As expected, the Rangers have not sent a qualifying offer to injured defenseman Michael Sauer. The other four key RFAs (Ryan McDonah, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin) all received QO’s, in addition to the newly acquired Justin Falk. To re-hash the QO amounts:
- Ryan McDonagh: $826,875
- Derek Stepan: $826,875
- Carl Hagelin: $660,000
- Mats Zuccarello: $735,000
- Justin Falk: $866,250
By offering the others QO’s, the Rangers retain their rights, and qualify for draft pick compensation should they lose anyone to an offer sheet. Of these players, only Derek Stepan is not eligible for arbitration, and only Falk is likely to sign without a significant raise. By not qualifying Sauer, he becomes a UFA.
In the AHL, only Brandon Mashinter was provided with a qualifying offer. Jyri Niemi and Nick Palmieri were not qualified, making them UFAs.
We may have seen the last of Michael Sauer in the NHL (Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE).
Michael Sauer hasn’t played a game for the Rangers since taking a clean Dion Phaneuf hit along the boards in December of last season. His absence had left the Rangers with a huge hole on the blue line until the recent acquisition of John Moore, but still leaves a physical hole that has yet to be filled. Sauer’s cap hit last season was $1.25 million, which is the same number as his qualifying offer as the defenseman enters restricted free agency.
By offering Sauer his $1.25 million QO, the Rangers retain his rights for at least the next season. They will also give themselves the opportunity to receive RFA draft pick compensation should a team sign Sauer to an offer sheet. While this is probably painful to hear, Sauer’s playing career is likely over. The team has all but said that they do not believe he will play with the Rangers –or in the NHL– again. It is truly unfortunate. But for that small chance he does play, the Rangers would be taking a risk in keeping Sauer on board.
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There has a lot of talk about Marian Gaborik and his shoulder, but John Tortorella put all concerns to bed today. Per Steve Zipay, Torts stated that Gaborik is ready to go, and will not miss any of training camp or opening night. Gaborik has been cleared medically for about a month now. This is one area where the lockout benefited the Rangers. A healthy Gaborik gives the Rangers another 40-goal threat in the lineup.
Unfortunately, those who are expecting Michael Sauer back soon are not going to be happy. Word went across Twitter yesterday (sorry, I don’t have an exact link, if someone could provide it would be great) that the young defenseman is not going to be ready for opening night, and likely will not be ready this season. Sauer has been out with post-concussion syndrome for over a year. Sauer suffered the injury following a clean Dion Phaneuf hit, where Sauer’s head hit the boards awkwardly.
During John Tortorella’s Dog Walk yesterday morning, there was a special Q and A session with the coaching staff. One of the major questions was about the status of defenseman Michael Sauer, to which Torts responded the following:
”I don’t think you’ll see Michael. Michael hasn’t responded that well—I’ll be quite honest—I do not think you’ll see him at the beginning of the season.”
Obviously this has a negative impact on the Rangers plan for the blue line. With Sauer, the Rangers blue line is one of –if not the– best in the league. Without him, they are relying on the development of Stu Bickel into what Sauer was. Plausible, but not ideal. This is something Torts again acknowledged when addressing this question:
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Despite enduring a wretched summer, the Philadelphia Flyers manage to inconvenience the Rangers. On top of all their bad news the Flyers have had this off season came the recent announcement that veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja would miss at least the start of the next season, assuming it starts on time.
How does this affect the Rangers? Now, more than ever the Flyers will be looking to add defensive help to their roster. Ideally the Flyers are looking for an impact player, something that the Rangers aren’t desperate for, but the Flyers – given the scarcity of talent available – might have to be content with adding depth and a veteran to plug a whole, short term. In short, the Flyers are likely to compete with the Rangers for any and every viable blueliner over the next few weeks and months.
The Rangers top four is set, and ideally Mike Sauer and Anton Stralman will round out the blueline giving the Rangers enviable depth. However, with Mike Del Zotto’s contract situation, Sauer’s ongoing health concerns, injuries to kids like Dylan McIlrath and the lack of trust John Tortorella appears to have with Stu Bickel, competition promises to be minimal right now on the blueline come camp time.
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Recent reports from radio color commentator Dave Maloney and from Jess Rubenstein at The Prospect Park that Michael Sauer has made “tremendous progress” have added to what has been a spectacular late-July for the New York Rangers.
Though Tim Erixon was a necessary piece to acquire Rick Nash, trading him left the Blueshirts woefully thin on the blueline. The top-four of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto rates among the best in the league, but after them New York was left with only Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel.
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As was the case seven years ago, the NHL owners and players are very far apart heading into the final months of labor negotiations prior to the scheduled open of the 2012-2013 season. If there aren’t some serious compromises by both sides, it’s unlikely that the season will start on time.
While that’s an unpleasant thought for Rangers fans, it also might be a good thing for the team’s fortunes next season, assuming it is held in a shortened fashion.
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The conversations this summer have mainly focused on the Rangers forwards. With three forwards departing, three (four if you include the AHL-bound Michael Haley) coming on board, and the never-ending discussions about Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin, and Shane Doan, it’s easy to see why the focus is on scoring and depth.
However some of the biggest concerns during the postseason were about the depth on defense. Stu Bickel was barely playing, and the five other defensemen were struggling to keep their legs under them while playing shorthanded throughout the playoffs. The Rangers need depth or growth. With Michael Sauer out, and no major signings pending, the answers appear to have to come from within.
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Interesting debate on Twitter the other night: who would you rather have: Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique or Chris Kreider? I think I’d take Henrique, but the Twitterverse seemed split between Landeskog and Kreider. I may have a slightly biased audience…
This offseason was wacky even before it officially began. Prior to the Kings victory on Monday: Nicklas Lidstrom retired, Tim Thomas decided to take a hiatus, Edmonton shockingly won the draft lottery (again) and Marian Gaborik was lost for six months.
It would be just like Detroit to replace Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski (a year later) with Ryan Suter, Justin Schultz and Brendan Smith. That franchise reloads better than anyone.
It seems like many have soured on Derek Stepan after he failed to break out this season and was again a no-show in the playoffs. It’s perhaps a little unfair to expect a kid to handle such a heavy offensive burden at the tender age of 21, but that’s the pressure Stepan faces in New York. I still fully expect Stepan to blossom into a consistent 50-to-60-point player though.
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It’s amazing how quickly someone becomes an afterthought in this league. When Michael Sauer went down with his concussion, it seemed the world had ended. Marc Staal was still out, Sauer was out, and in the following week Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger would both suffer injuries. The Rangers were forced to rely on unknown Stu Bickel to play regular minutes to fill out the blue line. Bickel impressed and the rest, as they say, is history.
But it’s not history. Fast forward five months and we have the playoffs, where Bickel is still dressing in almost every game for the Rangers. But the problem is that he rarely cracks five minutes of ice time per game, even when games head into overtime or triple overtime. For all intents and purposes, the Rangers are playing with five defensemen.
When Bickel does get on the ice, he is often caught out of position, his inexperience and lack of foot speed exploited by more experienced and skilled playoff competitors. Stephen Gionta’s goal on Wednesday night was evidence of a player that is still developing and learning the position at the NHL level. Thus, coach John Tortorella is forced to play his more experienced players and sit Bickel. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves the Rangers with five defensemen.
In the playoffs, depth becomes the most important factor. Players grow tired –both physically and mentally– and need more time to recover. With just five defensemen, the Rangers don’t have that luxury. And it makes you wonder: Would they be in this position if Mike Sauer was in the lineup?
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