2007/2008 Season

It seems that the Washington Capitals are making a move in the Eastern Conference. They traded a 2009 second draft pick (acquired from Anaheim) to Montreal in exchange for goalie Cristobal Huet. After making that deal, the Caps acquired center Sergei Federov from Columbus. The Blue Jackets receive 19-year-old defenseman Ted Ruth – who was Washington’s 2007 second round draft pick (46th overall).

Just when you thought it was safe to breathe if you are a Capital, George McPhee pulled off his third draft day deal. The Caps send British Columbia native forward Matt Pettinger to Vancouver for gritty forward Matt Cooke.

A couple of other potential trade targets for the Rangers are on the move. The Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Adam Foote from the Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional first round draft pick. If Colorado makes the playoffs, the pick is a 2008 selection. If they don’t, then it is a 2009 pick. The Avalanche might owe Columbus another conditional draft pick depending on Foote re-signing with Colorado.

The Avalanche continued to stockpile new blueliners when they swapped a pair of 33-year-old defensemen. Colorado sent Karlis Skrastins and a third round draft pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Ruslan Salei – who has two more years left on his contract.

There is no truth to rumor that Raymond Bourque has expressed an interest in returning to Colorado .

After many months of rumors, Jay Feaster finally broke up his big three. Tampa Bay traded center Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist (finally, we have some Ranger connection to a trade) to the Dallas Stars in exchange for goalie Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern and winger Jussi Jokinen,

The Chicago Blackhawks pulled off a couple of trades – one veteran dump and one swap of former first round draft picks. Dale Tallon sent winger Martin Lapointe, a 34-year-old UFA, to Ottawa for a 2008 sixth round draft pick. Chicago also swapped winger Tuomo Ruutu (9th overall in 2001) to Carolina for winger Andrew Ladd (4th overall in 2004).

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After losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury for nothing as UFAs, the Buffalo Sabres decided to get something once it was decided they could not sign defenseman Brian Campbell. Yet another possible Ranger target is eliminated as the Sabres send Campbell to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Steve Bernier and a first round draft pick.

It seems that teams are looking to make big splashes when it comes to the big name tickets at the deadline. One has to wonder if Glen Sather stays pat as opposed to giving up the farm for a rental. Given what San Jose gave up for a Campbell rental, it is a good no-deal for Slats. Sather might have to be content with picking up a spare part as we get closer to the deadline.

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Well, John Davidson sure has not done his former team any favors at the trade deadline. After re-signing defenseman Barret Jackman, the St. Louis Blues have traded d-man Bryce Salvador to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for tough guy Cam Janssen. The 32-year-old Salvador will be an UFA at the end of the season.

Janssen, who is 23-years-old, is a native of St. Louis and played for the NAHL’s St. Louis Sting in 2000-2001. TSN.CA had the following quote from the Blues team president.

“We feel that Cam’s style of play will bring energy and grit to our lineup and being from St. Louis, feel that he will be an instant fan favorite here, ” Davidson stated.

UPDATE: The Florida Panthers have acquired forward/defenseman Wade Belak from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2008 fifth round draft pick. It is an interesting move from a team, the Panthers, that is expected to be a seller. Could the Panthers be adding some depth in advance of making a bigger deal?

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Business picked up as far as the Rangers are concerned on the eve of the NHL trade deadline. No, Glen Sather has not been wheeling and dealing, but other teams have been – and that will have an impact on what the Blueshirts can and will do.

Philadelphia fired off the first shot by reacquiring Vaclav Prospal from Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional 2009 draft pick. The Flyers needed help up front with Simon Gagne done for the season and Mike Richards sidelined indefinitely.

With the Lightning freeing up some money, they re-signed Dan Boyle to a reported six-year $40 million deal – thus removing one potential Ranger target.

John Davidson removed another potential target as St. Louis re-signed Barret Jackman to a four-year $14.4 million deal.

In addition, it is very possible that John-Michael Liles, an UFA, will be off the market with Colorado signing Peter Forsberg for the remainder of the season. It is hard to imagine the Avalanche bringing in Forsberg and then moving Liles without getting equal NHL value – something the Rangers don’t have among their defenseman.

