Every Friday here at BSB we’re going to Look ahead. We’ll be looking ahead at various aspects of the New York Rangers, this week starting with how the prospects are not being blocked. Not now, not going forward – Its all about them being ready.
I appreciate that there is some negative sentiment and pessimism floating around, that with additions such as Todd White, the Rangers are not sticking to their word by leaving roster spots open for prospects. I can see why people would be concerned but let’s be honest here; as it currently stands (yes, it may – hopefully – change by the end of camp) how many forward prospects are ready to make a legitimate impact at the NHL level?
Who can truly say Derek Stepan, Ethan Werek, but especially Evgeny Grachev wouldn’t be better served with major minutes in either the minors or in junior? Would Stepan’s development not be stunted if he was receiving between 7-10 minutes per night in NY as opposed to 16-18 mins in Hartford? Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, Ryan Borque and Roman Horak are all atleast a year away, Christian Thomas and Andrew Yogan more so. Mats Zuccarello-Aasen may also benefit from major minutes in the AHL though that is still to be determined. As it stands, the apparent logjam at forward is ‘only’ a concern for Dale Weise and Dane Byers but specifically Weise is highly thought of by the coaching staff so it can be assumed he’ll atleast get a shot at making it New York. Right now however, none of the ‘blue chip’ forward prospects are in danger of getting lost amongst the forward shuffle in New York.
Things are a little clearer on the blue line. Sort of. Maybe? It looks as though Wade Redden will be waived. The current cap situation dictates it (yay!). That leaves atleast one spot open to open competition. If that’s grabbed by Steve Eminger so be it. If it’s Matt Gilroy, Ryan McDonagh or even Pavel Valentenko even better. There are opportunities on the blue line and quite frankly if Matt Gilroy can’t beat out Steve Eminger he doesn’t deserve a spot. Fans shouldn’t see Eminger as a road block to the prospects. He basically cost the Rangers nothing, has neither a significant commitment from the club or a prohibitive cap hit so he won’t be given a job because of those factors. If Eminger is patrolling the blue line opening night it can be assumed he deserved it ahead of the competition.
McDonagh and co will get their opportunities; it’s up to them to take them. Whether that is the start of the coming season, mid season or next season we’re yet to see. Which brings me to my final point. Within the next 2 years, 16 contracts and $35.27m from the current roster come off the books. That doesn’t include Redden. Of those 16 deals it is safe to assume Prospal won’t be back after 11/12 (at the latest), same goes for Todd White and unless Sather wants a fan revolt Michael Roszival will be gone the latest in two years. Barring a great season it’s hard to imagine Eminger coming back and the same goes for Marty Biron in two years, with the caveat that Chad Johnson develops in Hartford. Brian Boyle seems to be an odd man now let alone when his deal expires in 12 months time…
The point here is that there are plenty of opportunities for the prospects on the horizon. If, during this time, Sather then fills the vacating roster spots despite the prospects truly being ready then by all means let him have it, but until prospects X, Y and Z are banging the door down with their play then it’s hard to moan – just yet. Why rush a prospect into a position just because he’s a prospect? How did that pan out for Jamie Lundmark and Manny Malhotra? By the way, a 12 goal season (Mr Grachev) is not banging the door down.