Fri 13 Nov 2009
Today is a rather special day for three reasons. First off, anyone suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia knows that today is Friday the 13th, so beware of guys named Jason wearing goalie masks. Secondly, on November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence; that request came from his wife. Thirdly, and most importantly, November 13 marks the 13th anniversary of Ranger Ramblings!
Back in 1996, I was a member of a Rangers e-mail discussion group. Dubi Silverstein of Blueshirt Bulletin fame used to provide recaps for the games. I had the opportunity to fill on November 13. At the end of the recap, I included my own observations under the headline of “Ranger Ramblings”. Kara Vitale, who runs Ranger Fan Central, asked me to write a column and the rest is history.
Since I have experience filling in, I thought I would take this time to help Glen Sather and “fill in” as GM for a few minutes – and given the Rangers recent woes – there is no time to waste.
First off, I realize that the Rangers need to get out from under the horrible contracts of Chris Drury, Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival. Most fans would simply banish all three to Hartford and be done with the contracts. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen for two reasons.
To begin, Drury has a no-movement clause in contract that forbids the Rangers demoting, trading, or even waiving him without his permission. Secondly, the Rangers are not going to park $14 million worth of contract in the AHL this season. While the Rangers could buy one or all of the players out, there are still cap implications for the future that would leave some of their salary on the books long after they are gone. As an example, the Islanders will carry parts of Alexei Yashin’s contract on their cap through the 2013-2014 season.
On the plus side, there are some things that can be done. First off, the Rangers need to admit their mistake in signing Donald Brashear and look to give him away in a deal or send him to Hartford. Brash’s $1.4 million salary is a drop in the bucket to Cablevision so parking his contract in the AHL is no problem. The Rangers could do the same to Aaron Voros, but at $1 million, the Rangers could live with that – especially factoring in his friendship with Marian Gaborik.
The next way to free up some salary space is to place Brandon Dubinsky on the Long term Injured Reserve list. Players on LTIR must miss at least 10 games and 24 days in order to qualify. However, their salaries do not count against the cap while on LTIR. Given that Dubinsky is out anywhere from 3-6 weeks, the Rangers could possibly save a minimum of $250,000.
These savings, along with the Rangers estimated cap space of $700,000, gives the Rangers about $2.4 million to spend in an attempt to replace Dubinsky. Of course, the Blueshirts can’t use all of that money because it would give them no flexibility for the rest of the season. Believe it or not, that isn’t even the biggest problem.
The problem facing the Rangers is finding a player who can help the team now in Dubinsky’s absence and also help the team when he returns. Taking a quick look at players who might available does not give on much hope. There are fourth line center types like Adam Mair and Marty Reasoner, but they are hardly replacements for Dubinsky. heck, I am not all that sure they are replacements for Brian Boyle when you factor in the salary increase.
Mike Comrie (Edmonton) and Robert Lang (Phoenix) would nice replacements both on the ice and salary cap wise as each player is on a one-year deal (Comrie at $1.25 million and Lang at $1 million). The problem is that the odds are against the Oilers and Coyotes looking to dump salary at this point in the season and it probably isn’t worth overpaying for either player.
The Rangers could improve their trade position if the decided to move Christopher Higgins and his $2.25 million contract, but not that many teams are going to be lining up for a player they might be able to sign on the cheap as a free agent coming off a disappointing season.
Given the cap constraints and factoring in the kind of players available, the Rangers best alternative is to do nothing. They should still enact my cap saving plan (demote Brashear and LTIR Dubinsky) so that the Rangers have cap space in reserve to make a trade or two at the deadline.
As for replacing Dubinsky, the Blueshirts should roll the dice and call up Evgeny Grachev and throw him to the wolves. On MSG’s season preview show, Coach John Tortorella said he was not afraid to play the kids – and he has shown that by playing Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto. Torts should go the full monty and give Grachev a chance to sink or swim. In 15 games at Hartford, Grachev is averaging nearly a point a game (five goals and eight assists).
No offense to P-A Parenteau (who was recalled with Dane Byers getting sent back to the Wolf Pack), but I believe Grachev should have gotten the call and placed on the first line with Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik. This would give the Rangers their best opportunity to see if Grachev is the answer this year. If he is, then the pressure is off as far as the Rangers having to make a trade now or at the deadline.
If Grachev is not ready, the Rangers are in no worse of a position. In fact, they still might be in a good position because, by that time, Chris Drury will be healthy and Dubinsky will be that much closer to being ready to rejoin the team.
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