but I'm not a fence sitter either. This one was courtesy of reader HabsFan33 (much appreciated). Apparently, a massive war of words has broken out over an article on Four Habs Fans. The article listed the 10 Things We Hate About the Rangers. This is the first part of an apparent 29 part series, abstaining from Montreal of course.
After reading the article, my man Dubi over at Blueshirt gave a little response of his own. Both can be viewed here. Now I don't pretend to know nearly as much about the overall sport of hockey as some, particularly some of the lucky Canadians who have it as part of their daily culture. However, I thought it would be fun to break their ten down.
I will preface this list however. There is quite a bit of Ranger fan bashing and while New York certainly has it's share of egregious fans, so does every team. There is always someone who is out of line or uneducated. So here goes nothing:
10. That pyjama top jersey in the banner pick that they wore in the 70's. Have some dignity!
In reference to the 70's logo jersey. I would agree it was a questionable jersey move, but then again isn't that just marketing? Is a team truly defined by it's jersey? I should hope not because that would leave the organization very shallow and it's fans uncommitted.
9. Continued veneration of this lousy history: 4 Cups since 1926, including 54-year drought. All time team includes Mike Richter and Vic Hadfield. Top ten scorers in Rangers history include Steve Vickers, Ron Greschner, and Adam Graves.
Ranger fans are the first to bash our own past. Hell, if we ever saw any administration from the decade of doom we'd be the first to knock them out. However, what is wrong with Mike Richter and Vic Hadfield? Richter is the greatest American goalie of all time and a class act as well. If you are judging one season's performance, then Hadfield is on that list. Otherwise, I wouldn't think so. As far as all time scorers, why would certain players being on a scoring list cause you to hate a team. You may not like the players. They may be less superior to other teams top ten scorers, but does that make you hate them?
8. Original home for aging, overpaid former stars. See Esposito, Phil. Dionne, Marcel. Lafleur, Guy. Kurri, Jari. Messier, Mark (Version 2.1).
Yes we certainly have seen our share of aging. At the same time, each had an impact. Esposito led us to the finals. Dionne should never makes a Habs fan upset neither should Lafleur. Kurri played a decent role and Messier the second time around still managed to lead the team in scoring. Now that may not have been saying much, but each contributed despite their age.
7. Sean Fucking Avery.
I would have been surprised if this wasn't on the list. However, has he really affected the Habs yet? As a West Coast player he hadn't. Besides, he has only been a Ranger for less than half a season.
6. Lousy, loud, jerk-off, fair weather fans who claim they are the best in the world. In the words of our New York dwelling friend DS, "The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Devils, and Brooklyn Cyclones Triple A baseball team all have a more loyal fanbase than the Rangers. Rangers tickets are easy to get. It's only hard when the Isles, Devils or Flyers are in town." (DS ended up surrounded by other Habs fans at the last NY/Montreal tilt.)
I think this is just an unfair comment. How many times have unruly Habs fans caused havoc, particularly at away games. At the same time, there is an over 3,000 person waiting list for season tickets so getting a Rangers ticket isn't as easy as you say. As far as the other teams, this is a major difference between Canada and America, unfortunately hockey isn't first tier. At the same time, the Rangers fan base is incredibly strong and it is the third most recognized NHL team in the world, according to The Hockey News. I won't even address the Devils comment because they only sell out once or twice a season, when the Rangers come in.
Note to Rangers fans: Just being loud, obnoxious, and potentially psychotic doesn't make you the best. It may make you the worst, however. (Wipe that smug look off your faces, Flyers fans. This brush is wide enough to paint you too.)
Haha. Comments just to start trouble.
5. Ronnie Duguay's stupid afromullet and "sex symbol" status. Matinee idols should score more than a point a game, methinks.
What does being a sex symbol or idol have to do with sports? Just because a player is recognizeable doesn't mean they have to perform. Besides, there have been plenty of Habs with terrible hair cuts.
4. Ron Greschner married Carol Alt. Read that sentence again.
Look here. What is so wrong with that? Are any of us in a position to turn that down. Besides, he pawned her off on Alexei Yashin.
3. "The World's Most Famous Arena." The Montreal Forum just called; it would like a word.
Does the world really know the Montreal Forum? Let's be honest. When people come over from Europe or Asia do they say jeez I want to see the Montreal Forum? No. Now I am not dissing the Forum, there is a lot of hockey history there. However, New York is the most renowned city in North America and the sports center of it is Madison Square Garden.
