Rangers + Wolf Pack News As Season Gets Closer

The NHL season is almost here! How do I know? Well besides the fact the calendar is about to change to September, we are getting tweets like this:

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The players are back in New York! Well not all of them but they are starting to come back and I expect a lot more by this time next week.

So Cerny mentioned ten Rangers players. In a later tweet, he mentioned Lundqvist and Kreider so we know they are in town. He’s also mentioned a lot of younger guys being around such as Hayes, Miller, Haggerty and Hrivik. I’m not sure they are included in the ten so there may be a good amount of players currently in the New York area. I know Brassard and Zuccarello are here due to this great post from last week:

Zuccarello-Brassard

I think everyone can admit that hash tag is adorable.

I could sit here and guess who else is in town but before we know we’ll be getting full reports of full team practices and training camp will be under way. That means we should all prepare for the ups and downs of games now. (Although no amount of preparation will stop us from assuming the season is over if they lose a few games in October, right?)

Speaking of the kids in town, the AHL finally released their 2014-15 schedule today. You can see the entire Wolf Pack schedule here.

And speaking of the Wolf Pack, as I say every year around this time, I am going to try and get them coverage on the site this season. Since we all know how bad I am at following through with that statement, if anyone follows the team and wants a place to write about them, definitely let me know. They should be good this year and I want them to get the coverage they deserve.

Now we go back to our regularly scheduled programming of summer vacation, where news of a possible tryout becomes a major issue amongst fanbases.

22 days until training camp begins, 26 days until the first preseason game and 43 days until the season opener. It will be here before we know it!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Looking At Another Ex-Lightning Player?

Over the past decade, the joke among Rangers fans has been the team only trades with two teams (first it was the Coyotes, then the Blue Jackets…they like to keep it in the family). That said, the number of members of the Tampa Bay Lightning that have been in the organization is probably more than people realize. Part of that of course was due to John Tortorella being coach. While players say he can be impossible to play for at times, they all seem to come back.

But Tortorella is gone and the team is getting more Lightning players than ever before. First it was Marty St. Louis back in March. Then Dan Boyle in July. Now, there’s this from Michael Russo of The Star Tribune who was at pre-training camp skates run by Octagon out in Minnesota (which Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan are taking a part in):

[Ryan] Malone looked good and with his legal issues soon behind him from Tampa, one would think somebody signs him (Rangers have talked to him) or he attends a training camp on a tryout.

Okay then. I’m not surprised as Malone is the type of player that would probably fit in well on the Rangers. There’s just one little problem – the Rangers literally have no space for him.

After signing Kevin Hayes yesterday the team was at 48 contracts not including Danny Kristo, John Moore and Ryan Graves. Even though we knew this happened a month ago, the Rangers announced today Kristo was officially signed. That brings the team to 49. According to cap geek, Ryan Graves contract will slide to 2015-16 so we’re still at 49. John Moore will sign before opening night. That brings the team to 50, the maximum allowed under the CBA.

Russo has plenty of sources, especially out in Minnesota, so if Malone is there I’m sure that the Rangers have actually spoken to him. My guess is that discussion was along the lines of “you can come to camp on a tryout basis”. That’s fine, no harm in that. But how exactly do the Rangers plan to fit Malone in if they do decide he is a fit?

I honestly don’t have an answer. But let’s say that wasn’t an issue. Do we want Malone in New York?

Last few years have not been good for Malone as he has been hampered with injuries and office ice issues, the latter which led to the Lightning buying him out this summer. Then there’s the whole arrest that took place earlier this spring which sounds to be nearing resolution. Basically it sounds like the 35-year old needs a change of scenery if he is going to continue his career. Other than age, he may be a good replacement for Benoit Pouliot but then why did the Rangers sign Lombardi and Stempniak?

Honestly, while I’m sure the conversation happened, I don’t think this realistically has any chance of happening. Then again, I never thought the Rangers would land Hayes so anything is possible.

 

(Photo: Christine Gunn)

Rangers “Win” Kevin Hayes Sweepstakes

Almost every post you read about the signing of Kevin Hayes is going to makes this seem like the best move the Rangers made this summer. I say almost every one because this post won’t. That said, I’m not entirely against the signing.

Anyway, as you’ve probably heard by now, Kevin Hayes was another college player who decided to go UFA rather than sign with the team that drafted him (Chicago Blackhawks). Anyone who has a problem with this decision shouldn’t. If you don’t like your job or the city you live in or school you are attending, you try and change it if you can. For whatever reason, Hayes decided he didn’t want to stay in Chicago. CBA allows him to make this change so I have no problem with him making it.

As soon as August 15th hit (the day he needed to sign by), rumors began on where he would end up. Many thought Boston was a possibility since he went to school at Boston College. His linemates there are currently in the Flames organization so Calgary was on the list as well. Add Colorado and Nashville as they were looking for someone with his qualifications.

