AP Photo/Matt Slocum
For those that remember last year’s “epic fail” series between the Flyers and the Penguins last year, recall the aftermath of the Game Three bloodbath. Arron Asham was suspended for four games following his intent to injure Brayden Schenn. The Penguins played three more games that series, before bowing out to the Flyers in six. That leaves one game remaining on Asham’s suspension.
This means that Asham will actually need to serve the final game of his suspension on Saturday while the Rangers are in Boston. This leaves the Rangers with a hole to fill on the fourth line for one game.
I reached out to Jim Cerny, who kindly responded that the Rangers will likely deploy Stu Bickel at forward for that game. This was on Monday, about 24 hours before the Rangers placed eight players on waivers.
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With the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding yesterday the NHL lockout officially ended, and teams are now free to pursue business as usual. Teams are now finally allowed to sign free agents (restricted or unrestricted), make trades, make call ups, and perform other duties required for the start of the season.
For Glen Sather and the Rangers, there isn’t much to do to get this team ready for the season. Their top 12 forwards are already set, as are their top six defensemen and two goaltenders. That said, there are a few moves we can expect the Rangers to make in the coming days, some obvious, some not so obvious. Let’s get into the moves we should expect the Rangers to announce
1. Sign Michael Del Zotto
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Can Thomas Jr follow his father in to the NHL? Time is ticking.
It may seem incredibly harsh to suggest Christian Thomas’ time as a legitimate prospect is expiring. However such is the media scrutiny on each individual performance, the impatience of fans and media alike, not to mention the enviable depth the Rangers enjoy that it’s a very real possibility that Christian Thomas is running out of time to make it at the NHL level with the Rangers.
Thomas has been eagerly anticipated by Rangers fans. He was considered a potential cure-all for a club that struggled to score goals; anticipated especially given his blood lines (an overrated obsession in North American sports) and his OHL junior career that was littered with impressive goal scoring seasons. Something however, happened a long the way. Whether it was the drafting of guys such as JT Miller or the accelerated development of Chris Kreider, Thomas has been a little forgotten about. It hasn’t helped him that the Rangers have continued to unearth prospects such as Marek Hrivik and Kyle Jean.
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Kyle Jean has popped up on everyone’s radar.
It’s fair to say that when Kyle Jean tried out for the Rangers almost every Ranger fan didn’t have an idea about the young try-out nor were expectations particularly high. After all, try outs come and go in their dozens and rarely does one stick with a club let alone make some noise. So its fair to say that despite a promising pre-season its come as a surprise to many that Jean has exploded into the AHL season with the Whale grabbing 9 points in 7 games while leading several more eagerly anticipated prospects in scoring a long the way.
Prior to making the Whale, Jean played college hockey and while his numbers for the CCHA’s Lake Superior were solid (38 points in 77 games), they were certainly not stand out from the crowd worthy. Indeed, Jean at 22 is not even particularly young for a prospect. So what is there to like about him at first glance? Physically, Jean has great size at 6’3 and 205 lbs and is a left-handed shot. He is also more than willing to put the puck on net at any given opportunity and looks to finish. You can never have enough goal scoring and it’s certainly something the Rangers want more of – hence Mr R. Nash’s acquisition.
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A lockout gives Ryan Callahan additional time to rest his bruised and battered body.
Sometimes a hockey player’s effectiveness (and career) comes to a halt because their bodies simply cannot take any more. One excellent example of a player whose body let him down is Adam Deadmarsh, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche. Unlike Eric Lindros – perhaps the most skilled player to be let down by his body – Deadmarsh, while talented, was known more for his work rate, physicality, and leadership. There are obvious similarities between Deadmarsh and Ryan Callahan.
Deadmarsh, like Callahan (a regular 20-30 goal forward in the NHL), eventually had to retire because of health problems. Enter the lockout. Ryan Callahan is a player that leads by example, that always finishes his checks, plays fearlessly and who is the hardest of hard-working players. He is exactly the type of player who stands to benefit from the unfortunate situation that is the NHL lockout.
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The hype machine started at the beginning of last season and, ahead of the upcoming campaign, was cranked up even further with the immediate impact Chris Kreider made as an untested rookie in the NHL playoffs last spring. Then came the lockout.