2. They are the traditional weak-sister of the Original Six, the one without a natural rival, best known for 54 years of futility they turned into a "curse", and a penchant for overpriced, over-the hill stars. They exist in the world's largest media market and receive attention far out of proportion to their impact on hockey in general and the New York sports market in particular, which doesn't stop Gary Bettman and whatever local cable access channel is carrying the NHL in the States from pushing them on fans at the expense of far more exciting teams that play in less desirable markets. They continue to employ that smirking, overrated genius Glen Sather, despite the fact that his genius is based on catching lightning in a bottle with two brilliant drafts and having the greatest player ever dropped in his lap, and all he has done is strip mine their farm system and sign more overpriced stars. They and their big-spending brethren nearly destroyed the league. Twice.
Phew. What a mouthful. As far as being the weakest of the Original Six, I would look at Boston and Chicago in the last two decades. Besides, Boston is a natural rival. I will point you in the direction of Terry Reilly and Mike Milbury at MSG. As far as the business side of it, look at what would happen to the NHL if the Rangers were not as big of a draw. The league would near fold. People want to see the New York stars. Hell, if the other clubs were so great then why aren't their fans supporting it? Again I'm not criticizing, but the NHL has become dominated by the United States. How many teams are there in Canada? In fact, the poor Canadian economy forced teams out of Canada and nearly bankrupted the Oilers and Habs. If we love our game we have to respect it's major markets, Toronto, Philadelphia, New York, etc. Even under the new CBA, the American teams give money to help the Canadian ones. Nobody is saying our GM is perfect, in fact more Rangers fans hate him than like him, but we shouldn't talk too much about Hab management either. I will point you to the direction of Sergei Samsonov.
1. Really, that's kind of a stupid name. And it came about because the original owner's name was Tex Rickard. They were jokingly called "Tex's Rangers", and it stuck. Rejected names apparently included the New York Tex's Longhorns, New York Yellow Roses of Tex's, and New York Tex's Mex. Oh, and Madison Square Garden president Rickard originally promised the New York Americans that they would be the only team to play in MSG ... but when he saw how profitable the Amerks were, he asked for a team himself and essentially ran them out of business.
What's in a team name? The Habs are merely stating their citizenship. The Blackhawks are not American Indians. Has anyone ever seen a Bluejacket? Precisely. As far as the true Ranger history, Dubi took care of that.
So to recap, the team is named after their backstabbing, weaselly, liar-liar-pants-on-fire first owner ... and it's a dumb name to boot.
Alright, but that was in the 1920's? Nobody today is affected by that. Besides, you mean to tell me ALL big-business is kosher? I thought most business actually was made up of "backstabbing, weaselly, liar-liar-pants-on-fire" owners.
The article was kind of fun, but you won't see me writing any hate lists around here. Back to player evaluations tonight.
As we near closer to training camp, the likelihood of the current Rangers roster being the starting night line-up is increasing. While we have a general idea where certain players will go, there remains one major question mark: Petr Prucha. The wiry rookie was bounced around last year, but maintained decent point production in decreased and very limited ice time.
Interestingly enough, within the current roster, Prucha could find himself on any of the lines. As he has become incredibly close with Captain Jagr, he could find himself on the first-line wing with Jagr and either Chris Drury or Scott Gomez.
It would not be surprising to see him on the second line with whichever center doesn't play the first line and Brendan Shanahan. His ability to move the puck and find the net will give that line an added punch.
Most have him coming in as the third line winger with some center and then Ryan Callahan on the opposite wing. In fact, even a few have him as a fourth line player. Despite all of this, there is one option that is not often considered and that is Prucha's ability to play center.
In his rookie season of 05' - 06', Prucha centered the first power play unit, a role that he played well in. He had a decent winning percentage on draws, 52%, and scored 16 goals. He never saw that time in '06 - '07, but still managed 22 goals. If Prucha were to center the third line, how would his production be affected?
Any hockey person will tell you that a player of Prucha's small stature is going to have a tough time making a long career in the NHL. However, if moved off the wing (away from the boards and corners) and to center, he would only be susceptible to the occasional open ice hit. While those are certainly brutal, it takes away from the daily grind that a winger endures. Perhaps it would extend his career.
In his rookie year, Prucha averaged 13:41 minutes of ice time. Last season, his ice time decreased to 12:59, much of that in part to rare power play time. However, if you consider that between Matt Cullen and Blair Betts splitting third line center time, Prucha could see ice time nearing 15 minutes. That additional time would increase his production.
Let's take a look at what the lineup could be if Prucha was on the third line as center:
Straka - Drury - Jagr
Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
Hossa - Prucha - Callahan
Dawes - Betts - Hollweg/Orr
Now that is a lot of presumption. However, it would free up a spot for Nigel Dawes and could allow the Rangers to carry eight defensemen. Additionally, it would mean not having to bring in another player thus saving salary cap space.
