July 2013

When you are the last team to make their first selection in a draft, you do not expect to be acquiring any household names. That was the situation the New York Rangers faced during the 2013 NHL Draft as the Blueshirts sat through 64 previous selections before entering the draft with the 65th overall pick.

You can just imagine how anxious Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark must have been getting waiting for his turn to draft.

“I just never had sat there and watched so much talent walk by our table to get to the podium, and even in the second (round) where there are so many good names,” Clark explained to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com.

“But I would never give Nash back for that first (round pick), and Ryane Clowe was such a big part of our march after the trade deadline. It was interesting, though, how it went because you just had to wait and watch all of these players go off the board. But in the end we liked who we got.”

However, low and behold, the Rangers did manage to reach out and draft a player with a household name – sort of.

If family lineage has anything to do with playing in the NHL, Adam Tambellini is destined for an NHL career. His father Steve was the New York Islanders first draft choice (#15) in the 1978 NHL Draft. The former Edmonton Oilers GM played for four NHL teams scoring 160 goals and 150 assist in 553 games while winning the Stanley Cup with the 1980 Islanders.

Older brother Jeff was the second of two first round draft picks (#27) of the Los Angeles Kings in 2003. The Kings drafted Brian Boyle one pick ahead of Jeff. Big brother played four three NHL teams and scored 27 goals and 36 assists in 242 NHL games. Jeff has played the last two years with Zurich in the Swiss A League.

“He’s a lot like his bloodlines,” Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald told Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com.

“He’s very good with the puck and has really nice size. People were waiting for the trade, and at Christmas his game took off. He’s got an NHL shot and can score … he has a nice wrist shot as well. He can beat goalies clean from the dots on that wrister. He’s got a quick release, is efficient and intelligent.”

MacDonald was not the only person who liked Tambellini’s bloodlines and NHL connection.

“There’s no question,” Clark admitted to Cerny. “I think a lot of Steve Tambellini. I remember watching his other son. He was shorter and faster, this one taller and more of a playmaker. Both of them have Steve’s shot. They have NHL shots. He needs to put a little weight on and he’ll have time to do that at North Dakota.

“It’s kind of like [Carl] Hagelin. We projected he might be there four years, and he came out all right. North Dakota’s put a bunch of players in the NHL.”

Tambellini was one of 18 draftees who counted ties to former or current NHL family members.

Adam’s NHL start will be delayed a few years as he is set to attend the University of North Dakota this year where he will spend some time building up his 6-foot-2 and 158 pound frame. The C/LW last season with Surrey and Vernon of the BCHL and scored 36 goals with 29 assists in 52 games.

Tambellini was on the radar of the following Scouting Services: NHL Central Scouting (CS) (#42 North American skater), International Scouting Service (ISS) (#93), The Hockey News (THN) (#33), and McKeen’s (McK) (#69).

Here is Tambellini’s ISS Scouting Report: “Few players have shown as much development on the ice in the past two seasons as Adam Tambellini. [He] is a perfect example of how a late birthday can work to a player’s advantage. Tambellini established himself as a premier forward in the BCJL this year. He has good size, works hard and thinks the game very well. His offensive timing and net presence are very strong which makes him a very dangerous offensive player during zone play. He has good hands, moves well for his size and can play in all situations. He has shown up in all the big games this year for his team.”

While the Rangers sat and waited two plus rounds before making their first selection, they only had to wait a few minutes before exercising their next two picks – both in the third round (# 75 and #80).

With their middle third round pick, the Blueshirts drafted Russian LW Pavel Buchnevich and then finished up the third round by drafting QMJHL LW Anthony Duclair.

Adam Kimelman praised the Rangers for selecting the pair of LWs.

“The Rangers got good value for their picks. Russian left wing Pavel Buchnevich, the second of three third-round picks, was highly regarded for his skill,” Kimelman wrote on THN’s web site.

“The third third-round pick, left wing Anthony Duclair, got a good hockey education from Patrick Roy the past two seasons with the Quebec Remparts,” the NHL.com columnist wrote.

The 6-foot-1 and 161 pound Russian played for Cherepovets last season. In 24 games with their Junior Team, Buchnevich scored 8 goals and 15 assists. The youngster also played in 12 KHL games with Cherepovets adding a goal and an assist as a teenager. One of his assistant coaches with Cherepovets was former Rangers forward Vladimir Vorobiev. Clark compared Buchnevich to former Rangers 1st round draft pick the late Alexei Cherepanov.

