What’s the status of Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin?
Both players underwent surgery on torn shoulder labrums following the 2013 season and their initial recovery timelines indicated they could each miss the first month of the 2013-2014 season. However, both Callahan and Hagelin have been skating with teammates in the weeks leading up to training camp and have reported no setbacks. Neither is ready for contact just yet, but they both seem to be progressing quickly. It’s still a good bet that neither player will be ready for the season-opener, but we should get a clearer picture of their status during camp.
Who could fill in for Callahan and Hagelin?
The Blueshirts have as many as 17 forwards (not including Callahan and Hagelin) with a legitimate shot at making the team. There are probably eight guys locked into their jobs, but after that it’s anyone’s guess how the top-12 will shake out. Of the youngsters, Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo should be coming into camp full of confidence after dominating at last week’s Traverse City Tournament. Unfortunately for Lindberg, he’s a pure centerman, and the Rangers already have five NHL bodies competing for four spots at that position. However, Kristo, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider all have a chance to make the team. They’ll be challenged by proven bottom-six forwards: Darroll Powe, Arron Asham, Benoit Pouliot, Derek Dorsett, Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt.
If John Tortorella were still around, this really wouldn’t matter, since Tortorella eschewed set line structures and was notorious for juggling his combinations mid-game. At least in Vancouver Alain Vigneault preferred to have a more rigid formula. Either Boyle or Dominic Moore will be centering the team’s checking line, but Brassard and Richards could be in a heated battle for better linemates, and a more offensive role. Richards is obviously coming off a disastrous season, but he’ll surely be driven to make a strong first impression to the new regime. Brassard impressed in his brief stint on Broadway last year, but will have to do so again to stave off the veteran Richards.
How will Vigneault’s camp be different than Tortorella’s?
It will come as a relief to many Blueshirts that Tortorella’s grueling conditioning test is now a thing of the past. Vigneault’s camp figures to be quite a bit different – there might even be pucks on the ice! But most importantly, Vigneault has repeatedly stated that all players will start with a clean slate under his watch, so Vigneault’s camp will be more about the new coach determining how to best utilize his personnel.
What’s happening with the big contract negotiations?
We haven’t heard a peep from Derek Stepan’s camp for weeks, while GM Glen Sather has made it very clear that he doesn’t intend to budge from his stance that Stepan should sign a bridge deal. It’d be a major, major shock if Stepan wasn’t on the ice come opening night, but this standoff could drag into camp and become an unfortunate distraction. Things sound a little more positive between Henrik Lundqvist and the club. Both sides appear eager to get a deal done and though the haggling may continue a little longer, it seems likely that The King will ink a massive extension before the season starts.
What will you guys be watching as camp opens?