Despite the trade rumors, Prucha should be a major part in the Rangers' future and as his ice time increases, he has the potential to be a thirty plus goal scorer. Hopefully, Head Coach Tom Renney can find a more stable role for him this year as opposed to last season.
UPDATE: Thanks to reader Sammy, as he points out, the Tampa Bay date is for a youth hockey promotion. As we speculated, it could have been for a promotion and in fact was. However, I have heard season ticket holders discuss that MSG personnel is aware of a Brian Leetch night and it will be announced near training camp.
Though this is purely speculation, but season ticket holders received a list of dates that can be pre-purchased for group sales. One odd night stands out as unable to be purchased aside from opening night and divisional rivals, October 29th vs. Tampa Bay. Again, purely speculation, but it seems like an odd game to just leave out of group sales. There isn't much significance in the way of Leetch and Tampa other than former Head Coach John Tortorella. On the other side, there could be a promotion that night which is why they aren't doing the group sales either.
(photo from BBC News)
How can the most hated player in the NHL be one of the most beloved in New York? Just ask Sean Avery. The gritty forward came over just before the trade deadline and played 29 games for the Rangers en route to a second straight playoff berth. In fact, his play was widely considered one of the main reasons the inconsistent Rangers were able to come from behind and go all the way to the Conference Semi-Finals. The controversial Avery went to arbitration this off-season and was signed to a one-year $1.9 million contract. Despite playing only 29 games, his point total, on-ice heart, off-ice candor, and instant jelling with the locker room made him an instant favorite at MSG and an integral part of the Rangers.
The Question: Will an ill-tempered arbitration and a full season under the New York lime-light break Avery? His already less than stellar past will give him a permanent stigma as hockey's "badass," but has he finally found a home in New York? If he can maintain some consistency here, it could be a nice relationship.
The Definite: Avery will always create a story, good or bad. When he can focus and play a hard-nosed game, he will be effective and take others off their game. As long as it's the other team, he's the games greatest agitator.
The Intangible: Between Shanahan and Jagr, Avery has been able to find a niche and jell with Jagr's humor and Shanny's heart. How will he interact with new centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez? What should be a great fit could turn sour real fast.
(As A Ranger)
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As promised, here are some in-house options that the Rangers now have in looking for a third line center. Interesting that the same problems we had before last season (a viable middle line center and stud defenseman) continue to plague us.
Artem Anisimov: A big boy at 6'4", but only 190 lbs. At 19 years old, this Russian has a lot of potential. The problem will be whether his international experience can transfer directly into the NHL. Most likely not the option and will play a year in Hartford before coming up with the big club.
Brandon Dubinsky: A smaller frame for a center at 6'1", but a hefty 224 pounds of frame. At 21 years old, he nearly made the team last year without even setting a foot in Hartford. He showed a lot of potential and even saw a little NHL action at the end of last season. I wouldn't be surprised if he was chosen come October.
Brodie Dupont: 6'2" and 206 pounds, this western hockey leaguer has a decent amount of scoring upside on a decent frame. Chances are he'll need some transition time and he is still a couple years away.
Jarkko Immonen: Will any part of the Brian Leetch trade work out? Right now, Immonen is looking at skating in Europe, though nothing is official. Perhaps the reason he hasn't signed is he sees an opportunity with the big club now. At 6'0" and 209 lbs, he does seem smallish on the ice, but has shown some shots of talent in a handful of NHL games. He will probably end up in Europe, but wouldn't be a terrible fit at 3rd.
Tom Pyatt: A bit of a long shot and somewhat small for a third line center spot. At 5'11" and 182 lbs. , it wouldn't be surprising if his size kept him back a bit. At age 20 however, he has shown some promise and could be a potential NHLer after some additional seasoning. Despite his size, his commitment to fitness has been touted.
A few options to mull over for the evening though I still think a deal is coming that will bring over a veteran center. Until tomorrow...
Just saw "Superbad" and I highly recommend it. Now it's time to look back at this Peca fiasco. First, we said earlier how this could be one of the biggest Ranger jokes in recent history, and it is. From message boards to blogs, this has been the talk of the town for hockey for weeks now. If you really look at it, this isn't even a marquee player. We were anxiously awaiting a decision on a third line center! Hilarious of course, but nonetheless it gave us something to talk about. I won't get into the details of what happened,(for that look at Zipay and Dellapina's blogs) but the gist of it is that Peca wanted to be a Ranger bad, but youth persevered. Whether or not that is the truth remains to be seen, but on the surface that is the story. Peca held out as long as possible and the Rangers just couldn't commit over the youth and Peca couldn't wait any longer. Kudos to both sides in all honesty as the Rangers didn't jump the gun and Peca kept his pride and did what was best for his family.
