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Posts tagged: Vinny Prospal

Roster Moves: Five Players Back To Connecticut; Callahan, Prospal Activated.

According to Andrew Gross, the Rangers are going to use the NHL All-Star break as a chance to allow many of the recent recalled players to go back to the Connecticut Whale and continue playing.  Here is what he had to say during his recap of last night’s loss:

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forwards Evgeny Grachev, Brodie Dupont, Chad Kolarik and Kris Newbury will be rejoining Connecticut tomorrow. Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are expected back for the Rangers home game against the Penguins Tuesday but there will likely be some forwards brought back to the NHL club.

This move is the right one for the present and future of all the individual players and the organization.  Players like Del Zotto and Grachev are at a stage where they need to play as many games and minutes as possible.  Both of these players looked better than they did the last time they were up with the Rangers, but there is still significant work ahead for them to be here regularly.  Del Zotto is certainly closer than Grachev to reaching that marker, but the defense also has significantly less injuries at the moment and all six that are here have clearly outperformed him.

Along with the moves to send these five back to the AHL, the New York Rangers also activated Ryan Callahan and Vinny Prospal from IR.  The news on Callahan is that he is expected to be back for the game against the Penguins, which will be a huge lift to the club.  Dan Girardi is also expected to be back after missing the last two games with a rib injury.

The news on Propsal is less clear as it has seemed to be all season.  The reason for the activation seems to be the Rangers needing a 20th player on the active roster in order to send all five players back to Connecticut and not because he is that close to returning.  The news on Prospal is encouraging, but do not expect him to be in the lineup on Tuesday as many originally surmised from the news he was being activated.

As Gross said, some of these players will likely be back before the team plays its next game on Tuesday against the Penguins, but do not expect them all to return.  If Callahan is the only Rangers forward to return to the lineup after this break than I would expect Newbury to definitely return with the other spot likely going to Kolarik.  I do not see the need to carry an extra young player as a scratch consistently when they can play in the AHL and continue their development.

Any players that are going to be recalled will likely happen either on Sunday or Monday.

This morning Chris took a look what to do with Mats Zuccarello once the injuries end and those players return.

I took a slightly different approach than Chris did in looking at the roster announcements made and how the fact that Zuccarello not being among them said, even if unofficially, Zuke was here to stay.

Vinny Prospal Does Not Sound Optimistic About Return

At tonight’s Rangers’ fan forum event at MSG for season ticket holders per Scotty Hockey Vinny Prospal told the crowd that he is unsure if he will ever play again.

Obviously he did not say that he is done for sure or anything along those lines, but the idea that he might not come back should not be shocking given the struggles Vinny has had in rehabbing his injured knee.  The loss of Prospal for the season if it does eventually happen would be a hard blow for the Rangers, but one has to figure they have been counting on a return from last season’s second leading scorer less and less as the season has progressed.  I took the trade for Wojtek Wolski last week as a sign that Vinny was unlikely to make it back this year and they were looking for a new player to spark Marian Gaborik.  Obviously regardless of Prospal in the equation you take the trade of Rozsival for Wolski, but I would surmise that it played a factor in the move.

Let’s hope that Vinny gets back, but know that this team is where it is right now without him having hit the ice this year, so they can continue without him if the need arises.

Three “Trades” The Rangers Will Make

As the trade deadline grows nearer, there is discussion amongst fans about whether now is the time to buy for a Cup run. I posed that question and got some yes’s, but mostly no’s in response to selling off some youth for some key parts that may be necessary for a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Most are hesitant to expunge the youthful core for a veteran filling a role for a few months, and with good reason. The Rangers have great chemistry and have been showing all year that they may not be the most skilled, but they will out-work opponents for wins. That said, there are three “trades” the Rangers will make between now and the deadline that will bolster the Rangers for the end of the season and post season.

