I touched on this topic recently but wanted to go into it in more depth. Hence, today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the case and place for Victor Rask.
Acknowledging the offensive struggles of the 2017-18 season
A starting point is acknowledging that the 2017-18 season in total was not a good one for Victor Rask. He had too many stretches of invisible, and his meager 31 points in 71 games as a top 9 forward just do not cut it especially considering his $4 million salary.
So the aim of this article is not to defend Victor Rask’s 2017-18 season in total.
But also recognizing Rask’s ‘high floor’
But for as much as Rask struggled to produce offensively, the defensive part of Rask’s game which is not exciting but is generally sound functions independently of his offensive game. The result is that even when his offensive production was spiraling downward, it did not creep into other areas of his game with gambling to score more or just playing with defensive issues that stemmed from struggles on the offensive side of the puck.
The result was that despite underperforming offensively, Rask’s line still held its own 5-on-5. Over 71 games of not enough offense, Rask was still even in terms of plus/minus which ranks only behind the dynamic duo of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen who were the only plus forwards (not counting short-timers Zykov and Foegele).
When you net it out, even the struggling version of Rask’s game tends to tread water because of decent two-way play that seems to be unaffected by his offense.
Slotting Victor Rask into the 2018-19 lineup
The case for unloading him
Worth noting first is that Rask is pricey at $4 million per year for what he did offensively in 2017-18. His 31 points are high for a fourth line center but low for a third line center at a premium price. In addition, his defense leaning is somewhat a duplicate of what Jordan Staal excels at. As such, Rask is definitely a player who could be expendable this summer. If another team values him as a capable, young top 9 center and looks past his down 2017-18 season offensively and his $4 million salary and is willing to trade comparable value for Rask, I would do it.
The argument that he could be a complement/what the Canes need
But if the only option is to trade him for pennies on the dollar and or eat salary to make even that happen, I am inclined to keep Rask. Once you get past salary, I actually think he could fit really well in terms of balancing the forward group if things go in the direction that they are headed right now.
First, let’s assume that Sebastian Aho remains at the center position. That gives the team a higher-end offensive center which it desperately needs, but it also comes in the form of a 20-year old player who offensive game is much more mature than his two-way acumen especially at center where he has limited experience. Let’s also assume that Martin Necas seizes a lineup slot in preseason. That makes for another center who is even greener in terms of experience and similarly is more advanced offensively than defensively. In this scenario, Jordan Staal is a nice complement to provide a shutdown option to eat up as many of the tougher minutes as possible and also make it possible to use Necas line and to a lesser degree Aho’s line opportunistically. In such a scenario, I also think Rask fits very nicely as a fourth center who provides two-way stability and defensive balance. Rask’s strength as a read/react type center could fit nicely with young forechecking legs like Foegele’s and others. And maybe late in games where the Canes have a lead, Brind’Amour shortens the bench a bit in favor of solid defense such that Rask gets heavier minutes in those situations and is flanked by more experience.
I could see a scenario whereby Necas and Rask center 3A and 3B lines whose ice time is dictated by how well they are playing and to some degree situation. And especially with the potential for a bunch of youth to find its way into the 2018-19 lineup, Rask’s balanced play could be a nice complement as long as he does not become a drag offensively.
Netting it out
I would not be against trading Victor Rask if reasonable value can be returned in a trade, but coming off a down 2017-18 and with a $4 million salary, that seems unlikely. If that is the case, I actually like Rask as a fourth line center if the youth movement sees Aho and Necas as center in 2018-19. In that role, he could be a good complementary defensive center that complements the inexperience and offense-leaning youngsters.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Would you be looking to trade Rask this summer? If so, how aggressively (meaning taking a discount to reflect his sub-par 2017-18 and possibly also retaining salary) would you be looking to just cut ties, free up a roster spot and move on?
2) Do others agree that Victor Rask’s offensive and defensive play seem to be decoupled such that his sub-par 2017-18 season offensively had minimal if any impact on his two-way play?
3) What do you think of the assertion that a lineup with Aho and Necas each centering a line actually makes Rask’s skill set a nice complementary fit?