Tough Decisions Looming When Drury Returns

For all intents and purposes, Rangers captain Chris Drury has missed the entire season to date with a broken finger. The news came last week that Drury’s return is going to be delayed until at least next week because he is still having trouble gripping a stick. Drury has spent the entire season on long term injured reserve, and thus the Rangers have had some cushion in the salary cap to keep 13 (and sometimes 14) forwards and 7 defensemen with the club. That changes when Drury returns, as he will need to be activated from LTIR, and that cushion disappears.

When that cushion disappears, it is all but a certainty that Todd White will be sent to the Connecticut Whale. White has been waived twice thus far this year, and will likely be waived again in the coming days, as his 30 day window has expired since the last time he was waived. White’s cap hit of $2.375 million clears enough room for the Rangers to get back under the cap when Drury’s $7.05 million cap hit is re-activated. It shouldn’t be a surprise that White will be sent to Hartford, considering the dual waiving and his inability to not only crack the lineup, but remain in the lineup for a consistent period of time.

The demotion of White is the easy decision for the Rangers. The tough decision is deciding who will replace White in the press box once Drury returns. There are a few candidates for the healthy scratch, and there are legitimate reasons for scratching each of them:

  • Derek Boogaard: The Rangers enforcer isn’t exactly the best skater in the world, and he doesn’t bring much to the table other than the intimidation factor. Considering the upcoming schedule against some very skilled teams, it is likely that Boogaard will be scratched for a handful of those games.
  • Alex Frolov: Frolov is doing his best Chris Higgins impression this year. It’s not that he’s been bad, he just can’t seem to score. He has been effective at bringing the puck into the offensive zone, but he always winds up behind the net trying a wrap around. Maybe a trip to the press box for a game or two will remind him to shoot the puck before he gets behind the net.
  • Erik Christensen: Naturally, I’m going to mention Christensen here. Christensen may have 11 points, but 5 of them have come in two games against terrible teams (Edmonton, Islanders). He has just 6 points in the other 26 games he has played this year, and this is with significant time on the top line with Marian Gaborik. Christensen is very skilled, but skilled doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t scoring. The difference between him and Frolov is that Frolov at least plays decent defense.
  • Ruslan Fedotenko: Fedotenko is in the middle of an eight game scoreless drought after netting five points in his previous three games. Fedotenko is another one of those players who does other things to make up for his lack of production, but he does have 11 points this year while playing predominantly on the third line. A game or two as a scratch might wake him up a little bit.
  • Derek Stepan: This one is a long shot, but Stepan could wind up playing in Connecticut as well if Rangers brass decides to go with the old adage of salary over performance. Stepan is on this list because the Rangers history with playing salary over those deserving isn’t pretty. This one is very unlikely, but it’s worth mentioning.

So that I’m not leaving you guys to guess on your own, I think Drury will be re-inserted as a permanent figure in the lineup, and Boogaard and Christensen will be rotating as the healthy scratch. Christensen provides some extra offensive punch against the skilled teams, while Boogaard will definitely be a physical force against teams like the Flyers.

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  • Why not just rotate EC, Feds and Frolov depending on their play. I don’t think Feds and Frolov have been as bad as their stats indicate but there’s nothing wrong with trying to spark them. EC’s greatest value is in shootouts but we haven’t seen many this year so rotating Boogard and EC isn’t a bad idea. But at the very least send down White – I don’t understand why he is still on the roster at that cap hit.

    • If Frolov gets scratched, he’s going to ask for a trade. He already told a Russian reporter that he had a ‘private’ discussion with Torts about his playing time.

      • He really hasn’t been all that bad but the likelihood of him being re-signed at this point is remote. If we could get a 2nd round pick I would move him and call up either MZA or Weise.

  • “The difference between him and Frolov is that Frolov at least plays decent defense.”

    EC DGVT: 0.8
    Frolov DGVT: 0.7

    Demote Stepan so he can play top line minutes at Hartford.

    Dubinsky – Boyle – Gaborik
    Avery – Christensen – Callahan
    Prust – Anisimov – Fedetenko
    Frolov – Drury – Boogaard

    Staal – Girardi
    Rozsival – Gilroy
    MDZ – Sauer

    Eminger is replacement level. He’s useless offensively and play just above average defense. He evens himself out to being worth just as much as the next guy in Hartford. Gilroy has skill and has provided more value than Eminger in fewer games. MDZ just isn’t getting it done offensively. I’d look to trade him while he still has some hype value, possibly package him for a #1 C or an offensive minded D-man that is willing to take shots.

    • If you’re basing things strictly on GVT, then Boogaard has no place in the lineup.

      Which is why you don’t base lineups based on GVT, nor do you build lines that way.

      I like Gilroy, but the coaching staff is going to take Eminger’s physical play first, and they’re also sure not going to give Gilroy top 4 minutes, or move Rozsival to the LD slot.

      • Well considering that I would send Stepan down to Hartford and didn’t mention a call up there wouldn’t be anyone left to take the final winger spot, which is why I included Boogaard. If it was up to me, he wouldn’t be on this team. Prust and Avery can provide all the protection this team needs.

        I know what the coaching staff is likely to do regarding the defense (keep Eminger, banish Gilroy to teh bench), but that’s not what I believe they should do.

        • I agree with you about playing Gilroy more, though I would use Eminger against more physical teams. But how can you demote Stepan – he is our best (most consistent) offensive center.

          Prust and Avery are probably enough protection however, I believe that their overall games are better with Boogaard around.

          • I can agree with the Gilroy/Eminger switch off. I’d prefer a rotation of Gilroy, Eminger, Sauer & MDZ for the bottom 3 spots, just to keep them all fresh for the 2nd half.

            I really like Stepan, I just don’t think he’s ready right now. He’s only successful on 38.6% of his faceoffs, which is just terrible for an NHL center. I’d also argue that Boyle has been the best Ranger center so far this year.

            I personally believe Stepan needs to develop with top line minutes, which are only available in Hartford to him at this stage of his career. Of all the recent young guns, I’m higher on Stepan’s future with the team than any of the others (MDZ, Anisimov, etc.)

          • Hartford (and Gernander) can’t be trusted to develop people properly. I believe if Stepan goes down, he’s not going to get top minutes.

            Yes, the faceoffs are a problem, but he’s also currently the 3rd leading scorer on the team (until Gaborik passes him), and Torts describes him as the best playmaking center they have. He deserves very much to stay.

          • So you’re saying Sather hasn’t said that about MZA? Or McDonagh? Or Grachev?

            Because all of them have been on the 3rd/4th line, 3rd pair this year.

          • No doubt that Stepan needs work in the face-off dept but, I have doubts that playing in Hartford really is the right way to develop him. In most cases I’ll agree that players are better off spending a season or two in the minors prior to earning a spot on the big club. In Step’s case however, what is the point in sending him down after he has already shown that he is ready for the NHL. Going back to training camp he earned a spot on the opening night roster from his preseason play so it’s not as if a spot has been handed to him that he hasn’t earned.

            And yes, I would have agree all things considered Boyle has probably been our best center.

  • Gilroy really needs to just be put on the wing. Thats what he grew up playing. His talents would be much better utilized… that or he should be traded so he doesnt waste away here.

    EC and Frolov can both take a seat. Neither one plays with any heart. MDZ needs to spend some time in Hartford.

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