  • The Rangers will trade absolutely no one for a 30-goal scorer and game changer after the All-Star break. Marian Gaborik’s slump won’t last forever. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is till playing hurt with lingering groin issues. He is not playing in this year’s All-Star game, which will give him ample time to rest up and heal for the stretch run. That week off, with the recent addition of Wojtek Wolski (and the possible addition of Vinny Prospal, see below), should help bring Gaborik’s best game out, which the Rangers need.
  • The Rangers will trade Dale Weise and/or Kris Newbury for Ryan Callahan. Callahan has resumed skating, albeit without a stick, and is aiming for a return after the All-Star break. This will likely push one or both of Weise and Newbury off the roster. There will be some line combination issues when Callahan returns, but regardless, the team will be significantly deeper with Callahan back in the mix and getting regular ice time.
  • The Rangers will (may) trade an underachieving forward (if there are any left) for Vinny Prospal (assuming he’s healthy). This one may or may not happen, and the most likely candidate to go will be Sean Avery. However, Prospal is another one of those veteran presences that may help Gaborik find his game. This is the “trade” least likely to happen, but may have a significant effect on the Rangers most important scorer.

Ok, I admit, I cheated here. These aren’t really trades in the traditional sense, but if you expand your mind (legally) a bit, these are non-traditional trades. Regardless, these are significant roster moves that are going to happen that will greatly bolster the Rangers scoring and forward depth. Of course, these do not rule out the traditional trades that may or may not occur. Should Glen Sather stand pat at the deadline, the team will still improve with some of the players returning from injury. I apologize if you expected legitimate trade rumors and speculation.

How Long Will Zuccarello Be On Broadway?

For the first few games, while finding his feet, the little Norwegian flashed his ability but failed to gain much consistency in a Rangers side struggling for offense. Last night, the diminutive winger came up big with a great assist and a beautiful shot for the game winning goal. If there was a welcome to the NHL moment for the winger that clutch goal was it. However, realistically how long will Zuccarello’s initial stay in New York last?

In part it is up to him, by playing so well Zuccarello can refuse to be taken out of the line up but he may, for this season at least, be a victim of numbers and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While he has shown he will eventually be a good NHL player for the Rangers it can’t be doubted he still has developing to do and the best place for that to happen is in the AHL. Why? Because Zuccarello’s style – and best interests – doesn’t suit 6 minutes a game on the fourth line as in a few weeks his spot may be taken by a combination of Ryan Callahan, Vinny Prospal and even Erik Christensen. While he has impressed, don’t expect him to block vice captain Prospal’s return and certainly not that of Ryan Callahan. Add to that, current top 6 incumbents Dubinsky, Stepan, Gaborik, Anisimov and even when discounting the likes of Avery and Frolov for top 6 minutes and there’s still not enough to go around. Again, this is not a bad thing but a reflection of the ever growing depth the Rangers are enjoying.

Barring an absolute tear of Calder trophy proportions Zuccarello isn’t here for the duration, this year. This audition (of sorts) prior to returning to Connecticut will benefit everyone; himself, the Rangers and the Whale. The small winger will go back to the AHL accustomed to higher levels of play and should dominate the AHL even more than he had begun to do prior to his call up. All this bodes well for a very good developmental season for the winger (hopefully) giving the Rangers a ready-made top 6, skilled winger for next year who requires little to no acclimatisation period. A win-win for all concerned

Zuccarello’s performances will also have a huge impact on current roster players, particularly Frolov, Prospal and to a lesser extent Christensen. While EC is more threatened by the development of the young centers even he could be a victim of simple maths – too many forwards – while Prospal (despite being a leader on the team and a respected veteran) and Frolov will need unbelievable second halves to the season to convince management to bring them back and even that may not be enough. So the play of Zuccarello, while right now to be enjoyed, is more likely to be beneficial long term rather than for this season and that isn’t a bad thing. Don’t be sad if he doesn’t stay this year, look forward to the time when the Hobbit becomes a mainstay on Broadway.

