Thursday, October 21, 2010

I love Ranger fans

It's so easy to stay a Ranger fan, even when the team sucks, because the fans are always so good. Contrast being here in Pittsburgh, where no one knows anything about hockey, but the team is very good. Anyway, yesterday Kevin DeLury (of NY Rangers Blog) had a live chat, in which he asked the honest question, "Who would you guys like to see the Rangers obtain in trade?" Here, in order, are the answers people gave:

-Alex Ovechkin
-Sheldon Souray
-Colby Armstrong
-Steven Crasby [sic]
-Brian Leetch
-Jonathan Bernier
-Lou Lamoriello
-"Killer" Carlson
-Lance Armstrong
-Dave Semenko
-Dion Phaneuf
-A team of skating instructors
-Ales Kotalik
-Christopher Higgins

I fucking love Ranger fans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two quick things

1. If you want a good summary of the home opener (which I hardly provided), go read Scotty Hockey's.

2. The "Frolov on Stepan's line" experiment, as we all saw the other night, didn't go so hot. So, that line seems to be back to Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko, which is good. Other lines seem to be Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan staying together, plus a promotion for Prust (Frolov-Christensen-Prust), leaving Boogaard-Boyle-White. Interesting!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two home games, one point

...and the Rangers fall to 1-2-1. Not the greatest start to the season. But hey - in our last two seasons, we started 7-1-0 and 10-2-1, and we combined to see a total of 1 playoff round, losing it. So maybe getting off to a mediocre start isn't such a bad thing?

In full disclosure, I didn't see Friday night's home opener. I had to be away for the weekend (family emergency, but the really really good kind), and I recorded the game, but didn't get the chance to watch it until last night, when I was already recording last night's game. Also I had heard the results. So I watched the opening ceremony, all the goals, Prust's fight, Gaborik's injury, and overtime. Then I actually watched last night's game.

First of all, Armstrong's hit on Gabby. It was definitely boarding, it got called right, and it sucks that Gaborik got injured on it. It was easily an illegal hit, with an appropriate call, and I have no reason to believe it was really dirty - it didn't look to me like Armstrong was trying to hurt Gaborik. That said, fuck him and his goddamn Maple Leafs, and I love that some people really did go after him afterwards. After the game, Brian Boyle referred to a 5-on-3 situation the Rangers found themselves in when Fedotenko and Avery went after Armstrong and Komisarek in the third:

We had two of our guys go down, and one on a play we are simply not going to stand for. It was a matter of pride for us. It was a mindset going into the third. You know what? We killed it. We will stand up for each other, and then we will kill off those penalties when we get them. It's not going to be like last year.
(Credit to the Post for the quote)

So there are good takeaways there: we lost Gaborik and Drury, battled back physically, and stole a point by forcing OT after being down 3-1 going into the third. (Also, the interference call on Staal 3 minutes into OT, which led to the game-winner, was really soft.)

On to the game I actually watched: without Drury or Gaborik, we made some line changes. We left Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan alone as the first line, and dropped Frolov down to skate with Stepan and Fedotenko as the second line. Boyle and Prust earned promotions to the third line with Avery, and Christensen and White filled in with Boogaard on the fourth. If it were late in the season, and Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko were already some kind of powerhouse line, I'd disagree with the move, but I'm all about trying things right now. As it happens, Frolov-Stepan-Fedotenko (which doesn't sound like a bad idea on paper at all) didn't exactly spark (though who did), and some think this will change up again for Thursday night's game.

Once again, there were good things to take away from last night, and they again look like our willingness to battle physically. After being outpaced to an unbelievable degree, outshot 15-4 in thirteen and a half minutes of hockey, the Rangers settled down and fought back. My favorite moment? When TJ Galiardi took Girardi down from behind, and Del Zotto jumped him. The Rangers would have had a man advantage on the appropriately-called boarding penalty, but instead skated 4-on-4 because Del Zotto went after Galiardi. And I love that. Stand up for your guys, and like Boyle said, deal with the penalties that come with that.

