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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    2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Monday, May 29

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    After going three full days without any NHL hockey, we’ll finally get to see some action, as Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final goes tonight in Pittsburgh.

    The Penguins will look to become the first team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, while the Predators will try to land the first championship in team history.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 

    Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

    Network NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Related:

    For Pittsburgh’s defense, it’s been a group effort to replace Letang

    Pens can become first repeat in salary cap era

    Minus Johansen, Preds have “some big shoes to fill”

    On the big stage, Subban can’t espace “The Trade”

    PHT Morning Skate: Goalie throws stick at cameraman after losing Memorial Cup

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    –Heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Pekka Rinne has the best odds of winning the Conn Smythe trophy at 3.75-1. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Matt Murray round out the top four. (The Score)

    –The Ottawa Senators made a run to the Eastern Conference Final this spring, but that doesn’t mean they won’t face challenges this off-season. Sportsnet looks at six issues they’ll have to deal with over the summer. It starts with re-signing key players like Jean-Gabriel Pageau. (Sportsnet)

    –Everyone knows that the Penguins have a huge advantage over the Predators at the center position, especially with the injury to Ryan Johansen. The Hockey News evaluates whether or not Nashville can overcome such a disadvantage. (The Hockey News)

    –NHL legends Wayne Gretzky, Nicklas Lidstrom and others explain why the Stanley Cup is “The People’s Cup”. From adult clubs, to Russia, Hollywood, the cup has seen it all. (Top)

    –After losing the memorial cup to the Windsor Spitfires on Sunday night, Erie Otters goalie Troy Timpano threw his stick at a cameraman that was filming the Otters bench, while the Spitfires were celebrating. (BarDown)

    Timpano later apologized for his actions.

    P.K. Subban played the role of reporter during media day at the Stanley Cup Final. The Preds defenseman asked his teammates some pretty interesting questions to say the least. (Sportsnet)

     

    Stanley Cup experience ‘doesn’t guarantee anything’ for Penguins

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    PITTSBURGH (AP) The dynasty that once appeared so certain is again in the offing for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Four victories against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final would make Pittsburgh the first franchise to win back-to-back championships in nearly 20 years and the first in the parity-driven salary cap era. It would give stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin their third Cup, one more than their boss – owner Mario Lemieux – earned during his Hall of Fame career and check off whatever boxes remain unchecked for a duo that is becoming one of the most accomplished in NHL history.

    Yet for all the resiliency the Penguins have shown during their injury-marred title defense, they are taking nothing for granted heading into Game 1 on Monday night.

    Not their home-ice advantage. Not their massive edge in Stanley Cup Final experience (156 games vs. just five for the Predators, all by captain Mike Fisher while playing for Ottawa a decade ago). Not their ability under coach Mike Sullivan to thrive under the pressure that once seemed to crush them.

    “I think the fact that a lot of guys went through it last year and they can draw from that experience is good,” Crosby said. “But it doesn’t guarantee anything.”

    Certainly not against the swaggering and well-rested Predators.

    One of the last teams to qualify for the playoffs is now the last one standing between the Penguins and another parade in downtown Pittsburgh. Just don’t call Nashville the underdog. The Predators have hardly played like one while beating Chicago in a lopsided four-game sweep then outrunning St. Louis and outlasting Anaheim to reach the Cup final for the first time.

    “I know we were the eighth seed but we didn’t feel like a group that we were,” Fisher said.

    Now the guys from the place that calls itself “Smashville” have a chance to become the first franchise to win the Cup in its first try since Carolina did 11 years ago. That team, like this one, is based in a place hardly considered hockey hotbed a generation ago. This team, like that one, was led by coach Peter Laviolette. This team, like that one, has nothing to lose.

    “This year we were kind of mediocre in the standings and maybe that’s what we needed just to come into the playoffs not really caring about home ice or who we were playing but just knowing comfortably and confidently as a team we could be in this position,” said Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.

    Read more: Early struggles, injuries made Predators ‘stronger as a team’

    A position the Penguins have become increasingly comfortable in under Sullivan.

    The core that Crosby and Malkin led to the Cup in 2009 went through seven frustrating and fruitless springs before returning to the top in 2016. Now they’re here again, aware of the stakes but hardly caught up in the hype.

    “I think that it’s a tough road no matter how you get here,” Crosby said.

    “We found ways all season long and in the playoffs we’ve found ways. We’ve had that same mentality and that’s helped us. I think that’s kind of been our biggest strength.”

    Maple Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco leads Windsor Spitfires to Memorial Cup title

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    Just over two months after signing his entry level deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 20-year-old forward Jeremy Bracco left his mark on the Memorial Cup championship game.

    Selected by the Maple Leafs in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft, Bracco had a dominant finale on Sunday, with a goal and two assists as the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Erie Otters by a final score of 4-3.

    To cap it off, Bracco assisted on the winning goal from Aaron Luchuk early in the third period.

    That ends a great season for Bracco, who is listed at five-foot-nine-inches tall, but has produced impressive offensive numbers since coming to the Ontario Hockey League. He had 83 points in 57 games split between the Spitfires and Kitchener Rangers, the team he began this season with.

    The Memorial Cup is always a great showcase for NHL prospects. Logan Brown, the towering center and 2016 first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators, also had a pair of assists.

    A pair of draft eligible players also had a big day for Windsor.

    Gabriel Vilardi, the No. 4-ranked North American skater heading into next month’s draft and a potential top-five pick, had a pair of assists. Michael DiPietro, the No. 4-ranked North American goalie in Central Scouting’s final rankings, made 32 saves. He also had some luck, courtesy his goal posts, which denied Blackhawks high-scoring prospect Alex DeBrincat, among others from Erie’s talented team.

    The Spitfires were defeated in the opening round of the OHL playoffs, but made it to the Memorial Cup tournament as the host team.