Saturday, January 26, 2013

Breaking News: Rangers Sign Center Jason Arnott To One-Year Deal

Darren Dreger of TSN is reporting that the Rangers have signed Center Jason Arnott to a one-year deal worth between $1.6-1.7 million. Dreger says the contract is being finalized and Arnott is "en route" to New York right now.

Arnott, 38, skated in 72 games with the St. Louis Blues last year and recorded 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

This news comes on the heels of this morning's news that Chris Kreider is battling bone spurs in his ankle and will not dress tonight against the Maple Leafs. The Rangers called up newly-acquired RW Ben Ferriero earlier today, who will take Kreider's place in the lineup for tonight's game.

More to come later, when I assume more news will come once John Tortorella meets with the media.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pregame Notes: Rangers vs. Flyers Tonight at 7 p.m.

After last night's thrilling overtime win thanks to Marian Gaborik's hat trick, the Rangers are right back at it tonight in Philly against the Flyers. The Rangers, who have won eight straight against Philadelphia dating back to last season, will look to move to 2-3-0 on the season. Henrik Lundqvist will be back in goal tonight coming off of his best performance of the young season last night against Boston.

Some quick notes:

- Chris Kreider, who played just 7:21 in last night's overtime win against the Bruins and has only one shot through the first three games of the season, will be a healthy scratch tonight in Philly. John Tortorella has clearly been frustrated with Kreider's play through training camp and the early part of the season, and he said after last night's game that the Rangers brass will have to meet to discuss whether the best course of action is to have Kreider remain with the team or to send him down to the Connecticut Whale. I would think they're leaning towards sending him down, but time will tell. Kreider committed a penalty last night and never really saw the ice again after that.

- The Rangers recalled forward Kris Newbury from the Connecticut Whale after last night's game, and he will dress tonight in Kreider's spot in the lineup.

-  Arron Asham skated at practice today, but will miss his second consecutive game with a strained groin. That means Stu Bickel, who played just 3:00 last night, will once again dress as a forward on the fourth line while Steve Eminger will remain in the lineup and be paired on the third d-pairing with Anton Stralman.

- The third and fourth lines are up in the air, but we definitely know what the top two lines will look like tonight. Rick Nash-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik will be the first line, while Taylor Pyatt-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan will be the second. Beyond that, I would have to guess the third line will be Hagelin-Boyle-Newbury and the fourth line of Rupp-Halpern-Bickel will remain the same as last night.

- As mentioned above, Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal once again this evening. I originally thought we might see Marty Biron in goal tonight with four games in the first six games of the season, but that's not the case. Lundqvist still looked a little shaky in goal in last night's win, so I'm sure he wants to continue to work through his struggles until he finds his game and get his rhythm back.

- The Rangers made a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins today, swapping minor league right wing Chad Kolarik for center Ben Ferriero. Ferriero, 25, has skated in 92 career NHL games (all with the San Jose Sharks) and has posted 14 goals and eight assists for 22 points. Playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL this year, he has racked up four goals and 14 assists for 18 points and 14 penalty minutes in 34 games. Kolarik, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, has 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 41 games with the Connecticut Whale this season, and was named to the AHL All-Star team as the Whale's lone representative. Seems a little bit of a strange that the Rangers would trade Kolarik, who I always liked and felt could be a decent 13th forward option for the Rangers, for a guy who's essentially an AHL grinder, but who knows. I guess it's possible Kolarik asked for a trade. I did think it was odd that the Rangers didn't even invite him to camp this year before the season started considering the year he's having in the AHL, but either way - a minor trade like this is nothing to get up in arms about.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Asham Misses Practice As Rangers Unveil New Lines At Practice

Arron Asham's missed practice today what what is being called a "minor groin strain." John Tortorella doesn't believe it's serious, but Rangers' beat writer Andrew Gross speculates that it might be enough to keep him out of tomorrow's game against the Bruins at the Garden.