Drury Back, Decisions Ahead

Although he still has plenty (potentially) to give to the Rangers, with the news of Chris Drury’s pending return – a welcome return at that – Erik Christensen is starring down the barrel of a healthy scratch. Luckily for him, Derek Boogaard doesn’t like to stay healthy. It was telling that during the Rangers demolition of the Caps Christensen only received roughly 11 minutes of ice time even though the game was already won entering the 3rd period. When a game is won early on it’s often a chance for a coach to rest his core players, try and get struggling players going with extended playing time and we saw that to an extent as Frolov got good PP minutes and even Todd White got power play time. Unfortunately for EC, he still didn’t get a ton of minutes during this game.

Drury’s return is a welcome for everyone but Christensen and White, although even more players will be concerned when Vinnie Prospal gets back later this month. Drury is an excellent face off guy, a lead by example type and will naturally help the penalty kill and while his offensive skills are clearly diminished from his Buffalo days he can still be counted on to add skill to the bottom 6 or chip in on a scoring line to some degree. Drury is this team’s undoubted leader – as indicated by Torts – and he’ll play regardless. How much he plays depends on the next game or two as while he looks to get game fitness a lot will depend on the chemistry and success of other lines. The next few games are indeed very important to Drury’s season. We should know quickly where Tortorella wants to use him and it will be key for Drury to show that he can be more than a checking forward who leads the penalty kill. How quickly he gets back up to speed may define Drury’s season.

The next two games are critical for Erik Christensen and arguably his future as a Ranger and perhaps even as an NHL’er. It’s very likely that Todd White will be the first casualty but once Boogaard (and then Prospal) are available other bodies will need to be sacrificed. Looking around the roster the obvious next candidate is EC. Many players such as Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle have taken advantage of the early season absences of key forwards and have made themselves invaluable to the Blueshirt cause. In fact, Brandon Prust may have been the Rangers best forward through November and early December such has been his impact all over the ice. All of this brings us back to EC and his key run of upcoming games. The game against the Pens and the game against the Coyotes may be his last chances to convince as the Rangers will likely go with the most physical side at their disposal for the Flyers game thereafter. Should EC be scratched he need look no further than Matt Gilroy to see how hard it is to get back into the team on a regular basis, even though Gilroy’s play isn’t deserving of a seat in the press box.

With all this being considered EC’s position needs to be assessed. He has obvious ability and flashes it occasionally, to the point where he may be tempting as trade bait, especially when you consider his contract is relatively small. With his ability to play wing and center as well as his talent in the skills competition EC may in fact be playing the next few games as an audition such is his tenuous position on the roster. As Torts indicated, the kids are safe (as they should be) so EC clearly is in a numbers game that looks like one he cannot win. All that makes the next two games huge for Christensen and not just Chris Drury.

White/Kennedy Clear Waivers; Drury/Prospal On IR

When the Rangers waived centers Todd White and Tim Kennedy yesterday, many assumed that one or both would be claimed, especially Kennedy, who comes very cheap. However, both cleared waivers. Since both have cleared waivers, their salaries ($2.375 for White, $550,000 for Kennedy) are removed from the Rangers cap. The Rangers have 30 days to assign them to the AHL, or else their salaries will be added back to the cap, and they will both need to clear waivers again.

As expected, the Rangers have placed centers Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury on injured reserve. Their salaries will remain on the books, but the Rangers will be allowed to go over the salary cap ceiling, if necessary, by their combined salaries. The total amount the Rangers are allowed to be over the cap is the prorated amount of both players salaries for the number of days spent on IR. With two of the three on ice leaders out, it’s going to be interesting to see who gets the temporary A’s.

Derek Stepan won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg award, as voted on by the Rangers press, for the top rookie in camp. This was probably the easiest vote for the award in history.

