Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Risky Business is Panic Business

Now that the New York Rangers have Ryan Callahan signed, sealed and delivered giving the team a 22 man roster; there should be nothing to worry about right?

Answer no there is not anything to be worrying about on July 28th and 29th; matter of fact doing nothing more until September 16th would really work better. It is a gamble yes very much because having just 702K in cap space basically says if a door opens unless you can move salary in a hurry that you can not make any major moves.

The moment Ryan Callahan took a contract with just a 4.26 million cap hit the Rangers basically said this is the roster we are thinking we will have on October 7th. Is it a risky move; the answer is yes because while you really hate to think something bad could happen, you also have to be prepared just in case.

Yes it sounds negative but you really have to think worst case scenarios sometimes in order to be prepared. This is of course the Rangers here and once upon a time Brian Leetch broke an ankle in a freak accident which is part of the reason for us to be nervous.

Still it is a gamble worth taking because if you can hold out until training camp before having to make any more moves then it actually does help you in the long run. It is better to right now sit and do nothing rather than making a move that really did not need to be made.

Do not mistake this as a changing of minds regarding someone like Woljek Wolski as we look at his 3.8 salary cap hit and have almost no faith in his being able to turn things around. But at the same time why take 2 salary cap hits when if you wait until training camp and just waive Wolski then 702K turns into 4.52 million of open cap space.

But if it is me then I am on the phone with Wolski and his agent laying down the law; come to camp in the best shape of your life and giving me 150% every moment of everyday or make sure you have driving directions to Hartford. Unlike others we think asking Brad Richards to be a double miracle worker trying to fix both Marian Gaborik AND Wolski will screw up Richard's own game.

Training camp it would be unrealistic to think that the Rangers do not need to move some salary to gain some salary cap flexibility down the road. When they first came out with a salary cap in the NHL the rule of thumb was to leave 10% open in cap space.

Most teams never lived up to that unwritten rule but if we could then we would simply because it never ever hurts to have something to put away for a rainy day or a trade deadline move.

Seriously our lineup looks like this now:

Stepan/Richards/Gaborik-- as stated before if playing with 2 playmakers does not help get Gaborik going then nothing will. If you put Wolski here then the fear is that you have to tear apart 2 other already proven lines when you do not have to.

Dubinsky/Aninismov/Callahan-- Ranger fans should call this line the "bulleye" line because all 3 players have brand new contracts that gave each a very healthy raise. Both Ranger fans and management have every right to expect this trio to produce.

And if they do not then that cap space we keep talking about could come in very nicely.

Fedotenko/Boyle/Prust-- If it works why break it? This trio was a line that did much better than what any stat sheet ever said. Boyle got himself a fat raise while Prust is in his contract year. Not having to be the Ranger enforcer this season is something that is going to help Prust have a breakout season that few see coming.

Think about it Prust last season between injuries and 18 fighting majors still found a way to toss in 13-16-29. Imagine what a healthy Prust can do because if it was us then we find a way to get Prust on a power play unit with one role which is garbageman sitting in the crease.

So it leaves Wolski, Erik Christensen, Sean Avery, Mats Zuccarello and Mike Rupp to fight for ice time on the 4th line. Rupp is safe since everyone knows his role on the team but the other 4 add up to a combined 8.38 million in combined salary cap hits.

Which is about 6 million more than one should be paying for 4th liners but toss all 4 of them out there and see who sticks. Wolski and Zuccarello actually have some chemistry with each other but neither are centers which hurts them.

But since we have no faith in Wolski getting his act together then as we said earlier hand him a map with directions to Hartford written on it. Zuccarello is another story as while we believe he can be used as a power play/shootout specialist; John Tortorella appears not to have the same confidence in Zuccarello.

For some reason, Tortorella has forgotten that he once had this smallish player named St. Louis who despite his lack of size took a licking and kept on ticking. But Tortorella appears not to have the same confidence in Zuccarello.

If that is the case then do right by Zuccarello and allow him out of his contract to return to Europe. A gesture here would do a lot of goodwill for the Rangers with European teams down the road.

The biggest complaint European teams and leagues have with the NHL is that they will sign their best players but if they fail to make the NHL they wind up in the minors. European leagues have been pressuring the IIHF to require the NHL to return players to their European teams should they fail to make the NHL.

Yes it is an unreasonable demand and the NHL would not agree to it but the Rangers have a rebuilt reputation in Europe these days. If John Tortorella does not want to use Zuccarello then let him go.

Sean Avery or should we say the Tortorella "neutered" version does not look like he can fit in the manner that Tortorella wants. And as much as we dislike Avery the person; Avery the player is ineffective used as a 4th liner.

Avery has to be a 3rd liner at the very least and honestly Tortorella needs to let Sean Avery be Sean Avery not a Neutered version of him to be effective. If you want a pest then you have to live with the bad nights he will have otherwise let him go as well.

Erik Christensen has outlived his usefulness as you can not spend 925K on a guy who will either be a healthy scratch or shoot out specialist. We actually believe that you could get a much better return on Chad Kolarik who only carries a 525 K cap hit (savings 400 K).

A 4th line on a Tortorella team would be lucky to see 10 minutes a night so why are you carrying Wolski? Dale Weise or Jason Wilson for Wolski will save you close to 3.2 mill. (savings up to 3.6 mil).

It also gives you more beef for the physical teams you have to play as the more you can avoid Prust fighting the better off the Rangers would be on defense.

Zuccarello is replaced by Carl Hagelin who the Rangers would be grooming for the 3rd line spot currently held by Rulsan Fedotenko anyway but for now saves you 875K (savings 4 mil).

And while we know that replacing Sean Avery would be very unpopular with many a Ranger fan but John Mitchell while he is not as effective as a true Sean Avery would be; would be more to Tortorella's liking while saving the Rangers 1.35 mil (savings 5.35 mil).

These moves will not be popular with the Avery and Zuccarello supporters but before we get trashed now the Rangers have a cap space of 6 million. Want to know what you can do with 6 million?

A major injury can be replaced a lot easier when you have open space to fit a salary in. Or if things just are breaking your way then 6 milion can be used for plugging any playoff run holes.

But the biggest thing that 6 million does is allow you to make moves without having to either break up that core foundation you have or a top prospect for a team out of the running looking for cap relief of their own.

Don't do anything and try to live with just a 700K cap space is asking for trouble. No flexibility to make moves unless it is salary dump for salary dump and that rarely works out.

But again these are moves you make in September not on July 28th or 29th. Go do a Sather and go fishing instead while leaving things alone.

The non-move today could be the door that opens down the road.

(Ranger logo courtesy of the New York Rangers)

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