Henceforth this summer any posts of random observations/news will be called "Killin' Time" because, let's face it - that is all we are doing at this point of the year. There is some hockey news but no hockey games ... and that sucks. So, onto this evening's edition:
*The Rangers made Paul Mara's return official today. Andrew Hutchinson, meanwhile, is leaving Hartford for Tampa Bay, where he will be given a chance to replace some of the departed Dan Boyle's offense from the blueline. Hutch was stellar for the Pack and the Rangers were unable to give him a chance because of the idiotic return waivers that he would have had to pass through. Should Wade Redden stumble and fall - and I am fully expecting him to do just that - then letting Hutch go will have been a mighty mistake. The Rangers could have given him the one-way deal he wanted and signed Jason Smith (who went to Ottawa to replace Redden) instead of Mara and had more stability on the blueline, a better veteran presence in the locker room and a lot more cap room to spend on next summer's stellar crop of free agents.
*The Rangers also let another Hartford player go - Mitch Fritz. Mitch left for the Isles of all teams (traitor) after barely playing last season due to injury. Mitch was a big guy with a big heart and certainly one of the best hockey player bloggers. It would have been nice to see him healthy and playing for the Pack this season but, now that he has joined the enemy, he will just be another oversized goon in the Isles organization to boo.
*While making a mistake in letting Mitch go, the Rangers have possibly made another by bringing Mike Barnett on board as the Senior Advisor to the President and General Manager and Director of U.S. Amateur Scouting. The former agent to Wayne Gretzky did indeed set the ball rolling to respectability in Phoenix through good scouting, but he also made such stellar moves as trading away Daniel Briere and Daymond Langkow, trading for Mike Comrie and signing Oleg Kvasha and a way-past-his-prime Tony Amonte among others. Let's just hope that Glen Sather's signing only enhances the stellar work done by Gordie Clark and the Rangers scouts while doing nothing towards wheeling and dealing. And who knows what this guy is being paid? It surely isn't a pittance and that will come out of our season ticket money.
*Speaking of which, its mid-July, why haven't the Rangers sent out invoices yet? It is annoying not knowing how much next season is going to cost but it does have its good points - the money stays in our accounts longer earning interest for us, rather than the Rangers and the NHL schedule is coming out next week so we will know exactly what we will be paying for ...
*Say it ain't so Stu, say it ain't so! Stu Barnes is considering retiring from the NHL. Now Stu was one of those players who you didn't really know unless he was on your team, and if he was, you loved him. The veteran forward played more than 1,100 games for Dallas, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Florida and Winnipeg. He caught my eye in a tiny little blurb in Newsday back when he was playing in the AHL after scoring a hat trick for Moncton (which I actually saved, as you can see laid over his rookie card on the right). He went on from there to have a solid career in the bigs that included two trips to the Finals but no Cup (damn that Brett Hull). A classy player to watch, he worked hard every shift and did all of the dirty work it takes to win games while even popping up to score a clutch goal or two. It is certainly sad to see the pool of former Jets grow ever smaller in the NHL, and I just wanted to wish him the best of luck should he indeed retire.
*On the topic of goodbyes, Chris Botta signed off from his Point Blank Islanders blog. The p.r. guru for the Isles decided to move on from the Mistake In The Mausoleum and is pretty much leaving behind his nice behind-the-scenes blog. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he is leaving a solid legacy that included the Blog Box. Happy trails Chris, and know that no one could have made the Isles look good so don't consider your time there a failure.
*A quick return to the Rangers for a second, people are saying that the captain's C should go to Chris Drury next season - and he will likely get it - but here is a underrated candidate: Blair Betts. Bettsy sets a never-say-die standard that the young Rangers would look up to while letting Dru continue to work out of the spotlight he dreads so much.
I miss hockey. Is it September yet??