So, with that in mind, here were the new lines during today's practice:

Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin-Brian Boyle-Taylor Pyatt
Mike Rupp-Jeff Halpern-Stu Bickel

If Asham is out tomorrow Stu Bickel would likely move up to play forward on the fourth line with either Steve Eminger or Matt Gilroy making their season debut on the third d-pairing. Brandon Segal, who dressed in Saturday's season opener in Boston while Asham served his suspension, was sent back down to the Connecticut Whale so the Rangers have no extra forwards on their active roster as of right now.

As for the team itself, John Tortorella is understandably upset with the Rangers' lethargic play over the first two games of the season and thinks their "mindset needs to toughen quickly." I fully understand the urgency of Torts wanting this team to turn things around, but I'm not too concerned just yet. The Rangers played two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference at a time when they're still developing chemistry with each other. Teams like the Penguins and Bruins did not overhaul their roster the way the Rangers did when they traded for Rick Nash over the offseason, so it's only natural the Rangers will need some time to get things straightened out. Problem is, they really can't afford to go much longer without figuring things out because of the abbreviated season.

Speaking of Rick Nash, I don't think there's any question he's been the Rangers' best player over the first two games of the season. Nash has a goal and an assist but could have even more than that. The way he uses his size is simply awesome, and that's something the Rangers have needed for a while. It's only a matter of time before he really goes on a tear in my opinion. We've seen that he has the ability to dominate a game and Rangers fans have to be happy with what they've seen so far.

Torts also went on to praise the performance of Taylor Pyatt, calling him one of the Rangers' better players through the first two games of the season, which he admits isn't exactly good news. Pyatt's role is supposed to be that of a third line checking forward who will chip in with a goal every now and then. We've seen him get some power play time, too, which surprised me a bit, but his play has certainly warranted it. He's been strong on the forecheck and with the puck - something the rest of the team needs to begin to pick up on.

Finally, there hasn't been any official word on whether or not Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal tomorrow night against the Bruins after he was pulled in the second period on Sunday night against the Penguins. Steve Zipay of Newsday Tweeted that he doesn't expect Lundqvist to get a full game off "until he gets a win or two." My personal opinion? I see Marty Biron getting the start in goal on Thursday night in Philly. Biron has played well against the Flyers in the past and it seems like a good time to give him his first start of the season since it'll be the Rangers' fourth game in six nights. I don't think Lundqvist has been terrible, but it's clear he is very rusty from all the time off since his last meaningful game last April. I think he'll be fine, but like the rest of the team, he doesn't have the benefit of having an 82-game schedule to figure things out.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Time To Drop The Puck: Rangers vs. Bruins Tonight At 7:00

Finally! Finally it's time to drop the puck!

Every team in the NHL is in action today beginning at 3 p.m., with the Flyers and Penguins getting things started on NBC. With a total of 13 games on tap for today, hockey fans won't have any trouble finding something to watch the rest of the day.

The Rangers, who will open their season in Boston against the Bruins at 7:00, will roll with these lines tonight:

Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Marian Gaborik-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Taylor Pyatt-Brian Boyle-Chris Kreider
Mike Rupp-Jeff Halpern-Brandon Segal

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Scratches: D Matt Gilroy, D Steve Eminger, RW Aaron Asham (Suspension)

I previously thought John Tortorella might move Stu Bickel up to play right wing on the fourth line since he had experience playing some forward last year, but he will instead go with AHL veteran Brandon Segal. Segal was recalled from Hartford a few days ago and it's unclear how long he'll remain on the roster with Aaron Asham presumably rejoining the lineup tomorrow. Segal, who will wear Artem Anisimov's old No. 42, has posted 9 G, 7 A, 16 PTS, 60 PIM in 38 games with the Whale this season.

My top five things to watch for tonight:

1. Rick Nash, obviously. Nash will be making his Rangers debut tonight and was probably the biggest offseason acquisition any team made last year.

2. Marian Gaborik shifting to the left wing. Gaborik is a lefty shot but has primarily been a right winger his entire career with the exception of playing some left wing in the Olympics. It may not seem like much of an adjustment, but it's worth keeping an eye on to see how comfortable he looks out there, particularly while getting back on defense.

3. Henrik Lundqvist. The King did not play overseas during the lockout, so he has not played in a meaningful hockey game since last year's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils. He might be a bit rusty at the start, but hopefully it wears off relatively quickly.

