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What if Michael Sauer is able to return next season?

It’s a pretty good problem to have when one of the key reasons a stud defensive prospect could be hesitant to join your team is because he’s afraid he wouldn’t be able to supplant the club’s current top-four defensemen and play significant minutes.

But the Rangers are so stacked with Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto that coveted 21-year-old unrestricted free agent Justin Schultz, who supposedly wants major responsibility from the start, may be unwilling to sign with New York.

And what if the Rangers could add Michael Sauer back into the mix?

The 24-year-old has been out since December with a severe concussion, but at the draft GM Glen Sather said that Sauer is “feeling better” and “making progress.”

Sather sounded cautiously optimistic and though Sauer is still just barely taking forward steps, Sather did express hope that Sauer could play in 2012-2013.

It seems like ages ago, but Sauer was actually much more important to the Blueshirts than McDonagh less than 18 months ago.

It was Sauer that was New York’s ace third defenseman behind Staal and Girardi.  Alas, concussion woes – which have plagued Sauer’s family – have made him an afterthought and the Rangers have had no choice but to plan ahead with the thinking that Sauer is retired.

Again, that’s still a possibility.  It would be no shock at all if Sauer suffered a setback and on the advice of his doctors, hung up his skates for good.

But if Sauer does begin making significant progress and can get up to speed, then the Rangers’ defensive unit could be truly scary.

Top prospect Tim Erixon is a solid bet to anchor one of the bottom-pairing slots and New York will almost certainly bring in a free agent blueliner or two.

But Erixon will go through growing pains and there aren’t many players on the market that could be as valuable as Sauer.

At his best, Sauer was the most physically intimidating Rangers’ defender and fit into the team’s system perfectly.  Though not the most mobile player, Sauer was extremely reliable in his own end and more than willing to sacrifice his body for the team.

If that Sauer returns at some point next season, then New York’s top-five might be the envy of the league.  The Rangers may struggle to put the puck in the net, but if the defense is even better than last year in front of Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist, then the team’s scoring problems might be overlooked.

11 Responses to “What if Michael Sauer is able to return next season?”

  1. blueshirt in paris says:

    To me Sauer is terrific in a 5-6 role and would be a perfect pair for MDZ or Erixon on the left side.

    Funny that so much hinges on a 22yr old who has never played a NHL game but if we did land Shultz I think it would set a lot of other things in motion.

    Specifically deciding what to do with MDZ or Erixon. Or would it even open Staal to be traded?

  2. evan says:

    If Schultz is landed and he is in fact a legit PP QB, then say goodbye to MDZ at some point next year or the year after. I think we sign MDZ this summer and the see how Schultz acclimates. If Schultz shows a lot, MDZ will be traded. Then again, this is contingent on us getting schultz.

    Also, given the ridiculously stupid deal Wideman was given, makes it very difficult for us to sign staal, mcd and girardi. They will all command minimum 5 million per year. So it will be interesting how we manage the cap, especially since we need scoring.

    As for Sauer, i hope he comes back and I cant him moving above the 3rd pair. Also, no idea what progress means for him. Is he skating yet? Lets see.

    Curious to see what Rangers look like by the 4th of July

    • Tim B says:

      Nothing wrong having 2 PP QB’s. It could make the PP the best on the league. Staal played less minutes after the concussion but Sauer’s injury seems more severe. If Sauer comes back than he would see third pairing minutes anyway. Im sure Sauer doesnt want to risk dealing worth another concussion so he is going to have todeal with playing third line minutes and possibly being an occasional healthy scratch. I would think Staal should be traded. Even though he is important to this blueline, he still has like a $3-$4 million cap hit. The Rangers need a 1st line left wing to play alongside Gabby and Richards so since there is talk of Dubi being traded than why not trade Dubi and Staal for someone? Thats like $6-$8 million off the books. Than take $5-6 million in as a top line LW or something like that. Than there is still a couple million dollars from the trade to use on a signing or something.

      • freewheeler says:

        I would be stunned and horrified if Staal was traded. He is a monster, showing in the playoffs he is back to what he can and should be. I can’t see any scenario where he is moved. I don’t disagree with Dubinsky though. The team has cap space short term, so I don’t expect they will give him away, especially seeing they need his size, and there’s a good chance he rebounds early in the year and builds his stock back up. If we land Schultz, I would think the team would try to dangle Erixon, but might be willing to part with MDZ if it was a monster deal.

        • blueshirt in paris says:

          Would hate to see Staal go but can we even imagine what his next UFA contract will be? Looking at the past few days it would have to be in the 6mil range. That’s a lot to swallow for a 3-4 pairing if you believe McD projects higher.

          That scenario gives you cost controlled young players in McD, MDZ and Erixon.

          There will be some tough decisions to make in the next few years but in the end its not a terrible problem to have so many good dmen.

          • Scully says:

            Staal is a #1 defenseman too… guy had no training camp and missed half the season. He’ll be back to being Marc Staal come 2012-13.

            Dan Girardi has always been the defenseman that’s going to get moved. This year was his upside (which is very very good), but prior the season it was always Girardi that would have to be the piece that would eventually be moved.

            • Blueshirt in Paris says:

              I’m not saying he isn’t, in fact I agree hence why he will be paid like one. So will Girardi.

              Issue with moving Girardi is our lack of RH dmen right now. Getting Shultz and him living up to his projections could change that.

  3. Kevin says:

    Another report that Sauer is doing much better, via his agent http://es.pn/LSsd2y

  4. Jude says:

    One would think that with everything going on in Carolina that staal isn’t long for here any way. Rangers should look to package staal an dubi + for skinner. I love staal bu won’t take the chance of him leaving here an not getting anything back.

  5. JimBob says:

    I love the disparity of opinion regarding NYR blueliners. This blog says we’re in pretty good shape – getting to bloggers saying we can afford to trade Staal. While over at the NY Post you have idiots like Larry Brooks suggesting the Rangers have a “gaping hole” on defense as rationale why we must sign Schultz. I believe the bloggers here are closer to reality…NYR blueline is in wonderful shape. McIlrath, Erixon, others in the pipeline

  6. kgb16 says:

    Just because it is Larry Brooks does not make him an idiot. He’s been making a lot ofgood points over the years.

    There are a lot of different ways to go defensively,and I think many are very positive for us. We will have to give up something to get something. I would like to get some power play. Whether that is a painful blast, like Garrison, or clever puck movement to open up lanes, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like the power play was essential in the Playoffs, but it would be a nice little advantage if you could whip it out every now and then.

    I do not believe that the shot blocking strategy will winin the end. It will deplete your team and smother your offense.