Monday, June 25, 2012

Tomorrow began yesterday

Surprise the 2012-2013 hockey season got underway Monday morning with the New York Rangers hosting their annual prospect summer camp. Monday was also the deadline for NHL teams to offer qualifying offers to restricted free agents in order to maintain the rights of compensation to these restricted free agents.

It's only fitting that Michael St. Croix starts off our report for today, as the New York Ranger prospect who I tagged with the nickname "The Predator" is also the one prospect who did the most to improve his chances at an NHL contract last season.

Think he also set a world record for using the word "absolutely" in an interview. St Croix is perhaps the best example of the importance of this camp as last year, St. Croix struggled both here and at Traverse City.

What people might not realize is that before this camp breaks on Friday that each player will have a guide individually designed to help him with his off-season workouts as well as how to improve things like his diet and his work habits.

It's nice to see how the beat reporters talk about how much bigger some of the Ranger prospects are this year as compared to last. That's the best part of this job as I get to watch them grow during the season, both mentally as well as physically.

As much as people want to talk about the Ranger coaching staff and the amount of work they put in, there is a person in the background by the name of Reg Grant who just might be the most important person outside of Gordie Clark in the Ranger organization.

Grant is the strength and conditioning coach for the New York Rangers and when you see J.T. Miller and Dylan McIlrath as big as they are this year; it is Grant who deserves the credit, as he's the person who designs the individual workout programs.

Is this the next Rangers general manager?

As Glen Sather approaches his 70th birthday in September, the question of who will take his place as Ranger general manager is worth looking at. If Sather is the person who will pick his own successor then my money has got to be on Jeff Gorton.

From a long-range standpoint Gorton makes the most sense as the Rangers front office is starting to get up there in years. For some of these guys, you're looking at careers that are now 30 to 40 years old and they have really busted there butt fixing up the Rangers.

Gorton gets my vote because despite his youthful look, he has a 20 year background in hockey management, working his way from the bottom up with the Boston Bruins. Gorton has done every job in the hockey front office and the Bruins were kind enough not to keep him, which allowed Glen Sather to snatch him up.

Gorton already handles contract negotiations for the Rangers and has his hand involved in scouting/player development. Nothing against Mark Messier, but the person who would do the most good for the New York Rangers would be Jeff Gorton.

Let Messier be the president when Sather retires, but let Jeff Gorton run the show because there isn't another person more qualified within the Ranger organization then he.

Blueshirts United
Qualifying offers

Monday was the deadline for NHL teams to extend qualifying offers in order to keep the rights to those players considered as a restricted free agents. There was only one real surprise, at least from where I sit, but it still made sense for the Rangers to qualify.

Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman were two key players that the Rangers really needed to qualify. In the case of Del Zotto, my suggestion to him would be to accept the qualifying offer and show that last season was no fluke.

Del Zotto has no leverage and it would make almost no sense for him to hold out or ask for a huge raise. Put two seasons together and then go look for big money.

Stralman is a different case as he did take a million-dollar pay cut to play for the Rangers and he has the option of playing in Europe. That doesn't mean the Rangers should give him a giant raise either because quite honestly, it took him more than half a season to find his game.

Still, right now the Rangers need him more than he needs the Rangers. So I would at least offer him a modest raise along with performance incentives that would make signing with the Rangers an offer he can't refuse.

Cam Talbot has emerged as the number three goalie on the Ranger depth chart with his performance down the stretch last year with the Ct Whale but the question is, could he challenge for the backup job behind Henrik Lundqvist?

That's a tough one and it's hard to see John Tortorella thinking that way given the importance of Henrik Lundqvist. Still, if they can't bring back Marty Biron, I for one would be comfortable going with Talbot as backup.

Mats Zuccarello and surprise Pavel Valentenko received qualifying offers even though both players are headed to the KHL. You can't blame the Rangers for wanting to protect themselves just in case somebody else in the NHL was interested in either prior.

The only other player to receive a qualifying offer was Casey Wellman and he wasn't a surprise, given the way he played after he was traded for by the Rangers to play for the CT Whale. Wellman has prior NHL experience, which helps his cause, just in case the Rangers need to call somebody up.

Thanks for having me

Got to give a shout out to Howard Forrest and the guys of the Power Play Show for having me on Monday night. Always enjoy talking with the guys because it's always great to talk to people who are so into sports like these guys are.

Tuesday I get to talk with Jim and Eddie two of the most insane Ranger fans in the universe on their Blueshirt Underground radio show. Want to talk about two guys who bleed blue?

That's these guys and their loyal followers which makes appearing on their show a blast. Catch me at about 930 PM Eastern time just by following this link.

Be there or Jim and Eddie will want to move in with you.

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