The Rangers salary problems with Wade Redden and Marc Staal

waderedden1.jpgThis summer for the New York Rangers has been a relatively quiet one. With Glen Sather in charge and always in the mix on free agents and trades, the lack of big moves out of Manhattan for a team that missed the playoffs last year is a bit curious. The team brought back Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen, they traded Aaron Voros away for defenseman Steve Eminger, acquired Todd White from Atlanta for high-priced spare parts and signed free agent wingers Alexander Frolov and Derek Boogaard.

In the meantime, they’ve taken their time in re-signing restricted free agent defenseman Marc Staal and boosted the team’s payroll to over $61 million, an amount they’ll have to knock down before the season begins. One way they can quickly alleviate their salary cap woes is to demote struggling, high-priced defenseman Wade Redden to the AHL. Redden comes with a cap hit of $6.5 million a year for the next four years. By ditching that money in the AHL, the cash would likely be readily available to get Staal signed and still be under the cap. There’s a catch here though, what if Wade Redden has an outstanding training camp? Larry Brooks of the New York Post wonders about that aloud in today’s edition.

But what if Marc Staal remains unsigned through camp, certainly a possibility given the utter lack of progress in the talks with the unsigned Group II free agent who may not be as antsy to get in as Brandon Dubinsky was last year?

What if Steve Eminger, too expensive at $1.125 million to be a seventh, is no stiffer than he was for Anaheim last season when he was a healthy scratch 18 times for a team that didn’t make the playoffs?

What if John Tortorella is no more impressed by Matt Gilroy’s work in his own end than he was last year, when the coach sat the rookie the final eight games of the year in favor of Anders Eriksson?

And what if Redden, who knows his NHL career is on the line here, who knows that if he is waived through the league in September he will never get back, what if Redden plays assertive, sharp hockey beginning with the first scrimmage and maintains his level? What if Redden outplays just about every defenseman in camp?

Then the Rangers will be in a state of severe stress. Then, incorporating that $6.5 million onto the season cap would mean that Sather would have to slash the roster in order to leave enough space to match on Staal, who at that point would become a very inviting target for an offer sheet.

The longer things drag out with Marc Staal, the more things get to be uncomfortable for the Rangers and Brooks is right to worry. With the Rangers payroll being over the cap as it is now, the Rangers matching any offer to Staal cuts into whatever they’re looking to do with the rest of their roster. 

As Brooks notes, having Redden coming to training camp motivated and ready to play and looking like the guy that dominated his earlier years in Ottawa, while helpful to the Rangers on the ice, would nuke their immediate plans of cleaning up their salary cap crunch. After all, if you can have Redden actually playing like a guy earning $6.5 million a year, you keep him around. If it comes at the expense of a young potential stud defenseman like Marc Staal, however, that’s not a risk anyone takes. Everyone will always take the new hotness over the old and busted.

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    Trade talk: Who Oilers might deal, Eric Staal in limbo

    Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal (12) celebrates his second-period goal with teammates, including his brother Jordan Staal, second from left, during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. The Penguins won 5-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    As has often been the case, some big trades have already happened before the hype-soaked Feb. 29 deadline, but there’s plenty of speculation regarding what might happen next.

    TSN’s Insider Trading segment is always a must-watch, so check it out right here.

    To reiterate, the video’s worth watching in full, but here are some highlights:

    • The Edmonton Oilers shine as one of the most obvious “sellers.” Teddy Purcell could be a nice supplementary piece, yet Pierre LeBrun rightly points to Justin Schultz as the most interesting name.

    He’s really received just about every chance you can ask for in Edmonton, but LeBrun notes that his confidence is “shot.” Schultz is a pricey guy to take on thanks to his qualifying rights; still, some team might believe that they can make that reclamation project work.

    • Andrew Ladd seems to be in limbo with the Winnipeg Jets, as it sounds like there’s the possibility of an extension or a trade.
    • Eric Staal‘s situation is murky, too. Bob McKenzie points out that Staal has control of his situation with no-trade/no-movement clauses, so he can dictate his future with (or without) the Carolina Hurricanes.
    • An interesting opinion raised by LeBrun: Mikkel Boedker‘s maybe the No. 1 rental forward.

    Darren Dreger reports that Boedker is looking for a six-year deal with a $5.5 million cap hit (which would be $33 million), whether that comes from the Arizona Coyotes or someone else.

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    Again, watch the full video, as a lot of names and teams are discussed. Plenty of things can happen, but we’ll ultimately need to wait and see.

    Brian Elliott’s been steady for up-and-down Blues

    St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) lunges to make a save against the Nashville Predators during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Sanford Myers)
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    ST. LOUIS (AP) Brian Elliott is on a roll. Too bad the St. Louis Blues have little to show for it.

    During a prolonged scoring slump, the veteran goalie’s play has bordered on spectacular. He has seized the opportunity since Jake Allen was sidelined by a knee injury in early January.