4. Brad Richards. Richards missed the first four days of practice this week because he was sick with the flu so he's had less time to get acclimated to his new linemates than anyone else. Richards played a lot with Carl Hagelin last year and Rick Nash is one of the best players in the league, though, so I'm not too worried about any chemistry issues.

5. Fatigue. Torts expressed concern during the week about how the compacted schedule will impact the team. I'm not sure if everybody on the roster is conditioned appropriately the way Tortorella would like them to be, but we'll find out come the later stages of the game in the second and third periods.

That'll about do it. Enjoy the game everybody, and let's go Rangers!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rangers Buy Out Redden, Notes From Practice, Plus A Minor Trade

The Wade Redden Error, as it's been termed all over Twitter, is officially over. After clearing waivers, the Rangers officially bought him out of the remaining two years of his contract and he is now free to sign anywhere. I'll give Redden credit where it's due - he never complained after he was sent down to Hartford two seasons ago, and players and coaches on the Whale have repeatedly talked about what a positive veteran influence Redden provided while on the team. I'm sure it's not easy for guys like Redden who get exiled to the AHL or elsewhere after once being an accomplished NHL player. No matter who you are, I'm sure your ego takes a hit. So, farewell, Wade. I'll be interested in seeing if any NHL teams out there are willing to bring him in on a low-cost signing.

Speaking of being bought out, Scott Gomez was also bought out by the Montreal Canadiens today. Gomez, of course, will go down as one of the best Ranger free agent signings in history considering Glen Sather was able to turn him and his bloated contract into a package that landed the Rangers LW Chris Higgins, D Pavel Valentenko and some other kid defenseman named Ryan McDonagh. Thanks again, Montreal!

As for practice today, Brad Richards returned to the ice for the first time this week after battling the flu all week. The Rangers worked mainly on their Power Play units, which consisted of the following lines:

5-on-4 lines:
Marian Gaborik-Ryan Callahan-Rick Nash
Brad Richards-Michael Del Zotto

Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Taylor Pyatt
Anton Stralman-Dan Girardi

5-on-3 lines:
Marian Gaborik-Ryan Callahan-Rich Nash
Brad Richards-Derek Stepan

Carl Hagelin-Brian Boyle-Ryan Callahan
Michael Del Zotto-Dan Girardi

I'm a bit surprised that John Tortorella didn't give Chris Kreider a look on either power play unit, but it's hard to read too much into anything this early. Tortorella still has not guaranteed that Kreider will make the team and even went as far as to say he thought Kreider was "God awful" in some playoff games last year. Kreider struggled during his time in the AHL with the Whale this season, but I'd be absolutely shocked if he gets sent back down. If the Rangers were willing to let him play and take his bumps during the playoffs last year, I have to believe they'll be willing to let him continue to learn the game at the NHL level.

Some other notes from practice from this week:

- Aaron Asham will miss the season opener on Saturday in Boston because he still has one game left to sit out dating back to his suspension for a hit on Brayden Schenn in the playoffs last year when Asham was with the Penguins. Because of that the Rangers recalled RW Brandon Segal from the Connecticut Whale, although he isn't expected to dress for Saturday's game.

- The lines on Saturday, based on practice from this week, will likely be:

Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Marian Gaborik-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Chris Kreider-Brian Boyle-Taylor Pyatt
Mike Rupp-Jeff Halpern-Stu Bickel

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

As always, you can expect these lines to fluctuate as the game goes along, and as it gets later in the game you'll likely be seeing very little of Rupp, Halpern, Bickel and Eminger.

- Finally, the Rangers made a small trade of minor leaguers late last night, trading LW Tommy Grant and a conditional late-round pick in the 2014 Entry Level Draft to the San Jose Sharks for LW Brandon Mashinter. Mashinter, 24, is 6-foot-4,  230 pounds and adds some size and toughness to the roster. He's appeared in 13 career NHL games with the Sharks and racked up 17 PIMs. This is a classic Glen Sather trade, who never turns up a chance to add some size to his hockey team.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rangers Might Pay Wade Redden $5M To Spend Rest Of Season On His Couch

One of the bigger stories surrounding the Rangers since the lockout ended has been what the team will do with Wade Redden. Yes, Wade Redden. Redden, of course, signed a mammoth six-year, $39 million deal with the Rangers in July of 2008, and after two terrible seasons on Broadway the defenseman was exiled to the Connecticut Whale and hasn't been heard of since.