That said, we need to work on the second part of that some. The Rangers were 0-for-5 with the man advantage, while the Avs were 2-for-2. You're not gonna win too many games with those numbers. Forget not having anyone to finish plays at even strength: we can't spend that much time up a man without some more quality chances. And our plan to stand up for ourselves even if we take penalties doesn't actually work if we can't kill them off.

The point is, all things considered, there are reasons to be happy right now. And OK, fine - let's talk about those "all things" we need to consider; let's talk about the three injured elephants in the room. Yes, three - remember Vinny Prospal?

There's actually good news on the Prospal front - relatively speaking. Yesterday's exploratory knee surgery did not return with the news "you will never play hockey again." In fact, Prospal is expected to be able to return in 6-8 weeks. You never know how that could change, or how he'll play when he comes back, but that's certainly good news.

As for Gabby and Drury - well, let's try to get comfortable with Christensen in the lineup for a while, shall we? Gaborik separated his shoulder on the hit by Armstrong Friday night, and will be out 3-4 weeks with that. Drury, on a weird collision against the boards with Rozsival that same night, rebroke the same finger that was broken during the preseason, but in a new place (come on, really?!?). He's expected to be out 4-8 weeks while that heals.

So, Prospal out 6-8 for a knee, Gaborik 3-4 for a shoulder, and Drury 4-8 for a finger. That's...not good news for us. Inspired by a graphic I saw on the Versus broadcast last night, I did a little research. Last season, Prospal, Gaborik, and Drury combined for 76 goals and 100 assists. The Rangers, in total, scored 217 goals, with 380 assist. So these three guys were responsible for 29.5% of the Rangers' points last season, including over 35% of our goals. So yeah, it's a problem. But hey, at least we have enough other forwards to play 12 without going over the cap, right Lou?

With regard to these injuries, before I let you go, I want to show you something. You know that "Questions Will Become Answers" campaign the NHL is running right now? This one. It's cute: ask a bunch of questions that bored hockey people were asking in the offseason because we didn't have any hockey to watch, and then say "Questions Will Become Answers." I like it.

Anyway, I went to the Rangers' site this morning, and one of the Flash ads they're running is a team-specific version of that. No sound, just list some off-season questions and then say "Questions Will Become Answers." So, what are the questions the Rangers-specific ad asks? I promise you this is completely undoctored - the ad that is running there is just the following four frames, in succession. There are no other frames in the ad, and I did not make any of these up. It's just these four images, one after the other.

Too soon! I mean, I get it - it was made in the offseason, those were the big questions, and so on. I know. But maybe someone ought to notice and take it down, for now? Oof. Anyway, let's see if there are any lineup changes before Thursday, when I'm excited to go into Toronto and attempt to bring the hurt to the Leafs that they brought to us in our house on Friday. It may be a long couple of months, but as they say, every challenge is an opportunity, or something?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

White v. Kennedy

OK, so to make room for Drury on the roster, we demoted Tim Kennedy and not Todd White. It was widely accepted that Kennedy looked better in camp than White did, not to mention their salary disparity (Kennedy's cap hit is $550,000, compared to White's $2.375 million). It's worth remembering that to call Kennedy back up, we would have to first put him on re-entry waivers, off of which any NHL team below us in the standings could recall him at half his salary, leaving us on the hook for the other half.

It's a weird move, made all the weirder by Torts's explanation: "He's a kid that has to play...I think he had a good camp. It tailed a little bit, but it's not going to help him sitting around here...He understands, and he's a great kid. We'll see where we go as we move on here." So, it seems to be the usual "give him a chance to develop" explanation. But why do we care about Kennedy's development, when we're not really convinced he'll stay in the Rangers' system? It's weird.

One possible explanation is that we don't: we've got enough second- and third-liners right now, and so why keep a roster spot filled with a guy we aren't gonna use at all now that Drury is back? That makes sense, and I think the move is only really confusing in the face of leaving Todd White up - surely if we have no use for Kennedy, we have no use for White, right?

