The Rangers have made their second round of cuts, and some of the 11 cuts are going to surprise people. Goaltender Chad Johnson, defenseman Wade Redden, and forwards Jeremy Williams, Kris Newbury, Dane Byers, Evgeny Grachev, Dale Weise, and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen have been sent to Hartford. Garnet Exelby, Alexei Semenov, and Brandon Manning have been released from their tryouts. It is surprising to see MZA on that list of cuts, but it appears that the presence of Ruslan Fedotenko has prompted the Rangers not to force the young winger into a situation where he may not succeed or lose confidence.
Evgeny Grachev being cut shouldn’t be taken the wrong way by Ranger fans. Grachev is just 20 years old, and to make the team at 20, you have to really impress the coaching staff. Grachev had a solid camp and preseason, but solid doesn’t get you a roster spot. He needed to be exceptional. Considering the depth the Rangers have at wing, there is no need to rush the young prospect. As for Dale Weise, he is also a product of Fedotenko. Weise is just 22 years old, and although he played well, his spot on the team was going to have to be earned by outplaying Fedotenko, which he did not. Weise is on the final year of his entry level deal, and will be given another shot at earning his spot next year.
Semenov was another who had a good preseason and camp, which may lead to some surprise he was cut. But with Steve Eminger signed, and youngsters Pavel Valentenko and Michael Sauer impressing, there is a bit of a logjam on the blue line. Semenov was in camp as a safety measure, and it appears that safety measure is no longer required. Too bad “domestic issues” forced him to return to Russia last year. Exelby did not impress at all during camp, and played very poorly against New Jersey. It is not a surprise to see him go.
Byers, Williams, and Newbury will have to clear waivers to be sent to Hartford. It is unlikely that any will be claimed, but Byers would be the most likely to be claimed. It’s tough to not feel for Byers, but with Derek Boogaard and Brandon Prust in the fold, Byers no longer has a spot on this team. As for Williams and Newbury, they were destined for Hartford when they were signed.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that MA as sent to Hartford. MZA had a solid camp, and a good preseason. However, as I predicted, he needs time to adjust to the physical North American style before he is ready to play at the NHL level. With so much NHL depth already on the roster (on short term contracts), there is no need to rush the young Norwegian. He will probably be one of the first call ups should there be an injury or someone forgets how to play hockey.
The race for the Rangers starters has become much clearer. There are five players vying for the final three defensive spots (Valentenko, Sauer, Eminger, Matt Gilroy, Ryan McDonagh). There are now 15 forwards on the roster for 13 spots, and that 15 includes the injured Chris Drury meaning there will be two more forwards cut. With Fedotenko and Tim Kennedy likely to make the team, Brian Boyle could be on his way to Hartford as well, in addition to one more forward. The Rangers have three preseason games left, and the race for the final roster spots just heated up.