Some interesting tidbits before bedtime to think about. Whether you wanted Peca or not, we have to accept that the Rangers had a serious interest. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have put him through interviews and physicals. In the end there are several possibilities that lend themselves to the result in not even offering him a contract. First could have very well been the physical. Even though he reportedly passed it, that doesn't mean it was to a standard that made the Rangers comfortable. Secondly, another deal could be in the works that has more recently transpired. Peca may have looked better before this deal came about or may have had salary implications. Finally, it may be as simple as the rookies.
Tomorrow I'll have some rookie evaluations and who can fit that third line role from within. We now finally close this chapter of the Mike Peca Saga...
UPDATE: According to Dellapina, Meehan said the Rangers never extended Peca a contract offer. This could have been because of something during the physical or perhaps another move is in the works that will bring another center in.
Confirmed by John Dellapina moments ago, Mike Peca will not be a Ranger this season. More to come...
UPDATE 7:22: My thanks to Dubi for the link and my apologies for not being more thorough. In the spur of the moment, I didn't clarify the quotes well enough. The quotes below are either paraphrased from larger quotes or are partial quotes. The interviewers kept referring to being down to "two teams," but they never said who. I think it was safe to say the Rangers were one with the other most likely being Columbus based on how non-chalant they were in discussing it. Additionally, what was very clear was that there are "TWO ONE-YEAR DEALS" on the table that Peca has to choose from. If the Rangers are one of the two teams, that means they have made a formal offer and it is now in Peca's hands. What could be a kicker in this is that if the Rangers are not a team, then it could theoretically be Buffalo and Columbus. As we speculated last night, if the Rangers jumped ship, he may be considering his Plan B. options. At the same time, he mentioned how Peca talked to the team and coaching staff and is looking to be a good fit, which we know occurred with the Rangers. In fact, Peca said he saw himself a good fit in New York. Hopefully this clarifies. More questions, comment below and I'll do the best to answer.
UPDATE 5:20: Broken Quotes from the interview:
- Probably will know more by the end of the day.
- Fairly close to making a decision to where he will be. Doesn't think this will go on later than this day.
- Two teams interested seriously and had discussions with. Mike is determining where he wants to be.
- Both deals are one-year deals.
- Looking for a good fit, has talked to the coaching staff and management, and objectives, not an issue of money.
- Maple Leafs took a pass on Peca. (NO TORONTO)
- No issue of his health.
An interview coming up on AM640 in Toronto here. Updates as they happen...
Tuesday is D-Day according to Steve Zipay of Newsday. Over at his blog, he reports that Peca's agent has said his client will make a decision on Tuesday in regards to who he will play for. Apparently, there are a few teams involved, though he mentioned no names. This is interesting for a few reasons. First and foremost it was all Rangers for the past week and now it is "down to a few teams." Could this just be a last-minute bargaining ploy? Perhaps.
Another scenario could be that the Rangers have said no and he decided to not wait before deciding on a team like Columbus or Toronto. Peca has said throughout that he just wants to be settled in time for school to start for his kids. Interestingly enough, Meehan was supposed to be returning to the United States, whether that plays or not we'll see.
Eklund today said that Toronto is a front-runner while other rumblings have Columbus as the spot. I personally can't see Peca signing anywhere but New York because of how much has gone on with the Rangers, as in meetings with coaches and physicals (see post below). It will be interesting to see what happens and how it transpired. Stay tuned...
Despite some weekend reports citing the center as willing to go to Columbus, let's be practical here. Peca has no reason to say he wouldn't go to another team. If the Rangers do an about face, he doesn't want to cut out options for next season. The reason he hasn't signed earlier? Sather hasn't been around. I hear Canada is lovely this time of year..? As for today, Peca's agent is in Canada. So once people decide to come back to the U.S. and get this thing done, don't expect an announcement. An agent is going to be there when his client pulls on a New York Rangers' jersey. The one consistency throughout this process has been the silence of the Rangers, but the commitment of Peca and Meehan to waiting for the Rangers. Besides, they brought him in for a physical and had him speak to Head Coach Tom Renney. Give it some time and I am sure this
will iron itself out.
In other news, there is a great interview with Jagr over at Blueshirt and the Rangers continue to rack up goaltenders by signing Matt Zaba out of Colorado College. This just continues to point in the direction of Al Montoya's departure.