Buchnevich received solid rankings from three of the above Scouting Services: CS (#10 European skater), (ISS) (#34), THN (#Not Rated), and McK (#76). Craig Button, former NHL GM and current TSN analyst, had him rated as the 33rd best player.

Morreale offered up the following tidbit on Pavel.

“Buchnevich, who is No. 10 on Central Scouting’s list of the top European skaters, told NHL.com he will spend two more seasons in the KHL before coming to North America. He has two years remaining on his contract with Cherepovets. The 6-1, 176-pound left-handed shot is very strong on the puck and offers a tremendous wrist shot and one-timer.”

NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb commented to Morreale that, “He has great offensive instincts but needs to improve his defensive game. He does have all the tools to become a star.”

Here is Buchnevich’s ISS Scouting Report: “The only Russian U-18 player to play more than one game in the KHL this season, Buchnevich really burst onto the scene this year and managed to showcase himself well at all the major events and high exposure situations he attended.”

“Buchnevich has good size, controls the puck well but thinks the game very quickly and can execute with very little time or space available. He is confident and manages to find his way to the high slot often without the puck and times with the puck and defenders draped all over him. He is a dangerous shooter who can place his shots well and pick corners but is even more dangerous considering his vision and instinct with the puck, using quick fakes and look-offs to set up wide-open teammates.”

ISS also wrote: “Needs to add muscle [and] not always the most intense [player]. ISS compares him to Johan Franzen and sees him as a “2nd-3rd line player who can be relied on for offensive production and PP contributions.”

The third of the trio of 3rd round picks was a player I wrote about in my Third Round Draft Preview – Anthony Duclair. Interestingly enough, the draft guides that I had listed him as a RW, but the Rangers list him as a LW – which was a position the organization was looking to strengthen.

The 5-foot-11 and 180 pound Duclair played 55 games with Quebec (QMJHL) and scored 20 goals and 30 assists – a decrease from his rookie season when he scored 31 goals and 35 assists in 63 games. It appears that a pair of “I’s” played a part in his production reduction – Injuries and Inconsistency.

The interesting point to note is that Duclair’s rookie QMJHL numbers were second to only one other Under-17 player that year – 2013’s number one draft pick Nathan MacKinnon. In their 2012 Draft Guide, ISS listed Duclair as the 28th best prospect as they looked ahead to the 2013 NHL Draft.

The talent and tools are there, it is just a matter of finding a tool bag for all of those tools. Even I have to admit that Duclair’s chances at making an impact with the Rangers is better with Alain Vigneault as coach then they would be with John Tortorella behind the bench. Duclair’s defensive lapses would have driven Torts batty.

Duclair received the following pre-draft rankings: CS (#57 North American skater), ISS (#64), THN (#55), and McK (#72).

Here is Duclair’s ISS Scouting Report: “Duclair has battled adversity this tear; injury early in [the] year and some inconsistent play, but [he] worked through and became a good offensive contributor with a +23 rating. When he is on his game he can be difficult to handle one-on-one and is dangerous in the offensive zone … when he is not, he looks like a career CHL player. Luckily for him, we have seen him at his best and believe he will mature and has top 6 upside with added maturity and consistency in compete level. He is not strong and that does force him to rely on his skating and stick skills too heavily.”

THN wrote that scouts compare his abilities to that of Marian Gaborik and Alexander Semin on one hand while questioning his consistency. “The tools are there, but he’s inconsistent. You never know what you are going to get from this kid,” one scout told THN.

Another scout related to THN, “Because there’s so much talent, people think there’s more there, whereas I accept them for what they are. The key to Duclair is the team that gets him had better be patient and understanding with him. If they are, they’re going to be rewarded.”

THN wrote that a third scout told them “Duclair has done a better job this season slowing the game down, which allows him to be more creative with the puck rather than just using his speed. His junior numbers haven’t caught up to his skill.” THN projects him as a “Skilled Forward”.

Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report said that Duclair is “very difficult to contain when he’s at full throttle, and can make plays at top speed, but has tendency to stay outside on the rush, not often cutting inside or driving to the net.”