The Rangers were mentioned in the beginning but no one took them seriously because how were they going to make him fit? We all know the cap issues but here’s another – the Rangers were at 49 contracts including John Moore but not including Ryan Graves (whose contract is expected to slide to 2015-16). The maximum allowed is 50.

I’m not sure how they are going to do it (and it’s one of the reasons I am against this move) but somehow they will as today it was announced that this happened:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsSigh. Actually I’m going to write that again as I need to take a few breaths before continuing this post. Sigh.

As of this writing, the Rangers still haven’t confirmed it but this tweet is confirmation enough for me:  

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I think of all people, he would know if this happened. (Update: Of course the team confirmed it right after this posted.)

In terms of talent at 6’3″, 205 pounds and 22 years old, he is supposed to be NHL ready. So was Chris Kreider. (And don’t tell me he jumped into the playoffs just fine. He did. But how did his first full season go? Oh wait, he played so many games that he was still considered a rookie the following year.) But each player is different so maybe he is. Evan Sporer over on Blueshirt Banter had a good write up here after being able to watch him play.

How the Rangers plan to fit him under cap along with having some roster flexibility should be interesting. A trade is definitely coming. The question is will it be a minor one to just get rid of a contract or one with more implications. My fear is the latter but I’ve learned (for better or worse) to trust Glen Sather and his staff so we’ll see what happens.

But my biggest issue is the player himself. Yes all kids, especially American ones it seems, need time to mature. They need to be taught that things aren’t just handed to them because they can be. (See: Kreider, Chris or Miller, J.T.) Hayes appears to fall into this category.

And how do I know this? For lack of a better way of saying it, sources. I hate being one of those people so hear me out. Those who know me, know while I am a die heart Rangers fan, I have a soft spot for the Blackhawks as well. I have a lot of friends in Chicago so of course when something like this happens, they are the first people I go to. Because I can’t name names, a few of those friends have connections to the team (i.e. they know people within the organization). Their initial reaction was a combination of “I’m sorry” and “Good luck”. Not exactly ringing endorsements.

Everyone knows about the stairwell incident. If not, you can read it here. Somehow the Blackhawks managed to let that be the only one that got out. But from what I’ve heard there were plenty of other issues and incidents that they needed to cover up. Again, I understand if people consider this speculation (as I would too) but I like to believe since I rarely comment like this, people will trust me. Also I’ll put it this way – I almost hope it is because the things I’ve heard aren’t good.

But as you said, these kids need to mature right? Correct. I’ve just never thought NYC was the place for them to try and do it. Having lived here my entire life, it’s very difficult to tame certain lifestyles if people come into the city having them already. Everything is right at their finger tips. The Rangers have had plenty of experience with this so I just hope they are ready to lock down another. The funny part is the guy I would have teach him (Brad Richards) isn’t available anymore as he is now on the team Hayes just left.

At the end of the day, we’re all fans of the team – cheer for the logo on the front, not the name on the back is what we are told. So that’s what I’m going to do. I hope Hayes turns out to be a great signing from day one and all my fears and concerns were for nothing. If that happens, I will gladly write an entire post admitting I was wrong. But right now, I just don’t have a good feeling on this signing.

Rangers Summer “News”: Traverse City Roster + More

I have a secret to tell everyone – throughout the entire spring, I just wanted the season to end. I can’t explain it but I was mentally fried from the ups and downs of the season and just needed a break. Now that we’ve had some time off, all I keep thinking is the same thing:

“Is it October yet?”

Sadly, it’s not but at least it’s almost September as September brings actual news. Until then, you get posts like this with summer “news”.

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon the Rangers announced their Traverse City roster for the annual tournament that will take place from September 12-16. (It will basically be a prelude to training camp which starts on September 18th.)

traverse city roster 2014

There weren’t really any surprises on the roster but definitely a few players I’m excited to see how they do. Also should be fun for the Rangers first pick from the 2014 draft, Brandon Halverson, who is from the host city.

At the moment, there is no word on if the Rangers plan to televise any of the games or just leave us with highlight videos. I really hope they are televised as it would be a great way for fans to see the future of the organization. (It would also give us hockey on our televisions a week earlier than we would otherwise see it.) Sadly, I’m not getting my hopes up this will happen as it rarely has in the past.

In separate news, we mentioned over the weekend that the Rangers would be dedicating one episode of their series Beginnings to Mats Zuccarello. Well we now know who a second episode will focus on:

The King. The Rangers have done countless shows based around Henrik Lundqvist but never an episode of Beginnings. Now he gets his chance. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume all of this years’ episodes were taped in Europe which means Carl Hagelin should be getting the same treatment. I’m guessing we’ll find out soon enough.