With Paul Mara out at least two weeks after facial surgery, it seems that the Rangers list of defenseman is contracting to the point the organization has to think long and hard about giving someone like Ivan Baranka, Cory Potter or Michael Sauer a chance to show their stuff. That would allow the Rangers to give one of the youngsters playing time in meaningful games. However, it also means playing four young defensemen. The other option would be to try and get Thomas Pock through waivers – something that is not likely to happen. They could also try to run Andrew Hutchinson through waivers. While he might clear waivers and help the power play, he is too much of a risk defensively.

Given that the Rangers signed Jason Strudwick at the end of the season last year even though he would not be eligible for the playoffs, look for the Rangers to be active in acquiring a veteran defenseman. Here is a list of the usual suspects:

ROB BLAKE – Much has been written as to whether or not Blake would waive his no-trade clause. However one thing that seems to be certain is that he will not waive it to play for an East Coast team. If he is traded, the furthest east he goes is Detroit.

NICK BOYNTON – The Phoenix defenseman is signed through next season at a manageable $3 million. Coyotes GM Don Maloney knows the Rangers’ organizational depth better than anyone – maybe even Glen Sather. He isn’t the best offensive or defensive defenseman available, but he is a solid two-way defenseman who does hit and has a strong shot from the point.

BRIAN CAMPBELL – If you polled Ranger fans, Campbell would be their guy because he is the offensive d-man the fans want – even though there is probably a more pressing need for a better defensive player than Campbell. The problem is that the Sabres have to extract as much as possible from any trade partner given they let Daniel Briere and Chris Drury leave as UFAs. With so many other teams looking for offensive help on the blue line, the Campbell bidding war might be too pricey for the Rangers.

MATT CARLE – If you are wondering why the Sharks would be looking to shop a young offensive defenseman, one only needs to look at his contract – which has four years and $14 million remaining. He is not that physical, but is the power play QB teams are looking for at the deadline.

HAL GILL – You know Jaromir Jagr would be happy not to have to face the 6-foot-7 and 250 pound Gill any more. While his skating and offensive game leave a lot to be deserved, his size and ability to clear the net would be a plus for the Rangers. With the situation in Toronto so unsettled, it is hard to handicap what the Leafs are going to do. Gill only has one more year at a reasonable $2.1 million so acquiring him would not prevent the Rangers from bringing in a defenseman during the summer or re-signing Michal Rozsival

RON HAINSEY – Columbus GM Scott Howson still hasn’t decided whether to be a buyer or a seller. Given he is in his first year with the Jackets, he can get away with being a seller and trying to build the organization. Odds are he will look to move Hainsey and Sergei Federov. While his defensive game is not as strong as his offensive game, the 26-year-old is progressing nicely. However, at 6-foot-3 and nearly 215 pounds he does not to be more physical.

STEVE STAIOS – If Campbell is the favorite of the fans, it seems that Staios is the favorite of some of the media. While the 34-year-old was a Blues first round pick in 1991, he is currently a member of the Oilers so Sather might feel compelled to give his old buddy Kevin Lowe a call. He is the solid physical defenseman the Rangers need, and while in consistent offensively, he does have some offensive ability. However, he is also as a history of knee injuries during the last two seasons and has three years and $8 million remaining on his contract.

BRAD STUART – The Kings defenseman is an UFA who is only 28. He has all the potential to be a big-time d-man. He is a fluid skater with great vision and passing skills and the skating ability to match. However, he tends to have problems in his own zone and he is not as physical as someone with his size should be (6-2/213).

