When the Rangers made their depth moves on July 5, signing Benoit Pouliot (one-year, $1.3 million) and Dominic Moore (one-year, $1 million), many looked to the current RFAs and wondered if the Rangers had room for all of them. Capgeek currently has 12 forwards listed, which does not include the three RFAs, and does not include J.T. Miller. The number does include the recently waived Arron Asham and Darroll Powe, and the question-mark that is Chris Kreider. On the surface, it seems that the Rangers will make a trade.
Looking at the AHL roster, only two players (aside from Miller) have NHL experience: Micheal Haley and Brandon Mashinter. Everyone else is either new to the AHL (Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, Michael St. Croix) or a prospect that is a question-mark (Ryan Bourque, Kyle Jean, Marek Hrivik). Suffice it to say, the Rangers are severely lacking when it comes to potential AHL call ups. Tack on the injuries to Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, and the Rangers are all of a sudden thinner at forward to start the season.
After all, there is no guarantee that Kreider or Miller will be given NHL spots. We saw Kreider struggle mightily this year; and we saw Miller kept with the big club out of necessity, not performance. To assume that a coaching change magically brings out the best in both players is silly. They will need to earn their spot on the roster. Both struggled at the start of last season in the AHL, and neither really earned their spot on the roster when the NHL season started. Kreider was gifted the spot that he didn’t earn, and Miller was called up because the Rangers needed something, anything.
The safer assumption is that only one –likely Kreider– makes the team out of camp. That drops the number from 16 to 15. The injuries to Cally and Hagelin drop that number to 13 forwards. One more injury before they return, and the Rangers are looking at depth issues at forward. It is impossible to replace both Cally and Hagelin in the lineup, but having the pieces in place to at least weather the storm is critical. Assuming these two aren’t ready for opening night, which isn’t really a stretch, then they will need every NHL-ready forward they have for the first month.
Another aspect of all of this is training camp and preseason. There is going to be a major competition for the NHL spots. There is nothing wrong with having 16 forwards competing for 12 starting spots, 13 if you include the press box spot. After all, Powe, Asham, and Moore are the NHL-ready question marks as is. The first two were waived already, and Moore hasn’t played the game in a year.
There are simply too many “what-ifs” and too many question-marks for the Rangers to go wheeling and dealing without bringing back something tangible in return –and no, a draft pick is not tangible in this situation. As Suit pointed out this morning, something tangible would be a right-handed shot that can play the powerplay. This club isn’t just going to trade NHL ready players or NHL vets for a draft pick. They needed the depth last season and didn’t have it. They need it this season, and now they finally have it. Filling holes is one thing, making trades to open up spots for unproven kids is another.