Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pryvet Sasha

Well, it is official, the Rangers have signed Alexander "Sasha" Frolov. The terms appear to be one year, $3 million.

I want to make it clear - as it perhaps was not yesterday - I don't hate Frolov. I hate what he stands for. He is the latest mercenary that Sather has signed to maintain this mediocre team's meager reputation. As I tweeted yesterday, I want the franchise to "Either go 4 the Cup or build a team that can win 1. Don't set the bar at 8th place." By bringing in another hired gun, that is all that they are doing.

Tortorella and Sather said all the right things last month to get season ticket holders to re-up: 'youth will be served' and 'the kids will get every chance to make the lineup this fall.' Now that is certainly not the case. Adding a top six winger ensures that any of the skill kids will be on the outside looking in. For all of the hype about Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, his spot on the roster has now been filled. As we saw last season with Corey Locke and PA Parenteau, you can't put a small skill guy on the third or fourth line and have them be effective. Now, unless an injury bug hits the Blueshirts hard, the only open spot on offense will be the time-share with the Boogeyman on the fourth line.

Having Frolov come in one a one-year deal is good in that he will be motivated. He should - emphasize should - be playing with a chip on a shoulder. He needs to prove that he is the 35 goal guy of four years ago who deserves a big money contract rather than the one who lost his top-six slot last season and managed just 19 before being unceremoniously dumped by his team. He could be a high-octane sniper who can come in and give Arty Anisimov some confidence. Replacing Arty's boyfriend Enver with a mentor who speaks his language hopefully will be quite the boon.

And that is all we can hope for. Youth will never be properly served in New York, no matter how much we may want it to be. The big brass feels that they have to ease it in one or two guys a season. It is incredibly frustrating because that isn't the way to build a Stanley Cup contender in today's league. I saw the Stanley Cup raised just feet away from me in Philadelphia last month so forgive me if I want to see it raised in New York sometime soon.

Traverse City Primer

By now you surely have seen the roster and schedule for the Traverse City tournament so I won't re-post the full release here. I will just throw out some observations:

*There are eight teams split in two divisions - the Gretzky and the Howe. The Rangers are in the Great One's, as are Columbus, Carolina and Minnesota. Atlanta will not be back this year but Stevie Ys Bolts will take their place in the Howe alongside St. Louis, Dallas and Detroit. The Blueshirts finished third in '09, with Carolina beating Minnesota for the title. Other teams have yet to release their rosters but the likelihood of the Canes repeating is slim as Brandon Sutter and Jamie McBain are now NHLers. My guess is that the Blues, who the Rangers defeated for third, will be tough to beat as they have a lot of good, young talent yet to break their NHL roster.

*Only a select few will be able to actually watch the games as the NHL Network has decided to cheap out and not cover the tournament. Because you need to watch the top 10 goals of 2001 or Game 3 of this season's Bruins/Sabres series again. The other sports networks cover their sports year round, why doesn't the NHL? Oh yeah, Gary's 7.2 million dollar salary has to come from somewhere.

*The 'big' names on the Ranger roster will be Derek Stepan, Evgeny Grachev, Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath. Grachev is one of seven Future Blue playing for the second straight year. Hopefully McIlrath will show signs of the play that I saw that made me the only one outside of Gordie Clark to select McIlrath for the Blueshirts.

*Sam Klassen is one of the eight returnees. He had a good showing last September and I'd love to see him star this time around. Goaltender Scott Stajcer split time with Chad DosNueve last time and was clearly the inferior goaltender. This time he will go against Cameron Talbot, a college kid the Rangers signed this spring. Stajcer needs a good showing so he can show he isn't another Antoine Lafleur. Ethan Werek and Roman Horak both return after having solid seasons. Jess at Prospect Park has raved about the development of both so Traverse City should be a good test of their progress.

*Five of the six players the Rangers selected at the draft will be in Michigan, only Jesper Fasth won't be making it. We will finally get a chance to hear about the virtually unknown Jason Wilson and see if Randy McNaught has any skill to go with his size (I doubt it). Christian Thomas can line up alongside returnee Ryan Bourque to see who is shorter, who is faster and who has the better sniping skills.

