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.