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What to do with Emerson Etem?

Last night in Montreal, Emerson Etem made his New York Rangers debut. It was rather unceremonious, as he played a grand total of 7:09 on fourth line duty, and was buried for 86% DZ starts. Not exactly the ideal deployment of a guy who is lauded for his offensive skillset.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of Etem’s game. I will be the first one to admit that he is a tremendously gifted offensive player. He has great hands, shot and skating agility. Decision-making, effort level and one-dimensional skillset are the critical concerns I have with Etem. The Rangers traded an extremely versatile player in Carl Hagelin for the young winger, and while I am not here to lament the merits of that trade, it does create something of a roster imbalance.

The Rangers do have the depth upfront to cover the loss of Hagelin’s defensive contributions. What throws a wrench into things is where to fit Etem into the lineup that puts him into a position to succeed. His skillset is really far more suited to a top-nine role than it is to a defensive one, and there really isn’t much room to accommodate him there. Currently, the top-nine forwards consist of Nash, Brassard, Zuccarello, Kreider, Stepan, Miller, Hayes, Lindberg and Stalberg. Is anyone really looking to displace any of those guys for Etem?

Having him watch from the press box doesn’t really do much good either. Usually, that 13th forward is more of a depth/defensive player. When a top-nine guy goes down, the pecking order is bumped up and the 13th forward slots in on the 4th line. If Etem is the last forward, depending on who gets injured, it may not be as seamless a transition into the lineup.

Etem also cannot go to the minors without passing through waivers. He is currently only making $850k, so the chances of someone with his talent level clearing are slim to none. A trade could make some sense, but we are really very early in the year to be talking about significant roster moves.

At this point, I’m not entirely sure what the best course of action for Etem is, but I know that burying him on the fourth line is not the answer. Maybe start a rotation amongst Etem, Miller and Stalberg? I don’t like that idea either.

Really, it comes down to how the Rangers view Etem’s long-term place in the organization. The club presumably has another exceedingly talented winger in Pavel Buchnevich coming over next season, which squeezes available scoring spots further. Personally, I feel he is a square peg in a round hole for this roster and a trade may be the best thing. For now, I would keep him for injury replacement purposes and try to rotate him in against teams vulnerable on the blue line. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but what’s happening right now makes no sense.

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  • The 4the line had a great shift in the 1st where they had Montreal pinned below the hash marks for a minute solid, Etem making some nice moves.

    • I agree – that was a great shift. I thought Etem played decent, with a couple questionable turnovers at the offensive blueline that were not entirely his fault.

      Etem simply is not a fourth line player. I think he will be best served as a 13F who will fill in for a top 9 player if there is an injury (he is a very solid replacement option to have). But aside from that, I agree with the write-up…it does not seem there is a spot for this kid on the roster right now. Maybe explore trade options. Otherwise, keep him in the press box and use him to replace players that are injured or slumping.

      • Unfortunately, no teams want an Etem this time of year. we probably have to sit on him for a while.

        • Because he’s on an expiring contract, he pro rates over the season so teams near the cap have to wait on him.

        • Etem has no significant upside because he was raised in California where the surf trumps the ice…he has never demonstrated the desire to be a good player and goes through short spurts of effort, but has no Dom Moore hockey sense or instincts…if I am wrong–great.
          It was always a bad trade and we can talk salary cap, but there are creative ways to hang on to players like Hagelin or at least get more than a token player back….can’t wait ’till we can dump Boyle and Yandel has been a disappointment…I also do not think McIlrath is NHL skater, but would like to give him a 10 game run to see what we have

  • Before we all give up on him, I remember a very good article here on BSB predicting Etem’s very slow adjustment to this team…

    It’s way too early to tell, but like you said, it won’t be easy for him to crack that 3rd line. Etem really is not a 4th line type of player. I’m not sure how he could of benefitted from playing in that spot last night.

  • While it may take time for Etem to adjust, he now has Glass and Fast in front of him. Fast may be a better defensive player than he and Glass and compromising photos of AV. How he crack the lineup with those two ahead of him is anyone’s guess.

  • Time will tell, I don’t think Etem gets moved. He’s too cheap and would be the best player to enter the lineup for some scoring punch if someone went down up front. Him playing a few games here and there as he adjusts may not only be good for him but for the team too.