Duclair and teammate Adam Erne earned one-game suspensions from coach Patrick Roy over “indifferent play”. Duclair also missed time during the season with an ankle injury (almost six weeks) just three games and eight points) into the season. I suppose there is a question to whether Duclair had an attitude problem or it was just a clash between coach and player.

One positive in Duclair’s favor is that, according to Cerny, growing up in Montreal Duclair’s father’s favorite team was the New York Rangers.

Another positive in his favor is that Duclair knows he needs to ramp up his game.

“I have a lot of speed, that’s one of my biggest assets as a player, and I love to compete,” Duclair told Cerny on Draft day. “I have been compared to Evander Kane, which is an honor, of course. But I’m not coming off the greatest season, I’m not going to lie. After my rookie season (in Quebec) I was projected as first rounder, then I got hurt at the beginning of this year and fell a bit (in the draft). So I want to prove to myself first that I am still a top prospect.”

After their trio of the third round, the Blueshirts did not draft again until the 4th round. With the 110th selection they drafted Prince Edward Island defenseman Ryan Graves. In 68 games last season, his second in the QMJHL, the 6-foot-4 and 220 pound blueliner scored 3 goals and 13 assists. He was the 116th ranked North American skater by CS (up two places from his Mid-Term ranking) and was ranked #135 by ISS.

Although a Rangers draft pick, Graves will be playing for the Islanders next season – PEI’s new ownership has rebranded the team as the Charlottetown Islanders. Graves was the 9th overall pick in the 2011 QMJHL Draft – the same Draft that saw Nathan MacKinnon go 1st overall.

“After the third round you’re looking for things that stand out. Ryan Graves, he’s a big 6’4” defenseman and I would say he had an average first half and then the second half of the year his play just went up hill,” Clark told HockeyScene.com.

Here is Graves’ ISS Scouting Report: “Has size and good backwards mobility, but forward mobility is very average. Stride is short and choppy. Looks like defensive D, puck skill is average. Good defensive read and positioning, but has a tendency to get locked on guys in D zone and run around a bit for a hit. Plays with some grit and does not back down from confrontation. He possesses good size with the potential to really fill out and get stronger as he develops. Always willing to stand up for teammates, Graves is still working on game-to-game consistency and is an unpolished long-term project on defense.”

The Rangers fifth and final selection of the 2013 NHL Draft came in the 6th round when they selected goaltender Mackenzie Skapski with the 170th overall pick. The 6-foot-2 and 186 pound goalie was born the day after the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup.

Skapski entered the 2013 NHL Draft as the 17th ranked North American goalie by CS. However, he is no stranger to the NHL scene as he was invited to the Minnesota Wild’s 2012 Development Camp.

After spending the 2011/2012 season as the backup goalie to Nathan Lieuwen (Buffalo’s 2011 6th round pick), Skapski stepped into the starting role last year with Kootenay. In 65 games, Skapski posted a 35-25-1-0 record with a 2.78 GAA and a .910 SV%.

Jess Rubinstein of Prospect Park wrote, “[Skapski] is also coached by former Hartford coach Ryan McGill and was the starter for the Ice playing in 65 games with a decent 2.78 GAA and a 0.910 save percentage off a 34-25-1-0 with 7 shutouts. Skapski is an older draftee as this was his 2nd time through the draft. Had a great 2nd half in the 2012-13 season including Goalie of the Month for February as he went 22-7-1 to help Kootenay earn a playoff spot.”

Justin Goldman of McKeen’s Hockey wrote, “I had him targeted as a “below-the-radar” pick after a breakout season in Kootenay. He was passed over in last year’s draft, but played in 65 games this season in the WHL and tied a league-high seven shutouts. He was invited to the Wild’s development camp last summer, where I had a chance to see him up close, and liked his combination of size and athleticism.”

Given how he battled back from adversity about four years ago, making the jump from the WHL to the NHL should be a piece of cake.

Dan Kinvig of the Abbotsford (BC) News relates the following story.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Skapski was on the bus with the Fraser Valley Bruins major midget squad when the vehicle hit some black ice just south of Williams Lake, skidded off the highway and landed on its side.

Skapski suffered the most serious injuries of anyone on the team – he sustained a broken nose and a fractured orbital bone, and had surgery to place a couple of plates in his cheek and to remove a blood clot beside his brain. During his convalescence, he lost 30 pounds, dropping from 155 to 125.

