August is the worst for hockey fans. There is almost never anything of substance to talk about as we eagerly wait for Rangers hockey. Over the last few days I was wondering what to write about and the only thing that seems to come to mind is the intriguing cap and roster situation that the New York Rangers are in. Even though I am young, I cannot remember the last time that the Rangers would seemingly be walking into a season with over $3 million in cap space with five contract slots open.
With the forward group for next season looking filled and the defense currently having eight guys (including Clendening), I find it hard to believe that the Rangers will be making a signing involving the likes of Jiri Hudler or anyone of that stature. The only moves that I can see coming to the actual roster would be the anticipated Rick Nash trade with nobody knowing what the return can be, or maybe just a PTO to a player like James Wisniewski or Jakub Nakladal, two good right handed defensemen that can be given a shot with our shaky blue line.
In any case, that still gives us 45 contracts (44 after Zborovskiy slides) out of 50 possible slots and I believe those slots can be used the following ways.
Signing those PTOs
I believe it is only proper to discuss this as a possibility in itself even though I just mentioned it. Let’s say one of the two PTOs mentioned above impress in camp, would a defenseman be moved or sent down to make room after signing them? That shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, with Alain Vigneault having an affinity towards having eight defensemen on the roster. If this does happen it does kill two birds with one stone. The Rangers get better defense depth and the Wolf Pack get a veteran leader.
Quadruple A Players
While I did not watch many Hartford games last season, the fans that I spoke to were pretty upset with how the roster looked. There was absolutely no offense, as the veterans signed to bring scoring to the team were either useless or simply not as good as planned. While really bad, this wasn’t terrible because it opened up opportunity for someone like Adam Tambellini and later Boo Nieves to get more ice time.
The Pack needs to help out the young offense with some quality AHL players who can not only play the hard minutes, but help them win some games. A competitive Wolf Pack team is important, as it gives the prospects more meaningful games. It’s better development to have the kids in high pressure situations.
A prolonged season also gives the Rangers more time to potentially evaluate undrafted college players. We all saw how effective Conor Sheary was with the Penguins, and wins in Scranton were tantamount to Pittsburgh’s evaluation of his talent. With the defense down in the AHL fairly set with a mix of prospects and capable AHL vets, signing a few forwards who fit this AAAA mold could be beneficial.
This is my top choice. The 26 year old right handed winger has been known to put up points in the AHL. He is a complete winger that can play a gritty two-way game but also scores some big goals. He has scored at least 50 points in each of the last five years. He also does have some NHL experience, he was that annoying pest on the Flyers that gave the Rangers problems in 2014. Akeson would give the young centers an option at the wing that can actually do something with the puck.
The once a highly touted prospect with the Maple Leafs after college, Frattin is in limbo. The right handed winger was so dynamic in the NCAA that he had high expectations when he turned pro. For the most part he was not bad as a fourth round pick, he has over 100 games in the NHL, but it does seem that he is likely suited to be more of this tweener player.
The former second rounder by Florida was getting a lot of scouts excited because of his large frame and good skating, alas at 25 years old he doesn’t seem like he will put it together in the NHL. He is still a quality point producer down in the AHL and at this point that would be all the Pack would need from him.
Smith is a former Stanley Cup winner in Chicago, but it does seem like his NHL career has hit a stagnant trajectory with him spending more time in the AHL lately. Smith is also a versatile player who not only provides scoring but two-way play as well.
O’Dell is a jack of all trades, left handed forward. He is a swift play maker that could be a nice complement in between Malte Stromwall and Robin Kovacs. The only thing that has prevented him from being a full time NHL guy is his strength on the puck. Fortunately, that hasn’t been an issue at the AHL level.
The young, dynamic AHL left winger has been given a few chances in both Arizona and Montreal to steal a fourth line spot, but that hasn’t really worked out Lessio seems like the classic case of a young guy that can help in the AHL and bring a competitive fire, knowing that he can maybe get a chance with the big club.
Fox was a highly sought for undrafted prospect a couple of years ago before signing with Vancouver. The 22 year old center was an interesting mix of both on ice creativity and pesky grittiness. He has thus far dominated in the ECHL, but was only given two games in the AHL over the last two years.
Is there more to him? Can the Rangers offer him more ice time to show his worth? He is not needed to become a quality NHL guy, but maybe he can be a quality depth forward that can play in many situations for the Wolf Pack.
The Rangers added two names to the prospect pool without them counting towards the 50 contract limit. Talented forwards Ahti Oksanen and Michael Joly were signed to AHL deals and will be given a chance to show their worth in Hartford.
Joly was able to provide tons of points in the QMJHL when he was healthy. The oft injured but really talented forward played in many situations during his career in the Q but his injury history prevented him from getting drafted even when putting up decent points. Oksanen only getting an AHL deal came as a shock, but maybe his injured shoulder scared teams away.
Jimmy Vesey and Thomas Di Pauli become free agents soon, so the Rangers do have a lot of options to work with.
By the way if you miss hockey, the KHL season begins on the 22nd."How the Rangers can fill out the Hartford Wolf Pack roster",