Fri 22 Oct 2010
Yes, Glen Sather and John Tortorella may be on the same page regarding the construction of the New York Rangers roster; however, It is too bad that they are not reading from the same book.
We heard rumblings about their differences of opinion regarding the Rangers roster back when Sather signed Derek Boogaard as a free agent. Tortorella expressed concerns over the Boogeyman’s conditioning back then – something that still is a concern given Boogaard’s lack of ice time despite the team’s willingness for retribution for the Maple Leafs roughing up Marion Gaborik last week.
The battle over the Rangers’ roster continued when it was decided the team would carry five right-handed shooting defensemen and send Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko to Hartford. As I wrote last week, I don’t think that is necessarily the worst thing to do if the righties have experience and are comfortable playing the left side.
No players are going to openly express any dissatisfaction with the situation, but the same cannot be said for the coach.
When asked about the situation of having to play Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy or Michael Sauer on their off-side, John Tortorella told Andrew Gross of NorthJersey.com that, “I am not crazy about all of that.”
Of course, part of the reason for that decision came down to the fear the Rangers would lose a defenseman on waivers if he were sent to Hartford and the concern over possible salary cap hits if Gilroy and Eminger were subject to re-entry waivers.
The same situation existed over the next big roster decision – whether Tim Kennedy or Todd White would be sent to the Wolf Pack when Chris Drury was activated from the Injured List. As is the Rangers luck, the Blueshirts captain didn’t last a full game before getting hurt again.
Most fans were perplexed that the Rangers made the decision to send Kennedy ($550,000 cap hit) over White (about $2.4 million cap hit) – and almost as many were surprised to see Kennedy clear waivers.
At an eventual cap hit of just $275,000, it is highly unlikely that Kennedy would go unclaimed in re-entry waivers. While White’s re-entry cap hit would make him more likely to clear, the Rangers could not afford to run the risk the $1.2 million dead space on their salary cap.
With all of these factors considered, it appears that the Coach and GM were on different pages of two entirely different books in reference to this decision – a point that Torts was quick to distinguish.
“It’s really not my decision,” Tortorella told Gross. “I gave him (GM Glen Sather) my thoughts and this was the way we decided to go.”
Even if we sidestep the Kennedy-White debate for the time being, Slats and Torts are still not seeing eye-to-eye in reference to the Rangers roster.
Rick Carpiniello of the Journal News discussed the Rangers roster with Tortorella and the writer concluded that the coach is “not thrilled with his current roster”.
When asked about not having any spare forwards at his disposal, Tortorella told Carpiniello, “That’s not my call. I haven’t even talked to Glen about that. We’re going to have to re-assess it. We’ll re-assess it tomorrow and see where we go.”
Last season the Rangers carried only 21 players (one over the minimum) for the majority of the season in order to preserve cap space. This season is a different story as the Rangers had cap space at the start of the season and can gain even more by placing Drury, Gaborik and Vinny Prospal on Long-Term Injured Reserve.
The question that needs to be asked is why aren’t the Rangers giving Tortorella some help – especially with so much of the offensive production sidelined with injuries?
The answer might be found in who would be recalled from Hartford. As things stand now, the Rangers need to add some depth on the wing – especially depth of the offensive variety.
Putting Kennedy aside because of the re-entry dilemma, the most logical player to be recalled would have been Dale Weise – the forward who drew Tortorella’s intrigue at the end of last season. Unfortunately, the injury bug found him as well. According to Mitch Beck of the “Howlings” blog, Weise broke his left hand and surgery will keep him out until at least early December.
The Wolf Pack’s leading scorer is veteran AHL center Kris Newbury (eight points in six games, but the Rangers have enough third/fourth line centers on the roster.
Hartford captain Dane Byers would merit consideration (6-2-4-6), but it appears that the powers-that-be at MSG are not comfortable with him being more than a fourth line forward.
Veteran RW Jeremy Williams (6-3-2-5) scored 32 goals last season with Grand Rapids, but outside of 31 games with Toronto (9-2-11), he has spent the vast majority of his five professional seasons in the AHL.
Evgeny Grachev (6-1-1-2) is off to a slow start and the Rangers might not want to recall him until he shows that he can find consistency and dominate at the AHL level. However, it could be a case that Grachev needs the challenge of playing against NHL players in order for his game to progress.
That leaves everyone’s favorite Mats Zuccarello (6-2-0-2) as the most likely target for a recall. While he struggled at the start of the season, his play picked up once he was placed on a line with Kennedy. MZA gives the Rangers the top six forward type of offense they need and he adds some much-needed speed to the lineup.
The Rangers might be forced to make a move to add another forward because, according to Gross and Steve Zipay, Erik Christensen is not practicing with the team this morning in Toronto as his sore groin acts up. Of course, the Rangers could just dress seven defensemen and call it a day.
Of course, there is always the trade route. According to TSN, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray has been on the phones trying to swing a deal to shake up his struggling team – especially for some help on the blue line.
Murray told TSN, “I think that we have a couple of young guys on the blueline who have really struggled to play their game and I think that it has become contagious. I can’t say that one of our ‘D’ have played to where I thought they would be.”
Could they have an interest in an Eminger or Gilroy? Sauer might also be a target, but his cap hit is too low to even be close to a match with Ottawa’s forwards – five of whom are a $4.2 million cap hit or more and four of them have contracts that extend two (Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher) or three (Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza) years. Of the remaining Senator forwards, only one comes close to providing a solution to the Rangers question.
The only forward who has an expiring contract is Alexei Kovalev and I am not so sure the third time is the charm in Alexei’s case.
ON THE FLY
Martin Biron was expected to debut his new mask in his first Rangers start last night in Toronto. However, he wore his “regular mask”. The new mask is an homage to Gilles Gratton’s tiger mask with the Rangers 85th anniversary logo on the size. Here is a sneak page at Biron’s new mask .
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