Rangers Analysis, Expansion and Other…
The expansion draft, free agency, and the entry draft are all fast approaching and for a team looking to rebuild and re-evaluate under new management the Rangers time is now.
First and foremost should be the hiring of a coach. Glen Sather is expected to announce the hiring of Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL Champions) coach John Paddock to take over the duties of NY bench boss. Paddock is a well respected team coach who uses a philosophy which balances respect, toughness, and motivation to win over his players. Other candidates include the banished Ted Nolan and Rangers assistant John Tortorella. Tortorella may assume the duties of Paddock in Hartford. However, Sather believes he is a capable drafter of talent without a coach, none the less the time is now.
With the upcoming draft the Rangers have several options available even without a first rounder, which went to Tampa for the rights to Pavel Brendl. Disgruntled Stephane Quintal may be included in a package for a 1st rounder, or in fact for anything at all. Another option would be to sit on the 2nd pick and look for a 2nd round gem. This player may turn out to be one of the few players the Rangers have been analyzing such as Brett Nowak who is a projected 2nd Rounder after a non existent World Juniors Tourney, but he would help fill the void up front. Thatcher Bell is another player who should be available but at 175 pounds may not be big enough for the Rangers needs. Of course disgruntled Randy Copley, 1998 draftee of New York, re-enters and may be a return product.
Expansion Draft List
Forwards: Derek Armstrong, Alexandre Daigle, Christian Dube, Ken Gernander, Daniel Goneau, Valeri Kamensky, Christopher Kenady, Radoslav Kropac, Alexei Lazarenko, John MacLean, Brad Smyth, Kevin Stevens, P.J. Stock, Dmitri Subbotin, Rudolf Vercik, Chris Wells.
Of this group the most interesting players remain Derek Armstrong and Rudolf Vercik, a young player that has been hobbled by injuries and then thrust himself back into prospect status. Of this group Armstrong is the closest to being “a new kid on the block”, although he has played in the NHL Armstrong has been given the eye by Columbus for his exploits in the AHL. John MacLean and the disappointing Valeri Kamensky are available but not likely to be taken due to their high salaries. Kevin Stevens has likely seen the end of his career with his various substance abuse problems, high salary and poor production added to an older, slower body.
Defensemen: Drew Bannister, Ilja Gorohov, Kevin Hatcher, Rich Pilon, Ola Sandberg, Mathieu Schneider, Terry Virtue, David Wilkie.
Of this group only the veteran Mathieu Schneider is of interest, again his high salary may prohibit his acquisition in the draft. His resigning must be a priority of Glen Sather. Kevin Hatcher has seen the last of Rangers Blue unless of course he finds a home elsewhere and meets the Rangers on the ice. There look to be no players taken here.
Goaltenders: Milan Hnilinka, Jean-Francois Labbe, Kirk McLean, Vitali Yeremeyev.
This is interesting, for expansion teams a solid goalie is the best building block, and Hnilicka, Labbe, and McLean all provide this. It is assumed that McLean is too old and too expensive for most expansions clubs. Labbe and Hnilicka are very interesting because if they are not taken in the draft Hnilicka may be rejoining Czech coach Ivan Hlinka in Pittsburgh as they share a great amount of respect for each other. The Rangers also have several goaltending prospects in the pipeline including Swedes Holmqvist and Asplund.
In the end the Rangers will lose only one decent player, probably Armstrong, in the draft of expansion available players. I see Valeri Kamensky back next season in New York but John MacLean may find employment elsewhere via the waiver wire along with Stephane Quintal, Rich Pilon, Kevin Hatcher, Chris Kenady and Kirk McLean.