That is, until now.

Under the new CBA, the owners and NHLPA agreed on what is being dubbed the "Wade Redden Rule," which essentially means that teams no longer have the ability to hide free agent bust contracts like Redden in the minors. Now, anybody who is playing in the AHL and has a salary over $900,000 will count against the salary cap. That means the Rangers will have roughly a little over $5 million left of Redden's $6.5 million salary counting against the cap this season. Oh, and he also still has one more year with a $6.5 million salary left on his deal after this season.

As Bob McKenzie of TSN discusses, the Rangers have three realistic options:

"It would be nice for the Rangers to entirely get rid of Redden's cap hit this season and next but what's behind Door No. 1 isn't an attractive option. That is, give up an asset or assets (draft picks and/or prospects) as inducements to get another team with lots of cap space to take Redden in a trade.
The Rangers won't like that because they don't want to deplete any future considerations on what amounts to a housekeeping matter for them.
Door No. 2 would be to send Redden to the AHL, absorb his $5 million-plus cap hit this season, which they have room for because teams can spend to $70M this season, and then use a compliance buyout this summer to erase the problem for next season. Compliance buyouts do not count against the salary cap.
But that route is fraught with peril. If Redden were to get hurt in the AHL this season and the injury carried over to the summer, an injured player cannot be bought out. Were that to happen, the Rangers could get saddled with Redden's full $6.5M cap hit next season and under no circumstances can they allow that to occur. Next year's cap shrinks to $64.3M and it would be a disaster if the Rangers had to account for Redden's $5M+ instead of having no cap hit on a compliance buyout.
Which bring us to Door No. 3.
The only other option for the Rangers is to take Redden's cap hit this season but not play him. Not in New York. Not in the AHL. Not anywhere.
Put him in bubble wrap, cold storage and call it a year. Make sure his cheques show up on time and wait for the compliance buyout period this summer and cut all ties."

So, in all actuality, the best option is to literally pay Wade Redden over $5 million for the rest of the season to literally do nothing. Let me repeat that: the best option is to pay Wade Redden over $5 million for the rest of the season to literally do nothing. We should all be so lucky.

I can't see any scenario that involves Redden ever suiting up for the Rangers again. For starters, John Tortorella would likely have no use for him, even as an extra defenseman, because Redden was that bad during his time as a Ranger. Secondly, the Garden Faithful turned on Redden so badly that they even booed Jeff Woywitka at times early last year when he would touch the puck simply because he wore Redden's dreaded No. 6.

Either way, this is not the last we'll hear of the Redden situation within the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rangers Back On Ice For Voluntary Skate, Del Zotto Still Awaiting New Deal

Rick Nash at today's workout at the Rangers' practice facility (courtesy of NYR Twitter).

They're back on the ice! The Rangers officially returned to the Madison Square Garden Training Facility today for a voluntary skate, which is legal now that a tentative CBA agreement has been reached.

The players who were on the ice were Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Arron Asham, Derek Stepan, Mike Rupp, Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin and Steve Eminger. John Tortorella was also in attendance, but currently isn't allowed to skate with the team until the CBA is officially ratified.

Speaking of ratifying the new CBA, that apparently could happen by Friday with training camps officially opening as soon as Saturday. The NHL's board of governors will meet in New York on Wednesday to vote and the players will vote electronically on Thursday and Friday. The season is currently scheduled to be 48 games long and begin on Jan. 19.
Moving on, here are some notes from today's skate session:

- Marian Gaborik is returning to New York after being in Slovakia during the lockout and John Tortorella said that he is completely healed from shoulder surgery that repaired a torn labrum after last season. Gaborik will have no restrictions once training camp opens, which is fantastic news.

- Rick Nash said he has completely recovered from a groin strain he suffered a few months ago while playing overseas in Switzerland.