    He’ll be due for a new contract next season and the less he plays the less money he’ll make. Stalberg and Stoll are on 1 year deal and likely hit the market next season. Moore is on the last year of his as well so who knows what happens there. So forward spots will open up next season. Keep 1 of the 3 and let Etem and Buchenvich talk spots in the top 9? The Rangers also have Yandle and Kreider/Miller/Hayes to resign and in Yandle’s case think about resigning. A guy like Etem with a low contract number and a boat load of potential is an asset to a team without a lot of cap space.

    Unless someone blow you out of the water with an offer.

  • He was mainly at fault for the 1st goal last night…he showed lack of hockey sense not clearing the zone….I have seen enough of him to say trade him for a pick….Let him get a fresh start somewhere he can play minutes, that is not on this club

  • “Currently, the top-nine forwards consist of Nash, Brassard, Zuccarello, Kreider, Stepan, Miller, Hayes, Lindberg and Stalberg. Is anyone really looking to displace any of those guys for Etem?”

    – At this point, no, but let’s see how this thing plays out. It may be that Lindberg is a better fit on the 4th with Moore and Fast, leaving Hayes to center Etem and Stalberg. After the quick start to Lindberg’s NHL career, this is clearly not the time, but over the course of a season, we may have a better idea where each player fits best.

    If Lindberg proves that he’s a mainstay on that line, well then, Etem may not really have a role.

    • agree………..

      Again, everyone wants to rid the team of this kid based on 7 minutes of play, come on folks. Hayes, with Kreider and Step may not work at all, move Miller up to that line, Hayes back to 3-C, with Etem, playing along with Stralberg, and or Lindberg on the wing for a while, to see if he can be productive????????????????????

  • If he’s not going to play send him to the ‘Pack, let him get some confidence and real playing time then bring him back in a month.

    Players needs to play with confidence…there’s not a lot of that going on with the 4th line right now (except for Moore).

    AV wants 2 of Glass, Fast, Stoll and Etem to breakout, so far not so good.

    • Yeah Joe but I think the problem is if he goes to the minors he has to pass through waivers, and the thinking in the organization is that some other team would snap him up. A rebuilding team like NJ that is looking to add youth at low cost. We don’t think he would make it to Hartford, probably be kidnapped somewhere on the Merritt Parkway.

      I think we just leave him as the 13f for now. Regards- orange

  • It’s not a bad rotation right now. I think AV is seeing who he can put together. Where are the pockets of chemistry.

    If this guy goes down what happens. He’s a project, we all knew it. If he stinks up the joint enough no one will take him off waivers.

  • Why put Etem on the fourth line for 7 minutes of playing time. AV really drives me crazy sometimes with all his finagaling. Some guys have really played poorly so far so he should put one or two in the press box like he did Zucc a couple of years ago. We know how that worked out. Start with Brassard.

  • There is the possibility that if he’s not playing over the next run of games, you could talk Etem into taking a conditioning assignment for 2 weeks in Hartford.
    Start the 26th of October and he gets 6 games in vs 4 (potential) games over the 14 games with a ton more practice time.

  • Excellent article Justin!

    IMO, your opinion is not unpopular, but on point.

    The Rangers were hoping Etem was gonna be able to do something he hasn’t been able to do with Anaheim………………….. force himself into a top 9 forward role with consistency. This has been the story for the offensively talented Etem since he was a first round selection in 2010. You can only hear, “his offensive skill set is dynamic” for only so long before you start wondering if maybe the problem isn’t the skill but the skull.

    Sometimes the most gifted and talented players inexplicably have difficulties producing on the NHL level. Emerson Etem (from the very small sample size) appears disengaged at times and not interested in playing as hard without the puck as with it. I applaud AV for not forcing him onto the opening night roster simply because of who he was traded for and the high expectations that have been attached to Etem for 5 years and counting.

    In his defense, he has been the victim of playing for 2 deep teams with Stanley Cup expectations in Anaheim and New York. Maybe a move to a Buffalo or a Phoenix or a Carolina would benefit him as he would probably be awarded top 9 minutes on any of those rosters. Until then, unless injury strikes, he is gonna spend a lot of time in the press box. Like Justin pointed out, with the probable arrival of Buchnevich next season, his Ranger road is paved with speed bumps.

    I’m gonna stick with my pre-season prediction and say Etem will not last the season on the Rangers roster.

  • Why would we consider rotating Miller? He is one of our better forwards and in a different category than Etem in terms of quality and performance.

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