But he battled back, and earned a roster spot with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice in 2011-12 …. Skapski got into just 19 games, though, and was passed over in the 2012 NHL draft, his first year of eligibility.

According to Kinvig, Skapski father, Denis, played two seasons of NCAA hockey at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and then played briefly in the ECHL with the Columbus Chill and the Roanoke Valley Rampage. Unlike his son, Dad was a defenseman.

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With the season for the National Hockey League having concluded several months ago, the offseason has begun. While during this time, matches do not occur between the professional NHL teams, it is a time when a lot of activity occurs that will affect the next season. Fans spend a lot of time monitoring these movements as they anticipate the start of the new season in the fall. New York Rangers fans are hoping the offseason changes will boost their team’s capabilities which can make them serious contenders to win the Stanley Cup in 2014.

These changes that are occurring within the New York Rangers are also important for those making sports bets on the team. As there are no current games which can be wagered on, the sportsbooks are taking futures bets on the New York Rangers. These kinds of bets make prediction of future events. Before the season begins is the riskiest time to make this kind of wager. For this reason, the potential payout on a futures bet can be rather large which is why many people place them. Futures bets are also the type of bet that takes the longest to see results.

Given the time that bettors must wait until the season begins, there are other ways to enjoy the excitement of ice hockey right in your own home. Online casinos, like Lucky Nugget featured different sports related slot machines. One game in particular that Rangers fans would enjoy is Ice Hockey. This game has a total of 15 paylines. Players have the chance to win the highest payout this game offers which is $50,000. The teams in this game are made up of the top 8 countries in regards to ice hockey. Players select the two teams from these choice: Sweden, Canada, USA, Germany, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic. Payouts occur when players from the same team are found on an active payline.

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And in his second year of eligibility, Brendan Shanahan gets the call.

The former New York Ranger was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame along with Devils defensemen Scott Neidermayer and Red Wings and Blackhawks standout Chris Chelios  in a ceremony slated for November 11th.

Shanahan, who is now the Czar of Discipline in the NHL, played for the Rangers from 2006-08, joining Jaromir Jagr to form Hall of Fame leadership on Tom Renney’s teams.

The two time Stanley Cup winner with the Red Wings, seems to enjoy his time in New and many NHL hockey betting people always backed the power forward left wing. He scored 656 goals and 698 assists.

After Jagr left to play in Russia after the 2008 season, the Rangers chose not to re-sign Shanahan, a move Renney later admitted was a mistake and may have eventually cost him his job.

Shanahan came to the Rangers after playing years with the Red Wings, and he was consider the final piece that won two Stanley Cups in the 1990s.

“It was just the right fit,” Shanahan said. “They had not won the Cup in several decades. They had been close. At the time that’s all I wanted to do. I think you mature a bit as a player, you want to get yourself established, get yourself to feel like you belong, and then all of a sudden you start realizing how hard it is and how difficult it is to win a Cup and you become obsessed with it. I was lucky at that point in my career to join a team that was obsessed with it and a group of guys that were also obsessed with it, and were also talented enough to be a legitimate contender. I know I wouldn’t be on this call today if it weren’t for my time in Detroit.”

Also enshrined is former Rangers coach Fred Shero, who brought the Blueshirts to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals after coaching the Flyers to two Stanley Cups.

In the 1978-79 playoffs, the Rangers defeated the Kings, Flyers and Islanders to reach the Finals against Montreal, but lost the series 4-1. In 1979-80, the Flyers knocked them off in the second round of the playoffs, and after a 4-13-3 start in 1980-81, Shero stepped down.

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We all know that the New York Rangers keep one eye on their roster and their other eye on the salary cap. Who knew that they had to monitor the number of NHL familial relations they have in their organization. After all, after drafting Adam Tambellini (whose father and brother were ex-NHLers) why else would they trade Christian Thomas to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Danny Kristo?

Online some fans have bemoaned the fact that the Rangers gave up on Thomas too soon. I don’t think that really is the case. While Thomas does have more professional experience (78 games – 73 last season) than Kristo (nine games last season), the newest Ranger might be more NHL ready and is certainly far superior a skater.

Here is what Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus wrote in reviewing the trade.

