Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rangers Announce Opening Day Roster; Kreider Sent To Hartford

The Rangers announced their final roster cuts today and now have set their roster for Opening Day on Thursday evening in Phoenix. Darroll Powe, Stu Bickel, Marek Hrivik, Conor Allen, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Mashinter and Chris Kreider were all sent to Hartford.

Forwards: Arron Asham, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan, Derek Dorsett, Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Taylor Pyatt, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto, Justin Falk, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman

Goalies: Marty Biron, Henrik Lundqvist

The Rangers have not placed Ryan Callahan or Carl Hagelin on long-term IR.

Brandon Mashinter, Darroll Powe and Stu Bickel all have to clear waivers before the Rangers can officially assign them to Hartford. I'd say there's a good chance that both Mashinter and Bickel will clear, but there might be some team out there willing to take a flier on Powe. He's a nice fourth line player and could be a fit on a deeper team as a penalty killing specialist.

Alain Vigneault said that rookie defenseman Conor Allen was very close to making the team as the seventh defenseman over Justin Falk, but the team ultimately decided they would be better served with Allen getting big minutes down in Hartford. Vigneault indicated that Allen would be the first guy called up if the Rangers need another defenseman at any point during the season.

The inclusions of J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast on the roster really aren't all that surprising to me. With Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin scheduled to miss the start of the season as they continue to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, the Rangers needed to carry players who can provide something on offense. Fast is one of the best forward prospects the Rangers have, and Miller got a taste of playing in the NHL for the first time last year. As valuable as Darroll Powe is on the penalty killing unit, the Rangers already have a gluttony of those scrappy fourth line players who won't provide much offensively in Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, Arron Asham and Dominic Moore. It'll be interesting to see who the Rangers decide to send down once Callahan and Hagelin are ready to come back. I think they'd prefer giving Miller and Fast 20 minutes a night down in Hartford rather than 10 minutes a night on Broadway, but I do believe they have a real chance to stick around if they impress the coaching staff enough over the next few weeks. Taylor Pyatt and Arron Asham would be the top two candidates to be waived under that scenario. Vigneault said he wanted to keep Asham around because of his toughness and veteran instinct, which is totally understandable considering Derek Dorsett is the only other fighter the Rangers have on the roster right now.

Chris Kreider not making the team, however, is a huge surprise to me. I thought he was having a relatively good training camp and he was getting time on the top line with Brad Richards and Rick Nash early in camp. The coaching staff obviously feels like there are some things he needs to continue to work on down in Hartford. Nobody will come out and say it, but it has to be a huge disappointment within the Rangers organization that Kreider didn't show enough to make the team out of camp. He's struggled to find consistency in the NHL up to this point in his career, and it sure would've been nice to pencil his name into the lineup as a top six forward this year. Kreider has had a flair for the dramatics in the postseason, but John Tortorella talked a lot last year about how Kreider simply has to improve in the neutral and defensive zones to be a regular NHL player, and Alain Vigneault obviously feels the same way.

It looks as if Brad Richards will open the season playing the left wing since the Rangers currently have a logjam at center right now. Richards said he hasn't played the wing since back in Tampa Bay with the Lightning, but he's willing to give it a shot if it works.

So with that, I give you the projected Opening Day lines bsed on practice yesterday:

Brad Richards-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello
Taylor Pyatt-Brian Boyle-Jesper Fast
J.T. Miller-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Michael Del Zotto
John Moore-Anton Stralman

Henrik Lundqvist
Marty Biron

Healthy Scratches: Justin Falk, Arron Asham

Alain Vigneault and Ryan Callahan both confirmed he will not play on Thursday night, with Callahan going as far as to say that he would rule himself out for the opener on Thursday "as of right now." So, basically unless there's some sort of an overnight miracle, the Rangers will open the season on Thursday without their captain in the lineup.

Finally, Henrik Lundqvist was asked by the media for an update on his contract negotiations, to which he said, “I don’t have anything for you,” Lundqvist said. “We still have a few days. You can get back to me. We’ll have discussions before we leave for Phoenix.” Apparently, Lundqvist may not want to negotiate a new contract during the season as he feels it might be a distraction. I personally have never once understood that theory, but then again I'm not a multimillion dollar athlete.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rangers Training Camp 2013 - Clean Slate...Grab It

"Clean Slate...Grab It." That was the slogan on t-shirts that new Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault handed out to his players when they arrived for training camp yesterday. It makes sense - everybody is being given a clean slate with the team under new leadership, and it's up to them to take the opportunity and run (skate?) with it. That slogan seems like a perfect summary for Brad Richards' situation, who will be heading into the most crucial career of his Rangers career thus far. Richards spoke today about how he's looking to put last year behind him and he still believes he can return to the form he displayed two years ago. Here's to hoping that he's right.