*There are, of course, a few undrafted free agents on the roster. Undersized at 5'10, 178, Brendan Shinnimin from Tri Cities will try to show off the skills and toughness that led him to pick up 107 points and 111 PIM over the Americans' 92 games last season (including playoffs). That is the kind of score line that has me drooling but he did that against kids, could he do it against men far bigger and stronger than himself? One of Dale Hunter's proteges in London, Colin Martin has decent size (6'1, 205) but questionable talent - he had 33 points in 62 regular season games but 11 in 10 postseason. Both Shinnimin and Martin are forwards, on the blueline will be Bruin Brandon Manning. Not Boston Bruin but Chilliwack. His numbers - 75 games, 60 points and 148 PIM - are fantastic for a defenseman, leading me to believe that there is a major flaw somewhere in his game as he went undrafted. Let's hope not and hope that the Rangers giving him a chance gives them a chance to sign a diamond in the rough.

*Unless something significant happens - the Rangers don't sign Frolov after all, Sather pulls a trade out of his nether regions, a major injury bug sweeps Broadway - the likelihood that any of these kids will pull on Blueshirts this season is not particularly good. That means that Traverse City will be the lone spot where we can see whether this new "commitment to youth" by the Ranger brass is paying off. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh Glen, You Did It Again

Not content to make waves with the horrific contract he gave out to the Boogeyman, Glen Sather has apparently wasted a roster spot on Alexander Frolov. (Player card to be added later, when this is made official - or should it still be if? I certainly won't bitch about money until then but anything more than two million would be ridiculous. This guy should get Boogaard money; I wish that wasn't chuckle-worthy.)

Right off the bat, let's call this Nik Zherdev Part Deux. Anyone want to set the over/under for how long it will take the enigmatic Russian to land in John Tortorella's doghouse? Frolov is a bit older - 28 - and has two 30+ goal seasons under his belt but, like Zherdev, he doesn't live up to his potential and he is just as one-dimensional.

And that one dimension really isn't that great. Just 13 of his 51 points last season came on the power play despite averaging 2:24 of man advantage ice time each night. Well hell, no wonder we signed him. Frolov will fit right in with our current bunch of power play failures. If only we can bring Perry Pearn back ...

Frolov, like Markus Naslund before him, is coming to New York after three straight seasons of declining production. In Frolov's case, he has actually amped up the number of shots he has taken the last two years but it clearly did not help.

Don't get me wrong, Frolov should help chip in a goal or two this season. But, seeing as the team has zero chance at winning the Stanley Cup, the roster spot would be far better spent on someone who would have a future with the team. All this signing does is declare the Blueshirts will again make their annual run at the eighth spot in the conference.

Mediocrity, thy home is MSG ... the perfect place for Alex Frolov.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kovalchuk Will Be Back At The Rock

After all the drama, Ilya Kovalchuk has re-signed with the New Jersey Devils. And you know what? I actually feel a little pity for the team.

That their attendance woes are such that Lou Lamoriello felt that he had to bring back the Russian sniper is just sad. Kovalchuk is the red hot sportscar, the Lambo that goes fast and turns heads. But it can't deal with the potholes and inclement weather of the NHL season and will never pull into the great parking lot Stanley Cup parade.

I guess Devil ownership pressured Lamoriello to fill their still relatively new building night after night because the usually shrewd GM can't have wanted this. Kovy has folded in each of the (few) high pressure situations he has been in - the two playoffs and the Olympics. He is all flash and little substance - a complete opposite from the usual Devil. But he can score some sexy goals and might be able to bring back the few fairweather fans who follow hockey in Jersey and can't/won't make it to the Garden.