CAM BARKER – I left the most intriguing player for last. Barker was a player I hoped the Rangers would draft in 2004 before Chicago snatched him up third overall. The Blackhawks are looking to add some scoring up front and are willing to trade from their strength on defense. The 6-foot-3 and 222 pound Barker would be an acquisition that would pay even more dividends in the future than he will now. While he needs to find a consistency to his game, especially in his own zone, the positives well outweigh the negatives. He is a physical blueliner with a big-time shot from the point that would to be an asset on the power play. He is signed through next year at only $984, 000 so he would be a steal as far as the salary cap goes. The down side for the Rangers is that it would cost them one of their young forwards – possibly a Petr Prucha – and a prospect and/or draft picks. If the Rangers could retain their core prospects (Alexei Cherepanov and Bobby Sanguinetti) and keep their first round draft pick, it would be worth the while to move Prucha to bring in Barker.

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As we near the 28th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice”, it is only fitting that we feature Herb Brooks and his “Brooksisms” in trying to rationalize the Rangers 6-5 overtime loss to the Canadiens.

“Everything goes in cycles, to a degree.” — Herb Brooks

Say this for the Rangers; they sure know how to repay a favor. After spotting the Habs a three goal lead in their Super Bowl Sunday matinee in Montreal, the Rangers throttled the Canadiens with five unanswered goals. Last night, after tagging their hosts with another five spot, the Blueshirts made history. It was the first time in franchise history, and 10th time in NHL history, that a team blew a five goal lead.

“You don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” —Herb Brooks

The Rangers again failed to grasp the need to play a full 60 minutes of hockey. The Rangers do not have the speed to simply out skate a team and they are not physical enough to pound a team into submission. They are also too passive when it comes to forechecking, which in turn, prohibits them from putting an opponent away.

Far too many times they have hit a lull in a game that cost them points. While some might want to tag the loss on Tom Renney or Henrik Lundqvist, the blame for last night’s lost rests solely on the shoulders of 19 players (Stephen Valiquette gets a pass because he did not play) and the entire coaching staff.

The funny thing about the Rangers brain freeze is that they had proven to be a solid third period team when playing with the lead. The Blueshirts were 20-1-1 when leading after two periods.

After the last game in Montreal, the Rangers should have been infinitely more aware of how momentum can swing from period-to-period and shift-to-shift. For the most part they did all things they needed to do. In building up their 5-0 lead, they managed to stay out of the penalty box, didn’t retaliate to the Habs chippy play and they remembered that good things happen when you put shots on goal and players go to the net.

Unfortunately, the Canadiens learned that lessen as well – at least the part about putting shots on goal and going to the net. Once the Canadiens steppe dup their play, the Rangers were helpless against the Montreal onslaught. Rather than rely on their solid positional play, the Rangers got caught out of position and were left twisting in the wind.

“Legs feed the wolf.” — Herb Brooks

Last night the Montreal fans fed the Canadiens. While the Habs’ fans ram the gamut of being clueless (for begging for every call any time a Canadien fell down) to the classless (for littering the ice), they also played a large part in turning the tide. If you think the crowd didn’t play a big part, just see what Michal Rozsival told John Dellapina of the Daily News following the game.

Dellapina wrote, “‘My ears are still ringing, ’ Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival said 30 minutes after the game had ended.”


• I guess all of those who have been rallying against extended playing time for Colton Orr should take heed at what happens when he is not in the lineup. If you think the Canadiens, especially Steve Begin and Mike Komisarek, would have been free to run Rangers if Orr had played are watching a different team than I am watching.
• It is funny to see all of the Renney haters come out in droves after the loss. For all those who only blame him for the loss I ask one question. If it is all Renney’s fault, how do you explain the 5-0 nothing lead? If your answer is to credit the players, then you have to blame them as well. The bottom line is this loss gets filed in the Team Loss folder.
• While Jaromir Jagr continues to morph from goal scorer into playmaker could someone please beg him to shoot the next time he has a two-on-one break – especially when it is in overtime?
• Note to Henrik Lundqvist – start reviewing tapes from the previous two years. While The King was left defenseless at times last night, he is still allowing too many rebounds and is dropping to the butterfly too quickly.
• Note to the Rangers power play – good things happen when you move the puck and the feet. Even better things happen when you go the net and get shots on goal. Constantly trying to set Jag up for a one-timer on at the RW faceoff dot gets old after awhile.
• We all know Renney is a “player’s coach”, but he needs to get a little more Herb Brooks in him. When he lit into the team at a practice a week or so ago, the team responded. A few sets of “Herbies” might be in order.
• John Dellapina was on with Joe Benigno on WFAN this afternoon. He believes the Canadiens would pose a mighty problem as a playoff opponent for the Rangers. He sees the Rangers making a deal by the deadline, but does not see them bringing in a Rob Blake or Tomas Kaberle type defenseman. Rather, he thinks they get someone who is a “solid to more physical player.” He pointed to the similar playing styles of Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha as possible of trade prospects who would not severely damage the Rangers organizational depth or its youth movement. Despite Jagr’s lack of confidence in his offensive game, Dellapina sees him as a valuable decoy that draws the likes of Komisarek. He believes Jagr is more likely to absorb that type pf physical play as opposed to a Brendan Shanahan.