- Carl Hagelin has also fully recovered from a shoulder surgery he suffered back in November and is now said to be 100-percent healthy.

- Even though Michael Del Zotto participated in today's voluntary skate, he's still a restricted free agent without a contract. Del Zotto said his agent restarted talks on a new contract today with GM Glen Sather in hopes of quickly reaching a deal. Del Zotto wouldn't speculate on how quickly a deal could be reached, but it would certainly benefit him to sign as quickly as possible. I can't imagine how agitated John Tortorella would be if Del Zotto were to really hold out of training camp after all this.

- Speaking of Tortorella, the Rangers' head coach said that he and his coaching staff already in place on how to approach training camp with an abbreviated 48-game season. Torts also stunningly showed a gentle side when he admitted to actually missing his team. “Quite honestly, I miss them," he said. "I’m anxious to get back with them and get to work.”

- Brad Richards posted the following message for Rangers fans on his official website:

I wanted to take a minute to personally thank all of you for your patience during the last few months of negotiations.
As a player and a fan of this game, I couldn’t be happier to have hockey back. Your ongoing support and encouragement throughout the lockout has been incredible and has helped us prepared to get on the ice and play some games. I am looking forward to playing in front of all of you again, connecting with my Ranger’s family and seeing and hearing all the fans at The Garden! We will work hard to make 2013 OUR season, and reaching the ultimate goal…bringing The Cup back to New York.
Stay tuned to for exclusives and updates throughout the season. See you all soon! Lets go Rangers!!!
Awesome message from Richards that will certainly get any Rangers fan fired up after reading it. Gotta love the leadership and winning attitude he has brought to this organization. I like the Richards signing more and more everyday.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lockout Over: NHL and NHLPA Agree To New CBA

It's over. After wiping out all of training camp and the first three and a half months of the season, the NHL lockout is officially over. The outstanding news broke earlier today, when details began to trickle in that the NHL and NHLPA reached an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement late Saturday evening. Both sides have since confirmed that a tentative deal has been reached, and we officially have a 2012-2013 hockey season to look forward to.

The new CBA is a 10-year deal with an opt out clause (gotta love those, right?) after the eighth year. The players and owners agreed on a 50/50 split of revenue sharing, meaning the players took a cut of seven percent in the revenue sharing they were previously receiving. You can read more details on the new CBA as they continue to trickle in here. I'm sure we'll get more information of the next few days.

As for when the season begins? Well, hockey fans apparently won't have to wait long. The NHL has confirmed that the season will be 48 games long, and depending on how quickly the new CBA is officially approved the season could being as early as Jan. 15. A lot of it is still up in the air, though, and the Jan. 15 start date is still just being rumored. The NHL will likely release an official start date within the next week.

I'll have more on my thoughts regarding this entire negotiation process and the new agreement that was reached, but for now I'll just say it's a fantastic feeling to know we have hockey back. I thought we were bound to lose the entire season once the lockout extended into the new calendar year, and Gary Bettman did confirm a few days ago that the next step would be to cancel the remainder of the season if no agreement had been reached by Jan. 11. I think most people were prepared for the worst based on the recent string of events, and rightfully so. There had been little progress reported by both sides over the past several months, and every time it seemed like both sides were finally starting to make a breakthrough in negotiations things would fall apart every single time. To say that I was shocked when I woke up today and heard an agreement had been reached would be an understatement.

I'll also say that while I, like every hockey fan, am ecstatic that we will have an abbreviated season, it still angers me that it took this long for a deal to be reached. Neither the owners nor the players come out looking like saints after this whole ordeal, but that analysis will be saved for another day.

As for the Rangers, I expect we'll begin getting more information on players over the next few days. Henrik Lundqvist returned to New York from Sweden last week with the hope that there would be an NHL season, and a few other players have already commented on Twitter, Instagram and the Rangers' official website about how psyched they are for the season to begin. It'll be nice to finally get to see Rick Nash take the Garden ice in a Rangers uniform, and hopefully Marian Gaborik is fully healed by now from his shoulder surgery that was expected to sideline him until December at the latest.

Much more to come over the next few days. We're just getting started!