Time for another player evaluation and who better than to get back on track with than Shanny? Brendan Shanahan came over as a free-agent last season and instantly became a crowd favorite. From his tireless work ethic and team mentality to his connection with the fans, Shanahan became the epitome of New York Rangers hockey. He was also a major contributor on the ice as he saw time on special teams as well as the anchor of the second line. Atop the team in scoring throughout most of the season, Shanahan was also a vital locker room presence and stuck up for his teammates on the ice despite his age. In fact, one of his most heralded moments was when he fought Donald Brashear after his cheap shot on Captain Jagr. Shanahan re-signed for another one year deal in the off-season, laden with incentives. He said he always wanted to be in NY and now he's here and it is his final stop. Will this be his final year? It very well could be, but will only make his effort more pronounced.
The Question: Will Shanny's age and gritty North American style catch up with him? This would be the year and he did show some signs of slowing at the end of last year, but that could have been attributed to his concussion. However, having a legitimate center such as Scott Gomez for the first time as a Ranger will help take some of the scoring pressure off of him.
The Definite: Shanny is another heart-and-soul guy, but at the same time is blunt, honest, and expects the same from his teammates. His effort will be there and he will make the younger players around him better. Expect his presence to impact Ryan Callahan, Gomez, and Chris Drury a great deal.
The Intangible: Aside from the impact he will leave on the younger teammates, Shanahan is one of the few Stanley Cup tested veterans on the squad and as this team is looking towards Stanley, his experience will be integral.
Thankfully no news during my internet-less work hours. However, a couple updates and then some review. First and foremost, for all you Peca-watchers, nothing new. John Dellapina wrote this evening that Peca's agent Don Meehan is confident a deal with the Rangers will get worked out, but nothing formal yet. Apparently the ball is still in Sather's court. This could turn out to be the biggest joke in a while for the Rangers if Peca goes somewhere else.
Additionally, former Ranger Anders Hedberg is back with the team as their Head European Scout. The press release is here. He's well experienced with Ottawa as well as with the Swedish National Program. He will have big shoes to fill as the Rangers have been incredibly strong in drafting European recently. Petr Prucha, Henrik Lundqvist, and recently Alexei Cherepanov are all strong European players that the Rangers probably shouldn't have gotten where they were.
Finally, some review. After Jagr's comments this morning, it is fairly justified to examine the defense question again. Jagr pointed out that regardless of the forwards they sign now, unless they get a defenseman, it's near pointless. While I am one of the biggest proponents of "defense-first," Jagr makes a valid point. With the abundance of mid-level, second and third pairing defenseman the Rangers have, the lack of a true stud is going to keep them from Cup status.
We earlier examined the Ohlund, JovoCop, etc. options. However, we never took the time to look at trade options. Given the Rangers depth of rookie talent as well as a couple veteran options, a lower level team may be willing to be a trade partner with the Rangers.
First, a few players the Rangers would likely include in a deal.
- Goaltender Al Montoya - No room with Lundqvist.
- Forward Jarrko Immonen - Playing overseas this year, but could sweeten a pot.
- Forward Nigel Dawes - Anyone else get the sense that he's not going to get a shake with the big club?
- Defenseman Marek Malik - Not so sure about this one, but it'll make the majority of fans happy.
- Defenseman Paul Mara - A little pricey, but young enough to justify.
- Defenseman Darius Kasparaitis - Big contract. The Rangers will have to be pretty lucky to get rid of his salary.
- Defenseman Ivan Baranka - Similar to Dawes, just don't get the sense that he'll see time.
Let's presume that most Eastern conference teams are not going to trade with the Rangers, in fact if we are going to examine any possible trade partners it is most likely going to be a Southeast Divisional team, but in the interest of objectivity we'll throw a couple Eastern teams in there.
Tampa Bay Lightning: A decent amount of defenseman, but no real goaltending depth. True they have Marc Denis and Holmqvist, but Montoya would be a pretty viable option there. Dan Boyle and Filip Kuba may require a bit more, but Paul Ranger (wink wink) could also be an option. Likelihood: Unlikely.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Another team with a lot of defensemen. However, they have established their goaltending system in the off-season. They could use a big-time center or at least a top forward prospect. To get any of their big name-d, McCabe or Kubina etc., you need to throw an additional NHLer along with a prospect. Perhaps Dawes, Baranka, and a Hossa or Prucha could land a top pairing defenseman. Likelihood: Average.
Onto the Western Conference. Considering the Ranger ties to Phoenix and St. Louis, let's begin there.
Phoenix: A team desperate for a goaltender despite an abundance of mediocre ones. Don't think for a second that they would hesitate on landing Montoya if the price were right. The problem is, they don't have much to give back. Aside from Jovo, the really only attractive defenseman is Derek Morris. This could be a likely trade here, but would command more than Montoya. Montoya, Immonen, and Mara is a possibility. Likelihood: Average.