Prospal Out Provides Opportunity

UPDATE: this post was published prior to seeing Tim Kennedy and Todd White placed on waivers. One or both may clear waivers and stick with the team like Aaron Voros did in the past but this clearly isn’t a good situation for the two forwards.  We’ll look at other players who will get opportunities to impress at a later date. If White and Kennedy do leave the roster it means more ice time to go round in the short term. Stay tuned….

Vinny Prospal being injured for a few weeks provides an intriguing opportunity for several Rangers players to begin the season. It firmly places the pressure even more so on the first line, however that should line up. John Tortorella had openly stated his preference was to pair Frolov and Gaborik together and did so to great effect during the pre season. With Prospal out injured the pair and their center will be counted on even more as Prospal’s experience, secondary scoring and enthusiasm will be sorely missed. So what players comes into focus with Prospal (and Drury) out to begin the year?

Brandon Dubinsky

Much has been written about Dubinsky entering a cross-road like season in his career. He needs to take it to the next level, find consistency and become the player most Rangers fans believe he can be. Quite simply he needs to fulfil the promise he has teased the Rangers faithful with. With leaders such as Drury and Prospal out the offensive depth will be tested even more and Dubinsky has a chance to go out to begin the year and make himself invaluable. At this point of his career Dubinsky is no longer immune to being moved. Should he continue his up-down career form and the Rangers are deadline buyers Dubi will know, he and his expiring contract will be a potential trade chip. Dubi needs to start the year well, for both his own and the teams sake.

Todd White

Has anyone ever been on a more public audition? White will know his 2.3m salary, age and lack of pre season form puts him firmly in line to be a prime cut candidate when Drury and Prospal come back. He knows he needs a fast start to force his stay on the roster beyond the injury returnees or at worst make sure he’s a viable trade asset and not another NHL veteran banished to the AHL. White has talent and can deliver offensively but hasn’t shown it yet in his brief exhibition time with the Rangers. White could appear on any line so is a real X factor during the first few weeks.

Alex Frolov

Frolov, if you place any importance on pre season form, has started impressively as a Ranger. Scorer of goals, provider of goals, solid defensive play and displaying instant chemistry on the top line; Frolov has almost done it all. Now, when the games count and given the injuries Frolov goes from low risk free agent to must-succeed acquisition. Everyone knows Gaborik can’t do it all alone and with Prospal out Gabby needs a running mate. Frolov’s offense will be crucial to how the Rangers start the year and a lot of focus will be on the Russian. Will Frolov show the Kings they were wrong to let him go? The reasons stand to benefit massively should Frolov be as motivated as he seems.

Tim Kennedy

Kennedy is another player who should be motivated to prove his former employer wrong but like Todd White is another who is a bit of an X factor. Kennedy can play both center and wing so can potentially be a direct fill-in for either Prospal or Drury on the 2nd or 3rd lines. Kennedy has some offensive upside, is elusive and can skate well and has provided some occasional spark during pre season while never really convincing. While there won’t be the pressure of expectancy on a player who is playing for minimal cap space, Kennedy will still be expected to prove he’s worth his place on the roster given popular roster candidates such as Dale Weise and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen were sent down to accommodate him.

The Rangers have a lot of players facing various types of pressure. How the new recruits, underperforming returnees and ‘core’ players cope with expectation early on may dictate the Rangers season. A hot start can be crucial to a playoff berth, especially given the tight nature of the Eastern conference. It should be interesting to follow the individual fortunes of many Rangers this season.

Prospal May Require Surgery

As per Larry Brooks, the Vinny Prospal injury situation may be more severe than initially predicted. Prospal, who has been feeling a level of soreness in his right knee all summer, did not play in a single preseason game. He was recently advised to spend two weeks off his the ice. Unfortunately, it looks like there will be little cause for optimism following Prospal’s two week hiatus. It is unlikely that Prospal will return to skating, as initially planned, following those two weeks:

Meanwhile, a well-placed source has told The Post that there’s little reason for optimism that the condition of Vinny Prospal’s right knee will improve following his enforced two-week rest period. Indeed, we’re told it would be no surprise at all should the 35-year-old require surgery that would likely end his season, if not his career.

