The Rangers assigned Tim Kennedy, 24, to the Hartford Wolf Pack today. Kennedy would have had to leapfrog several players to see the ice for the Rangers especially with Chris Drury returning. This move ends Kennedy's career with the Rangers in all likelihood. He didn't appear to be in the Rangers' plans anyway, but if the Rangers did recall Kennedy from the Pack he'd be subject to re-entry waivers, where a team could could claim him and only pay half his salary as the Rangers did with Sean Avery a couple years ago. I was surprised that Kennedy went unclaimed when he was first subject to waivers, but at half the price he'd almost certainly be snatched up. If that happens, the Rangers would pay $225k along with the team that makes the claim. Its not surprising that the Rangers have moved past Kennedy, but it is surprising that he was sent to Hartford before Todd White.
- - -
As you've surely heard by now, the NHL suspended Islanders defenseman James Wisniewskifor two games today as punishment for his obscene gesture directed at Sean Avery during yesterday's game. If you haven't seen it yet, you can view the video here.
For his part, Avery had a good sense of humor about the incident:
"Can you imagine if I did that?" he said. "They sent me to rehab the last time I did something. It's crazy."
The NHL had no choice but to punish Wisniewski for the incident. NHL games are supposed to be family friendly and the gesture was not exactly appropriate for younger viewers. Still, I think it’s kind of amusing that Wisniewski received the same penalty as Nik Hjalmarsson, who, whether it was legal or not, delivered a vicious and extremely dangerous blow to Jason Pominville's head last night. The NHL is nothing like the "No Fun League" that is the NFL, in fact it allows players a decent amount of individuality and expression on the ice. But a simple hand gesture that didn't even make physical contact with an opponent doesn't seem as bad as a concussion hit with debatable intent to injure. I know that hits are part of the game and I am a big fan of physical play. I'm just saying I think it’s amusing that the league is paranoid about a sexually explicit gesture to the same extent as a devastating hit that could have seriously injured one of its players.
Nevertheless, Avery is right. He's one of the few players that the league almost expects to misbehave, and even minor incidents by Avery get the full attention of NHL executives. Wisniewski is developing a bit of a bad-boy reputation of his own and will be watched with more scrutiny from here on out.
The other big development of the last 36 hours has been the uncertainty surrounding Erik Christensen. The severity of his leg injury is unknown, but he's been tagged with the all too ambiguous day-to-day tag. The question is whether Christensen's injury is really a day by day thing, or whether the Rangers are buying time to see whether Chris Drury will be ready to go on Friday night. Obviously the Rangers want to insert their captain into the lineup as soon as possible, but his return will come at the expense of someone else. Artem Anisimov isn't going anywhere, and obviously Derek Stepan has earned a longer look and may well be in New York for good. Brian Boyle's spot really isn't in jeopardy because none of the Rangers' other centers are suited for a fourth line role. Which leaves Christensen, who may have been the odd man out before his injury. But is it really wise to remove the team's No. 1 center? Christensen hasn't been particularly special just yet, but I still think he's the best choice to play between Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov. The Rangers don't want to break up their second line of Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan because they've been so good this season so far, but they also realize that Drury probably isn't the best choice to center the first line. Which means the Rangers could move Stepan to the top line and insert Drury into his spot on the third line, but that also disrupts the chemistry Stepan has had with Sean Avery and puts a lot of pressure on the youngster.
One option is to move someone, most likely Drury, to wing for the time being and drop someone, likely Avery, to the fourth line in Derek Boogaard's spot (unless the match up dictates that he should play). Drury could still take face offs at wing while keeping the other centers in the lineup. This also might be the best way to avoid disrupting chemistry. But really there is no clear best choice of how to juggle the roster with Drury's inevitable return. Christensen's injury just buys the Rangers a bit more time to try out certain combinations they've been forced into before making the difficult decisions that will come when everyone is healthy. And this will only get more difficult and confusing if and when Vinny Prospal returns. Oh boy.