What’s next for the Rangers blue line?

Jacob Trouba is the latest Rangers defenseman to suffer an injury. This one will keep him out for 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb. The vaunted right side of the Rangers blue line is down to just Adam Fox now. The Rangers, already down to their 8th and 9th defensemen, are basically dressing AHL defensemen at this point. It is possible that we see Anthony Bitetto, Libor Hajek, and Jack Johnson in the lineup. Yet another injury on the defense for the Rangers, and they are running low on replacement options.

The good news is that K’Andre Miller practiced, so he should be back in the lineup. Per Vince Mercogliano, the defense pairs are, well, a little rough:

Given Trouba will be out for a while, the pairs are going to look like this for a while. There aren’t many options to upgrade either.

Recalling Tony DeAngelo

This ain’t happening. Next.

Recalls from Hartford

There is really only one player in Hartford worth recalling to get a look. That’s Tarmo Reunanen. It’s only been two games for the Pack, but Reunanen already leads the Hartford Wolf Pack in scoring with a line of 2-1-3. He’s played well so far, and played well overseas as well. In terms of actual prospects, he’s the only guy down there.

Sure, the Rangers could recall someone like Darren Raddysh or Brandon Crawley, but they don’t move the needle at all. In fact, there’s a strong argument that they’d be worse than Hajek and Bitetto. At least with Reunanen, you get an idea of where he stands on the development path. Perhaps you even showcase him, if he’s not part of the long term plans.

The issue here is the cap math. The Rangers have been banking cap space throughout the year with shrewd taxi squad assignments. Because of this, they actually have enough cap space to recall Reunanen, albeit barely enough cap space. If they move forward with a recall, it removes any flexibility they once had for future moves. Another injury on the Rangers defense forces this option.

A Trade

A trade is a tricky scenario to unpack. The Rangers don’t *need* to make a trade. The defense pipeline is loaded with high quality prospects that aren’t that far away from NHL time. A reactionary trade to fill this gap is not in the best interest of the rebuild.

That said, there are paths to a trade. However any trade needs to fit into the direction of the team. A young, good, cost controlled defenseman. These are hard to come by. Players like Mackenzie Weegar or Vince Dunn are not a dime a dozen.

As tempting as it is to look at Mattias Ekholm, he doesn’t fit that mold. He’s 30, only has one year left on his deal, and is declining. Those types of players aren’t the types of players the Rangers go after right now. They aren’t contending. They aren’t just one piece away. At least, not yet. They are close though.

Waiver Wire

The waiver wire is the only viable option left for the Rangers. But again, it leaves them with some other salary cap questions. Plus it makes them reliant on other teams waiving players. As of yesterday, only Connor Carrick was on waivers. However the Rangers don’t have the cap space to claim a $1.5 million player right now.

Entertaining this for the sake of the hypothetical, Carrick is a significantly better option than Hajek, Bitetto, or Johnson. But believe it or not, Brendan Smith is the best of this quartet and better than Carrick. In this scenario, the Rangers would send Hajek to the taxi squad, as he doesn’t need to clear waivers.

Waivers for a player making over $800,000 isn’t really an option at the moment. It will be at some point, but right now they can’t. For the short term, this is a nice to have.

Wait And See

This is the most likely path at the moment. It’s not that this is the only option, but it’s the one that makes logical sense given the team direction, cap situation, and lay of the land. It is what it is. If the Rangers have another injury on defense, they will be hard pressed to dress a decent lineup.

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  • As I stated many times before season…. Reunanen is not a lock to play in NHL. You’ve never seen him play. He’s got 3 games in No American ice. To say “you get an idea where he stands” is baffling. More so than the guys you have in AHL already? I mentioned several times before season that Muller had best shot at making team followed by Hajek. Keep pushing Reunanen. Eventually you might be right.

    • “Sure, the Rangers could recall someone like Darren Raddysh or Brandon Crawley, but they don’t move the needle at all. In fact, there’s a strong argument that they’d be worse than Hajek and Bitetto”

      • Hajek and Bitetto won’t score much but they do play acceptable defense. Bitetto also has size, adds physicality and toughness of which the Rangers have little. As for Crawley it looks like he’s the man tonight but if injuries keep up, it may be unlikely but I would not completely rule out an ADA return.

    • I am confused. If Reunanen isn’t a lock to make the NHL doesn’t it make sense to see where he stands? How else would you know if he is capable or not?

