Interesting moves? no… not Jamie Lundmark being sent packing again… no not Mike Mottau being assigned to Hartford again…as those guys are still with the big club… but the lesser players like Nils Ekman which many atleast in Sweden had penciled in as the Rangers no.3 winger…The real interest is that there are a plethora of younger players or atleast players with different names still on the roster. Different names? yes… guys you may have heard of before but not in the context of “surviving the 1st Sather cut”…
Among the players showing some solid play that remain with Trottier and company are Mike Mottau, & David Inman who is trying to earn an AHL contract but is looking solid, Richard Lintner the eastern bloc defender who has looked impressive, the struggling Fedor Tjutin who has the skills to make it but struggled greatly in this camp, he remains with the big club to gain some NHL competition taste, Bryce Lampman who figured he would be juniors bound by now…Benoit Dusablon and Rico Fata whom along with Jamie Lundmark have been perhaps the best overall players in camp remain. Garth Murray with just a handful of AHL experience is also on the club which appears to be a reward by Sather & Trottier for his solid summer. Playing a game against NHL level competition is a great dose of seasoning for these kids and keeps them hungry.
Goaltending: The Rangers have taken Johan Holmqvist along with Jason Labarbera to New York. Both to be assigned to Hartford shortly thereafter. Richter and Blackburn are entrenched as no.1 and 2 in New York but the experience is invaluable for the 2 young netminders.
Dixon Ward a NHL castoff who spent last season in Europe has been super and looks to have a serious shot as a 4th line winger or even an experimental insurance policy if Radek Dvorak is slowed by his injury or Martin Rucinsky`s agent does not come to his senses soon.
The big questions are ofcourse who will survive the next round of cuts. Other than Ward the questions are abound. Tomas Kloucek has had a less than attractive pre-season to date can be sent to Hartford without passing through waivers, while Bryce Lampman can be assigned and will likely be to his junior team. Dave Inman is battling for a center position that does not exist as of now. Lindros, Messier and Holik have the 1-3 spot and the 4 spot is not ideal for a passing center. My guess is Jamie Lundmark and Rico Fata have the best chance to make the roster this time around as wingers. While Fata will see ice as an experiment on the Lindros-Bure line it is stupid to believe he is 1st line quality at this point even with his great speed. Lundmark is learning the ropes and how much better could it be while playing with Mark Messier. Petr Nedved will move to the wing while Rem Murray will take the no.4 center spot or wing. Dusablon will head to Hartford for more seasoning but may earn a shot in a regular season game when and if injury comes about on the regular roster. He has risen faster on the Rangers radar screens than almost anyone…ever! As mentioned Mike Mottau`s future depends on what happens with Karpa and Lefebrve at the waiver deadline. If they are taken Mottau has a solid shot of taking the last spot on defense. Dale Purinton with the addition of Kasparitis and Oliwa(wing) is also questionable. At 1st I would have imagined him as the next Rudy Poeschek(able to play wing and defense)… but now it is in question. Roman Lyasheno has had a solid camp and is likely to be tried at one of the top 2-3 lines wing position and also as a checking no.4 along with Murray and a host of others including Sandy McCarthy and Matt Barnaby.
Ted Donato who left camp due to the death of his Father-inlaw will return to camp with Hartford. In a few weeks time Donato may be ticketed to New York as he is a tireless checker and who can score the odd goal. I met Teddy while playing for TEAM USA in Norway and he is a great guy… very down to earth, the kind of guy you drink beers with (which we did…and a lot)…the kind who plays pond hockey with the boys…and works hard the entire time. I wish him and his family the best and I look forward to his return to the NHL with the Rangers!
In Hartford there is a logjam at goal already and 2 of the regular keepers are still in New York. Scott Meyer looks to lock up the no.2 position in Hartford (behind Holmqvist) while Nicklas Sundberg will see ice in the ECHL with Charlotte. John Tripp had a solid NHL camp and many thought he may survive the cut but he is likely to be a go to guy in Hartford along with Nils Ekman. Coach Ryan McGill has his hands full. Look for the Rangers to grab a couple experienced AHL veterans to fill their roster and help Ken Gernander teach them pro-hockey values.
Well until next time keep your eyes open and stay tuned for a VERY exciting September 2002!