Kristo, who just turned 23, is arguably NHL ready or somewhat close to making the jump. He becomes one of the Rangers top prospects and could be a decent addition soon for a power play that hasn’t been the best.

There had been indications that Montreal wasn’t really high on Kristo be it for talent or character issues. An example of the latter was when their GM Marc Bergevin questioned Kristo’s off-ice decisions.

On pure talent Kristo is a better prospect than Christian Thomas. That’s not to say Thomas is a poor prospect as he has character, offensive ability and he could be an average to above-average pro. However Kristo is arguably a top 100 drafted prospect in hockey with significant upside even if he does carry more risk than Thomas. In a one for one deal, it’s hard to make a perfectly equal trade and one team usually comes out ahead. In my opinion it was the Rangers.

In the interest of equal and balanced reporting, Marc Antoine Godin (the Canadiens beat reporter with Montreal’s La Presse), on September 19, 2012, tweeted the following missive from Habs GM Marc Bergevin: “Marc Bergevin on Danny Kristo: You can’t always blame immaturity. If he wants to have an NHL career he’ll need to make the right decisions.”

While some might be wondering why the big deal about being NHL-ready now, remember that the Blueshirts do not know when Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin will be able to return to action following their off-season shoulder surgeries.

The Canadiens Blog Eyes on the Prize wrote, “Kristo is one of the fastest skaters in the organization, possibly even the fastest, and gives the Canadiens even more depth at forward. The right winger can make plays at top speed, which instantly puts him at the top of the Bulldogs call up list if a skilled forward is injured.”

While neither Kristo (6-foot-0 and 190 pounds – according to the team’s official press release) nor Thomas (5-foot-9 and 162 pounds) are going to make anyone forget Zdeno Chara, the Rangers do add a bit of size while increasing team speed. After all, if you are not going to be a power forward, you better a quick forward.

Besides with forwards like Ryan Bourque (5-foot-9) and Mats Zuccarello (5-foot-7), every inch counts.

Kristo was Montreal’s 2nd round draft pick (#56) in the 2008 NHL Draft – the same Draft that saw the Rangers select Derek Stepan with the 51st pick. In their 2013 Future Watch issue, The Hockey News rated Kristo the Habs’ 10th best prospect and wrote that he is a “speedy winger has quick hands, good scoring ability, But has to improve maturity and work ethic.”

Hockey’s Future web site wrote, “At times, Kristo lacks the consistency and the work ethic needed to play at the NHL level but definitely not the skills. He has quick acceleration, a powerful stride and uses his explosive speed to help make space for him offensively. The talented winger is equally fast with or without the puck and has developed the ability to shoot the puck while in full stride toward the net with a quick, accurate release.”

Montreal signed the 23-year-old Kristo to a two-year deal (which expires after the 2013-2014 season) on Trade Deadline Day (April 3, 2013) after he finished his four years of college eligibility at the University of North Dakota. In 40 games at North Dakota, Kristo scored 26 goals and 26 assists and was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Kristo finished his four years in college as a point per game producer, tallying 68 goals and 93 assists in 157 games.

Danny was twice a double award winner during his collegiate career. In the 2009-2010 season, Kristo was named the WCHA’s Rookie of the Year and, of course, was a member of the WCHA All-Rookie Team. In 2012-2013, he earned WCHA First All-Star honors and was named to the NCAA’s West First All-Star team.

The Eden Prairie, MN native played for Team USA at the 2013 World Cup and scored one goal and two assists in 10 games. He is no strangers to representing the red, white and blue – as he has done so numerous times. In 2010 he teamed up with future Ranger mates Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider and Stepan to help lead the USA to the Gold Medal in the 2010 World Junior Championships – scoring five goals and three assists in seven games.

In 2008, the International Scouting Service rated the forward as their 56th best prospect in the 2008 NHL Draft. Their scouting report said, “Kristo was very impressive throughout the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships in Kazan, Russia. He is a great offensive zone player. He can really make things happen offensively. He is fearless on the forecheck and has great shooting instincts. He is always in the play and does not give up on puck battles. His speed is adequate but could be better, some development is needed.”

ISS rated his Skating and Puckhandling as “Very Good” and his Shot/Scoring and Hockey Sense as “Excellent”.