St. Louis: A team that is rebuilding and could always use youth. More in the line of a forward prospect or two, St. Louis has a couple defenseman worth mentioning in return. Barrett Jackman and Christian Backman (say those three times fast) are strong young defenseman. Dawes, a pick, and possibly a veteran defenseman such as Mara or Malik to bring along the youth could bring one of them in. Likelihood: Unlikely.
Los Angeles: An unlikely team, but a more likely scenario. Another team pushing for a longer term goaltender of the future, they would command Montoya in any deal. The problem is, their defense are longer term or new term contracts. Could the Rangers swing a deal for Rob Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, or Jaroslav Modry, probably not. Any of those players would require Montoya and probably a first-rounder as well as a veteran. Likelihood: Unlikely.
There are obviously other fits that the Rangers could explore such as Dallas or Calgary, but for right now, the top-chip trading piece seems to be Montoya and these teams could feasibly use him or Dawes. If the Rangers could acquire one of these top-Tier defenseman, they will have a presence that they have lacked since the days of Brian Leetch.
- Inferno over at Rangers Review has an outstanding assessment and prediction about our offense. Everyone needs to check it out!
- Next, everyone is still awaiting the Peca decision. Inferno reported yesterday that his source said it was a done deal and awaiting a physical (which Peca passed). There was an erroneous report out there yesterday that it was final, but apparently it isn't quite yet.
- The Dark Ranger also has a great clip for some non-hockey fun. (I highly recommend watching Robot Chicken and the entire Adult Swim lineup -- minus the anime)
- Dubi at Blueshirt has some additional Peca commentary, interestingly enough by Captain Jagr.
- John Vanbiesbrouck was named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday and is being discussed everywhere. A good guy, despite some issues post-NHL.
- Mike Richter was on Daily News Live last discussing a variety of topics from concussions to current goalies. He will be running in the New York City Marathon and SLAM! has a story.
Since this is the hot-button topic right now, I am going to stay on top of this as promised. John Dellapina added an update this evening on his blog. (See the Blog Roll) Essentially, the Rangers are taking their time since they're in no hurry. However, as John points out and I alluded to earlier, if the Rangers are taking the time to bring him in for a physical and make him wait it out, they are unlikely to just say "thanks, but no thanks." Additionally, reader Paul posted on the comments section below that The NHL Line is reporting the deal done on their free-agent tracker at one-year. While I have seen reports of theirs before I am a bit skeptical. I mean, even Eklund isn't reporting it a done deal! However, the tip is much appreciated and is just another one of the many sources claiming that Peca will probably be Broadway-bound.
UPDATE 1:16 PM: Reports this morning have said that Peca has passed his physical, is discussing his role with Head Coach Tom Renney and awaiting to sign the final contract. All signs seem to point to yes here.
UPDATE 4:15 AM: Just got back from Saratoga Springs after a great Dave Matthews Band show (complete with my LETS GO RANGERS chant at an obnoxious Sabres fan) and wanted to pass on a couple of links and stories. It seems imminent that the Rangers are going to announce Peca as early as tomorrow. That is being attributed to TSN, Steve Zipay, John Dellapina, and even Eklund. The story is going a couple ways. Zipay reports that the Rangers are waiting for the results of a physical and the acceptance of a bonus-laden contract. Most of that seems plausible. However, Dellapina is reporting that the Rangers are still not sold on Peca and if his worth is enough to keep Anisimov and/or Dubinsky out of the ranks another year. Both scenarios have been discussed here. Once any definitive signing occurs I'll pass it along.
I guess this could be about JovoCop, but in fact there are more rumblings this morning about Mike Peca joining the Rangers. According to Spector, the Post's Mark Everson reported that Peca is nearing a deal and will likely be a Ranger. As we have reiterated NUMEROUS TIMES , for the right price this could be a nice fit. Spector notes that it may be a $1 million base salary with bonuses up to another $500,000. Last week, John Dellapina also commented on the talks between the two sides. I will stay on this, but for now here are some line combinations to consider if Peca is signed.
Straka - Drury - Jagr
Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
Callahan - Peca - Prucha
Hossa - Betts - Hollweg/Orr
At this point however, the defense and even to an extent the forwards are a little high in numbers. I would not be surprised if another deal takes place, perhaps with Montoya in the mix. More to come.