    • We already know that Crawley was recalled to the taxi squad(probably instead of Reunanen so he could get game reps) but production aside, Tarmo is an average to slightly below average skater at the AHL level, which means he’s a below average skater at the NHL level. Add his size concerns and he’s an emergency callup after the 1st emergency callup gets hurt/suspended.

    • Agreed Adam.
      Best offensive d-man they have/had.
      Stupid move by TFO to say he would never play another game.

      • No, actually the stupid move was ADA thinking his offensive production (and invisible defense) made him more important than the psyche of the team or that his childish tantrums would be tolerated ad infinitum.

  • Some tough decisions ahead for sure on D. As Dave states – whoever they get is really only a short term solution as there are a few prospect options that might be ready next year. Unless they pull off a major trade for another center and serviceable d man (I think that would start with have to start VK plus some high picks, maybe even Buch and then figure out salary cap moves – not sure how I would feel about doing that but they are loaded on wing)

  • Man, 112 comments on the Quinn article… Really hit a nerve with that one.

    Anyway, I’d like to see them pick up Dunn. 4-6 weeks is a long time this season. We’ll want a real “replacement” before then. And I use quote because he’s not going to actively replace trouba so much as be an nhl body. Although, maybe we’ll get lucky…

  • The logical sense is to get ADA back in the lineup! This is business and not a I don’t like you and you can’t play situation. Did you ever have to work with someone you did not like?
    Hockey is not a clean game there are goons and democrats playing and coaching. ( not that goons are bad)People that do drugs and cheat on wife’s cheat on taxes. Who is perfect? I bet there are even players that think the coach sucks. Can’t we all live together? Brother ADA did not commit a crime ( not that crimes are bad for you woke people)all he did was to think differently and that’s the crime. I did not mention anything about politics, who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?

    • The Rangers said that ADA is done with the team. Boom

      You can’t bring a guy back who you explicitly exiled and said he won’t be back.

      Where’s the accountability in that? What’s the locker room environment going to be like if that happens.?

      • Yep, they tied their hands when they said he wouldn’t play for them again. We can debate whether that’s right or wrong, but to be honest JD, JG and DQ are the only ones who know the whole story re: ADA (and I mean going back to when they first got him). A lot of history can build up over a few years.

    • Wow talking about revisionism.

      He didn’t “just think differently.” Remember that Fox and Strome think like DeAngelo too, among others. I’d assume at least half that locker room would be on the conservative side of things. They don’t care.

      The dude threw a temper tantrum and then heckled his own goalie before getting decked. He was on his last warning. Now he’s done.

      And before you talk about an agenda or anything like that, do you *really* think the Rangers listen to what I have to say? Do you really think the club looks at this blog and says, “You know what, I like what Dave said there, let’s get rid of DeAngelo.”?

      Let’s stay in reality here.

      • The coach throws a temper tantrum every time he sets his lineup and who he sits during the game. Come on everybody gets made fun of and heckled even you Dave. I’m sure you might want to punch me in the teeth too.
        I am just reminding management that they are wasting our money and our time which equals to money. Reality is subjective to everyone someone’s reality of wasting big money is not my reality. I don’t care if MSG is only collecting five dollars a month from me to watch the Rangers.
        You don’t think the players are Reading this blog? Your blog can change some minds because it is coming from the fans. Don’t under value and the importance you provide! Can you hear the Rangers listening now?

        • I am acutely aware of who from the organization reads this site. They are not a big fan of me. I also have very thick skin and, quite frankly, couldn’t care less what people who I will never meet say about me.

          To say “the coach has a temper tantrum when setting the lineup,” shows that you are frustrated beyond any logical thought process regarding DQ at this point. That’s fine. We are all frustrated.

          My challenge to you and anyone else who reads this site is to take what we write about, and use it as one of many inputs into your thought process. This site is a hobby and our opinions, not gospel

      • Tanto sucked into the deep hole that is your stupidity. Can’t we all get along? Conservatives are people too. They may not look like you but I am sure they care about life.

    • Only problem is that this wasn’t about his Political beliefs…I too am a Conservative who believes many of the things ADA espoused on his Social Media accounts ( all nonsense and serve no real purpose), but this is about being part of a team, not marching in lockstep on Politics, but all working toward a common goal (Playoffs and Stanley Cup)… fighting with teammates isn’t acceptable. The Bronx Zoo of the seventies was the exception, not the rule…management is trying to form a particular type of team, and although they’ve tried, ADA keeps saying I am too important to be a real part of this group. That is what this is about. There is no long term solution that bringing ADA back will help solve.

