Raphael Diaz

Rangers waive Diaz, McIlrath makes roster

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The New York Rangers have locked in their opening night roster and for the first time in his professional career, Dylan McIlrath is on it.

McIlrath, the 10th overall pick in 2010, has made the Rangers blueline ahead of Swiss veteran Raphael Diaz, who was placed on waivers. New York also waived forward Jayson Megna and, should both he and Diaz clear, they’ll be dispatched to AHL Hartford.

The McIlrath situation was monitored far more closely this preseason than in the past. Now 23 years old, he would’ve required waivers for a trip back to the American League, and it was widely speculated teams were ready and waiting to pluck him.

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, McIlrath has the physical tools to provide some snarl on defense, and will probably be one of the Blueshirts’ most active fighters this year. He’s scrapped 39 times over his last three seasons with Hartford.

One final note: Megna’s departure means the Rangers will keep another youngster that was waiver-eligible — Oscar Lindberg — as well as veteran tough guy Tanner Glass, who was on the roster bubble.

There’s a real ‘last chance’ vibe at Rangers camp

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Dylan McIlrath and Oscar Lindberg have a few things in common. They’re both 23. Both were taken at the 2010 draft. Both split last year between New York and AHL Hartford, and both are facing what could be their last chance to become Rangers.

So says the New York Post, anyway.

First, the skinny on McIlrath:

This training camp truly does represent Dylan McIlrath’s last chance to make the Rangers, because if the 2010 first-rounder can’t earn a spot as the club’s seventh defenseman, he would have to clear waivers to remain in the organization at AHL Hartford.

Given his age (23), position (right side), and contract (one year at $600,000 NHL, $90,000 AHL), it is extremely unlikely McIlrath would clear. Indeed, if he can’t beat out journeyman Raphael Diaz for the spot, the Rangers most likely would seek to deal the defenseman in order to get at least something in exchange for losing him.

Then, Lindberg:

[He] would have to clear waivers in order to be assigned to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack.

That’s unlikely given the combination of the 23-year-old’s upside and his modest $650,000 contract. Both he and the Rangers know it.

Which is why Lindberg’s last chance is likely his best chance, as the Rangers’ management and coaching staff are committed to giving him every chance to make the squad.

Of the two, McIlrath has the potential for bigger blowback. He was already considered a reach in his draft year — 10th overall, two spots ahead of Anaheim d-man Cam Fowler — and has failed to materialize at the NHL level. Losing him via waivers would compound what many already see as a mistake.

Losing Lindberg, a natural center, would be more understandable. The Rangers have a logjam down the middle — Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Kevin Hayes, Jarret Stoll and Dominic Moore — and there are questions about Lindberg’s ability to produce offensively.

That said, head coach Alain Vigneault has floated the idea of moving Lindberg to wing.

Whatever happens, the McIlrath and Lindberg situations are worth monitoring. The Post is right in that both would undoubtedly be scooped off waivers if made available, and everybody knows the scorn front offices face when they don’t get anything in return for departing assets.

Skjei sets sights on roster spot with Rangers

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The deck is stacked against Brady Skjei cracking the New York Rangers’ lineup for more than a few games in 2015-16, except for one overriding factor: they want to win now.

With that in mind, he might just have a shot. Maybe.

Seriously though, it will be an uphill battle

On paper, it seems a bit foolish to picture the 21-year-old making it, even as a seventh defenseman.

The Rangers already boast seven blueliners under contract, and that’s assuming that Brett Bellemore cannot convert his PTO into a full contract.

Most teams would require nothing short of brilliance for Skjei to make it, but again, the Rangers are in a position where they might just let the best men win.

Boiling it down

Ultimately, that could mean cutting their losses with someone like Dan Boyle.

Injuries were a problem for the 39-year-old last season, but you know things went poorly when Blueshirt Banter seemed generous in giving him a “C” grade for 2014-15.

It’s tough to bury Boyle and his $4.5 million cap hit on the bench, yet it’s not outside the realm of reason … especially considering the comparison he inspired from Mike Reilly (who’s trying to make a leap of his own with Minnesota):

“Brady has really grown a lot the past three years at [Minnesota],” Reilly told NHL.com. “He’s a great skater, one of the best I’ve ever seen in college. He’s strong, put on some good weight, and he’s very agile. His stick skills are getting better and I think that’s an underrated part of his game. One player I’d compare him to is Ryan McDonagh in the way he plays and leads. Brady is going to have a great career.”

Skjei boasts the right size and speed to fit right into what Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is looking for, maybe making him a better option than the likes of Bellmore, Boyle or Raphael Diaz.

It would be foolish to pronounce him as a favorite to do so (or to try to pronounce his last name in general), yet he’s a player to watch during training camp.