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As the New York Rangers stand poised one week away from the NHL’s February 26 trade deadline, it is all but certain that Glen Sather will be a buyer rather than a seller.

In a normal trade deadline setting, a General Manager faces a buyer beware scenario. However, Slats must truly be in a caveat emptor mode as the deadline approaches given the NHL’s salary cap and what lies ahead for the Blueshirts in 2008/2009.

In addition to being mindful of his current cap situation, Sather must be even more wary of trading the franchise into salary cap hell for next season. The Rangers President/GM has drawn some criticism from fans for being so free in re-signing Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and Fedor Tyutin. If one thinks the heat was on for those signings, watch how the temperature rises if Sather brings in players with financially restrictive contracts beyond this season.

The Rangers are facing a daunting task come July 1. The Blueshirts are faced with the prospect of having the following 11 players become Unrestricted Free Agents: Sean Avery, Andrew Hutchinson, Jaromir Jagr, Darius Kasparaitis, Marek Malik, Paul Mara, Michal Rozsival, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka, Jason Strudwick, and Stephen Valiquette. Of course, no one expects (or wants) the Rangers to bring all of these players back, but re-signing them or bringing in replacements will eat up a lot of fishnagels.

Things get even trickier because it is pretty much accepted that Jagr will not hit the targets to trigger his option for 2008/2009 which means his entire salary would count against the Rangers salary cap. Don’t forget that it is possible that the Rangers will have to pay off Shanahan’s 2007/2008 bonuses against next year’s salary cap.

On top of all of those UFAs, the Rangers will have the following six players who will be eligible for Restricted Free Agency: Ivan Baranka, Nigel Dawes, Marcel Hossa, Al Montoya, Greg Moore and P.A. Parenteau. Obviously, the most important names on that list are Dawes and Montoya. While the odds are not that high that another team would make a Kevin Lowe-type offer to Dawes, the same might not be true for Montoya. It is possible that another team will present Montoya with an offer the Rangers might have to refuse – with the Blueshirts settling for draft picks.

As a result, Sather has a difficult decision in Montoya’s case. Does he try and lock up his former first round draft pick and add a couple of million dollars in payroll for a backup goaltender? Does he roll the dice and see what the market will bear with the understanding that he is willing to accept draft picks as compensation> or does Sather take what is behind door number three and trade Montoya?

Trading Montoya is not as crazy as it might have seemed at the beginning of the year. Valiquette has shown that he can step in and give the rangers quality play as a backup. Rookie Miika Wiikman’s play in Hartford has caused many to wonder if Wiikman has moved ahead of Montoya on the organizational depth chart.

Montoya would be a valuable trade asset because he still represents an NHL caliber goaltending prospect whose contract won’t be as restrictive as a veteran NHL netminder. This idea could prove very valuable to an NHL team looking to rebuild with younger and cheaper players. The main roadblock is the Rangers need to be prudent when it comes to adding future salary.

For example, one player who has been linked to the Rangers is defenseman Tomas Kaberle of Toronto. He has three more years left on his contract at $4.25 million per season. If the Rangers were to add Kaberle, it lessens their ability to bring back Rozsival or sign a free agent blue liner in the summer.

