Monday, July 4, 2011

Rumor: Redden Planning To Attend Training Camp

According to Arthur Staple of Newsday Wade Redden is planning on coming to training camp with the New York Rangers in September.  Redden has no chance to make the Rangers this year both in terms of defensive quality and because they cannot afford to carry his $6.5 million in salary.  Some were hopeful that his desire to try and play in the NHL again after a year in the AHL would have Redden walk away from his remaining three years, but that does not appear to be happening.  It is still possible that he could reject the demotion to the minors during camp, but I would not think that as highly probable given that Redden has $16.5 in guaranteed money due to him over the next three years ($6.5, $5, $5).

The news does nothing to the Rangers in a tangible sense as the 10% summer overage allows them to carry the $6.5 million easily with the salary cap at $64.3 million for next season.  If Redden does accept the demotion again this year it does mean though that the Rangers could possibly have to go through this again the next two summers and there is no telling where the cap will be then. 

While Redden was heavily criticized for his play in New York, one must equally praise the professionalism he displayed in the AHL last season.  He could have taken the demotion and done the bare minimum to collect his check and go home, but Redden took on a mentoring role with all the Rangers young defensive prospects and because of that will have a long-term impact on the organization that goes well beyond what he ever did in Rangers uniform.

Evaluating Which Left Wing Best Fits With Richards, Gaborik on Rangers Top Line

Following the Rangers signing of Brad Richards on Saturday one of the biggest topics of conversation has been who will fill the third spot on the top line for the Blueshirts along with him and Marian Gaborik.  The Rangers currently have five different players who predominantly play left wing on the roster.  The question becomes which of Brandon Dubinsky, Wojtek Wolski, Mike Rupp, Ruslan Fedotenko and Sean Avery is the best fit to play alongside the Rangers two best offensive players?

Brandon Dubinsky: While not on the same level in terms of skill that Richards and Gaborik are, Dubinsky’s physical play could add an element to the line while he has the ability to score 25-30 goals in combination.  The negative to moving Dubinsky with these two would be taking him away from his partnership with Ryan Callahan that has demonstrated excellent chemistry and good results for the team.

Wojtek Wolski: The most talented player of the group, but also the most inconsistent and frustrating.  Wolski has top line ability and his combination of skating skill, passing ability and hands should make him the perfect complement to Richards and Gaborik and make the trio one of the best in the NHL.  The problem is you never know which version of Wolski is going to show up and his inconsistent effort makes him as likely to be scratched as be a top line player for coach John Tortorella.

Mike Rupp: This would be the most unlikely of the options to play on the top line just because the skill set does not seem to be a match, but Rupp has the ability to be a protective force for the Rangers top skilled players and he is pretty good at screening in front the of the net.  At the end of the day his lack of offensive skill overall would make this an unlikely grouping for Tortorella to turn to.

Ruslan Fedotenko: Having scored only 10 goals last season the idea of Ruslan Fedotenko as a top line winger is not something that will excite many Rangers’ fans.  However, in the playoffs Fedotenko was pushed into a top line role due to the injury to Ryan Callahan and the poor performance of much of the Rangers lineup.  In that role on the top line with Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik it was Fedotenko who was the best forward on the team.  There are certainly questions whether he could keep up with Richards and Gaborik for a full season and also the issue of whether you want to separate him from Boyle and Prust, but Fedotenko’s forechecking style might be a good complement to the skill of the other two.

Sean Avery: Possibly the most interesting of the options at left wing would be inserting Sean Avery with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  Avery, in limited action last season, had the most consistent chemistry with Gaborik and his personal relationship with Richards has been well documented.  Avery possesses underrated skill on the ice with excellent vision and good passing skills, but his finishing leaves much to be desired in a top line role.  The biggest obstacle to this move is likely the perceived issues that Tortorella has with Avery and whether he would trust him in the situations necessary to make the line work.

Options not considered include: Carl Hagelin as he is not ready for that kind of role and Mats Zuccarello as he was clearly more effective on the right wing last season.

The first chance to play with Richards and Gaborik likely goes to Wolski, if he is still here, because of the intrigue the combination of skill could bring to the Rangers.  If playing with two highly skilled players like Richards and Gaborik can make Wolski exhibit his skill on a more consistent basis, then the Rangers are getting a tremendous lift from the expected.  Of the rest of the group putting Avery with those two might be the best move not just because of his chemistry with them, but because of how it allows other lines that work (Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan; Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust) to stay in-tact.