The last few seasons represented a long, winding road for New York Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger.
Eminger was drafted by the Washington Capitals (12th overall in 2002), where he enjoyed solid stability playing parts of seasons from 2002-03 to 2007-08. Eminger bounced around the NHL like a pinball after he left DC, though. Eminger was traded three times in the following season as he played 12 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, 50 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and nine with the Florida Panthers in 08-09. He then played through the 09-10 season with the Anaheim Ducks before being traded to the Rangers last off-season.
Considering that whirlwind of activity, it’s probably reasonable that the journeyman defenseman was willing to take a pay cut to stick with the Rangers for another season. The team re-signed the blueliner to a one-year, $800K contract today, which is a considerable downgrade from his recently expired two-year, $2.25 million pact.
Jesse Spector points out that Eminger is the only Rangers defenseman with at least 400 games of NHL experience and describes the other things that he brings to the table.
Eminger’s versatility, along with his physical style, knowledge of the Rangers’ coverage systems and familiarity in the locker room, made him the ideal candidate to bolster a defense group that includes Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer and Marc Staal in the top four. The Blueshirts’ hope is that Michael Del Zotto will rebound from a rough second season, and that Tim Erixon will be able to contribute as a rookie, meaning that Eminger could shuttle in and out of the lineup. Last season, he proved comfortable with that kind of role, enduring some significant stretches as a healthy scratch but hardly wavering in his form.
With Eminger back in the fold as a depth/lower-pairing defenseman, it becomes that much clearer that the Rangers’ last bit of business revolves around retaining spirited winger Ryan Callahan. Naturally, the negotiation process will be a lot stickier than it was with Eminger, who is probably just relieved that he can keep the same street address.