NHL’s Central Scouting rated him as their 37th best North American skater. Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee offered up this report on Kristo: “Danny is a strong kid, but not a very big, physical kid. He has very quick feet and he’s very smart. He’s clever with the puck, he can set people up and he can finish. Sometimes he can take himself away from his best assets – thinking and skating and using his hands, and he tries to knock big guys down and he physically can’t, but he’s got that bite to his game. He has a real top-end level offensively, he could be a top-two line guy in the NHL someday and he’s going to play and be successful.”

Even Kristo offered up a scouting report on himself.

“I would describe my game as an up-tempo, speed game. I think my strengths as a player are my speed, hands and vision. I would like to improve on playing more consistent and improving in the weight room,” Kristo explained as part of his Central Scouting profile.

While the Rangers lose the son of former NHL forward Steve Thomas, Kristo does have a connection to a former NHL draft pick. His minor hockey coach with the Indianapolis Checkers of the Eden Prairie Hockey Association was Monty Trottier (the Islanders 4th round draft pick (#68) in the 1980 Draft) the non-NHL playing middle brother between Bryan and Rocky.

Kristo’s father, Mark, played for Bemidji State (1972-76) and was selected as one of the university’s 50 greatest players in 2006.

The key to Kristo’s success will be his ability to translate his skating advantage from the bigger collegiate rinks to the more confined NHL rinks. The key to that translation will have to be the first step or two he takes. As you have read, he has the potential explosiveness to beat his defenders to the outside. It is a matter of him harnessing his ability and his hockey sense as he evolves from a collegiate player into an NHL player.

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NHL teams can begin speaking to free agents as of 12:01am Wednesday morning under the provision that players are unable to sign deals unto 12:00pm Friday afternoon. As far as the New York Rangers are concerned, they will be taking more of a New York Mets approach rather than a New York Yankees approach (which is also the New York Rangers approach). In other words, the Blueshirts will not be diving into the deep end of the pool – heck I am not even sure they will be in the shallow end of the pool either. They just might be doing some dumpster diving looking to get inexpensive pieces to help build organizational depth.

That was the aim behind the acquisitions of defensemen Justin Falk and Danny Syvret and the eventual departure of Ryane Clowe as an UFA. It will probably be the way the Rangers continue their summer run up to the beginning of the Alain Vigneault Era.

While the Rangers are not in NHL salary cap hell, they are in the vicinity with all of the RFA contracts they have to settle. They submitted qualifying offers to RFAs Falk, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello. As steep a task as that it is, next year is even more crucial and crazy with the Rangers needing to make decisions on UFAs-to-be Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, and Anton Stralman – and RFAs-to-be Derick Brassard, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Kreider, and John Moore.

That is what makes President/GM Glen Sather’s decision not to use his second amnesty buyout on Brad Richards even more puzzling. Setting aside Richards’ subpar performance, the Rangers can use the $6.67 million the team would have saved from buying out Richards just to re-sign their own players – never mind going after big-time free agents.

This is not a personal vendetta. It is, as Michael Corleone said, strictly business. The Rangers run two risks by not buying out Richards. The first is they lose flexibility now moving forward. While they should be able to keep their own RFAs and possibly sign a couple of “low-hanging” fruit type players, they are not going to be able to make too many major changes other than banking on Vigneault working some magic.

“The only hope (for the Rangers) to give themselves any flexibility to change their roster is by buying (Richards) out, so that’s what makes me think that they would,” former Rangers President/GM Neil Smith explained to Pat Leonard of the Daily News in a telephone interview.

“I don’t know whether they should or not. That’s up to them. But the logic behind that would be freeing the money – obviously the team had some deficiencies – and to shore up those deficiencies and make the team better. It’s their only card to play. If they don’t play that card, that’s fine, but they go in next year with the same roster.”

Of course, the Rangers still do have the option of exercising their second buyout after the 2013-2014 season. However, that is where the Rangers encounter the second major problem of not buying B-Rich out.

If Richards suffers from an injury that is not healed by June 30, 2014 and/or would require post-season surgery, the Blueshirts would be unable to buy Richards out and then would face the wrath of his onerous contract. Remember, the Rangers signed that contract prior to the new CBA – and that new agreement does not look kindly on teams trying to get around the salary cap. The Blueshirts would not be able to bury Richards’ contract in the minors like they did with Wade Redden’s deal.