This morning at practice, White apparently skated on a fourth defensive pair, with Mike Sauer. Maybe we're keeping him around for the possibility of another defenseman to rotate in. I can't actually argue with this: Michal Rozsival is the third-best defenseman on the team right now, hands down. If White can play a solid defensive game (I have no reason to believe that he can or that he can't right now), he's worth giving a shot - it's not like he's going to be significantly less responsible than Del Zotto, Eminger, and Staal have been.

Is this actually why White is being kept around? I have no idea. But it's an interesting thought, for a club that is already so clearly deficient on defense. As for tonight, the third pair will retain Eminger while giving Gilroy his first chance of the season, scratching Sauer. I guess that's fine? Sauer definitely played better hockey than Eminger in these first two games, but not by enough for me to care right now. Let's keep giving everyone a chance until we find some sort of pair that isn't awful. And I have no problem with that pair including Todd white, I guess.

As for the forward lines, White (whom I guess I'll leave in this part of the discussion for now) is of course scratched, though Torts has not yet committed to a lineup or to scratching Christensen, who skated at practice today. Christensen played with the Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko line, while White played with the Boogaard-Boyle-Prust line (while not on defense with Sauer). I still think the smart thing to do is give Drury a shot at top pivot and let Christensen sit, but they never ask me.

In other news, after years of paying no attention to him whatsoever, despite the fact that he's such a solid, unsung player, it's nice to see the NHL finally turn the spotlight toward this Crosby kid here in Pittsburgh. Going to and seeing his face staring back at me was a welcome change from their usual coverage of teams like the Coyotes and the Kings, players like Rick Nash and Dustin Byfuglien, and especially all those Europeans. And the article, which lists all the different muscle groups Crosby likes to exercise and features the phrase "divine providence," was just so insightful - it really helped me learn more about the game of hockey! So, thanks for that,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Drury v. Christensen

This will certainly become clearer through practice today, but we are very likely to see some lineup changes for Friday's home opener against the Leafs. There's a good chance Drury, who has been skating at practice again, will be back in the lineup. This doesn't complicate the roster situation very much: clearly either White or Kennedy (both of whom have cleared waivers already, you'll recall) will simply be sent down to Hartford (my money's still on White). Since neither Drury nor Prospal is on LTIR, they're both already counted against the cap, so this won't hurt our cap situation any (it will help a little).

As for the lineup, the question, of course, is whom he replaces. We likely get a free answer there, as Christensen seems to have suffered some sort of minor injury on Monday, when he skated to the locker room after what looked to me like a pretty innocuous (though uncalled) hook. At last report, it was some sort of leg injury, the extent of which is unknown.

This kinda works out, since Christensen would be my vote for removal anyway. The Frolov-Christensen-Gaborik line has not really clicked in the way that the second and third lines have, albeit throughout a small sample size of two games, and that's the line I'd want to change up right now. Taking Christensen out of the middle and giving Drury a chance there seems smart; I'd be just as happy putting Prospal there if he were the one returning, to see what happens.

So what it comes down to is this: there are basically two schools of thought here. One is right and one is wrong. Some people say that, because the Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko line has been so effective, and Stepan looks so fantastic there, he should be promoted to the first line to replace Christensen, leaving space for Drury between Fedo and Avery. This is the "the better you do, the higher up in the lines you go" theory, and it is wrong. It sounds like wisdom when you say "Stepan played really well, so he should be moved up." But what you're actually saying is "Avery, Stepan, and Fedotenko performed so well that I'm going to break them up immediately." Do not do this, this is wrong.

The other school of thought, the reasonable one, says that Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko and Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan both look fantastic, so they should be left alone looking fantastic. Meanwhile, Frolov-Christensen-Gaborik hasn't worked out just yet, and Christensen is injured, and Drury is back in, so maybe we should try Drury at that pivot. People from the dumb school will counter by saying "but Drury isn't very good, look how much we pay him." Those people are wrong - just like I wouldn't stick Drury on the first line just because of the name on his back, neither would I deny him that spot just because of it. We need to find chemistry there, and we need to leave alone the lines that are working. This is not hard.

