The Rangers trimmed their roster to 25 today by sending Ryan
McDonagh, Pavel Valentenko, Mats Zuccarello and Dale Weise to Hartford.
Weise and Zuccarello had already been cut, but were
emergency call ups for last night’s game as the Rangers rested Marian Gaborik
and Ryan Callahan. Valentenko has had a
very strong camp, but his skills are still raw and while John Tortorella wanted
to give him a longer look, his demotion was a foregone conclusion. But cutting McDonagh comes as a pretty big
surprise. He’s been extremely steady
during camp and seemed like he had a spot locked up on defense.
It appears that the Rangers were unwilling to cut Mike Sauer
and Steve Eminger as both would have had to pass through waivers, where Sauer
would likely have been claimed. McDonagh
and Valentenko are not subject to waivers and can be sent to Hartford without penalty. It’s certainly good to Sauer finally get his
shot at the NHL and he has been effective during the preseason. But one has to wonder if he’s truly a better
option than McDonagh, or if the Rangers are just trying to keep as many good young
defensemen in the organization as they can. Can’t really blame the Blueshirts if that’s the case as it would have
been a real shame to lose a promising young player like Sauer to waivers. But McDonagh certainly proved that he’s ready
for the NHL and may have been more a victim of the Rangers’ unwillingness to
lose Sauer than anything else. Eminger has
been very quiet and appears likely to be the seventh defenseman by default.
With yesterday’s news that Vinny Prospal won’t skate for at
least two weeks and possibly quite a bit longer, a couple borderline Rangers
forwards may have survived final cuts by default. It now seems likely that both Prospal and
Chris Drury will begin the season on IR, so the Rangers won’t be forced to make
tough decisions at forward. Todd White
was the apparent odd man out, until he potted two goals last night. Before that, White had shown very little in
the preseason and also carried a hefty salary cap hit with him. When Drury and Prospal rejoin the team, he
remains the most likely to be cut.
The Derek Stepan debate also will be put on hold, at least
for the moment, as he’ll almost certainly get a two-week audition in the NHL
while Prospal and Drury heal. It remains
unclear who will center Alex Frolov and Gaborik, but Stepan has spent time
between Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko recently, a less-pressure filled
situation for the rookie.
Fedotenko will almost certainly get an offer from the Rangers,
but Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun says that as many as three teams have also contacted
Fedotenko about a contract. The Rangers
may have to offer a bit more money than they intended to retain Fedotenko.
In summary, the Rangers faced some extremely difficult
decisions for their final roster and were given a bit more time to make them
with Drury and Prospal hurt. It will be
interesting to see what happens when the duo return to the lineup, but for
right now, all the Rangers’ bubble forwards will probably be with the team
opening night. On defense, the Rangers
chose to keep as many assets as possible, maybe at the cost of McDonagh’s
The Rangers may make other roster moves, as trade winds
continue to blow, but if Drury and Prospal do indeed start the year on IR the Blueshirts
won’t have to make any more cuts for a couple weeks.