Of course, that quote doesn’t necessarily say that Prospal is going to need surgery, but it does say that it is unlikely Prospal will see any improvement following his two week break. Should there be little or no improvement, there are few options left for Prospal, who at 35 years old doesn’t heal as quickly. He can either wait it out longer, which may or may not work, or he can have surgery, which will end his season. Either way, if Prospal’s knee doesn’t heal up after these two weeks, and signs point to this situation occurring, then the Rangers will be without their alternate captain for an indefinite amount of time.

Prospal Hurt, Out At Least Two Weeks

Vinny Prospal won’t be dressing for the Rangers anytime soon. The alternate captain, and second leading scorer from last season, was a late scratch in last night’s game against Ottawa, and hasn’t played in a single preseason game this year. That trend will continue into the regular season, as Prospal has been advised to rest the knee for two weeks before skating again. It is extremely likely that Prospal will be out longer than those two weeks, as he will have to get back into game shape before dressing during the regular season. With Prospal out, the Rangers are now without two of their top three centers and on ice leaders to start the season.

But with bad news, there is a silver lining. With both Prospal and Drury starting the season on injured reserve, the Rangers will be able to keep all but one forward from camp until the two centers return. This means that when the Rangers make their final cuts on Sunday, it is extremely likely that Derek Stepan will remain in Ranger blue for the time being. Essentially, the rookie center has been given an extended tryout while Drury and Prospal remain on IR.

With the Rangers likely to carry 14 forwards to start the season, the most likely cut will be Todd White, due to salary, age, and relatively average performance during the regular season. This of course means that Ruslan Fedotenko will likely be offered a short term deal, after a very impressive preseason. These two injuries also bode well for Brian Boyle and Tim Kennedy, who have also had good preseasons. Natually, when Drury and Prospal return, there will be two more cuts made. Whether Stepan falls victim to the numbers game, we don’t know. However, he has definitely made the decision a difficult one for the coaching staff.

Rangers Sign Derek Boogaard, Martin Biron, Erik Christensen, Vinny Prospal on Day One

Day One of free agency started off with a bang for the Rangers, as they inked a backup goalie in Martin Biron to a two year deal worth $875,000 per year, and re-signed center Erik Christen to a two-year deal worth $975,000 per year. In Biron, the Rangers get a capable backup goaltender that can potentially start 20 games next season. If the Rangers manage to get capable backup goaltending from Biron for the two years, consider this to be a bargain. This, of course, is a huge IF. In Christensen, the Rangers get a top-12 forward who, if he plays well enough to earn first line time, is an extreme bargain. If not, he’s just a cheap second or third line guy. There is nothing wrong with that.

It was later in the day, around 4pm, when things in Rangerland got intense. After letting Jody Shelley go to the Flyers at $1.1 million over three years (which is almost double his salary), the Rangers signed tough-guy and monster Derek Boogaard to a ridiculous contract of 4 years at $1.65 million per year. On the surface, this deal looks absurd. But, if you dive deeper, Boogaard made $1.2 million last year, so this is a modest raise. The dollar amount per year really shouldn’t irk anyone. That length though is, well, horrible. I’m not in love with this signing, but it’s not the end of the world that Rangers fans are making it out to be. It’s not the worst signing in Rangers history, and I think that as long as people realize that it’s not his fault that Sather offered him four years, we will be OK with what he brings to the table.

In one of the last moves of the day, the Rangers re-signed Vinny Prospal to a 1 year deal worth $1 million base, with potential for $1.1 million in bonuses. These bonuses will be easily attained, and applied to next year’s salary cap. This was a fantastic deal by Sather, and kind of makes up for the questionable signing of Boogaard. The Rangers know what they get with Prospal. He’s this year’s version of Brendan Shanahan, except more tan.