Anyway, we'll see which one of those two things Torts actually does - it's very likely that Friday's lineup will contain Drury and not Christensen, so here's hoping he does the smart thing and leaves the second and third lines alone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm not smart

I apologize to the Internet (by which I mean the 2.5 people who read this) for yelling and screaming about something I was very wrong about. I'm an idiot. Yesterday, there were NHL games all afternoon. I bitched about how having all those games on Columbus Day is ridiculous, because Columbus Day is ridiculous, and no one gets off for it, and why should Canada care anyway?

Yesterday was also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I'm an asshole, and I'm sorry. Carry on.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Eminger

This morning, the third pair is Eminger / Gilroy, with Sauer sitting. That seems to mean this will be the case for tomorrow night's opener (!!!) in Buffalo. I'm reasonably okay with that, assuming Torts will continue to rotate. If Sauer's gonna be out for extended stretches, better that he sit in Hartford where he can get more ice time. But lest I complain about a perceived potential problem that hasn't actually happened yet before our season even starts, let's just say this sounds reasonable, and I can't wait to actually see these guys play. I've posted it all here before, as recently as two days ago, but I feel like consolidating it (and also I'm more than a little excited), so here's what opening night looks like!

Frolov - Christensen - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Avery - Stepan - Fedotenko
Boogaard - Boyle - Prust

Staal - Girardi
Del Zotto - Rozsival
Eminger - Gilroy


Healthy Scratches: Kennedy, Sauer, White
Injured Reserve: Drury, Prospal

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Aaaaand there's your answer

Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal have officially been placed on Injured Reserve. This brings the roster down to 23, including Todd White and Tim Kennedy, both of whom have cleared waivers and remain quite happily as the Rangers' 13th and 14th forwards, for now. As for Drury and Prospal, they won't be permitted to play for 7 full days. Fortunately, that period is retroactive back to the original injury, which for Drury was September 20th and for Prospal was the 24th, so they're both already eligible to return according to NHL rule (though they won't, of course, until they're healthy).

In bad news, Torts seems to expect Prospal out for a significant chunk of time, saying today "I don't expect him for a little bit here... he's an important guy for us, but we can't depend on that. We need to move on. Not to disrespect Vinny but we need to understand that we need to be playing without him right now." He also said he would likely be appointing another Alternate Captain, given both Prospal's and Drury's absences. Ouch.

And now, please pardon this interruption for a Special Rant about the second game of our regular season, on Monday.

Fucking Columbus Day?!? Why the fuck do we have a hockey game at 1:00 on a fucking Monday?? No one gets off for Columbus Day; it's fucking Columbus Day! I have to miss the second goddamn game of the season, and a game against the fucking Islanders, no less? Because someone thought it was a good idea to schedule three NHL games, two of which are division rivalries, in the middle of the afternoon on fucking Columbus Day?? What the fucking fuck?!? I can't take a fucking day off to watch hockey on a shitty TV feed because NHL Center Ice can't be bothered to use my $180 a year to broadcast me a goddamn HD feed more than twice a year! How am I supposed to watch this?!? Fuck you so much, NHL! You're supposed to be from CANADA!! What the ever-living bed-shitting smallpox-blanketed fuck are you doing assuming people are celebrating goddammit COLUMBUS DAY?!? FUCK YOU!

Ahem. So, the Rangers opening night 23-man roster has been officially decided, and here it is:
Forwards: Anisimov, Avery, Boogaard, Boyle, Callahan, Christensen, Dubinsky, Fedotenko, Frolov, Gaborik, Kennedy, Prust, Stepan, White
Defensemen: Del Zotto, Eminger, Gilroy, Girardi, Rozsival, Sauer, Staal
Goalies: Biron, Lundqvist

As for the starting lineup, obviously nothing is set in stone, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that the cuts of White and Kennedy, and the lines we've been using in practice the last few days, will stay, and with Staal back at practice today, it seems like we know what most of the lineup is going to be. The forward lines for opening night should be:

Frolov - Christensen - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Avery - Stepan - Fedotenko
Boogaard - Boyle - Prust

As for the defensive pairs, we should have Staal/Girardi and Del Zotto/Rozsival, leaving Eminger, Gilroy, and Sauer for the final pair. We may see these three rotated into the final two spots a lot throughout the season, which I would not be opposed to, but it's anyone's guess what our opening night third pair will be. Most people expect it to contain Matt Gilroy, and people are divided as to whether they think his partner will be Eminger or Sauer.

