Edit: quick fix of an error in the first paragraph. Thanks Stephen.
The Texas Stars signed Brendan Ranford to a professional tryout contract to begin the 2014 season. He quickly earned a standard player contract. Down the stretch and in the playoffs Ranford has been awesome. Is there any reason to believe what he is doing is legitimate, and should the Dallas Stars consider tendering him a contract?
It's important to note that Ranford hasn't entirely come out of nowhere. He was a 7th round selection of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 draft. He's small, and he has had issues with his skating. However he can score. In 2011 Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus had this scouting report on him:
The Good: Ranford has above-average puck skills and has a flair for the dynamic when it comes to creating offense, as he has that extra gear in terms of offensive skill. He's a quick player with a decent top speed, but isn't really a blazer. Ranford works hard on the ice, and can be decent at disturbing the opposition although he isn't really a true pest. He thinks the game at an above-average level and gets praise from NHL sources for his hockey sense and creativity with the puck.
The Bad: He has a lot to work to do physically to have a chance. He's a small guy who needs to put on a lot of muscle. Ranford's skating is fine, but if he could take it to the next level, it would help as he's not a great skater for a smaller forward.
Projection: An above-average third line forward who can somewhat project into a bottom six in some role.
Skill. Offense. Dynamic. Hockey sense. These are quality descriptions to have attached to a player. In his last 207 games in junior hockey Ranford scored 265 points. Some of those games were at an age older than you want to see from a player in junior. In 2012 though, the year he spent predominantly as a 19 year old, Ranford scored 92 points in 69 games.
His first taste of professional hockey got off to a slow start. Alyssa Dombrowski pointed out this useful tidbit for dallasstars.com:
It was toward the end of his rookie season that Ranford truly began to find his groove, with 17 of his 33 regular-season points (12 goals, 21 assists) coming in March and April.
Prior to game two of the Calder Cup Finals against the St. John's Ice Caps Ranford had tallied 11 points in 17 playoff games. So, Ranford has 28 points in his last 36 professional games played. That's legit production for a player in his year 21 season in the AHL if he can maintain it for a full year. Whatever the scouting reports now say he has to have some value to the organization as a productive member of a very successful development franchise.
The Stars are going to have some room available on their Reserve List should they wish to sign Ranford. They have 11 open spots and need to sign Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, Brenden Dillon, and Scott Glennie. They can open up a number of spots by moving any of Sergei Gonchar, Aaron Rome, Shawn Horcoff, Erik Cole, or Kevin Connauton or by pulling off a major trade or two with prospects on the Reserve List to improve the roster. Room will not be an issue.
AHL veteran limits and NHL waiver rules are two other factors to consider when determining whether or not to tender Ranford an offer under normal circumstances, but the Texas Stars 2015 roster looks clean. Stephen over at 100DegreeHockey explained the AHL veteran rules here. It boils down to these criteria:
Goalies are exempt from the veteran rule. For the 18 remaining skaters, the veteran rule states that 12 of those players must have played fewer than 260 regular season pro games. Of the remaining 6, one of those must have played fewer than 320 regular season pro games. Of the remaining 5 at that point, there are no restrictions on how many games have been played. All measures are taken at the beginning of the season and don't change as the season goes on.
The table below shows the games played of the most tenured Texas Stars as of the end of this season:
These eight guys are the only players who will be above the veteran limit for Texas pending free agent acquisitions. You can see their contract status in the final column. Assuming Gaunce and Jeffrey are brought back the Stars look to have three veterans of the six spoken four with Gaunce being the tweener. Those three will all have to pass through waivers to make it back to Austin.
In other words, the roster is pretty open. The Stars have no real concerns when it comes to the veteran limit for next year, and even if they did having Ranford on the roster would be beneficial anyway. With 65 AHL games he could be below the limit for close to two more years.
The Stars prospect depth is going to make a potential offer to Ranford questionable, but he has done just about everything you could ask a player to do the last three and a half months. He has some value if he continues to score the way he has for the most past of the last three years.
Do the Dallas Stars take a chance on him? I don't know, but it wouldn't be the most surprising turn of events in the world if they did. They have plenty of roster room and he has proven to be a capable scorer. Teams make room for young players under those circumstances. Perhaps the Stars will for Ranford.