For Kovalchuk, it is a great deal, he makes money and has no pressure. He will be at least fifth on the pecking order behind Mmmmaaarrrrtttyyyy, Parise, Elias and new coach Johnny Mac (Lou reigns over all and doesn't count on the ladder of accounability). Kovy can head to Brighton Beach whenever he wants, enjoy the lights and sounds of New York without any of the pressures that come with it or the city taxes. And if the rumours that the deal is really for 17 years, well, that is just comical on all fronts.

For a Ranger fan, of course, I have no issues with the Devils strangling themselves like that. As for when Kovy steps on the ice against the Blueshirts, sure he is a career 19-14-2-1 (1 being a pre-lockout tie) against the Rangers but he is also the author of such monumental moments as this, this, this and, awesomely, this. Let's hope that the new chapter of Kovy's career is filled with all of that and more.

Friday, July 9, 2010

So Much For That ...

@thenyrangers #NYRangers trade Aaron Voros & Ryan Hillier to @AnaheimDucks for Steve Eminger.
The Rangers dealt the People's Champ, a forward who would run through a wall for the team, and a prospect with no future in the organization for an overpaid, journeyman seventh defenseman.

Just 26 years old, Eminger has played for five NHL teams since the lockout - four in the last two years. He is in the last year of a one-way deal and will make $1,500,000 this season; but a cap hit of 'just' $1,125,000 (thanks CapGeek). He has a laundry list of injuries and has not played a full season since making his debut in 2002-03.

He moves the puck pretty well but takes a lot of bad penalties. He has just three NHL fights to his resume but 301 PIM.

Adding Eminger creates an interesting wrinkle in the Blueshirt blueline - when is he going to play and at who's expense? Will he platoon with Hobey Gilroy? Given the Ranger cap situation, will he get the sixth defenseman spot should Staal not re-sign or be given an offer sheet? We shall certainly find out ...

But before that, best wishes to Voros in Anaheim. Sure he wasn't particularly good, but he was dedicated and earned his nickname as the People's Champ with his effort. It was great to chant his name back in January and hopefully he will become a regular part of the Quack Attack.

Feeling The Heat?

As the suffocating summer continues, it is best to look towards the cool fall and hockey season. Hell, it is the only thing getting me through this weather. And, in doing so, we are left to wonder what the Ranger squad will look like. A lot can and hopefully will change before the puck drops in October but this is what I see, right now:

* The Knicks didn't get cash cow LeBron James so the heat (pun intended) will be on the Rangers to up the revenue. And the easiest way to do that? Make the playoffs.

* Tortorella was in the position of coaching away from his comfort zone last season, rolling four lines as his bottom trio was better than the other three. Well, now he can with the signing of the Boogaard and Boyle and Voros (even though he was waived) still around.

* Looking at the roster (below), there doesn't appear to be any room for the kids Tortorella claimed he wanted to add. Even with the hail mary move of sending Wade to Hartford - made less likely in my opinion due to LeBron - there aren't any slots. A coach - even one with an ego the size of the Empire State Building - knows not to waste kids on the fourth line, getting six, seven minutes a night.



I know, I know, Prust on the second line is a stretch but Arty admitted his need for a tough guy to ride shotgun and Dubi adds skill that Shelley didn't have (if only he could have the same drive). That entire fourth line could be swapped based on opponents.

* Now the wild cards appear to be Evgeny Grachev, Mats Zuccarello Aasen, Dale Weise and Brodie Dupont. Grachev was a huge disappointment in Hartford but he could provide quite the boost to Arty (who lost his bromance with Enver Lisin). MZA is an unknown quantity while Weise and/or Dupont could fill in on the fourth line.

* Then again, Prust could be dropped the fourth line in Voros' spot should Sather do something stupid like overpay Frolov but I refuse to think about that.

* Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonaugh should get some consideration on the blue line. Sauer, like Dupont, has paid his dues and shown ability. After Sauer was screwed over two years ago, you would like to imagine him getting a second shot. As for the former Badger, with the amount of hype around him, he will be the first one in line for a spot. He could very well take Hobey's as Jimmy D's willingness to bury $6 mill in the minors wavers.