Oh, and, um, Lundqvist will be starting in net, with Biron as his backup.

Let's go Rangers!

Waiver wire

So today at 3:00 is the deadline for finishing up your team: by 3:00 today, your roster must contain no more than 23 people, and your cap hit must be legal (up until now, the teams are afforded a summer cap allowance of 10%, giving them $65.34 million to work with). So, naturally, yesterday, a lot of teams placed players on waivers, in order to get down to those numbers.

The Rangers (though, as I've explained here, they had perfectly legal recourse in simply placing Drury and Prospal on IR) chose to make such a move, waiving both Todd White and Tim Kennedy. This brings the Rangers roster to 23, at $57,201,667 (the cap, you'll recall, is $59.4 million). So, we're extremely safe.

But we were fine before. Why did we do this? Basically, because it gives us room just in case. Because of today's 3:00 deadline, lots of teams will be putting people on waivers over yesterday and today. Maybe we'd want one? This gives us some room to try to grab somebody and not have to worry about being over roster or cap.

Meanwhile, it does add the risk of White or Kennedy being picked up by some other team (well, realistically, probably only Kennedy suffers that risk). However, both players just now officially cleared. I'm a little surprised no one picked up Kennedy at $550,000, but so it goes. Now, they remain New York Rangers property - that means we can assign them to Hartford, or we can just keep them on the roster. A player clearing waivers does not require his team to send that player to the minors - he can stay on the roster. If a player remains on an NHL roster (or, if he is sent to the minors and then recalled, probably having to clear re-entry waivers as well) for 30 days or 10 NHL games, his roster clearance will expire, and he will have to clear again if he is to be sent down.

Now, here's what I don't get: why Kennedy? Of the $2.925 million the Rangers would free up by demoting White and Kennedy, $2.375 of it comes from White. Why risk putting Kennedy on the block to get stolen by some other team, just to clear up $550,000 "in case"? Unless Sather wanted to clear up the additional roster spot, this doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Regardless, we dodged that minor bullet, and Kennedy cleared and remains Rangers property.

So, White and Kennedy were just waived in case the Rangers want to pick someone up before 3:00 today - both are, in fact, skating with the Rangers this morning. I'm still unclear as to whether or not we're making such a move - the rumor mill is pretty silent about the Rangers actually doing anything, and I'm not sure what we'd do if we did make a move. Also, if we don't do anything by then, I don't know if we submit our official opening night roster minus White and Kennedy, or with Prospal and Drury on IR.

I guess we'll find out pretty soon? The point is, for now, White and Kennedy have cleared waivers, and we're 2 and a half hours away from the opening night roster deadline. Anyone know what the Devils are doing about that problem?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Hey, guess what - we actually signed Fedotenko! It's a pretty reasonable deal - 1 year at $1 million. Hooray! No goddamn surprises!

In honor of actually having a full roster, here's the full breakdown of the Rangers' salary cap right now. As I said last night, without Fedotenko, we were $273,333 under the cap. With Fedotenko's (pleasantly reasonable) $1 million deal, we are therefore $726,667 over the cap with these 25 players - but the contracts include $1.775 million in performance-based bonuses, so the bonus cushion places us well within our legal limit for starting the season, even without placing anyone on LTIR. As I mentioned, depending on Drury and Prospal returning, it would be best to come down that additional $726,667 at some point, so as not to risk dipping into next year's cap - but I guess that only matters when Drury and Prospal (if Prospal?) come back, at which point we'd need to cut down anyway to hit the maximum NHL roster size.

