Thursday, September 17, 2009

There is More than Meets the Eye Here

This one is going to be long folks so let us get right to it.

The first real cuts were made on Thursday afternoon by the New York Rangers and some of the cuts really left us scratching our heads here leaving us wondering if there was more to the who and why cuts were made. If there was ever an example of outside factors affecting roster decisions then you have to look closer at why the Rangers cut who they did.

Michael Sauer is a good example to start with, now if you want to say his play was a disappointment as why he was cut then fine say that. But when you keep an Ilkka Heikkinen instead it makes you wonder.

So far the reviews on Heikkinen have been mixed as some have said he struggled a lot against the Devil's AHL team and others said it is a matter of adjustment.

Scouting reports we have seen say that Heikkinen has no problem thinking he is a great player; problem is that sometimes that confidence is a bit much. Others say that while he has a ton of offensive skill the defense is not there.

In all honesty we do not know the dollar amount that Heikkinen is getting but he is getting a one way deal so no matter what he gets the bucks. Sauer on the other hand is on his entry level 2 way contract so playing in Hartford nets him about 50,000.

But if Sauer was a Ranger his cap number would be 880,000 and that more than anything else might be the biggest reason why he got cut. Tortorella says that Sauer can play his way back into the equation but after the way Tortorella treated him last season we have our doubts.

Sauer is not a Tortorella type player so we would not be surprised if he is traded at some point this season to help fill other holes.

Tomas Kundratek is heading back to Medicine Hat of the WHL rather than to Hartford or even Charlotte. On the surface, it is not too hard to see why as Kundratek was going to have a hard time cracking a lineup in Hartford due to the numbers game.

Hartford got 6 defenders assigned to them as part of the cuts but that left the Rangers with 9 players who have contracts and 1 (Alexei Semenov) trying out. Kundratek never had a chance even if he played a perfect camp.

Underneath the surface is that Kundratek has a Ranger entry level contract which if they kept him anywhere would count towards the 50 contract limit (depending on who you listen to the Rangers are at 46-47-48). Send him back to the WHL and the contract does not count against the limit.

Odds are good that in the end that it will also be a factor if Michael Del Zotto is returned to London of the OHL. Matt Gilroy is carrying a 1.75 cap number and Del Zotto's could be as high as 963,000.

Still on defense it is basically a given that Staal, Girardi, Redden, and Rozsival were locks to begin with. Matt Gilroy with his play in the 1st two exhibition games has made the 5th spot his to lose as right now nobody is even close to him.

Salary Cap issues just like last season are going to keep the Rangers from carrying a 7th defender. If one looks at the various sites with cap number you will see the Rangers are running out of money in a hurry.

Sending 2009 draft picks Scott Stajcer, Ethan Werek, Ryan Bourque and Roman Horak made sense but what is very noticeable here is that unlike last season when draft picks went to the juniors with contracts none of these prospects were signed. No problem though as we expect that all 4 will have deals by the end of the season.

Then there are the who have been sent to the Hartford camp but kept on the Ranger roster because of the CBA in Tyler Arnason, Patrick Rissmiller, Corey Locke, Dane Byers and Jordan Owens. Of these 5, once exposed to waivers we think that Owens and Byers will be claimed for their low contracts.

Like many of you, seeing Owens being sent to the Hartford camp is head scratching when you see Aaron Voros still on the roster. John Tortorella is going to face a serious test of credibility with Ranger fans if Aaron Voros is kept. Tortorella's claims that players will be kept because of merit will be laughed at if Voros remains a Ranger.

Voros loses when he fights, his scoring disappears after 15 games and his defense is below average. Other than being good pals with Marian Gaborik , Voros is good for drawing at least 2 power plays a night; sadly the power plays are for the other team.

Right now we would have to say that of those competing for 3rd and 4th line spots that Enver Lisin, Evgeny Grachev and Pierre Parenteau have stood out as most deserving with Dane Byer close but needing to step up a little more.

Lisin has a not so clean edge because Ranger contract or not if they try to send him to Hartford there is a real concern that he will jump to the KHL. Let us not fool ourselves and think that the KHL would honor his Ranger contract and not sign him.

Grachev has played his way onto the team in part because of his play on special teams BUT if it comes down to which is best for his development, 10-12 minutes a night as a Ranger or 20-22 in Hartford then what?

Then if Tortorella "walks his talk" then Parenteau rightfully is playing himself onto the Ranger roster. Here is your offense on the 4th line as well as someone who can jump in as a spare part when needed. Forget his size as he has a bodyguard already on his line not that he needs one judging from his 142 PIMs last season in Hartford.

In goal Mikka Wiikman never stood a chance when the Rangers picked up 2 goalies at the Entry Draft. Nice guy but his days as part of the Ranger franchise appear to be numbered.

Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba are battling for the Hartford starter/emergency Ranger goalie spot and the edge right now belongs to Johnson. If it was up to us then we would play both against the Red Wings tonight.

Sadly the biggest disappointment at the moment has to be Artem Anisimov who to be blunt has been playing "scared". The 3rd line position is his to lose and Anisimov is playing like he is afraid to do anything.

We are not seeing anything of the player who scored 37 goals last year and that is a shame because those of us who know Anisimov know he is for real. Still Anisimov has to step it up and grab this job or find himself back in Hartford.


Game On

Give the Rangers some serious credit for those they invited to Traverse City as 2 of the invitees had opening night splashes that directly helped their teams to wins. The 2 quietest players at Traverse City made a lot of noise in their 2009-10 regular season debut.

In the OHL, Luke Pither scored a career high 4 goals including the game winner as his Barrie Colts blew out a Scott Stajcer-less Owen Sound Attack 9-1. Pither had 3 power play goals as he signaled his intent to earn a second invite to an NHL camp with his play.

In the WHL, Craig Cunningham's goal at 1:44 of overtime helped his Vancouver Giants get a measure of revenge on the defending WHL Champions the Kelowna Rockets by ruining their banner raising. It was Kelowna who upset Vancouver in last year's Western Conference Finals.

(Update goal was scored on a penalty shot Thanks to Greg Drinnan who reported it)

Cunningham also sent a message about his desire to earn another invite as in addition to the overtime winner; Cunningham had 3 assists in the game. It was an impressive start for Cunningham who was also named as one of the assistant captains for the Giants.

Friday night is going to get even better as several Ranger prospects will be in action. Jeff Beukeboom makes his assistant coaching debut with the Sudbury Wolves as well.

(Pictures courtesy of: Sauer, Kundratek, Parenteau and Johnson: New York Rangers, Horak: Chilliwack, Pither: OHL, Cunningham: Vancouver (WHL))

No comments: