After a disappointing finish to last year's NHL season Glen Sather and the New York Rangers knew that they had some work to do.
With Brandon Prust, Vaclav Prospal, Erik Christensen, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal all re-signed, the New York Rangers camp is filled with tons of familiar faces. There are, however, some questions as to prospects that may or may not be gunning for a spot at camp.
I will take it from here, but make sure to go to Blueshirt Banter for more coverage:
The Rangers have a few prospects who might be in the running for a position with the Rangers this year. Defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh (who the Rangers acquired in the Scott Gomez trade) probably has the best chance to make the team out of camp. The Rangers were so impressed with him at their prospect camp back in June that they tried to sign him to a professional contract. There was speculation that McDonagh wanted to remain in Wisconsin, but he decided to sign with the Rangers. The assumption is that his spot on the defense is his to lose, and his success at making the team out of camp will finally spell the end of Wade Redden. But that has yet to be seen.
On the forward side of things there are a few guys who are expected to make a splash. Evgeny Grachev will be expected to impress, although it is widely agreed that he probably needs another year of development in the AHL this year. Derek Stepan--who the Rangers also signed away from the Wisconsin Badgers this off-season--will try to ride his unbelievable World Junior performance (he lead all scorers, including Taylor Hall and other top picks in the past two NHL entry drafts) to a roster spot. While he is hight touted, and very talented, the general consensus is that he needs a year of pro hockey before he finds his way to Garden ice as well.
You can also expect to see guys like Dane Byers and Dale Weiss, who have been seasoned for a few years in the Rangers system, fight for a 4th line spot on the team. But I just don't see those two beating out any of the competition this year, at least not for anything more than spot on the bottom line.
Alexander Frolov: The Rangers had one big problem last year, guys not named Marian Gaborik scoring goals. With Frolov, the Rangers will have another scoring outlet who should help alleviate the scoring pressures put on Gaborik. Frolov should also help the power play stay more constant, and his presence should crate more space for guys like Michael Del Zotto, brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan to utilize.
Martin Brion: Since he wrestled the starting goaltender job away from Kevin Weeks, Henrik Lundqvist has not had a reliable back-up goaltender to give him some breaks during the NHL season. As a result Lundqvist has been playing in 70 games a year, and has been dead tired towards the end of the season and the playoffs. With Biron the Rangers have a reliable back-up who can play in 20 games and keep Lundqvist fresh for the entire season. Biron was the best goalie on the market this year, and he was a great addition to the Rangers squad.
Derek Boogaard: Yes, you can complain about his contract. But the fact remains that Boogaard is one of the scariest players in the NHL and he will certainly help the Rangers become a tougher team to play against, literally.
Steve Eminger: Eminger fills another role that the Rangers haven't had for a few years, the 7th defenseman position. Although Eminger could very well impress the Rangers brass in camp and find his way into a starting role for the Rangers, Eminger seems like a depth player at this point. But, that's a vital role as well, because having a reliable defenseman at the back can help spell breaks for the Rangers younger defenseman who aren't used to the rigors and length of an NHL season. Guys like Del Zotto, McDonagh and Matt Gilroy can only benefit from a 7th defenseman.
Todd White: White, who was acquired in the Donald Brashear trade, figures to be a depth move by Sather; along with removing Brashear from the team. And although most Rangers fans didn't like White when his acquisition was first announced he brings a lot of versatility to the table. he is a center who can pivot at wing, he brings playoff experience to the table and he can be a mentor to some of the younger guys on the team. His position with the team isn't a lock, but I do expect him to make the Rangers out of camp.
Tim Kennedy: After being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres the New York Rangers targeted and acquired Kennedy. Kennedy is a young center/left wing (sound familiar?) and has a ton of upside. Although his 10 goals and 16 assists don't blow you away, you have to realize that it was his rookie year and he has tons of room for improvement. he also scored one goal and added two assists in six playoff games for the Sabres last year as well. It will be interesting to see if he makes the team out of camp, but you should expect him to be a favorite for a spot on the team on opening night.
Donald Brashear: After being waived last year it became apparent that the Rangers had no use for Brashear any longer. Signed to fill the shoes of Colton Orr as the enforcer of the Rangers Brashear hardly played and when he did he was much less than effective. He won't be missed.
Aaron Voros: Another guy that the Rangers brough in to add some snarl to the team. Although Voros was a great guy, and a fantastic presence in the locker room, he never really translated any of that into results on the ice. Although he was favored with Tom Renney he barley saw any ice time under Tortorella and his removal wasn't surprising.
Chris Higgins: Higgins was by far the biggest disappointment of last year. Expected to come in and help take some of the scoring pressures off of Gaborik, Higgins ended up having the worst year of his NHL career. His six goals and eight assists in 54 games were atrocious numbers, and his constantly missed scoring opportunities drove Rangers fans crazy. He did no better once he was traded to Calgary.
Ales Kotalik: What can really be said about Kotalik? Kotalik was suppose to come in and help the power play, and also become a scoring threat at even strength for the Rangers due to his heavy shot. He did neither, and ended up becoming a huge liability at both even strength and on the power play. He was traded with Higgins for Jokinen.
Olli Jokinen: Jokinen ended up being the Rangers biggest move during last year's season, but never really produced. His four goals and 11 assists in 24 games was less than expected, and his missed shoot-out attempt will forever leave a bad taste in Rangers fans' mouths.
Enver Lisin: Out of all of the players who won't be back next year, Lisin figures to be the most missed. The guy has a ton of talent and wasn't given a great opportunity to prove himself under Tortorella.
Jody Shelley: Shellye was another late-season acquisition last year. He was brought into try and fill the shoes that Brashear left when he was waived, and Shelley lived up to the task. he bought into the Rangers system, he protected his teammates and was good in fights. Sather decided not to re-sign him, however, and how he is on the Flyers.
Final Prediction: The Rangers missed the playoff by one point last year, and this team has basically the same complexion with a few major upgrades. Don't underestimate how much of an impact Biron will have on this team's win total, and Frolov will help immensely with both the power play consistency and the Rangers scoring problems. I think that this Rangers team made some really good moves and will make the playoffs (and surprise some people in my opinion).