t calling up and sending down half the roster. Vigneault was able to form some steady lines, and Moore, alongside Boyle and Dorsett/Carcillo, started to get his game going. He finished the season with 17 points in his final 49 games. At 54.6% he was far and away the team’s best center in the faceoff circle. That coincides with him being the second-most used penalty killer, with only Boyle ahead of him in that department. He was a big part of the third-ranked PK during the regular season and even contributed three shorthanded points. Moore’s worth became more and more evident down the stretch and into the playoffs, as the Rangers’ more top forwards were understandably fatigued. He produced three goals and five assists during the playoffs, including an assist of Brian Boyle’s goal against Pittsburgh in Game Seven, two big-time assists in Game One against Montreal when Brassard’s injury forced Moore into a top-six role, and the only goal of the Game Six clincher against the Canadiens. And again, he was part of a very good PK during while ranking 13th among centers in faceoff percentage during the playoffs.

As I said of Boyle, Moore is pretty much everything you want and need out of a depth forward. For different reasons than Boyle, he’s brilliant in his own end. He’s very good in the faceoff circle and can play first-unit PK minutes. He forechecks hard, but also intelligently. He’s a perfect fit for Alain Vigneault’s tactical approach to a 2-1-2 low forechecking plan. He can contribute complementary offense and play center or wing. In a dire situation, he can step up into a third or even second-line role and not hold everyone back. Versatile players like Moore, who contribute in so many ways, are important to a team looking to make postseason runs. It doesn’t hurt that he’s well liked, either. The effect of individuals – and losing them – on a locker room is often grossly overstated (hello Ryan Callahan and Brandon Prust!) Nonetheless, you need to make sure that, overall, the locker room dynamic is a good one. Moore’s qualities as a human certainly only help his case.

 

Why You Lose Him: 

At breakup day (yesterday), Alain Vigneault was asked about the Rangers potentially desiring to inject some youth into the lineup. “You have to, just look at LA,” was his response. The Rangers have a number of forward prospects who are knocking on the door, and while we can debate which of the three or five deserves to make the jump, it’s highly likely that at least one will earn a chance out of training camp.

But there are only twelve spots in the lineup and, beyond that, one or two healthy scratches at forward. Putting one or two of the AHLers in their early 20s in the bottom-six means jettisoning one or two of the incumbents. For that reason, Moore, who will be 34 by training camp, is a reasonable victim. The Rangers could not make a more clear swap for youth in their bottom-six than by replacing Moore with, let’s say, Jesper Fast.

Moore certainly didn’t look old this year, and he deserves massive credit for that. All reports indicate that he was working his ass off in Boston during the offseason to make sure wouldn’t be a step behind in training camp. One has to also wonder, though, how skipping an entire season helped to rejuvenate him and keep him fresh. More specifically, will he be able to match that and deal with the grind of yet another full season at an older age and after playing all the way into June this season?

I don’t think there are any massive reg flags concerning Moore, but when you have a successful team with ample depth and kids in the AHL hungry to earn a spot, you have to really split hairs and evaluate everything on a microscopic level. A few minor things might be the difference between re-signing him or letting him walk.

 

Keeping/Replacing Him:

There’s no knowing for sure, but one gets the sense that Dominic Moore is not going to drive a hard bargain with Glen Sather. Here’s what Moore had to say at breakup day when asked about his future.

“Obviously, I’d love to come back. It was a lot of fun to be here this year. Especially after coming back from time off, it was very rewarding here in a lot of ways.” 

On the scale of 1 (cliché lip service) to 10 (no doubt that he means it), this registers at about an 8.5.  Moore, as everyone is well aware of by now, went to Harvard. He’s not stupid. He knows he had a pretty good season, a very good playoffs, and that plenty of teams would give him solid money to join their squad. If Glen Sather lowballs him or offers very little negotiating room then Moore might decide to go elsewhere.

I doubt money itself is going to be the area of concern. Moore will receive a modest raise, perhaps to $1.25M-$1.75M annually. Instead, a more likely obstacle will be length. The Rangers gave Arron Asham a two-year deal when he was going to be 34, and enough other players at a similar age have gotten multiple years in the past, such as Michal Handzus, Matt Hendricks, and Craig Adams. Dominic Moore would not be out of place to ask for a multi-year deal, or to believe that someone will give it to him.

Adding that second year might be enough to make Glen Sather walk away. Even if the team is willing to commit to making Moore a part of the 2014-2015 squad, they might not want to commit to the season beyond that, when Moore will be 35 and the Rangers will undoubtedly have some prospects begging for a roster spot.

So it won’t catch me off-guard if Moore does indeed sign elsewhere, but ultimately I think both sides will want to make something work. The Rangers will probably offer a bit more money on a one-year deal, while Moore’s camp will sacrifice some cash for the sake of the security of two years. Then they’ll likely compromise from there and figure something out. My guess is one year at $1.7M or two years at $1.4M.  At that kind of money, the Rangers aren’t exactly going to have to move mountains to make others fit, but from a depth chart standpoint it makes it increasingly likely that Brian Boyle has moved on.

If Moore does move, however, then there are a million different ways to go about filling his spot. We’ll see what happens with Brian Boyle. J.T Miller, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Haggerty, Ryan Bourque, and Chris McCarthy are all guys who could/will fight for a roster spot. The Rangers are in serious trouble if not even one of those guys is NHL-ready. In free agency, there are a whole lot of players capable of a fourth line role. Just to list a few for the sake of discussion and throwing darts, I’ll bring to the table (but not necessarily endorse) Dan Cleary, Patrick Eaves, Michal Handzus, Derek McKenzie, and Steve Bernier.

 

Previous “Retain or Release” Articles:

Brad Richards

Derick Brassard

Brian Boyle

 

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