* Hartford has lost Corey Locke but, barring something incredible in training camp, will gain Derek Stepan. They will have to replace P.A. Parenteau's scoring, which very well could be the role of MZA as he acclimates to America. Lee Baldwin will step into Corey Potter's place on the blueline. Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba will still man the Pack net while Cameron Talbot will start for the new ECHL affiliate (whoever that may be).

I'm sure there is more but, damn it hot; time to go get a cool beverage. Let's hope whatever KoolAid the Rangers brass are drinking is as refreshing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Catching Up

Hey folks, sorry this space has been quiet for a few days. While I was otherwise occupied (Faith No More is an incredible live band), several puck matters have come and passed so I figured I'd chime in on a few ...

Dan Girardi has elected to go to arbitration:
This one is quite interesting as Girardi is setting himself up for what is sure to be a ugly hearing, if Avery's detriment to the team hearing was any kind of indicator. Danny G is said to be asking for $12 million over four years, doubling his salary from last season. Let's take a quick look at what each side could present at the hearing...

Girardi's side: Danny brings consistency to a blue line that has been anything but. He can be counted on for at least 21 minutes a night, 20+ points a season and a pair of hits per game. On a team that was not nearly as successful as the season prior, Girardi's +/- improved to -2 (from -14) in this last year and he was +13 on home ice. Out of his 24 points, nine came in the last 16 games when the team made their futile push for the playoffs. After not seeing power play time for the majority of the year, three of those nine points came with the man advantage. After taking flak for not jumping in on the Carcillo/Gaborik tussle, Girardi learned and came to Arty's defense after Scott Hartnell hit him.

Sather's side: Girardi shouldn't have had to learn. You just don't let your star player fight someone like Dirtbag Dan. It is utterly inexcusable. Girardi had 10 games where he was -2 and one at -3. His shot total has decreased each of the last two seasons, a time where he should be gaining confidence in his skills, not hemorrhaging it. Even for a defensive guy, in Tortorella's system no blueliner should go a span of 54 games with just one goal. Unless you are Wade Redden, but that guy's excrement isn't malodorous, and neither is his contract. Please ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room. No, not Marek Malik, Redden's contract. Nik Kronwall, Colin White, Fedor Tyutin, Jordan Leopold, Toni Lydman and Tim Gleason makes at or under $3 million a year, does Girardi really think he is as good as them? (Toots makes 2.8, Gleason 2.75; all salaries from Capgeek.) And, finally, who the hell does Girardi think he is? He wasn't drafted and everything he has in the NHL is thanks to the Rangers so what kind of thanks is it to play hardball? Especially - ESPECIALLY - when he couldn't score the game-winner against Philadelphia in the final game of the season? That is sure to be Sather's ace in the hole for everyone on last season's squad. 'Cause he is not pleasant like that.

Brandon Prust re-signed for two seasons:
If not for Sather's resolute refusal to give Shelley a three-year deal, the Rangers would be bringing back their best line from the stretch run. Oh well. Hopefully, unlike Anisimov, Prust can succeed without the big man around and doesn't get relegated to spot fourth line duty with Boogey and Boyle. Was that an unfair stab at Arty? We will find out this fall but after the kid admitted he needed the safety of the tough guys, I don't have high hopes. Add the loss of Shelley to a sophomore slump ... well we were talking about Prust. If the former Flame can continue his progression from dime-a-dozen tough guy to power forward then the Blueshirts will have quite the asset.

Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh both decided to leave college and come to the Rangers:
As someone who loved his time in college and would kill to be able to re-live those days, the thought that these kids are giving up at least a year of full-ride fun is horrifying to me. That being said, why risk injury playing against kids when you can start setting yourself up for life in the pros? Stepan leaves Wisconsin as a winner - having taken gold at World Juniors - while McDonagh, well, he just leaves Mike Eaves ... one of the top coaches in college puck (who seemed to have seen the decision coming). Both Stepan and McDonagh will get long looks this fall, which is fantastic for those of us hoping for a legit rebuilding season. It must be cautioned that, like Hobey Gilroy, they could find that Broadway is a far ways away from the comforts of campus. Perhaps this season there will be less hesitation for Torts/Sather to send them to Hartford to adjust to the pro game or to just ride out the rough spots (please, please, please). Who knows what damage was done to Hobey by last season? I guess we will find out ...

