Originally written July 27, 2012 on Blue Seat Blogs:
Note: This was written before Anton Stralman re-signed. Tim Erixon was never going to be a deal breaker in the Rick Nash negotiations and as it turned out the talented young Swede was indeed sent to Columbus. With Erixon gone, the Rangers now have an even more pressing need to fill the bottom pair ahead of the new season. Something that was already an issue. It was widely assumed Erixon would grab one of the last spots on the blue line in New York this coming season. What’s more, Erixon was supposed to assist Michael Del Zotto in terms of generating offense from the blue line. Having flashed his talent in Connecticut, Erixon was going to provide something that was lacking somewhat in New York. Without Erixon, with Anton Stralman a free agent and unsigned and with Dylan McIlrath injured for several months there is a clear need for the Rangers to go out and find alternatives. Of course, there still remains a chance Stralman returns. It makes sense for the player and the team to find an agreement assuming dollars can be agreed. Both sides are familiar with each other, there is a clear role for Stralman and with his previous experience playing with Rick Nash there is the added benefit of familiarity there too. Beyond Stralman however and it gets murky for the Rangers. As said, they still need bodies on the blue line and with the Weber scenario playing out the way it did, any reputable defenseman may also be courted by the Flyers, among other teams. Supply and demand may mean certain players cost more than the Rangers want to pay, expecially for a bottom pair solution. Internally, the Rangers don’t have much – if anything – who appeal for a full time role in New York. Brendan Bell played extensively for the Whale but his future is uncertain, clearly Wade Redden isn’t a factor and younger players such as Blake Parlett and Jared Nightingale aren’t considered NHL calibre. Then there are the recent NHL draft picks, Calle Andersson and Brady Skjei who aren’t serious considerations for the coming season. As you can see, options are thin internally. Enter free agency. The remainder of the free agent pool isn’t overly enticing but there may be some depth options that could help the Rangers. Among the veteran names available are Chris Campoli, Kurtis Foster, Carlo Colaiacovo, Scott Hannan, Jaro Spacek, Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark and Randy Jones. The above names range wildly in type and experience not to mention individual circumstances, team interest and likely salary expectations. With McIlrath eventually expected back from injury and Andersson and Skjei slated for the future the Rangers are looking for stop gaps; effective, short term solutions. Depending on the type of player they are looking for some names appeal more than others. One player that might appeal is Kurtis Foster. Though injury prone, Foster has a big shot and knows the division through a brief spell with Jersey. Thanks to a subpar 11/12 season Foster shouldn’t command much and with the right ice time could help on the bottom pair and the power play. Another veteran that could be an option is Campoli. While the free agent would have to take less money to come to New York, Campoli can move the puck and has put up some decent numbers for the Islanders and Senators. Given his injury prone year with Montreal Campoli can probably be had on a low risk deal for the Rangers. Then there are ageing blueliners like Kubina and Spacek who may provide experience, (and in Kubina’s case familiarity with Tortorella), and an ability to play the power play but their demands may be a little more than the Rangers want to spend on blue line depth. Should their demands be modest maybe they get a call from Glen Sather. None of the aforementioned names come without risk or issue, otherwise they likely wouldn’t still be seeking employment and it is highly likely the Rangers will need to grab a veteran to help fill the bottom pair. Maybe the Rangers decide to add a blue liner via trade; either a minor addition or of greater talent, prominence and salary like a Keith Yandle type but the more likely scenario seems via free agency. If Anton Stralman is brought back only one other addition would be needed but either way, expect Sather and the Rangers to add a veteran defenseman soon. Sheer numbers in New York make it a necessity.
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