      • Mr uhhh! Did ADA throw the first punch! How about the people that threw punches, are they not responsible?
        No body ever had a fight on the same team? I know ADA will not be be back. Its just a bullshit reason and management looks like shit either way. This is a good reason for a suit.
        It would be funny if they had an actual fight on the ice in front of cameras after the game.

  • Rangers would have to eat their words to put DeAngelo back in. Not going to happen. His emotions got the best of him because of the benching. It does appear that he was on a very short leash but had been warned. IMO the severity of the crime was lacking and very heavy punishment handed out. Ironically it looks like it may bite them in the ass.

  • I am willing to give the club the benefit of the doubt regarding Tony D. They know the situation better than us. I was always a supporter of Tony’s talents, but it appears the club has run out of patience with him. It is their call.

    • This is cumulative and must go back to when they first got him — they )JD, JG & DQ) know the whole story and I’m sure there’s more to it than just he got pissy/acted immaturely about being benched and he had an altercation with Georgiev. Those two “issues” couldn’t possibly be enough to lifetime ban a player from your team.

  • Why the worry, Jack Johnson is back in the lineup!
    Zibby is due for a hat-trick
    LaFren & Kakko will turn it around tonight

    All is good in Rangerland – pass the Koolaid

  • Hmmmmm…. we seem to have a really good RH D-man that we could use.

    I get it. He’s Crazy Tony. But if this keeps going on for a while, we’re essentially shooting ourselves in the face here. I’m no fan of blowing the whole season up to prove a point.

    The whole point of everything is to win hockey games. And the job of management is to put the team in the best position to win. They’re not doing that right now.

  • Trouba will be back sooner than later…..Also there are some internal rumblings in the Ranger dressing room…More loins needed……Let’s get Eichel…..

  • “Sure, the Rangers could recall someone like Darren Raddysh or Brandon Crawley, but they don’t move the needle at all. In fact, there’s a strong argument that they’d be worse than Hajek and Bitetto. At least with Reunanen, you get an idea of where he stands on the development path.”

    Dave, this is completely backwards. Of the three players, the one we know the least about is Reuanen. Yes, three good games in Hartford, but he could be (and likely would be) badly overmatched in the NHL at this time. Long term, he may be of real value, but not today.

    We know what Crawley and Raddysh can do now. Crawley unfortunately is only a marginal AHLer, definitely a last resort. OTOH, Raddysh is a good AHLer and would not be awful in the NHL. I strongly suspect he would be an upgrade on Johnson (whereas the Feb 2021 Reuanen likely would not be). How he stacks up against Hajek and Bitetto is unclear.

    Mind you, giving Reuanen a 1-3 game trial is not a terrible idea. It is likely to end badly but there is a payoff if it doesn’t. However, Raddysh is the safe choice.

  • One possibility you missed. There may be some guys out there who are free agents, don’t have jobs at the moment. I haven’t scoured the list, but this is how the Rangers got Stralman as I am sure you recall.

    Another Stralman is unlikely, but perhaps a suitable stopgap.

    Another possibility is to acquire a good defenseman with a plan to trade said player after the expansion draft.

  • The Rangers this year played one really outstanding game against the Islanders. Granted, injuries have taken a toll, and have exposed the lack of depth on the team and at Hartford. When Colin Blackwell and Rooney journeymen are playing some of the best hockey on the team, something is wrong. Though a few positive’s, like Shesty, Panera, Chytil, they seem uninspired (lack of chemistry) and have little fire and passion. The veterans like Zab.,Kreider, Bush and others have not performed up to par. The highly praised Kakko who is playing well. can’t score goals, neither can the over-all #1 draft choice in the world who was compared to Sid Crosby. The offense and Power-play has been bad, winning face-offs a struggle, so the problem is not just defense. Bottom line, COACHING PROBLEM!

    • Kevin Rooney is 25, on only his second team and seems to have improved every year. This is not what journeyman means.

      And Blackwell is actually only 27.

    • How do you like losing by 1 goal consistently. How about forgetting players on the bench? How about waking up the team before the Devils game? How about benching people if you make a mistake? Ya your right its not the coach.

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