    The 30-year-old Elliott has allowed one or fewer goals in regulation and overtime in five of his last seven starts, a run that has put him among the NHL’s best with a 2.07 goals-against average and .932 save percentage on the season.

    “Fantastic,” captain David Backes said after Elliott’s latest standout effort in a 2-1 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday. “You can’t complain about our goaltending, that’s for dang sure.”

    “Our goalie was our best player again. Played great,” coach Ken Hitchcock said.

    The rest of the team is in the doldrums, and the bottom line is the Blues have lost four of six. The Blues have scored no more than one goal in five of their last six.

    Hitchcock said the offense didn’t work nearly hard enough to sustain chances against the Jets, then put his players through a rigorous workout the next day to drive home the point. The defense is adjusting to expanded roles without Alex Pietrangelo, who is among the league leaders in minutes played but will be sidelined at least three weeks with a right knee injury.

    Elliott describes Pietrangelo as the type of player who “stick handles in a phone booth” to get the puck out of the zone.

    “Umm, we have some work to do,” Hitchcock said. “It’s pretty obvious.”

    Elliott has thrived with a heavy work load and is set to make his 13th consecutive start on Friday at Florida. Last year, Elliott was an All-Star.

    “It’s fun, it’s awesome,” Elliott said. “It’s why you play, to play the game and not to watch.”

    Before relieving Allen on Jan. 8 in the second period at Anaheim, Elliott had played just three games in the previous 14. There was no question who was No. 1.

    Whenever Allen returns, it’s liable to be more of a job share.

    “You try not to think about the past and the future, you just focus on the present,” Elliott said. “I don’t really look at the stats, I just keep trying to be the rock back there for the guys.”

    The last week or so, the 25-year-old Allen has been jumping into the latter stages of practices. Hitchcock said there’ll be something to talk about when he’s a full participant.

    The team is hoping injecting Jaden Schwartz will help revive the offense. The speedy forward was third on the team with 63 points last season but has played just seven games this season and is coming off a 49-game layoff from a broken left ankle heading into Friday’s game.

    “It doesn’t matter how many goals we score, you want to keep as many as you can out of your own net,” Allen said. “Obviously, we haven’t had a good amount of goals the last few games but we’re still coming out with some points.”

    Despite the scoring drought, the Blues have kept themselves in the vanguard, picking up at least a point in 12 of the last 15 games. Nine of them have been decided by a single goal.

    “Good teams get through tough situations,” Elliott said. “When things start clicking we’re going to be a dangerous team.”

    Jackets sign d-man Murray to two-year, $5.65 million extension

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    Columbus has agreed to terms with young blueliner Ryan Murray on a two-year, $5.65 million extension, the club announced on Thursday.

    “Ryan Murray is a talented, smart player who has been a very steady performer on our blue line and we are extremely happy to have this deal completed,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “Ryan has earned more ice time, showed steady improvement and contributed in all situations for us throughout the season.

    “We look forward to his continued growth and development with our club.”

    Murray, 22, was the second overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, taken one spot behind Nail Yakupov. While the first few years of his career were a disappointment — Murray missed a boatload of time to various injuries — his ’15-16 campaign has been a step in the right direction.

    Murray has four goals and and 17 points in 55 games this season, sitting third on the team in TOI per game (22:27).

    Of those numbers, the 55 games played is perhaps the most important, as it makes Murray one of three Blue Jackets – Boone Jenner and Gregory Campbell are the others – to have played in every game this season.

    Considering Murray’s previous career-high for games played in a season is 66, he’s well on his way to breaking that mark.

    Originally slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1, Murray is now locked in with Columbus (at $2.825M annually) through 2018. Of all the club’s blueliners, only he, Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson are signed for that long.

    NHL confirms ’17 Draft for Chicago, an ‘ideal setting’

    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 18:  Owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz of the Chicago Blackhawks prepares to speak to the crowd during the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship Rally at Soldier Field on June 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    Well, it’s official — the NHL Entry Draft is coming to the Windy City for the first time.

    On Thursday, the league announced that Chicago and the United Center would play hosts to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, marking the first time in league history the ‘Hawks organization has hosted the event.

    “The energy and passion Chicago has for the Blackhawks makes United Center the ideal setting for the 2017 NHL Draft,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The Draft will be one of the central moments of our Centennial, and the NHL family is looking forward to bringing this signature event to Chicago for the first time.”

    Though it’s still far off — heck, the 2016 draft, which will be held in Buffalo this June, hasn’t even happened yet — the ’17 draft already has a few key names attached to it.

    Chief among them is WHL Brandon forward Nolan Patrick, the son of ex-NHLer Steve Patrick.

    Nolan, 17, scored 56 points in 55 games for the Wheat Kings in his first full campaign, capturing the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s rookie of the year.

    He’s expected to be one of the top players selected in ’17, as is Timothy Liljegren, a defenseman currently plying his trade with Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League.