Time to get back to the evaluations. One of my favorite players over the past two seasons has been Petr Prucha, the feisty smallish winger who has played a variety of roles and put forth all his effort at each one. Not afraid to take a hit and having a knack for the net, Prucha is coming into his third season without a defined role. Last season he was bounced around from the power play to the third line and every line in-between. In fact, while many said he had an off year, he put up decent stats despite having a significant amount less of ice-time. Prucha has the potential to be a rising thirty goal scorer if he gets a consistent role. Will he remain a Ranger and be given a legitimate shot? Time will tell.
The Question: Prucha hasn't had a consistent enough role to have a major question. The only recurring theme is the trade rumors. Has his size and the emergence of other younger Ranger forwards forced Prucha out of the Rangers organization? Hopefully not, but I wouldn't be surprised.
The Definite: If put in the proper role, Prucha can be an exceptional forward with a nice scoring touch and the ability to grind the corners despite his size. In fact, like Straka, his heart is really his main asset and it should be something that the Rangers grow and harness.
The Intangible: Prucha has become very close with Jaromir Jagr and even spends time and trains with him during the off-season. Will that be enough to keep him in Broadway blue? Even if he is moved, the Rangers will be able to command a decent amount back for him.
A couple of house keeping items. Over at the HFBoards, it appears MSG has a new ribbon scoreboard and LED center-ice panels. The power ring is a strip of LED lighting that is found at the net ends of the arena where the out-of-town scores used to be. Most arenas have these including Nassau Coliseum and Continental Airlines. Additionally, the new scoreboard is slightly larger.
Where this may be just general upgrades, it may also point to something greater. As MSG and Cablevision struggle to attain the Postal Service building next to the Garden to make a new arena, Dolan of Cablevision explained that if he could not purchase the new building, he has an expensive plan in place to gut and renovate the existing Garden and have it appear new. Could this be a step in that direction? Granted these renovations don't break the bank, they are the first significant changes in quite some time.
In what has been widely speculated, it appears the fate of Mike Peca on Broadway will come soon. John Dellapina wrote this morning that the Rangers have had talks with Peca and Eklund is reporting it as an (E4). Put whatever merit you want in that, but at least it's some consistency.
As we discussed earlier, at the right price, Peca may be a good fit. What may be the defining factor is how the Rangers feel Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov would fit that role. Are they NHL ready? Maybe... More later.
That seems to be the pressing question at this time in Rangerland, though I personally don't feel it is as much of an issue as others are claiming. However, in the interest of objectivity, I will put out there what is being said. First off, the Rangers have placed themselves in a position to be serious contenders and a general consensus seems to be that Stephen Valiquette, who backed up for Henrik for the last thirty or so games of the season, is unfit to do the job. Before I contest that, let's examine the alternatives.
Some are saying that this should be Al Montoya's first step toward being an NHL-goalie. After proving himself in the AHL for the past couple seasons, Montoya is as close to NHL-ready as an AHLer can be. However, his $1.9 million is far too much of a cap hit and do you really want a rookie goalie playing a mere 15 to 20 games? No.
There are UFA back-ups remaining. In fact, Eklund has the Rangers in on every remaining goalie as it is. The big names right now seem to be Sean Burke, Robert Esche, and Ed Belfour. Alex Auld has also been mentioned. The idea being that signing one of these veterans will ensure the Rangers have a battle-tested and ready back-up. Of those goalies, I can perhaps see Sean Burke over the others, as he would probably jell more effectively. Belfour remains a bit of a loose canon and I am not sure that Esche is as tested as the Rangers would need. While I like Auld, he too is fairly young and in-experienced and not much of an upgrade over Valiquette.
Now on to contesting the Valiquette naysayers. First off, he and Henrik have an outstanding relationship. Picture Mike Richter and Glen Healy, was Healy really that good or did he just have the right chemistry. As we always see in hockey, chemistry is most important. Next, Valiquette hasn't been given the true opportunity to show his skills. When he has, (see St. Louis come-from-behind shootout win) there have been very strong showings. Of course, any goalie who plays limited amounts and bounces between leagues is going to have streaks of inconsistency.
He is also cap-friendly. At just over $630,000, most of the UFA goalies are going to command at least that much making Valiquette a steal. Finally, let's look at the long-term. At 29 years old, he should be nearing his prime and if things work out, then the Rangers could have a longer term duo in him and Lundqvist. Why continue and fill a role when you can have someone become accustomed to it?
Ranger fans have to come to terms that Montoya will probably be shipped elsewhere before he is ever given a legitimate NHL shot with the Rangers. That is the downside to having an emerging superstar goaltender in Lundqvist. At the same time, the Rangers do have some goaltending depth and can still grow a good solid back-up without sacrificing Henrik's playing time. In the salary cap era, this is probably the most desirable move.
