What Happens Now?
A year ago at this time, the New York Rangers had plenty of reason to be excited about the talent as well is depth that they had among their defensive corp. But yet here we are a year later and what was a strength is now a real concern.
What the Rangers may or may not do this off-season might have changed when Dylan McIlrath underwent surgery for a dislocated patella. In many ways one could say that the Rangers are looking at "a domino effect."
Going into the off-season, the Rangers knew that Michael Sauer's status would be a concern. Nobody knew for sure whether Michael Sauer would be ready for training camp but at least the Rangers had time to plan for Sauer.
But Dylan McIlrath's injury came out of nowhere and while he was a longshot to make the Ranger roster this season; the seriousness of his injury raises questions for down the road.
The Rangers drafted McIlrath with the intent of giving them a physical presence on the blue line who was also strong enough defensively to cover for Michael Del Zotto's liabilities on defense. The hope was a year may be less and McIlrath would be ready for the NHL.
Now because of the surgery McIlrath is going to miss the off-season workouts, training camp and the odds are good that his season might not begin (if recovery works perfectly) until after January 1, 2013.
You don't want to call it a loss nor is the intent here to be all gloom and doom. Actually the intent is to show what the options the Rangers may have right now.
Sauer's injury opens a door for the newly re-signed Stu Bickel because Bickel's size and physical play could move him up the depth charts. Bickel is really going to need a strong off-season and an even stronger training camp to hopefully earn John Tortorella's confidence as well as the playing time that would go along with it.
It's up to Stu Bickel to realize he needs to not just knock on the door of opportunity but kick it off it's hinges. Bickel has to force John Tortorella to play him by his own efforts.
If I am Stu Bickel's agent then I am using whatever means possible to explain how this might be the biggest opportunity of Bickel's hockey career.
It also puts the Rangers into a curious situation now that Anton Stralman has filed for arbitration. The Rangers need Stralman right now more than he might need them because Stralman would give the Rangers 6 signed defenseman if Sauer is not ready come opening night.
That is provided (a) Stralman is not awarded some ridiculous salary by an arbitrator that would force the Rangers to walk away or the better scenario (b) that they reach a two-year contract to buy the Rangers time to let kids develop.
Then we have to turn our attention to Tim Erixon as his name as well as Del Zotto's has come up repeatedly in trade rumors. Can you afford to include either of these two young defensemen in any trade?
Before you answer that you also need to take a look at the CT Whale roster and realize that whether you trade either defender or both earn spots on the Ranger roster that you don't have enough NHL quality defenders developing in the AHL.
If you're the Rangers then whatever trade offer you entertain has to also include a quality defenseman in return. Otherwise Del Zotto and Erixon have to be seen as untradable because you don't have replacements.
If the season was to start tomorrow, then I would be really nervous about not having quality call ups in the AHL. The person who might benefit the most now is Steve Eminger.
The Rangers might need to re-sign him just in case Erixon is not ready or Bickel doesn't show forward progress to earn regular playing time. The Rangers also might need Eminger as an insurance policy AKA a seventh defender.
In any event The Rangers will still need to add most likely two more defenseman for the CT Whale roster. What they have available spent most of last year playing in the ECHL after being demoted from the AHL.
Another possibility (and please this is only for discussion purposes)
would be to convince 2012 1st round pick Brady Skeji to not attend Minnesota but rather turn pro. Is he ready? No but signing him now fast-tracks him towards the AHL for next season.
It's that cute little loophole that allows prospects who back out of their college commitments not to have to wait until they are 20 to play in the AHL. Again, this is just pure discussion, not rumor or something I want to see happen.
Of course if I am Glen Sather and am seriously considering this move then I would pick up the phone and call an old friend of mine by the name of Lorne Molleken. I would suggest to my old buddy that he gets his hands on the WHL rights to Brady Skeji.
If you don't know who this is, Molleken happens to be the coach and general manager of the Saskatoon Blades. The Blades are hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup which would mean Skeji would be getting to play for the Memorial Cup.
(If the Portland Winterhawks hear about this; they would have their own carrot to offer as Skeji's good friend and his defensive partner last season Seth Jones on their roster.)
I'm pretty sure the Rangers already have had this discussion among themselves, just like I'm bringing it up here. You have to at least explore that possibility because you do not know how Michael Sauer will recover.
You do not know how Dylan McIlrath will recover and among current defensive prospects (Samuel Noreau and Peter Ceresnak) at best, their status remains projects. It almost forces you to seriously consider talking Skeji out of going to college.
Don't laugh at this next possibility but maybe you consider signing former Ranger Michal Rozsival, who is an unrestricted free agent. He may be 33 but if he buys you time or you actually do use Erixon or Del Zotto in any trade, then you need him for the offense he could provide.
Or the one that would probably be the most popular one which is go after trading for Shea Weber instead of Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. The price tag might be equally steep but if you can solidify the core of your blueline for the next 4-5 years then it's a move to consider.
It also opens the door for trades down the road if or when Michael Sauer or Dylan McIlrath recover from their injuries. If it's me and I have just traded for Weber then I point at what his buddy Ryan Suter just got from Minnesota and offer it to him.
Really simple point out that the odds are by September 15th, the owners will be demanding an end to contracts like what Suter got from Minnesota. That if he doesn't grab the deal today then he won't get a chance for that kind of deal offered when he's a free agent next year.
All of this because one defenseman has a concussion and the other defenseman has a dislocated patella. Like I said "the domino effect"
Excuse me I need to go hide from a bunch of angry Golden Gophers.
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