I am not an expert on the NHL’s salary cap, I do not play one on television, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express. As a result, I turn to Pat Leonard to explain why the Rangers are just delaying the inevitable in terms of buying Richards out.

“Still, the new ‘Cap Advantage Recapture’ clause in the NHL’s and NHLPA’s new collective bargaining agreement likely will force the Rangers to buy out Richards’ contract in the summer of 2014 regardless of how he performs,” Leonard wrote in the Daily News.

“The “CAR” clause seeks to penalize teams for doling out massive, frontloaded contracts under the previous CBA. It forces teams who have signed a player to a frontloaded contract to absorb that player’s remaining cap hit for the remainder of his original term in the event he retires early.”

So why would the Rangers run the risk, even if it were ever so small, and not go the amnesty route?

The easiest answer is that they believe Vigneault’s new system will breathe new life into Richards. The Blueshirts see last season as an aberration rather than the rule.

In a way, the Rangers might be correct. I have the feeling that Richards was never in the proper mental mindset or physical condition to jump back into the NHL following the lockout. The harder he tried to get things going, the further down he fell – the quicksand analogy that Keanu Reeves’ character (Shane Falco) referred to in the movie The Replacements.

Richards made mention to things possibly not being right in a couple of conversations he had with Larry Brooks of the NY Post.

At the end of June when rumors were swirling that Richards was facing his last days as a Ranger, he told the NY Post in an e-mail that “Things will be better next year wherever I am.”

Prior to that response to Brooks, Richards hinted at some possible trouble – what exactly it was is not clear.

“I didn’t feel normal all season,” Richards told Brooks on breakup day. “There are a thousand things it could have been, but I’m not going to dwell on that now.”

Was it John Tortorella’s act wearing thin? Was it an injury? Was it Richards admitting he was not properly focused to play the season? We may never know, but obviously it is something that Rangers management believes he can overcome.

Of course, I wouldn’t be a Rangers fan if there wasn’t a more cynical explanation to it all.

Glen Sather is going to be turning 70-years-old on September 2 and he is a little more than three months removed from prostate cancer surgery. Let’s face it; he is facing his own mortality. Contrary to the blustery comments he made when he ran the Oilers how he could win championships with the Rangers financing behind him, all Slats has brought to New York is one division title is 13 years. It has been 23 years since he last won the Stanley Cup. It is also the reason why he fired Tortorella and made the safe coaching hire rather than think out of the box.

Sather desperately wants one final Stanley Cup championship so that he can retire on top. He believes that the best chance he has at winning is to keep Richards on the roster – no matter the cost to the Blueshirts future. Face it, if the Richards non-buyout proves to be the wrong move, Sather will be long gone and the job of cleaning up Sather’s mess will belong to Jeff Gorton or whoever replaces Slats.

As a result, the Rangers stand like the little kid with his nose pressed against the candy store window – dreaming of what could be. The odds are stacked against the Rangers because their maneuverability is limited. If they did indeed exercise the amnesty buyout, the Rangers would have had some leeway in terms of free agency – especially with the market being buoyed by other amnesty buyouts.

Even if the Rangers decided not to get too involved in free agency, they would have the cap space to make trades with teams looking to dump salaries but not wanting (or able) to use their amnesty buyouts.

The Brad Richards Saga is a case of the franchise being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

UPDATE: Katie Strang of ESPN tweeted that Scott Arniel will be joining Alain Vigneault’s staff as an assistant coach (along with Ulf Samuelsson). It will be interesting to see how Arniel and Derick Brassard get along on Broadway because the two had their moments when they were both in Columbus.

While it seems that Brassard took the high road, his agent did not. Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Disptach wrote that Allen Walsh went on the offensive after Brassard had been a healthy scratch for seven of 10 games. On December 1 2011, Portzline offered the following missive from Brassard’s agent:

“While I have tremendous respect for (general manager) Scott Howson and the rest of Columbus’ management team, the situation regarding Derick Brassard has become untenable. The coach has a history of burying players and using them as scapegoats to mask his own lack of success on the ice. Derick has been singled out, almost from the very beginning of the season, to be the fall guy in case things don’t go well. The Columbus organization cares about Derick and has been good to him, but at some point, one has to say, enough is enough.”

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