**UPDATE: Apparently “soon enough” equals two hours after I posted this as look what the Rangers just posted:

Can they be more predictable? I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get Chris Kreider this year but I guess that means he should be a definite for next summer.

And with that we go back to our quiet summer without hockey. The good news is Traverse City is exactly one month away. Oh and 37 days until training camp begins, 41 days until the first preseason game and 58 days until the season opener. Not that I’m counting or anything…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Summer Updates: A Signing, A Wedding + More

There’s been a lot of news around the Rangers the past couple of days. Well, it’s summer so basically any news would be a lot.

The Rangers started on Friday by signing another RFA, this time forward Ryan Bourque. There was no secret Bourque would be re-signed, especially when the team brought his brother into the organization earlier in the year. There is no word on terms (years or money) so all we know is he will be back with the organization this year.

For those who think this is a minor signing, there is a belief by those around the team that Bourque will fight for a roster spot in camp after having a breakout year last season. While I don’t expect him to make it initially, I would not be surprised to see him receive a call-up sooner rather than later.

Also on Friday, MSG Networks posted this picture:

A Beginnings episode with Zuccarello? That should be awesome! I’m also glad they finally ventured out of North America. I’m guessing they had no choice since there weren’t a lot of guys left. If I had my pick, the three episodes this year would be Zuccarello, Hagelin and Kreider.

Speaking of Kreider, he apparently was in Minnesota on Saturday where another Ranger tied the knot as Derek Stepan married his long time girlfriend, Stephanie. As usual there isn’t a lot out there on the wedding (as there probably shouldn’t be) but we do know a couple of things. One, some guy named Ryan McDonagh was the best man. (With Callahan gone, I stand by my belief that is the biggest bromance on the team.)

And we know a couple of players were there thanks to Stu Bickel:

Great picture boys! And if you look closely, I am 99% positive that is Marc Staal walking behind Bickel. (I would know that red hair anywhere!)

Now I put two and two together and assumed they were at the Stepan wedding since I knew it was yesterday and they definitely are at a fancy event. Bickel did confirm this by posting a picture of him and Stepan’s dad a little while later. Some time overnight he deleted it though so we only have this retweet with a picture link that doesn’t work, to prove it. (I meant to screen cap it and forgot because I had a feeling that one would disappear.)

**UPDATE** Found someone who still had the picture so figured I would post it here since it’s a great picture:

Bickel-Papa Step

(Here’s the original tweet it came from. I didn’t want to embed it in case the picture disappeared from there as well.)

I’m still holding out hope for a picture of the guys that were there but otherwise I expect (and agree) that everything should stay private. Congrats to Derek and Stephanie!

And with that, we go back to our summer silence. August is probably the quietest month of the hockey season so it’s no surprise there isn’t anything going on. At this point the only things left are the re-signing of John Moore and Danny Kristo (I completely forgot Danny Kristo signed a month ago according to his agent). It will happen sometime before camp opens on September 18th. Until then, no news is probably good news for the team.

 

(Photo: LJS Design Website. LJS Design are creators and manufacturers of fine jewelry and helped Derek create their engagement ring. One of the owners is Derek’s mom, Trish.)

Could Rangers Players Play Another Position If Necessary?

On Tuesday night, Chicago White Sox fans got quite a surprise when Adam Dunn came out to pitch the 9th inning. For those non-baseball fans, like myself, who don’t understand why this was a big deal, here you go:

baseball

Yes that lists his position as 1B. You don’t need to be a baseball fan to know first baseman and pitcher are two completely different positions. In hockey terms that would be similar to Henrik Lunqvist taking an offensive zone face-off. Other than the fact they were losing 15-0 at the time, I have no idea why the White Sox decided to send out a non-pitcher to pitch the 9th inning. But it got me thinking – who on the Rangers would be able to play another position if necessary?

I’m not talking about a right winger playing center. Most forwards are fully capable of playing every forward position, they just excel at some more than others. I’m talking about a guy going in the last place you would expect to see him. For instance, how I felt when I saw Dan Girardi standing in front of the Coyotes net in March. But even with that, I would never make him an emergency forward.

So then the question became who would I choose? Obviously needing an emergency spare forward during a game probably wouldn’t happen but let’s say during a 5-on-3 kill that a bad line change ended up with an icing and three defenseman on the ice. Who is taking the face-off?

Of the six defenseman we expect to be on the starting roster next season, the easy answer would be Ryan McDonagh because let’s be honest, is there anything he can’t do? Instead I’m going to go with John Moore. (I may have chosen Dan Boyle if I watched him more closely recently but since I haven’t, I wouldn’t be able to accurately defend that choice.)

