August 2010

As we sit at the beginning of August, Ranger fans can start to see the foundation for the Rangers 2010/2011 roster being established. Two seemingly opposite transactions will go a long way in how the final Blueshirts roster will shake out.

By trading Donald Brashear (and Pat Rissmiller) to Atlanta, the Rangers were able to remove Brashear’s $1.4 million hit against their salary cap. While they did add Todd White and his nearly $2.4 million cap hit, the team will have the ability to stash that salary in Hartford and have it removed from the books.

The other transaction involves the St. Louis Blue re-signing former 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson to a two-year contract worth about $2.6 million per season.

So how does this signing help the Rangers roster?

Rangers President/GM Glen Sather’s biggest concern this summer is making sure he signs defenseman Marc Staal. Johnson’s contract should help push along negotiations between Sather and Paul Krepelka, Staal’s agent. Johnson has better offensive numbers that Staal despite the Blues blueliner missing a full season due to his self-inflected golf cart injury.

Johnson went from $850,000 per season to $2.6 million per season so it should be well within that Staal’s pay increase (from $750,000) should take a similar rise).

However, there is still one problem to that logic and it comes at the hands of Sather himself. Slats loses argument points because he is just re-signed Daniel Girardi to a four-year contract extension at $3.25 million per season – doubling his 2009/2010 salary of $1.6 million.

Hopefully, cooler heads prevail as Sather and Staal agree to a four year deal in the vicinity of $3.5 to $4.0 million. Both sides need to avoid a repeat of the battle that Sather and Brandon Dubinsky had last season.

Coach John Tortorella has already thrown down the gauntlet and gave his opinion as to what happens if Staal does not have a contract.

“If a player is not signed, I don’t want him in camp,” Tortorella told Andrew Gross of “I just think it’s nothing but a distraction. I don’t have full say but I think if Marc Staal is not signed, I don’t think he should be at camp.”

Since we are a month or so away from training camp, neither side is feeling any pressure to compromise. The only action that would cause negotiations to heat up would be if the Restricted Free agent signed an offer sheet wit another team – something that is not likely because Sather has said he will match any offer sheet.

The main end result of the moves the Rangers have made the last couple weeks point to the end of Wade Redden’s Ranger career. He will have to be assigned to Hartford to remove his $6.5 million cap hit.

Depending on how the Staal signing plays out, the Rangers could have enough cap flexibility to add a veteran defenseman – something they will need once Redden is a member of the Wolf Pack. It is possible they could have as much as $5 million worth of cap space and here is how – using’s salary figures (rounded up) and factoring in Staal at a cap hit of $4 million per season.

Frolov ($ 3.0m)-Christenson ($925,000)- Gaborik ($7.5m)
Dubinsky ($1.9m)-Anisimov ($821,667)- Callahan ($2.3m)
Prospal ($2.1m, bonus included)-Drury ($7.1m)-Avery($1.9m)
Boogaard ($1.6m)-Boyle ($525,000)- Prust ($800,000)

Staal ($4.0m estimated)-Girardi ($3.3m)
Del Zotto ($1.09m)- Rozsival ($5.0m)
McDonagh ($1.3m)-Gilroy ($1.75m)
Eminger ($1.125m)

Henrik Lundqvist ($6.9m)
Martin Biron ($875,000)

The above lineup would leave the Rangers with approximately $5.3 million on cap space. Depending on how they wanted to address the defensemen, the Rangers could look to add a veteran depth blueliner like Willie Mitchell or they could look to go after a better player and possibly sacrifice a Matt Gilroy in order to offset any big salary/big impact defensemen.

Depending on how everything plays out and how the roster is juggled, the Rangers could add a veteran defenseman and still be players for a big time first line center – especially if it were someone like Brad Richards who has a contract that expires at the end of the season.

It is kind of amazing when you consider the Rangers could actually have some decent salary cap space in which to maneuver. I guess Glen Sather was paying attention to what Donnie Walsh was doing with the New York Knicks after all.

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Hell is about to freeze over because I am going to do something I don’t often do – I am going to praise Glen Sather for his trading of Donald Brashear and Pat Rissmiller to the Atlanta Thrashers for Todd White.

At first look some fans must be wondering what do the Rangers need with the 35-year-old White who suffered through an injury-plagued 2009/2010 (seven goals and nine assists in 65 games). Some fans might be wondering why acquire yet another veteran to take the place of a prospect.

However, fans who are questioning the deal are overlooking one point. Even if the Rangers assigned Donald Brashear to Hartford, his $1.4 million contract counts against the salary cap this year because he signed a multi-year deal after the age of 35. White, who is the final year of a four-year deal signed his when he was 32 so his salary would not count against the cap if sent to Hartford.

While Sather replaces Brashear’s $1.4 million cap hit with White’s $2.375 million cap hit (he will make $2.6 million this year), the Rangers President/GM gained some valuable salary cap flexibility because White’s cap of $2.375 million can be removed by running him through waivers and assigning him to the AHL.

There is even the possibility that Sather could deal him before the season depending on other team’s needs and/or injuries.

At the very worst, White could end up earning a job at the expense of fourth line center Brian Boyle. While that is a lot of money to spend on a fourth line (even though Chris Drury was demoted last season to the fourth line) White would be an improvement over Boyle and only adds $450,000 to the salary cap (Brashear and Boyle make $1.925 million and White’s cap hit is $2.375 million).

White is just one year removed from posting a career season in 2008/2009. In 82 games, he posted career-best numbers in assists (51), points (83) and PPG (12). Of course, he spent a lot of time centering Ilya Kovalchuk so those numbers are inflated.

One thing to remember is that White spent two seasons with the Minnesota Wild and averaged 16 goals and 26 assists while a teammate of Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard. The influx of ex-Wild players is not just a coincidence given that former Minnesota GM Doug Risebrough works for the organization as a “scout/hockey consultant. It will be interesting to see if Risebrough’s name is thrown around as a potential successor when Sather decides to end his reign of error (hey you didn’t expect me not to take a shot at Sather at some point).

Here is Todd White’s Scouting Report from the Toronto Star:

ASSETS: Possesses excellent skating speed. Has sound offensive credentials and always gives maximum effort. Can play either center or wing.

FLAWS: Lacks size and strength. Tends to struggle when the checking gets tighter. Is somewhat prone to scoring slumps.

CAREER POTENTIAL: Complementary forward on the decline.

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