Anyway, the point is, there's a $59.4 million cap, which means I just told you we have a total salary of $60,126,667 spread across 25 men, of which $1.775 million is in conditional bonuses. This is a very good place to be, but I want to show you how we got here.

16 Forwards ($35,614,167, incl. $1,562,500 in bonuses)
Marian Gaborik - $7.5 m
Chris Drury - $7.05 m
Alexander Frolov - $3 m
Vinny Prospal - $2.48 m (incl. $1.4 m in bonuses)
Todd White - $2,375,000
Ryan Callahan - $2.3 m
Sean Avery - $1,937,500
Brandon Dubinsky - $1.85 m
Derek Boogaard - $1,625,000
Ruslan Fedotenko - $1 m
Erik Christensen - $925,000
Derek Stepan - $875,000 (incl. $162,500 in bonuses)
Artem Anisimov - $821,667
Brandon Prust - $800,000
Tim Kennedy - $550,000
Brian Boyle - $525,000

7 Defensemen ($16,762,500, incl. $212,500 in bonuses)
Michal Rozsival - $5 m
Marc Staal - $3,975,000
Daniel Girardi - $3,325,000
Matt Gilroy - $1.75 m
Steve Eminger - $1,125,000
Michael Del Zotto - $1,087,500 (incl. $212,500 in bonuses)
Mike Sauer - $500,000

2 Goalies ($7.75 m)
Henrik Lundqvist - $6,875,000
Martin Biron - $875,000

And so there you are - $60,126,667 in 25 player salaries, including $1,775,000 in bonuses. Technically within the $59.4 million cap, thanks to the $4,455,000 bonus cushion, and only $726,667 from not having to use the cushion at all, despite being 2 men over the maximum roster size. In other words, the Rangers are actually in good shape with respect to the cap.

Have I mentioned how nice it is to visit CapGeek and see the Rangers in the middle of the back, with the Devils $3 million in the negative? It's really, really, nice.

Chris, Marc, and Derek -- Also Vinny

Marc Staal scored the game-tying goal to send it to OT and ultimately a shootout the Rangers would win, Friday night against Ottawa. On his way to the net, Chris Neil (who, somewhat unrelatedly, is a total fuck) checked him and sent him toward the boards, which he hit at a funny angle. Staal did something unknown to his hip and is not skating at practice today. So, let's hope that's nothing serious.

In hilarious news, though, the next night, Derek Boogaard totally sack-tapped Neil with his stick. Check it out:


In significantly more serious news, Larry Brooks mentioned in the Post today that Prospal's knee injury may be worse than just the two-week "stay off it" that we thought it was. Brooks mentions that it might even involve a "surgery that would likely end his season, if not his career." You hate to see that - Prospal was great for us for the majority of last season, and I would have loved to see him return to form this year. However, as we also saw last season, he's not worth keeping around when his knee renders him ineffective. Here's hoping this injury is less serious than Brooks is implying here.

This also certainly changes the situation I mentioned last night, with respect to Drury and Prospal going on IR. If Prospal is really going to be out long-term, then that would take off his $2.48 million cap hit - sort of. Really, the way it works is that the cap hit still counts, but the team is afforded dispensation to bring up other players, so long as their total salaries (not cap hits) do not exceed the injured player's salary (not cap hit). These "replacement players" then do not count against the cap. So, basically, if Prospal were to spend the entire season on LTIR, his $1.4 million in conditional bonuses would not end up getting paid out, so there would be no harm in exceeding the cap by that amount into the bonus cushion, and his $1.08 million salary could be made up by players who would then not count against the cap (so, for example, we could call Erik Christensen his "replacement," and then Christensen's $925,000 would no longer count against the cap).

TL;DR for all that nonsense: if Prospal ends up on LTIR, we basically don't have to worry about his cap hit. This would mean we have the space to sign Fedotenko and still stay under the cap with the full roster we have now (assuming Drury is on regular IR to get our roster size down to 23). So, I guess while we wait to see what's happening with Prospal's knee, it makes sense to keep these guys around.

