"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde (perhaps referring to all New York Rangers fans)
With training camp approaching September 17, we are all gearing up our constitutions and dusting off our hockey jersies for another Glen Sather season of 'this is the year'. Some firepower and grit has been added to the team during the off-season (albeit for large contracts - business as usual), but regardless of where we left off (not making the playoffs for the first time post-lockout) the core of last year's team is intact.
Here is the roster signed as of this post.
There have recently been some new player additions added to the roster - Steve Eminger here, Todd White here and Tim Kennedy here. Henrik Lundqvist finally has backup Marty Biron to take some of the weight off his shoulders, salary-heavy slaughterhouse Derek Boogaard was hired largely as part of the MSG renovation, to re-create a modern Rome Colosseum, including mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions and spontaneous face crushing. The fans will love him.
In addition to "The Boogeyman" the Rangers have kept Brandon Prust and rabble-rouser Sean Avery will continue to agitate everyone in the NHL, providing Coach Torts allows him to do his thing. Regardless, opponents will not enjoy playing against the Rangers this season. I like that.
The elephant in the room is the absence of a Marc Staal contract.
Our number one defenseman, a restricted free agent, is yet to come to terms with Slats & Co. Management has stressed with the press (and fans) that they will match any other offer that comes his way, but there is always more to the story. There have been multiple rumors of 'Marc-Staal-as-trade-bait' (i.e. trade with Anaheim for Bobby Ryan, trade with Boston for Marc Savard, etc.), but I do think this really comes down to the cash. As the number one D-man, beat writers have speculated Staal wants $5 mill a year for multiple years and the Rangers want to pay him $3 mill a year.
As to the coach, John Tortorella wants all of this done and is rightfully pressuring Marc Staal's agent through the media and fanbase with some of the following quotes:
"If a player is not signed, I don't want him in camp," coach John Tortorella told the Bergen Record earlier this summer. "I just think it's nothing but a distraction. I don't have full say, but I think if Marc Staal is not signed, I don't think he should be at camp. I'm hopeful and confident. This is all part of the process. He's a very big piece to the puzzle. But a player has to understand there is a business aspect and there is a domino effect."Does this all ring a bell?
The key to this season is the unknowing at this point. Just look at the bookends of last season, we opened with an incredible winning surge and we closed with the same (except for that damn shootout) -- so you never know which version of our team will show up come October. Perhaps the young guys demote Wade Redden during training camp (please,please,please!), Matts Zuccarello Aasen (The Hobbit) adapts to the smaller rink, Matt Gilroy, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan knock out some veteran spots during training camp!!? All of this is possible.
As much BAD there is to break, there is as much GOOD on this roster. The key now is John Tortorella and his sticking to the system: Two-way playing, forward puck moving and lots of dirty goals is the key. So hang in there Rangers fans --- the off-season is nearing an end.
Here at The Dark Ranger we'll be covering all the games as usual, with the occasional opinion piece now and again. If the season absolutely sucks, we'll get even DARKer.
Happy 'Summer Is Over' folks, and we'll see you at training camp.