The Rangers problems on the blue line at NHL level have been much publicized and most people are of the assumption the problem will be addressed externally. However with Dennis Seidenberg’s recent deal setting the bar at an uncomfortably high level and with Glen Sather’s comments about giving those from within a chance, maybe the prospects can make New York…
Within the system there are several options that can help the team. How the Rangers progress as a team as well as deal with the blue line may be influenced by the level of patience the Rangers brass will be willing to show. Are they willing for guys like Mike Sauer, Corey Potter etc to learn on the fly, make mistakes at NHL level but indeed develop? Time will tell, early indication says maybe they are.
One option that hasn’t been given much air time is the curious case of Pavel Valentenko, the Russian ‘throw in’ from the (brilliant) Gomez to Montreal deal. Not seen actively in the organisation as yet, it’s difficult to know what to expect. Back in 2009 Hockeysfuture wrote these words about the young Russian, following his defection back to Russia:
Returning back to Russia after his stint with the Hamilton Bulldogs might have halted his NHL chances, but Pavel Valentenko remains a good prospect for the future. His big body and powerful shot are useful weapons, and his North American experience made him progress a lot as a player. Will he get a second chance in Montreal?
HF also wrote this about him:
He combines that with a physical game that borders on, but never crosses into, dirty play. Valentenko’s been described as one of the most-hated players in the AHL and combines an ability to get under opponent’s skin with the willingness to back it up.
Well, we know he won’t get a second chance in Montreal but will he get one in New York? With size, a good shot and a nasty streak on his side Valentenko seems an ideal candidate to help The Rangers address needs on the back end. What remains unclear is his apparent caution at crossing the Atlantic again. If spaces open up in New York would he be willing?
Valentenko missed significant time this season due to injury and following the injury he only got into 7 games during the regular season for Dynamo Moscow, going scoreless. It appears he didn’t dress during the playoffs either, though I haven’t been able to confirm this. This lack of ice time, while not ideal for the a player’s development may play into The Rangers hands. Russian hockey is notorious for being stingy with ice time for young players, so when these players suffer long term injuries it is even harder for them to get on the ice. Clearly a solid prospect and one that addresses numerous needs for the Rangers, it would be worth the Rangers getting the young Russian over for Training Camp for an extended look. Whether he’d be willing to come over without a guaranteed job remains to be seen but with his situation in Moscow far from ideal, the opportunity – coupled with his willingness –may not get better for Sather and co.
A final thought; imagine the Rangers blue line being patrolled by Valentenko and Ryan McDonagh 5 years from now and how the Canadiens would feel about the trade then? That alone would make suffering through 5 months of Chris Higgins worthwhile.