Some notes from the first two days of training camp:

- Here is the full training camp roster thus far, courtesy of Andrew Gross:

Goalies - Marty Biron, Johan Hedberg, Henrik Lundqvist, Jeff Malcolm, Jason Missiaen, Mackenzie Skapski, Scott Stajcer, Cam Talbot

Defensemen - Conor Allen, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto, Charlie Dodero, Troy Donnay, Justin Falk, Ben Fanelli, Dan Girardi, Ryan Graves, Tommy Hughes, Aaron Johnson, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, John Moore, Brendon Nash, Samuel Noreau, Jimmy Oligny, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman, Danny Syvret.

Forwards - Aaron Asham, J.T. Barnett, Ryan Bourque, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Taylor Burke, Ryan Callahan, Derek Dorsett, Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast, Josh Graves, Carl Hagelin, Micheal Haley, Marek Hrivik, Kyle Jean, Michael Kantor, Chris Kreider, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Mashinter, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Josh Nicholls, Benoit Pouilot, Shawn O’Donnell, Darroll Powe, Taylor Pyatt, Brad Richards, Thomas Spelling, Michael St. Croix, Derek Stepan, Dyson Stevenson, Peter Trainor, Jason Wilson, Klarc Wilson, Andrew Yogan, Mats Zuccarello

- Derek Stepan has missed the first two days of camp so far. Stepan is still not under contract as he and Glen Sather continue to try and hammer out a new deal for the restricted free agent. Sather said today that there's nothing new to report on the negotiations, and Sather reportedly has no intentions of budging on whatever the current offer is that he has extended to Stepan's camp. Rumors are that Sather only wants to do a two-year deal while Stepan is looking for a long-term deal similar to the six-year extension Ryan McDonagh got earlier this offseason. Stepan and his agent really have no leverage here, but I understand why Stepan is trying to hold out for a long-term deal given that he's coming off the best season of his career. He'll be in camp soon enough, and he definitely needs to be in order to learn the ins and outs of playing in a new system under Alain Vigneault.

- Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, who are both recovering from shoulder surgery, will obviously be limited in camp considering the fact that they may not be ready for the start of the regular season.

- Marty Biron has also missed the first two days of camp for personal/family reasons, which have not specifically been identified. Vigneault did say that he spoke to Biron on the phone today and the plan is for Biron to be in camp tomorrow, which is great news.

- Veteran goaltender Johan Hedberg is in camp with the Rangers under a professional tryout (PTO). Hedberg, 40 years old, was bought out by the Devils over the offseason after they acquired Cory Schneider from the Canucks. Hedberg stated that he was promised nothing from the Rangers as far as a roster spot is concerned and he's basically here just to keep working out and getting reps at the moment. For Hedberg, this is basically an audition in hopes that another team will see something they like in his game and give him a contract. Tons of teams will hand out PTOs during training camp over the next few weeks. I wouldn't mind having Hedberg playing in Hartford as an insurance policy to start the season, but I have a hard time believing that he has any interest in continuing his career playing in the minors. It seems like it's boom or bust for him right now.

- There is no update on Henrik Lundqvist's contract situation with the Rangers. The offseason has been pretty quiet concerning any talks that have been going on between the Rangers and Lundqvist, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent following this season. I have full confidence that they'll get a deal done, obviously, but it might take some time and not happen until the middle of the season. Lundqvist will not reach free agency.

- Alain Vigneault said he purposely didn't watch any footage of the Rangers' games last year. He had assistant coaches Scott Arniel watch footage of the Rangers' power play and Ulf Samuelsson the penalty kill, but beyond that Vigneault said he truly believes in forgetting about everything that happened last year and moving on. Whatever problems players had is in the past, and it seems like AV truly believes in this whole "clean slate" slogan. I actually really like it. There's no sense in looking over ways for the team to improve on last year when you consider the fact that they're going to be running a system that's the complete opposite of John Tortorella's.

More to come over the next few days as more news breaks from camp.