The “final” roster was announced yesterday, and to the pleasure of all, there were a lot of new kids on the team taking the place of vets departed (or demoted). Jesper Fast, Anthony Duclair, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes all cracked the roster, giving fans some fresh faces to get excited about as the season approaches.
There are still 15 forwards on the roster though, with Derek Stepan headed to LTIR and Kevin Hayes probably headed to IR. As they return, the Rangers are going to have to make more moves and send people down to the AHL (or, in Duclair’s case, the QMJHL). The opening night roster is clearly not going to be the roster for the entire season.
Ryan Malone is the extra forward at the moment, Martin St. Louis is lining up at center, and despite his strong preseason, there are still some question marks for Duclair. Hayes is another question mark as well. The only two that have really solidified their roles this year are Miller (at 3C) and Fast (at 4RW).
Hayes will be the first one back, and immediately the Rangers will have decisions to make. They can send Hayes to the AHL, which is where I thought he was headed, for some additional seasoning. It’s not a slight against the kid, he had a strong preseason. There just isn’t a spot for him on the roster yet, and there’s no reason to move any of the top-nine to open up a spot.
Stepan’s return will pose some interesting concerns. He will bump MSL back to the off-wing, which moves Rick Nash back to his strong side, and bumps Carl Hagelin down to the third line. Problem is that spot is occupied by Duclair. He is the wild card here.
If Duclair performs well enough to stay, then there’s no reason to move him off the third line. Naturally that’s a big IF, but the possibility still remains. At that point, does Hagelin get bumped to the fourth line? Does Glass sit and Malone get sent to the minors?
There are a lot of questions as the season ramps up. Some may get answered with on-ice performance, some may not. It’s definitely going to be an interesting opening month though.