It is never good news when a player as crucial (and popular) as Ryan Callahan goes down with a serious injury, even if the timing couldn’t be much better from a recovery stand point. The same goes for Carl Hagelin who despite consistency issues has proven to be a good find for the Rangers and who is a core piece moving forward. That all said, where this is a hole to be filled there is an opportunity. Step forward Chris Kreider and JT Miller.
The appearance of the New York Rangers roster next season depends on so many factors; the coaching decision, the draft and free agency to name a few but the Rangers already have viable candidates to step up with Kreider and Miller being the obvious choices.
Sometimes a club needs to be forced into a situation and a decision taken out of their hands (aka can no longer afford to mishandle a prospect like Kreider) or a player needs to step up without fear of fourth line minutes or demotion and the opportunity is there for Kreider and/or Miller to grab a spot and run with it. This could benefit the Rangers enormously.
If the recovery periods for both Hagelin and Callahan are closer to the longer estimate of five months, neither will be starting the season in uniform. That leaves camp, preseason and several early regular season games for Kreider et al to get re-acquainted with the roster, to get confident, to get serious ice time and make an impact. The fall out of these unfortunate injuries could be significant.
Successful transitions from both, or either prospect, would see less pressure on the club as they renegotiate with multiple forwards over the next twelve months as the knowledge of some key prospects stepping up will be fresh in the minds of Sather and co. The team will have alternatives and young, hungry and cheaper ones at that.
It works both ways; the negotiating positions of Hagelin – because of the injury – or Derick Brassard or any of the restricted free agents not likely to receive longer term deals like Derek Stepan most likely will, will be affected by Miller or Kreider stepping up. The whole long term audition scenario to start next season also gives a chance for those younger players to make a case for their own new deals so there is plenty of motivation for all concerned.
Chris Kreider and JT Miller are very important prospects for the Rangers. Thanks to a very unfortunate situation they may get their chance to make a lasting impression sooner rather than later and that may be the best news so far out of this disappointing end to the Rangers season.