Many point to an offensive defenseman like Kaberle as the Rangers main need because of the perceived need for a QB on the power play. However, I don’t believe that is all that necessary. The Montreal Canadiens have been at or near the top of the NHL when it comes to their power play. Their “QB” is Andrei Markov – hardly the next coming of Brian Leetch. The Habs power play works because of the system, not necessarily the players. They work hard at getting traffic in front of the goalie and move the puck and themselves. They are particularly adept at finding the weak side point man as he moves in from the point for a one-timer on goal.

In other words, adding a big-time offensive defenseman is not going to solve the Rangers inconsistency on the power play if they are going to continue to play a perimeter game. Odds are the power play would improve if they changed their style rather than their personnel.

Frankly, if the Rangers were to acquire a defenseman I would go against the tide and look to add a solid defensive defenseman – someone who would be a physical player on the blue line because that is what the Rangers are missing. Our buddy John Davidson has two such players in Barret Jackman and Bryce Salvador. Both players are UFAs making between $1.5 and $2.2 million so they would not be a drag on salary this year or next.

With the Rangers set to lose almost $8 million of salary between Malik, Mara and Rozsival, it is conceivable the Rangers could re-sign a Rozsival and one of the Blues defenseman and still have a little money left over. Of the two Blues blueliners, Jackman would be the better prize given his ability.

While the Blues have some young netminders in their system, they still might be willing to make a deal with the Rangers if the Blueshirts traded some of their organizational depth along with a draft pick or two. The Rangers have an extra third round pick as a result of the Matt Cullen deal, so Sather could add a second round draft pick to sweeten any potential trade.

As the NHL draws closer to the trade deadline, the Ranger rumors are sure to heat up. The one thing that Glen Sather has to be aware of is that he has to be as concerned about next year as he is this year when he makes any trades. One does not always have to make the big blockbuster trade in order to make a difference on a hockey team. Sather’s acquisition of Sean Avery didn’t garner many headlines around the league, but it was the exact tonic the Rangers needed.

UPDATE: It seems that the trade deadline frenzy is under way. The Philadelphia Flyers have reinforced their injury-depleted blue line by acquiring defenseman Jaroslav Modry from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a 2008 third round draft pick.

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Ryan Hollweg has already earned a one-game suspension for his five-minute Boarding major against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday afternoon because it was his second offense of this nature. On February 5, Hollweg received a five-minute major for Hitting From Behind. According to the NHL rulebook, a player is assessed a one-game suspension automatically when he receives two of these type of penalties.

It is now up to Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell to review the hit on Sergei Kostitsyn to see if an additional suspension is warranted. Given that the Rangers and Hollweg were warned earlier in the season, and the fact that Hollweg seems to have a target on his back as far as the NHL is concerned, look for Campbell to hit Hollweg with an additional suspension – about three to five games is my best guestimate.

UPDATE: With Brendan Shanahan expected to be out of the lineup for another week or so as he rests his assorted bumps and bruises, the Rangers recalled Dane Byers from Hartford.

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The Rangers jump from the frying pan into the fire as they start the figurative second half of the season in Carolina on Tuesday night.  The Blueshirts face a difficult task in keeping the “momentum” of their two wins over the Atlanta Thrashers as the return to action with a four game in six days road trip.  Actually, the Rangers play six of their next eight games on the road.

While the Rangers are 9-2-0 in the 11 games they have played against the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, the NHL did not do the Rangers any favors by scheduling four consecutive road games.

Why all the doom gloom as the Rangers return to action?

The Blueshirts have not won a game on the road since defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 29.  They are 0-3-2 in their last five road games and 1-5-4 in their last 10 games away from Madison Square Garden.  The lone win was a 5-2 matinee victory over the Ottawa Senators on December 1.

An even more stagger statistic is that only two of the above-mentioned nine wins came on the road – a pair of back-to-back wins against the Devils and Flyers in mid-November (a pair of 4-2 victories).