Ilya Kovalchuk still has not signed:
No link necessary on this one. The guy is an all-world scorer, there is no denying that. But he isn't a winner - World Championship aside - and he avoids playing in his own zone at all costs. Not to mention that he has a bad temper that the Rangers are quite good at igniting. As long he doesn't somehow end up being another salary albatross around our necks alongside Dru, Rozy and Wade, we should be alright.

And finally, Bob Probert passed away:
It is really hard to articulate the sadness that comes here. Probie was just 45. And he was one of my all-time favourite players; what kid growing up in the late '80s, early '90s didn't love catching a Red Wings game to see him and Joey Kocur ruining guys' lives? I own a copy of The Bruise Brothers book, signed by both guys ... one of my most treasured pieces of memorabilia. As I tweeted, the book was published by Immortal Investments Publishing. That was what Probert was, not a Hall of Famer but a hockey immortal. No matter his off-ice troubles, Probert will go down among the toughest s-o-bs to ever play the sport. Sincerest condolences to his family and may he rest in peace.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Keep Bringin' The Pain

As if this free agency period wasn't bad enough, the Islanders added P.A. Parenteau and Zenon Konopka today.

Losing a Ranger to a rival always hurts and Parenteau is not an exception. He won over more than a few fans with his shootout skills. Of course, he still was little more than a complimentary player so letting the little man isn't a big deal. Hopefully another Hartford winger will take his place; perhaps Dale Weise, who could bring more size and toughness with a decent pair of hands.

Speaking of toughness, the Konopka deal kills me. The Rangers give one-dimensional goon Derek Boogaard a four year deal for stupid money, citing his age as the determining factor in their decision in selecting him over Shelley. But what reasoning could there be to pick him over Konopka? Konopka is only a year and a half older and took a one year deal.

I could get into Boogaard's failures as a deterrent; Mikka Koivu lost how many games because of cheap shots? The Tampa tough guy - along with Steve Downie-Syndrome - allowed Steve Stamkos to flourish last season into a superstar.

Konopka, like Shelley, was highly regarded as his teammates. No one in Minnesota has come out saying they will miss the Boogeyman, at least not that I have read. Boogey skates six minutes a night, Konopka eight. Konopka played in 17 more games and had 33 fight majors to Boogey's nine. And, AND Konopka ranked second on Tampa in faceoff percent with 62.5. If Boogey ever took a faceoff, well there would be something seriously, seriously wrong.

The Rangers could have gotten a goon like they wanted AND a worthwhile fourth line center. Instead we are looking at a fall with Brian Boyle coming back in that role. Brian Boyle. Playing alongside Boogaard. And some of us are paying to watch them play. How dumb are we?

Better question, how is it that every July 1st brings a spell of insanity in Sather? Or is it just stupidity? It is just a shame that Glen does his damnedest to avoid us fans so we will never get the answers.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Not So Free Agents

With so much going on, I figured it would be best to do one big wrap of the day's bigger signings, with quick looks at most of them:

Colby Armstrong to Toronto, 3 years, $9M: Leafs keep following Burke's plan, adding truculence. And Colby has leadership and some offensive skills. Good deal.

Matt Cullen to Minnesota, 3 years, $10.5M: Wild fans can expect a listless, uninterested, overpaid center who will decide to show up only when not feeling so homesick for Carolina that he calls into their broadcasts lamenting leaving Raleigh.

Dan Ellis to Tampa Bay, 2 years, $3M: Ellis will battle Mike Smith for starting time and hopefully that will make both better. Stevie Y is looking as smart off the ice as he was on it, adding Ellis and re-signing little Marty St. Louis. Tampa will be a lot better next season.

Kurtis Foster to Edmonton, 2 years, $3.6M: Big slap shot to go with good puck skills and some toughness, Sheldon Souray's replacement is younger, stronger and healthier. Good addition for Tom Renney's team.