With the AHL season set to commence on October 12th, and with the Connecticut Whale training camp roster announced, Chris Kreider’s presence down on the farm will be one of the major talking points among Rangers fans and hockey media whose attention will focus on the AHL during the NHL lockout.
There will be a danger of expecting too much from Kreider. Kreider has star potential at the NHL level and with a host of young talent pencilled in for the Whale roster Kreider will be one of those expected to lead the club offensively, despite a relatively modest level of experience. If Kreider can make an immediate transition and gel with his teammates then there is the potential of a 30 or even 40 goal season for the Whale but it should be of little concern if he begins the year slowly.
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The news yesterday was that newly acquired winger Rick Nash will be headed to Switzerland to play with Davos in the Swiss leagues. Nash will re-join Joe Thornton with the club, as they both played there during the 2004-2005 lockout.
Nash is the first –and likely only– Ranger to head oversea, but he is not the first player to announce he is heading to Europe. Several players have already announced their intentions to play in the KHL and Czech league, and now the Swiss leagues are becoming a league of refuge.
There seems to be some sort of outrage over this, which is something that is extremely puzzling. The argument being made is that since the rest of the team is staying here, then Nash should remain with the team to develop chemistry. The chemistry argument is a generally a valid argument, but not in this case. In this case, considering Nash has never played under John Tortorella, staying in hockey shape is more important than running practice drills.
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No question, the Rangers made a huge splash this summer with the acquisition of Rick Nash. Thanks to the move the Rangers find themselves with more (legitimate) elite talent than they have had in well over a decade but at some stage even top line players need offensive support. Even the dominant Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s had role players step up when needed.
With the loss of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov the Rangers lost two core role players. They lost two home grown Rangers that proved they had offensive ability, even if they lacked consistency. Unfortunately you have to give to receive. With those two gone however, it offers a bigger chance for another player or two to step up. Forget Callahan, Stepan and Kreider. All three could be needed in the top six and will be counted on to various degrees.
The opportunity that presents itself is a perfect chance for Brian Boyle to reassert himself as a critical piece in the Rangers line up. Boyle needs a good season. While he came on toward the end of last year, offensively he wasn’t as effective as he was during his breakout season a year prior.
Despite continuing in his role as a defensively reliable player Boyle will need to offer more up the other end of the ice given the Rangers’ up and coming array of centers in the system such as Steven Fogarty, Mike St Croix and Oscar Lindberg. Each offers legitimate NHL potential either as an offensive player or as a checking center while offering the benefit of significant cap savings as opposed to Boyle.
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While many are still concerned about the Rangers scoring woes, it’s worth noting that the Rangers now have two of the top ten post-lockout scorers in the NHL. The list, compiled at Kukla’s Korner, has Rick Nash at #7 with 231 goals, and Marian Gaborik at #10 with 228 goals.
It’s worth noting that two Rangers top this list because it does address one of the Rangers biggest concerns over the past few seasons: primary scoring. Prior to Gaborik’s arrival, the Rangers didn’t have a bonafide goal scorer when Jaromir Jagr left town. Aside from one injury shortened season, Gaborik has put together two 40 goal seasons of at least 75 points.
Nash of course managed to top Gaborik by three goals despite not having a single top line player to skate with in Columbus. That shows the type of talent that Rick Nash is.
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Although the Rangers are likely to benefit from a lockout –due to the injury to Marian Gaborik– there is still a solid chance that when the season starts, the club will still be without their top scorer from last season. Gaborik, who had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in June, is said to be out five or six months recovering from the surgery.
The acquisition of Rick Nash actually gives the Rangers tremendous flexibility when dealing with this injury. Nash is a rare forward that can play both wings, and play them at a high level. This gives the Rangers the ability to fill the spot opened up by Gaborik’s injury on either the left side or the right side.
The players that are likely to play on the top six –alongside Nash, Brad Richards, and Derek Stepan– are the ones you would expect: Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, and Chris Kreider. All three played on the top two lines in the playoffs, and are either decent offensive threats (Cally), or players with some great offensive potential (Kreider, Hagelin).
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