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The Rangers were busy this weekend, waiving both Jeff Halpern and Stu Bickel and recalling Kris Newbury from Connecticut. The three moves are, for all intents and purposes, minor moves. But these moves triggered a wide variety of questioning, celebrating, and rumormongering. It was actually very interesting to read all of the speculation Twitter, which included the now famous “Gaborik for Boyle and Clowe” rumor, which is just outright ridiculous*.
*-If this happens, I’ll eat my words. I will also build a Glen Sather statue of him holding 29 “pictures.” These “pictures” will be symbolic of the 29 naked photos he must have of all other GMs, because no GM has this ability to turn spare parts into something substantial as often as he does.
But without speculating, let’s look at the three moves themselves, as each was made for a reason. The easiest one is the Newbury call up. Although we discussed how Newbury would be a replacement for Halpern and Bickel, the call up is most likely due to the recent J.T. Miller injury. I doubt he would have been recalled if not for this injury.
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Update: Per Elliotte Friedman, the Rangers have placed Stu Bickel on waivers. If/when he clears, the Rangers will have cleared $1.45 million in cap space in waiving Bickel and Halpern.
Original Post: Per Larry Brooks, the Montreal Canadiens have claimed Jeff Halpern off waivers from the Rangers. Halpern was waived yesterday to make room for Arron Asham’s return to the lineup. Losing Halpern will cost the Rangers in the face off circle, but Halpern’s ice time had seen a sharp decline over the past week or so. Halpern’s Ranger career ends with 30 games on Broadway, an assist, 8 PIMs, and a -5 rating.
In a bit of shocking news, the Rangers have placed center Jeff Halpern on waivers (per Darren Dreger). In 30 games with the Rangers, Halpern notched just one assist with a -5 rating. Halpern is currently the Rangers one of the Rangers top faceoff guys, winning 56.7% of his draws. Halpern’s ice time had diminished a lot lately, getting just three minutes of ice time in last night’s loss to Florida.
The move likely signals that Arron Asham is ready to return to the lineup. But the interesting thing here is that with Halpern out, the Rangers are going to need to do some line shuffling. Expect J.T. Miller to move to center on the third line, and Brian Boyle to be shifted to the fourth line center role (where he belongs). Also look for Taylor Pyatt to be moved to the third line, with the returning Asham to slide into a fourth line role.
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Depth has been a discussion point around here since before the lockout, to the point where we have too many posts to link to when we bring it up again. Despite an injury to Arron Asham, the Rangers have more useful depth this year than they have had in years past. They have a fourth line capable of eating 10-12 minutes of ice time per game when healthy, with some of that coming on the penalty kill. Depth is critical for a team like the Rangers, who will need all four lines to make a deep Cup run.
Despite all this, the Rangers fourth line barely saw seven minutes of ice time each. Eliminating Stu Bickel from the equation, as he’s only in because Asham is out, it makes you wonder why there is no trust from the coaching staff. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a post bashing anyone –as you all know, we love Torts here and aren’t afraid to show it– but it’s still worth asking why these guys don’t get ice time.
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Taylor Pyatt has displayed impressive hockey sense in his first two games
A two game sample size is hardly enough to evaluate anyone, and clearly none of the Rangers played particularly well in the season’s opening weekend, but here are some initial impressions of the newest Blueshirts:
Rick Nash – As coach John Tortorella said following Sunday’s game, “he’s the real deal.” Nash has been an absolute puck magnet, has already displayed soft hands and creative stickhandling, is using his body extremely well to create separation between the puck and defenders and has even thrown a few solid hits. Nash understandably wants to make a good impression with his new club, but I’ve also been pleased to see that he’s continued competing very hard in both losing efforts.
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No doubt about it, the Rangers have had some serious roster turnover this season, especially among the bottom six forwards. Gone are Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Artem Anisimov, and Brandon Dubinsky. In are Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, and possibly Michael Haley (at least to start the season while Marian Gaborik is out). While the Rangers will surely miss most of the departed, where they will miss them the most is on the penalty kill.
Fedotenko, Prust, and Dubinsky were all top penalty killers for this club last season, with Anisimov and Mitchell seeing some time there as well. Of those coming in, only Halpern has experience as a top penalty killer. Asham and Pyatt have played there in the past, but not much (if at all) last season. This leaves a hole that needs to be filled, and needs to be filled from those already on the roster.
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When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash, they did so by dealing two roster players that played key roles on the bottom six forwards. Losing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov may not look like much, especially when they are dealt for someone like Rick Nash. However, it does lead to the discussion of how to replace these players, especially Dubinsky, who was one of the Rangers top defensive and puck possession forwards.
It seems logical to begin with Anisimov, who I believe to be the easier of the two to replace. Anisimov bounced around on the Rangers lineup from top line to fourth line so often, I’m surprised he wasn’t dizzy from all the pinballing around the lineup. Throughout his young career, he has shown flashes of offensive talent while putting up 30-40 points per season, almost entirely at even strength.
His defensive peripherals (.005 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 52.7 OZone%) aren’t spectacular, but they are still solid and show that Anisimov was still very reliable in his own end. He’s the type of two-way forward that could develop into a 50-60 point player if given the right opportunity and powerplay time. That said, he wasn’t going to get that opportunity with the Rangers. Jeff Halpern has comparable numbers (-.029 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 39.2 OZone%), but can add more in terms of veteran leadership and face off wins.
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The Rangers were eliminated in the Eastern conference finals against the Devils for a few reasons. Most fans question the lack of goal scoring and high end skill and rightly so. The fact that the Rangers still haven’t gone out and addressed this frustrates many, even though Glen Sather has been right to not over react.
Then there is the theory that the Rangers may have run out of gas, with two gruelling series against the Senators and Capitals taking a lot out of the young, hard working team. Finally though, was the fact that the Devils’ depth out produced the Rangers equivalent. This however, is an area that Sather has begun to address and is a reason why a lot of Rangers fans should calm down and not panic about the apparent lack of offseason progress.
Forget for a moment the uncertain future regarding next season and the CBA discussions. Assume that the Rangers start the season on time with the current assembled roster. It has improved. As the Rangers added Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham, most fans were left underwhelmed and frustrated that the new signings names didn’t begin with Zach or Bobby. Sather still did well.
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In a surprising move late Monday night the Rangers made their fourth free agent signing of the summer, reportedly inking 36-year-old Jeff Halpern to a one-year deal.
The big draw of Halpern (no pun intended) is that he won 58.4% of faceoffs in 2011-2012. That was a major area of weakness for the Blueshirts a year ago.
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