Today's forward lines at practice were exactly the ones I'd like to start with on Saturday night (assuming Drury and Prospal are still out):

Gaborik - Christensen - Frolov
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Avery - Stepan - Fedotenko
Boogaard - Boyle - Prust

I can get behind that starting lineup. Let's go Rangers!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Defense clear; forwards, not so much

And so, the morning after our final preseason game (in which we got routed by Ottawa 8-5, but really kinda played our B-squad - Avery, Callahan, Gaborik, Frolov, Staal, and Girardi all sat out, and we temporarily recalled Weise and Zuccarello), some cuts are made, and the defensive picture shapes up. At the end of the day, Michael Sauer seems to have outplayed Pavel Valentenko and Ryan McDonagh, who were both cut this morning. It looks like Sauer (who incidentally would have had to clear waivers to be sent back down, while McDonagh and Valentenko did not) earns the #6-spot (behind Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto, Rozsival, and Gilroy), while Eminger lives at #7 (possibly splitting time not only with kids who need to be sat every so often, like Gilroy, Sauer, and Del Zotto, but also with veterans who might not still have a full 82+playoffs in them, like Rozsival). It wouldn't make sense to have a kid in the #7 spot, when you could instead give that kid full playing time in Hartford.

I have to admit I'm personally a little sad it's Sauer over Valentenko - I liked the latter a lot when I saw him - but that's based on only one game I saw him play in, and Kevin DeLury (whose opinion is usually pretty well aligned with mine, and I am right about everything) claims that Sauer outplayed both Valentenko and McDonagh throughout the preseason games (of which he, unlike myself, saw all 6). So, good for Michael Sauer. Get to know his face.

This trims the roster down to 25: the two goalies with which we will start the season, the seven defensemen with which it seems like we will start the season...and 16 goddamn forwards. The forward situation got no clearer today, with no cuts being made. I wonder if Torts is just waiting to see what happens with our injury situation (Drury still out with a broken finger, Prospal out for at least 2 weeks with a sore knee), or if he wants to see something more.

Larry Brooks tweeted the idea of starting the season with this full roster, relegating Prospal and Drury both to Injured Reserve to get down to the maximum roster size of 23, but because players on IR still count against the cap, that would push us over the salary cap - the current Rangers roster salary, including 2 goalies, 7 defensemen, and all 15 forwards (remember Fedotenko is unsigned) adds up to $59,126,667 - only $273,333 under the $59.4 million cap, and Fedotenko (who made $1.8 million last season) without a contract.

Brooks is right that, assuming a comparable salary this season for Fedotenko, this would technically be a legal move because of the bonus cushion: if some of your cap hit is made up of conditional bonuses (that may or may not get paid out), you may exceed the cap by those bonuses, up to 7.5% of the total cap ($4.455 million this season). We do have conditional bonuses in there: $1.4 million to Prospal, $212,500 to Del Zotto, and $162,500 to Stepan, which combine with the remaining space under the cap to give us $2,048,333 with which to sign Fedotenko. However, if these bonuses do end up getting paid out, any amount that we've gone over the cap will count against next year's cap. To me, that doesn't sound worth it in order to keep 16 goddamn forwards on the roster, when so many are mediocre. Especially when Todd White is making $2.375 million, so cutting his salary alone would get us under the cap even with 24 players.

Another option would be to place Prospal or Drury on Long-Term Injured Reserve, in which case their salaries would not count against the cap. But on LTIR, a player must miss at least 24 days and at least 10 games, whereas on regular IR he only has to miss 7 days. With both Prospal and Drury having the possibility of coming back within the first week of the season, it's totally asinine to suggest LTIR (and I think it would be silly to put them on IR at all).

The smartest thing to do is probably cut a forward or two (12 play each night, what the shitballs are we doing with 16?) and move forward with a 23-man (normal NHL-maximum-size) roster. Even if we were to cut our cheapest two forwards (Boyle and Kennedy), we'd end up with $1,348,333 to sign Fedotenko before touching the bonus cushion. It goes up from there quickly: if we were to cut our next two cheapest (Prust and Anisimov), we'd have $1.895 million free, more than Fedotenko made last season. So, really, it would be best to cut down to within the NHL maximum roster size without bothering with IR (which only delays the decision-making process by a week or two anyway), and thus to not have any cap problems upon signing Fedotenko.