Sergei Gonchar to Ottawa, 3 years, $16.5M: Gonchar keeps the same 5.5 salary he made with Pittsburgh and brings his sublime offensive skills to a team that desperately needs them. He is the Wade Redden replacement that they needed years ago and should hugely improve their power play with Spezza and Alfredsson.

Dan Hamhuis to Vancouver, 6 years, $27M: Canucks overpay for an overrated defender but after watching Luongo go swimming after rebounds last spring, they had to do something.

Olli Jokinen to Calgary, 2 years, $6M: Hahaha!! And I thought Sather would come through for Olli and we would all be left scratching our heads. Instead it is the poor Flames fans. Poor, poor Flames fans.

Toni Lydman to Anaheim, 3 years, $9M: Solid and steady Finn will help add stability to a blueline rocked by the loss of Niedermayer. Add in Saku Koivu re-upping, and the odds of Teemu coming through another season just jumped up.

Manny Malhotra to Vancouver, 3 years, $7.5M: Big money deal for our former top draft pick, Manny will be a rock in the middle for the Canucks. He can contribute on both sides of the ice and is stellar in the faceoff circle. That being said, a third liner making more than two mil a year is a lot ... but the Rangers pay theirs over seven so whatever ...

Chris Mason to Atlanta 2 years, $3.7M: Just in case Pavelic isn't ready, the Thrashers add a good goalie who can easily start 60 games and steal more than a few of them.

Paul Martin to Pittsburgh, 5 years, $25M: Amazing that Martin left Newark for just a 500k raise but how can you blame him? Martin gets a legitimate chance at a Stanley Cup run with the Pens. Pittsburgh doesn't replace Gonchar's offense but Martin helps in all three zones, not just the front two.

Zbynek Michalek to Pittsburgh, 5 years, $20M: When you consider the Pens added Martin too, this signing is HUGE. Michalek gets a massive raise from the 1.5 million he made last season but he is well worth the money, especially at just 26 years old.

Antero Niittymaki to San Jose, 2 years, $4M: It woulda been great to see the two 2006 Olympic gold medal game goaltenders holding court in New York but two mil a season for a backup is a bit much. San Jose was desperate to get someone in there and they got a guy who comes cheaper than the top flight but is capable of top flight goaltender. Sometimes.

Sean O’Donnell to Philadelphia, 1 year, $1M: Big, tough, smart and experienced, O'Donnell is a big addition for the Bullies. They make a huge improvement over Bartulis and Krajicek with O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros.

Henrik Tallinder to New Jersey, 4 years, $13.5M: Another steady defender, Tallinder should quietly fit in and fill a third or fourth defenseman roll there.

Alex Tanguay to Calgary, 1 year, $1.7M: Tanguay took a 800k pay cut to go back to Calgary where he will reunite with Jarome Iginla and hopefully re-ignite his career.

Jody Shelley to Philadelphia, 3 years, $3.3M: What can you say? Philly adds class and toughness, perhaps even improving on Arron Asham, who is likely to sign elsewhere.

Ray Whitney to Phoenix, 2 years, $6M: The Wizard has serious skills, even at his age. He may take some ice time away from Prucha but he also may help Pru become a better player. The Yotes can certainly hope ...

Anton Volchenkov to New Jersey, 6 years, $25.5 M: Anton, meet Avery. Avery, meet Anton. Strong shot blocker should become close 'friends' with Sean this coming season.

Vinny's Back

@NYP_Brooksie: Prospal in for over 35 one yr deal with bonuses... // Prospal $1M base with another $1.1 or so in easily achievable bonuses
Well, Torts liked Vinny, Vinny liked New York so he comes back for another go-around. As I said in the Facts of Life, Vinny disappeared when the going got tough. He has his moments - slipping past D only to pop up for a goal down low - but his consistency needs to be better for a veteran presence around a younger Ranger team.