After a successful concert weekend in CT., back to some pucks. Here's player evaluation number two, Martin Straka. As Straka contends with Captain Jagr for the top-Czech player in the world award, he is perhaps the most overlooked forward of the last decade. A steady top-line player with multiple capabilities from winger to center, power play forward to penalty-killer, Straka is one of the most reliable forwards in the game, despite being at the end of his career. While injuries, particularly shoulder, have been an issue the past two seasons, he fits well into the Rangers' scheme and will continue to be a top-line player with Jagr. This is very possibly the final hurrah for Straka so expect big things as this classy heart and soul guy will stop at nothing to go out on top.
The Question: Straka has perhaps the least amount of questions out of any Ranger forward. He is steady, strong on the puck, has great vision, and makes very few mistakes. Playing within himself and solid fundamentals allows him to compete even at his age. The only true question to Straka will be his health. After missing some time over the past two seasons with injuries, can Straka sustain his health while playing top-line minutes? Most likely and he will have to in order for Jagr to produce well.
The Definite: Heart. Soul. Effort. You won't hear anyone accusing Straka of not back checking or putting forth his full effort. Enough said.
The Intangible: Where Jagr is often criticized for his lack of ability to mesh with players, Straka is the complete opposite. Even though he often played with Jagr and Nylander, he did see some time with the likes of Shanahan and Prucha, and played well. As one of Jagr's lone Euros left of the team, will he be forced to pick sides or be able to be a uniting force in the locker room?
Here begins the player-by-player analysis and who better to start with then the Captain Jaromir Jagr. Jagr's resurgence has been a key to the Rangers' success over the past couple seasons and the team has gone as he has: an unparalleled regular season run in 2005-06 and a slow start, but bright finish last season. While his health appears to no longer in question, his age is getting there. However, there are few around the NHL who contest that Jagr is not in impeccable shape. The Rangers are still going to need the support of the "Big Guy" despite their successful off-season signings.
The Question: Many say that his age and health are the biggest question, but I disagree. His ability to jell with his center (who could be Straka, Prucha, Drury, or Gomez) following the exit of former center Michael Nylander. Much of Jagr's success has come from being surrounded by Europeans and coutrymen, if he is put in a position with having to play with Gomez or Drury, will he mesh?
The Definite: Jagr's stigma has been his success in contrast to his happiness. However, this is Jagr's last stop, the stop he always wanted and while he may not be happiest without Nylander or the changing demographic of the Rangers, he is smart enough to recognize that this is his best chance to win a Stanley Cup in the past couple seasons. Expect him to give his all, be forward, and still command the puck as he has.
The Intangible: Jagr and Brendan Shanahan struggled for the early part of last year establishing a chemistry and leadership roles, however toward the end of the season they were a good tandem and both spoke to that. In fact, Jagr publicly said that the Rangers had to re-sign Shanahan. This chemistry will speak volumes in that locker room.
GP Goals Assists Points +/- PIM SOG PPG GWG SHG %
Not much time to post the last couple of days, but here's a bit of analysis and an updated cap situation. If you haven't heard, Marcel Hossa signed for one year at $780,000 to avoid arbitration while Sean Avery received $1.9 million in arbitration, exactly what was expected. The Rangers immediately accepted the Avery ruling. Both these signings complete the Rangers cap picture AND raise some interesting issues.
First to examine the Hossa situation. While the price is in the Rangers favor, the one-year term is intriguing. This essentially forces Hossa into a make or break year. Hossa has one year to prove himself. It also shows a lack of confidence in him to a degree, considering Petr Prucha got a two-year deal.
Another interpretation could be that the Rangers in fact have no interest and are just using a filler until a Hartford player is ready after next season. Perhaps an Alex Bourret or Alexei Cherepanov. Either way, unless Hossa has a stand out year, don't expect him around long term.
Despite the arbitration being fairly contentious, I have a feeling that there is some sense of security for Avery. True it was only a one year deal, the Rangers will have the opportunity to extend him in January, like Henrik Lundqvist. While Lundqvist saw that taking a lesser one-year deal benefits the team and the cap, Avery failed to do so. The Rangers needed every penny, hence creating the questionable image of Avery. However, they didn't hesitate to sign him after the award was sent down, this shows confidence. Following the signing, Sather called Avery an asset and a "terrific competitor." We'll see how that pans out.
Finally a look at the cap. If Kasparaitis is sent down to Hartford and Shanahan's performance bonuses are deferred to next year, the Rangers have $47.7 million committed to a $50.3 million cap. Enough wiggle room and even enough to sign Peca if they really wanted. I'm still waiting on a top-four defenseman though.