Wed 2 Dec 2009
With the New York Rangers mired in a 6-12-1 slump, President/GM Glen Sather has emerged from his pre-Winter hibernation and “swooped in” with two waiver moves that are sure to inspire general apathy among Ranger fans. The Blueshirts claimed C/LW Erik Christensen from Anaheim off waivers and have placed G Stephen Valiquette on waivers with the intent on assigning him to Hartford. Chad Johnson has been recalled from the Wolf Pack to serve as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup.
Let us start off with the Valiquette move. The Rangers are hoping that Valley’s stint in Hartford serves as a means to get him back on track. Here is John Tortorella’s explanation of the goaltending move as posted by Andrew Gross on his NorthJersey.com blog.
â€œWeâ€™d like to send (Valiquette) down on conditioning but I donâ€™t think we can because of our cap problems,â€ Tortorella said. â€œWe want to get him down there playing and get his game back. Johnson gets to practice with us. Iâ€™m not sure where it all sits with him playing. Itâ€™s a tough situation for Valley. He hasnâ€™t played a whole bunch. Sometimes your skills may diminish. Itâ€™s just been a little bit of a struggle for him. He works his butt off on the ice but he hasnâ€™t played much and I think thatâ€™s hurt him. If he goes through, he gets an opportunity to play some minutes and get his game back.â€
While Tortorella talks of Valiquette getting his game back it might very well be for a team other than the Rangers. Valiquette is subject to recall waivers much like Sean Avery was last year. Given the state of goaltending in the NHL, it is a pretty good guess that someone will take a chance and claim Valiquette at half his $725,000 salary.
The interesting point is the Rangers might very well have had the cap space to send Valiquette to Hartford on a conditioning stint if Sather had shown the foresight (and initiative) to place Brandon Dubinsky on the Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) list. Saturday’s game at Buffalo is the 10th game Dubinsky will miss – which means he could have been on LTIR from the moment he was hurt. Given that Tortorella said that Dubinsky isn’t due back until the end of the month, it was a clueless move not to place him on LTIR. Then again, no one ever accused Slats of being a Mensa member.
I am not sure if the Rangers can place Dubi on LTIR retroactively, but they are going to have do something because while Christensen’s and Valiquette’s salaries are pretty much a wash, the team will have to eat into their meager cap space in order to carry Johnson.
Christensen, who turns 26 on December 17, will be playing for his fourth NHL team after being Pittsburgh’s third round draft pick (69th overall) in the 2002 NHL Draft. In nine games this season, the six-foot-one and 205 pound forward has not registered a point for Anaheim. He did score two goals in games with the Manitoba Moose during a conditioning stint. His best season was 2006/2007 when he scored 18 goals (7 on the power play) and 15 assists in 61 games with the Penguins.
Here is Christensen’s scouting report from the Toronto Star web site:
ASSETS: Owns a big shot and excellent offensive instincts. Has good size. Can play all three forward positions and is a good face-off man. Excels in shootouts.
FLAWS: Loses a lot of puck battles in the corners. Doesn’t do the little things that help win hockey games. Takes too many shifts off to maximize his scoring potential.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Inconsistent forward with great hands.
Christensen’s biggest impact should be on faceoffs. While he has been below par this season (winning 41.2), he has been strong on faceoffs during his NHL career. Here are his numbers since he joined the NHL in 2006/2006 as compared to the Rangers best centers during those seasons:
2009/2010 – 41.2 (Vinny Prospal 51.5)
2008/2009 – 55.7 (Brandon Dubinsky 53.6)
2007/2008 – 58.4 (All four centers averaged between 50.3 and 54.9)
2006/2007 – 56.2 (Matt Cullen 54.6)
2005/2006 – 53.0 (Blair Betts 53.4)
According to Gross, Tortorella sees Christenson as someone who can give Brian Boyle a push and someone who has a chance to turn his career around.
“I havenâ€™t seen him play in a while …. Itâ€™s a guy I know our scouts have watched and have had interest in him … and itâ€™s an opportunity for him,” Zipay wrote on his Newsday Blog. “Dubiâ€™s still out, itâ€™s a situation weâ€™ll see what itâ€™s about and when Dubi comes back some decisions will have to be made. This is basically a chance for him.”
Christensen was placed on waivers to make room for Kyle Chipchura who was acquired by the Ducks from the Montreal Canadiens.
In addition to Dubinsky, Donald Brashear again joins the walking wounded with an undisclosed injury so the Rangers newest forward might get a chance on one of the top three lines depending on how long Ales Kotalik’s and Enver Lisin’s trip to Torts’s chateau bow-wow lasts.
Today is a day for ex-Penguin draft picks because Chad Johnson was Pittsburgh’s fifth round pick (125th overall) in the 2006 NHL Draft. The Rangers acquired him during this year’s draft in exchange for a fifth round pick which the Pens used to draft Andy Bathgate – the grandson of the Rangers great Andy Bathgate.
The 23-year-old Johnson (6-3/200) is one year removed from being a Hobey Baker Award nominee while tending goal for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Johnson posted a 10-6-1 record (3 shutouts) with Hartford along with a 2.10 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
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