Moore is your stereotypical young offensive defenseman. He is thinking offense all the time so moving him up front would make sense as that’s where he ends up most of the time anyway. I have no idea how his face-off abilities are but can they really be much worse than Derek Stepan or Derick Brassard (who were 45% and 48% respectively)? I would give him a shot if necessary and see what happens.

Or the Rangers could go with Marc Staal who apparently took a face-off last year and won it. (Although I question if he actually took it as it looks like two face-offs happened at the exact same time so this could be a score sheet mistake they forgot to delete. Look at 12:30 into the first period of this game. (If anyone happens to have access to this game and could tell me what happened, I’d appreciate it!) It’s the only game he has a face-off listed.)

More than likely, the emergency swap would need to be a forward playing defense. So who would you put back? My first thought is Derek Stepan. He’s not the quickest skater but he’s so smart with the puck, I think he could handle being a defensive defenseman. If Brian Boyle were still with the team, he would be an easy choice as I always felt he should’ve been a defenseman rather than a forward (minus how great he was at face-offs).

Or what about putting Carl Hagelin on the blue line? You would never have to worry about him getting back if he pinched or got caught out of position since he’s usually the one bailing defenseman out when they get caught. Not sure how his shot from the point would be but we know he can play defense since he’s one of the teams’ best penalty killers. I think it could be an option if the team were desperate or ever down 9-2 again and wanted to give guys rest. (Note to the Rangers: Please don’t ever do that again. Especially not during a west coast game. Thanks.)

Now here comes the fun one. Let’s say for some reason Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot both started the game and neither were able to play the third period for one reason or another. Yes, I am fully aware that is when they find some random person within the organization who happens to be a goalie but let’s pretend that isn’t an option. Who would be the one nominated to strap on some extra pads (he would have to get pads somehow) and get thrown in net?

Instinct would say a defenseman but can you afford to lose one of those for an entire period? I know a couple of guys have played goal for fun during practice but not sure my choice would be Mats Zuccarello. You need someone who would cover the net, not fit in it.

Would you go with someone on the fourth line who might not be getting a lot of minutes anyway? It should be someone who wasn’t afraid to block shots without the gear on but could quickly move from post to post if necessary. I’m really not sure who on the team would fit into that. If this was last years’ team, we could suggest Brad Richards since he apparently always wanted to be a goalie (although he doesn’t fit the two things I just listed would be necessary.) Can we maybe find a use for Tanner Glass? Okay, I said I would give him a chance when he was signed and this isn’t doing that so not Tanner Glass.

Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh led the team in blocked shots by a lot but I can’t see either of them playing goal. I’m sure McDonagh could do it cause as I already said, there’s nothing he can’t do. Girardi, while I love him, I wouldn’t trust him actually in net. Although he does spend a lot of time near there.

What does everyone else think? Anyone on the team that you could see as a goalie other than the two who actually are? I’m really not sure I would trust any of them back there, even for a shift.

Fortunately none of this will ever happen as even in a blow out, teams tend to keep rolling lines. But it gives up something to think about on a quiet summer day during the offseason.

 

(Photo at top by Melissa Andus; screenshot of Adam Dunn from Yahoo Sports)

All Quiet With Rangers As Calendar Hits August

I’m going to be honest – I am writing this post in hopes that something happens. Because right now the biggest news (and only news) since Brassard signed was the announcement of what numbers four players will wear next season. While some might consider that news, none of them were really a surprise:

The good news is anyone with a Brian Boyle jersey can keep wearing it. Actually this just means we might see #22 Rangers jerseys at MSG this season.

Honestly the only surprise to me was that Matthew Lombardi wasn’t listed. I still think he was brought in for the NHL team but if he isn’t being given a number, maybe not. Although that contract would make even less sense if it was for AHL. (He wouldn’t have signed for two years if he wasn’t going to be given a chance to make the team.)

Other than that you can hear pins drop around the Rangers. I mean unless you consider seeing Henrik Lundqvist’s new mask and pads or Cam Talbot’s new mask actual news. Or Justin Falk officially not returning with the Rangers since he signed a one year deal with the Wild.

There’s been no news on John Moore’s contract, nor do I expect there to be until he randomly signs one day (which he will; might be September 17th but it will happen).

There was word over the weekend that there had been no talks with Marc Staal either. Again, no surprise as they need to finish this years roster before looking at next years. I do think there will be talks before the season starts. I don’t expect a contract even if we all know it would be better if there was. The good news is right now he is saying he wants one. But then again Ryan Callahan said the same thing this time last year so we’ll see what happens.

So as I said, nothing going on. But this is how the summer goes. Fortunately for Rangers fans it’s been a short summer. Hopefully next year is just as short but we have lots to talk about as we follow each players’ special day with a certain trophy.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)