Blueline Changes This Summer?

December 23, 2011, by

The Rangers blue line could look a lot different in the summer of 2012. There’s a chance that next season the Rangers will start six defensemen that have seen the ice this in New York season but don’t expect that six to include Steve Eminger, Anton Stralman and Jeff Woywitka.

All three journeyman pros have expiring contracts and are likely to be let go; at most one may be retained. Also with an expiring deal is Mike Del Zotto but barring something totally unexpected the talented youngster will get a new deal thanks to his rebound season, especially the way he is improving with each game this season.

Complicating what is beginning to look like an audition process for a depth spot on defense is the sudden emergence of Stu Bickel. It may be highly premature to call it an ’emergence’ but Bickel has shown a willingness to scrap, has chipped in offensively, kept it simple and for the most part has stepped up and looked capable at the NHL level. With every additional game Bickel impresses and with the injuries to guys like Eminger it really does make it a four horse race for a contract next summer; and that is if one is kept at all at the NHL level.

With Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Mike Sauer, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Del Zotto all very much part of the Rangers, the sixth defenseman promises to be Tim Erixon. As well as his outstanding potential, in Erixon’s favour (assuming he is full time, NHL ready) is that, with Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer, all three represent cap bargains next season as Sauer is the most expensive in 12/13 at $1.25m. Despite an injury earlier this season Erixon has looked very good in the AHL for the Whale and is close to a point/game player on the farm.

So where is the change coming? In all likelihood the change is likely to be via the aforementioned subtractions rather than substantial additions however there does promise to be further talent challenging for NHL roster spots. Dylan McIlrath and Pavel Valentenko (assuming the club retain him) will look to break the roster while Mikhail Pashnin might be in the mix, coming over from the KHL.

The Rangers have a stack of young established NHL defensemen, a couple of almost NHL ready prospects and a couple of juniors in the pipeline. Whether they add or subtract from the big club this summer, it continues to look good on the back end for the Rangers.


  1. Walt says:

    What a great problem to have, there are probably 25 other teams that would love to have our problem!

    We know that the top pair will be, health permitting, Staal & Girardi. The second pairing will be McD & MDZ, and the third pair will be Sauer & Erixon. The seventh d-man will be either McIlrath, Bichel, or possibly Pashnin. I don’t believe that V-tank figures in the long term plans, they haven’t even given him a chance this season, and went out and signed two other defense men. Anton, and Jeff were picked up as insurance, leaving V-tank down at the AHL level, dose that look bright for the guy?

    The pairings I came up with gives us an offensive, and defensive d-man per pairing. I can’t believe that MDZ will play anywhere but at MSG next season. We also are assuming that Dylan will be NHL ready next season, I’m not too sure about that at all. This is a very young defense, and can play together for years to come.

    If the pairing works as posted, we will have four number 1 picks, and if McIlrath plays, that goes to five, man that is some line up no?????

    • RangerSmurf says:

      “The second pairing will be McD & MDZ”

      Not likely, there’s little reason to put two LH guys on the same pair with the amount of righties we have in the system.

      Staal (L) – Girardi (R)
      McD (L) – Sauer (R)
      MDZ (L) – ??

      Is the most likely. Erixon played the right side in the SEL. Eminger is a R, as is Bickel and McIlrath (if he surprises.)

      • Dave says:

        It’s amazing how MDZ now seems like he is capable of anchoring a pairing on his own. Before Sauer went down, my opinion was different. Now, MDZ/McIlrath could be a deadly duo.

  2. Zen says:

    I have been quite impressed with Stralman in his limited time here, more specifically since he got in better shape. I prefer him over all the other guys, including Eminger… who some fans tend to overate. The thing is, if Stralman continues to play like he is, he might be earning himself a nice contract this offseason that prices him out of the Rangers interest (i.e. 6th/7th D). With how good a shot Stralman has and given how he isn’t afraid to use it, I have a feeling the goals are going to start coming quite soon.

    • Zen says:

      It is worth noting that I wouldn’t entirely rule out Sather looking at a BIG name D. This team’s main weakness on the PP continues to be the lack of a bomber from the point. We will be dropping a bunch of salary this offseason, so maybe Slats spends it on a supremely offensively gifted D this time around rather than a stud forward (with Kreider on the way). We already know Slats was in on Brent Burns this offseason. The Weber/Suter situation is quite interesting.

  3. ArtyFan says:

    First of all Pashnin signed 2 years with CSKA of KHL. Secondary, mark my words, DZ will not be with the club, unless his O game will be dangerous and productive on consistent basis. This a CONTRACT YEAR for him and we do have experience on that Boyle, Dubi(twice). Vtank was a disappointment this camp due to his stupidity he didn’t tell coach about groin problem and played. Guess after that no trust to him from Torts unless he is super next camp. For sure we don’t know who will be on D next season b/c Suter UFA and Weber RFA one of them definetly available, Preds will not and can’t keep them both. I guess Staal Girardi and McD 100% here, Sauer? I’d love to see but he can be at trade mill( injury prone ), re 5-6 D I guess they will stay with Erixon, but it depends on DZ agent.

    • jay h says:

      so to summarize that, we won’t bring MDZ back because Boyle and Dubi aren’t having good years?

    • Bobby G says:

      Jesus thank God you’re not our GM. Like Jay H said, you’re only reason for not signing MDZ is because some players don’t perform as well after receiving big contracts? Yet you want us to sign Suter or Weber? Guys who will demand 3 times the money MDZ will? Cmon man, think.

  4. the suit says:

    MDZ will be a ranger for a very long time. His upside is too high to let him walk. There are no other defensemen on this roster or in the system that are close to providing the offense he is capable of producing once he hits his prime.

  5. Bobby G says:

    I looove that we have so many great young D-Men coming through our system.

    My only concern is keeping them long term.

    This offseason, we have to sign Del Zotto. The next offseason we have to sign McD and Sauer. The year after that, we have Erixon and Girardi.

    Assuming everyone progresses well, I could see every single one of those players demanding a raise.

    I know you guys have mentioned it before but long-term, someone probably has to go. I sure as hell don’t want to be the guy who decides who that person is.