Speaking of Fedotenko-has-no-contractenko, word is that he and the Rangers are talking. That's good - at this point, he's made a solid case for his inclusion on this squad, and I'd like to see us sign him for something reasonable. Bear in mind that he made $1.8 million last season.

So, expect some number of moves to be made between now and Saturday night's opener in Buffalo. We'll likely sign Fedotenko to a contract, and we'll drop (or place on IR) at least two forwards. My votes are for Todd White and anyone else. I guess that could be the other thing Torts is waiting for: it may not make sense to make cuts before a contract with Fedotenko is in place.

Did I mention that real, official NHL hockey starts in four fucking days, and the Rangers start in six? No? Let me try now: fucking hockey is coming holy shit yes!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Prospal's back out: concerns about his knee are keeping Prospal out of the lineup both tonight and tomorrow night. Christensen will be in in his place for tonight. In the words of John Tortorella, "It's a concern."


Cuts and lineup

So, after Wednesday night's game, the decision was made to not cut anyone until Sunday. This will be after our final preseason games, a home-and-home against the Senators tonight and tomorrow night. Torts has said that Sunday may or may not represent the "final" cuts, which means we have no idea how many people we'll be cutting. Remember that we need to cut at least 4 before opening night. Torts has hinted that we will carry the full 23 by then, meaning we won't cut more than that, but one never knows.

As for who's playing tonight, the forward lines are pretty clear based on yesterday's practice (there is no morning skate today due to flooding(?)). Prospal, healthy enough, will finally make his debut, another first-line-center audition. These are the lines used yesterday:

Frolov - Prospal - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Avery - Stepan - Fedotenko
Boogaard - Boyle - Prust

with a fifth line, Kennedy - Christensen - White, wearing orange "we're probably not playing on Friday" jerseys. We can expect these to be the four lines used tonight, with Kennedy, Christensen, and White as the 3 scratches. To me, this reads as more bad news for Todd White, but what do I know?

Also of note: we again see that third line of Fedotenko, Stepan, and Avery. I could like that as a third line a lot, if what people are saying about Fedotenko is true - I like that Torts is trying to push for chemistry there early (this is the first time he's repeated a line in multiple games). I don't actually know which sides Avery and Fedotenko play on when he does this - they're both left wings.

In goal, expect Lundqvist to play the full game tonight, with Biron as his backup, and expect that to switch up for tomorrow night.

On defense, things are less clear. What we know is that Eminger, like Prospal, is now healthy enough, and will be playing tonight. Torts has said he wants both Eminger and Prospal to play in both games, tonight and tomorrow night, so he can get as much look at them as possible before he makes his final cuts. Makes sense to me.

Outside of Eminger, we know that Rozsival, who also did not skate yesterday, will be out tonight. Larry Brooks reports that this is due to a sore groin. He also reports that Eminger will be paired with Del Zotto tonight. So that leaves Eminger and Del Zotto along with 4 of: Gilroy, Girardi, McDonagh, Sauer, Staal, and Valentenko. This would be a lot easier to figure out, but reportedly, Sauer and Valentenko both made very strong cases for themselves on Wednesday night, which is apparently part of the reason they're both still here and cuts have been postponed. So what do you do tonight and tomorrow night?

Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants takes a stab at it, projecting pairs of Staal/Girardi, Del Zotto/Eminger, and McDonagh/Gilroy, scratching Valentenko and Sauer in anticipation of playing both of them tomorrow night, just before cuts are made. This would be reasonable, but so would playing them both to try to gather as much info as possible (leaving open the option of possibly playing them again tomorrow). Again, one never knows.

I believe Torts will be addressing the media sometime before the game today. If I'm still in front of a computer then, I'll post the for-real lineup for tonight. By the end of this weekend, the roster picture will be that much clearer.