With the multiple injuries occurring on defense recently it goes without saying the Rangers will have been relieved that Mike Sauer didn’t sustain a serious knock in the Flyers game. It also points out the meteoric rise that Sauer has undergone in less than twelve months. It’s not a surprise – he always had impressive talent – but it is meteoric when you consider Sauer’s career looked to have stalled until last season given all the injuries that stopped him from rising through the organisation quicker.
Mike Sauer is giving the Rangers a healthy problem while at the same time allowing the Rangers to develop other prospects more patiently. Sauer basically has become a win-win scenario for the Rangers. Sauer will never wow you with offensive skill or blistering mobility. He doesn’t need to. He makes solid decisions, is physically impressive and is as good a teammate as you’ll ever need. In short, Sauer is a model pro.
Marc Staal’s lingering physical issues may allow Sauer to take another step in his burgeoning career. Sauer became a good NHL, top four defenseman last season. Should Staal miss any kind of stretch of regular season games, Sauer could have the chance to show he can be a top pair defenseman. This is worth noting because it affects so many players in different ways. Sauer stepping up potentially affects Dan Girardi’s long term position with the organisation. A reliable two way guy, Girardi may find himself moved out for business/financial reasons down the line if prospects become NHL ready and Sauer (or another) can replace him on the top pair.
Sauer playing bigger minutes long-term allows the likes of Tim Erixon, Mike Del Zotto, Pavel Valentenko and Dylan McIlrath all to be brought along on more appropriate time-frames - once the rash of injuries begin to calm down. However, then there is the other side to all of this. If players like Sauer make themselves irreplaceable then guys such as Tomas Kundratek and Pavel ‘I have waiver issues’ Valentenko find themselves in murky water as far as their own futures go. Does one player’s progress also diminish any trade value they may have as well? This is a problem Sauer’s progression can pose.
There are so many ripple effects to consider because of a player’s development and Mike Sauer’s past year and his immediate future highlight it so well. The player is affected, the organisation’s depth is affected, the cap is a concern and business decisions may outrank sporting ones because of things such as contractual issues (i.e. ‘do we trade Girardi to free up cap to pay X, Y or Z?’). It isn’t just about a player simply moving up through an organisation any more. It’s so much more.