One question that has been brought up a lot recently is who the Rangers will waive or return to Hartford when Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin return to the lineup. Cally is aiming for a Monday return in LA, while Hagelin is currently on LTIR and will miss –at a minimum– the first ten games of the season. The two rookies on the roster, Jesper Fast (RW) and J.T. Miller (LW) appear to be the placeholders for Cally and Hags.
Considering the Captain will only miss one game, it is almost a sure-fire bet that Fast will be returned to Hartford once Cally is good to go. As good as Fast has been in the preseason, big minutes are more important to his development than remaining with the big club. Cally will slide into Fast’s spot in the lineup, maybe causing a bit of a shakeup of the lines on his return. After that, the left wings have another handful of games as an extended tryout to remain with the club when Hagelin returns.
The most obvious candidate to be cut is Miller, who does not require waivers to be sent to the AHL. However, Miller has a nice mix of speed, skill, and grit that this lineup may be able to use. If Miller plays well, meaning he has more than two solid games in a row, then the coaching staff will be faced with another tough decision.
The two players that, based on my @ mentions on Twitter and some of the comments in previous posts, most people want to see gone are Taylor Pyatt and Brad Richards. The latter will not be waived unless his play is absolutely atrocious. Considering he was on a 60-point pace last season, let’s put this one to bed. It’s not happening. It was about as likely as Teemu Selanne signing someone outside of Anaheim.
That leaves lonely Pyatt. He has been a bit of a whipping boy around here, and that may be a little unfair now. Pyatt wasn’t really meant for an intensive skating John Tortorella system. His foot speed was exploited quite often, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a useful cog. He has great hockey IQ, and he has a history of being serviceable under AV in Vancouver. Since AV will require a less intense style of play, Pyatt may be able to turn it around.
In the end, I think waiver status plays a role in the decision. There are plenty of teams that could use cheap bottom-six help (Islanders), and Pyatt hitting the waiver wire would just be strengthening New York’s opponents. The one thing we’ve been harping on all offseason is the new and improved depth at forward. Unless Miller forces the Rangers brass to keep him, there’s no reason to really tinker with that depth.