The Derek Debate

The Rangers certainly know how to get people talking about them, despite the absence of a winning team and this afternoon's signing of Derek Boogaard certainly does it. It opens the floodgates with questions:

"Is this worse than the Brashear signing last year?"

"If you were going to give this much money away, why not re-sign Jody Shelley?"

"Does Glen Sather realize that it is 2010?"

"How soon until Boogaard gets Kasparaitis'd to the KHL?"

"Where will Boogaard go down in the ranks of Ranger goons? With Roman Ndur (thanks Jim!)? Shane Churla? Rudy Poeschek? Nick Fotiu?"

"Do you think you can skate better than Boogaard?"

Frankly, there are no answers just yet. It would be alright that Boogaard hasn't scored a goal in four years if he was a big fighter but he had just nine fight majors last season - not enough to rank in the top 40 tough guys in the league. Sure he went 8-1-1 according to Hockey Fights but who cares? The guy plays three out of every four games, skates just over six minutes per game and adds nothing offensively. Sounds just about right for someone getting a four-year contract worth $1.65 million per. Right?

It is astounding how Sather can be so good at trading players and so very, very stupid when it comes to signing them.

Sather FAIL

@TSNBobMcKenzie: Jody Shelley to PHI on a three year deal worth $1.1M per year.
Well, Glen's cheapskate ways hurt us again. After Colton Orr last year, now we lose Shelley. The guy stepped into the locker room and instantly solidified the room. He gave confidence to Arty and was loved by us fans. So of course we now have to see him go to not only a conference rival but a division rival to boot. I think the only way this day could get worse for the Rangers would be if they signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a decade-long deal.

Moves Down The Middle

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with forward Derek Stepan. ... This season, Stepan registered 12 goals and 42 assists for 54 points, along with eight penalty minutes in 41 games with the University of Wisconsin Badgers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). ... The 6-0, 190-pounder skated in 81 career NCAA games over two seasons with Wisconsin, recording 21 goals and 66 assists for 87 points, along with 14 penalty minutes. ... The Hastings, Minnesota native was originally the Rangers second round choice, 51st overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. His father, Brad, was also drafted by the Blueshirts as a fifth round choice, 91st overall, in 1985.
Happy to get the kid in the fold but it is hard to see him at center ice in the Garden this year. The jump from college to the NHL has to run through the Canadian juniors or the AHL to be successful.

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with center Erik Christensen on a new contract. ... Christensen, 26, skated in 49 games with the Rangers this season, registering eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points, along with 24 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating.
Christy showed good chemistry with Gabby right off the bat, and then again once Torts got his head out of his rear end and reunited them during the run at the end of the season. He is a cheap skill center that fits under the cap and still has room to improve at his age. At the least, when his two year deal is up, Stepan will be ready to step in and take his job.

And Hank's New Backup Is ...

Martin Biron.

Glen Sather went for an aging player who's best days are behind him. What a surprise. The failure on the Fishermen probably came highly recommended by Chris Drury, who's advice is worth as much as his point total - virtually nothing. Ales Kotalik was highly recommended by the captain and look what happened there.

Biron was a stellar goaltender ... in 2001.

He was a decent goaltender ... in 2007.

He was a terrible goaltender last year.

See a trend there? The Blueshirts picked up a guy who's numbers have gone up each of the last two seasons while his number of starts have gone down. The fact that he played behind the horrible Isles last season is irrelevant - a good goaltender on a bad team would still be able to put up a decent save percentage, just look at anyone who played net for Florida since their inception. Biron's was below .900.

A good backup goaltender needs to be able to come in to give the team a chance to win, and there were far better goaltenders out there. That being said, when Glen decided that Chad Johnson simply was not good enough yet to play in the NHL, he set himself upon finding a veteran. He got one and at a good price - even in the saturated market of netminders, few vets were likely desperate enough to take a deal for 875k. Glen found one that would. Alex Auld, last season's stopgap, took one million from Montreal. Hope that 125k is worth losing an additional few games ... just the difference between making the playoffs and not.

I hope that Hank can handle another 70 start season.