as Pavel Buchnevich puts together a career year This season in St. Louis, one can wonder what might have happened if president and general manager Chris Drury had somehow managed to keep the Russia winger at the helm of Rangers.
Emphasis on somehow, because realistic, Buchnevich would never get the long-term deal he wanted with star goalie Igor Shesterkin, Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and top line center Mika Zibanejad still lining up for new deals at the time – all of which materialized.
“I’m good with like everyone [on the Rangers]’ Buchnevich, who mentioned that he had gone to dinner with some of his former Rangers teammates, told reporters. “I’ve been there for five years. I’ve got a bunch of friends, a bunch of memories. I know Shesterkin, his number one goal is not to let me score. A bunch of guys, same. So I try to do my best and score a goal to win the game. That’s important to me.”
But to put it hypothetically, if Buchnevich had agreed to a one-year deal last offseason, Rangers would have committed their top line. Instead, Rangers have spent much of the season in a trial-and-error phase with right wingers alongside Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
Buchnevich made his debut alongside Zibanejad and Kreider under former Blueshirts coach Alain Vigneault early in the 2016-17 playoffs, in which the Rangers were knocked out of the second round by the Senators in six games. The trio finished the postseason together and then played the first six games of the following season before being disbanded.
After a stretch alongside Zibanejad and Kreider at the end of the 2018-19 season under then-coach David Quinn, Buchnevich started the 2019-20 season on a line with Artemi Panarin. The ‘KZB’ unit eventually emerged as Rangers’ enduring top unit a few months later.
Last season, Kreider, Zibanejad and Buchnevich scored 372:27 according to the Natural Stat Trick and recorded 19 goals and 68 dangerous chances. While Kreider posted low numbers in his career and Zibanejad struggled a lot in the first half of his season, which was heavily marred by a battle with COVID-19 early on, Buchnevich transformed into a reliable all-situations player.
So Buchnevich brought his talents to St. Louis and signed a four-year, $23.2 million deal averaging $5.8 million annually. Before his first game at the Garden on Wednesday, Buchnevich was second in the Blues with 46 points.
As much as Drury probably wished he could have kept Buchnevich, trading with him opened the door for a young ranger to fill a top six role. The hope was always that it would be Alexis Lafreniere who filled Buchnevich’s old spot on Wednesday as he had the last nine games.
The Kreider-Zibanejad-Lafreniere unit have scored seven goals and conceded just two since reuniting on January 28 after a brief hiatus earlier this season. Should Lafreniere become the perfect addition to Rangers’ top line, the pain of losing Buchnevich could simply fade.
“I’m making more plays than I did at the beginning of the year,” said Lafreniere, who had two goals and an assist in Wednesday’s last three games. “As I always say, I’m just trying to get better – in every training session, in every game. If you play with confidence, that’s where you play your best hockey. I think it’s the same for every man. So I will just try to keep going and keep working hard and keep helping the team win.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/02/pavel-buchnevich-holds-no-hard-feelings-toward-rangers/ Pavel Buchnevich doesn’t harbor hard feelings towards Rangers