Returning to the idea of momentum, any momentum the Rangers have had this season seems to fluctuate game-to-game, and in some cases period-to-period.  The only consistency the Rangers have shown this season is their inconsistency.

The Rangers inability to find any inconsistency and their inability to produce points on the road puts them in a position where their margin for error is slim – especially if their road woes continue.

If the Blueshirts want to prevent Glen Sather from playing wheeler-dealer at the trade deadline, they must pick up their play on the road.  The Rangers will play none of their next 13 games on the road.  That stretch takes them up through February 24.  The NHL traded deadline is two days later and the Rangers don’t return to action until February 28 when they play at Carolina.

There is an interesting twist about three of those four home games the Rangers will have.  They will play host to three Western Conference teams: Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.  Given the Rangers one point in their three game Western Canada trip, all bets are off as to how the Rangers will fare against the league’s California contingent.

The key to the Rangers playoff push begins and ends with consistency.  They must find a way to raise their level play for 60 minutes.  It will require Henrik Lundqvist returning to his Vezina Trophy performance of last season.  It will require veterans like Chris Drury, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan stepping up their play and their leadership – both on and off the ice.

It will require Sean Avery to stay healthy and continue to walk the fine line of super pest and penalty liability.

It will require youngsters like Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal working through the tough times that rookies face as the games gain in importance.

It will require Tom Renney to step up his tough love and coming down harder on those players who are not doing their jobs.

It will require the Rangers to find a common ground when it comes to their power play.  The Rangers best play with the man advantage comes when the team actively moves the puck (and themselves) in an attempt to open the shooting lanes and setting screens in front of the net.

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According to various news reports, Marek Malik’s absence is a result of his snubbing coach Tom Renney following the Rangers 4-0 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday night.  As is Renney’s custom, he shakes hands and congratulates all of his players after a win.  On Tuesday night, Malik – obviously miffed over Renney’s on-and-off benchings – refused to shake the coach’s hand.

It is kind of funny (in a bad way) that Malik chose to bite the hand that feeds him rather than shake it given the way Renney has defended the beleaguered blue liner.  Despite being a constant target of the Garden’s boo-birds, Renney has been quick to defend the Unrestricted Free Agent to be.  In fact, Renney even played down Malik’s snit on January 5 when he left the arena after finding out he was scratched against Edmonton.

Jay Greenberg of the “NY Post” wrote that Malik met with Renney prior to practice on Thursday and will meet with again on Monday when the Rangers return to practice following the All Star Game break.

It would be easy for Renney and the Rangers organization to overlook Malik’s actions except for the fact players were quick to call Malik out for his actions.  John Dellapina had the following quote from one of Malik’s unnamed teammates.

“‘It was pretty obvious – a lot of guys saw it, ’ one Ranger said of Malik’s snub of Renney. ‘You don’t do that. And you can’t have that. If you do, you don’t have a team.’”

Players and coaches being at odds is nothing in the world of sports.  It is as old as sports itself – and is something that can be overcome.  However, when a player starts losing the respect of his teammates then that is when a team has a problem.  Malik had better find a way to mend the rifts between himself, his coach – and more importantly – his teammates.  If he doesn’t Marek Malik will be a man without a hockey team.

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Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 176 user reviews.

The Canadian Press is reporting that the National Hockey League. as rumored and expected, will once again return to Europe to play regular season games at the start of the 2008-2009 season.  Instead of just having two teams like they did with Anaheim and Los Angeles, the NHL will send four teams to Europe.

The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning will play two games in Prague, Czech Republic while the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will play a pair of games in Stockholm, Sweden.  The report said that the four teams will play some pre-season games in Europe as well.  However, the report did not say if the teams will be playing each other, European teams or a combination of both.

Given the fact that Jaromir Jagr, Michal Rozsival, Martin Straka, and yes even Marek Malik are all Unrestricted Free Agents, the NHL is taking a bit of gamble sending the Rangers to Prague given the fact that Henrik Lundqvist would be a big draw in Sweden.  One has to wonder if the NHL has a little “inside information as to the makeup of the 2008-2009 Rangers.

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Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 176 user reviews.

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