I have been a Rangers fan since the early 70's and the N.Y. Rangers have always been a hard working and grind it out team and Ryan Callahan was the perfect captain since Mark Messier retired. Callahan sttod for the hard working man in the stands watching their favorite NHL team give it their all and playing like the city that they represent...hard working and stick together when things get tough. Last season the Rangers organization went in another direction by trading Captain Callahan to Tampa for Martin St. Louis to take the Rangers in a fast moving skilled direction. I loved the ride to the Finals and the storybook playoffs last season but didn't go to a game as I had a personal protest of the Callahan trade.
I was lucky enough this past week to be in the Tampa area and met up with a friend that works for the Lightning organization and was lucky to be treated in a 1st class manner by Rod Harris and the Lightning organization. The atmosphere of the Tampa Lightning Amalie Arena is an experience that anyone that can make it to a game there, it is a must!!!! I was able to see Captain Cally play again and actually was named 1st star of the game! Brian Boyle keeps playing his role like he did on the Rangers and Anton Stralman has become a 1st pair defenseman (with Victor Hedman out with an injury) and they all looked solid as usual. The area outside the arena had a D.J. playing, huge T.V. showing sports on a parink garage a few levels high, etc.....it was going to an "event" for the community instead of just going to a hockey game. Inside the arena it was a friendly atmosphere by all the workers and during any break on the ice, there was a salute to a member of service, someone doing great things in the community, or a D.J. getting the crowd going. I look forward to going to many more games at the Amalie Arena whenever in town. The Rangers play there this Wed. and I wish I could have stayed to watch. I can see how teams can easily be distracted when they hit the road and go to the Tampa area. Now that I have seen Captain Cally playing for another jersey with my own eyes live, I now can hope enjoy watching him and root for him except when he plays the Rangers. The Tampa Lightning play like the Rangers last year and will be a Cup contender this season.
Now, without the Cally as the leader, the Rangers have gone to more of a skillset team with players like Martin St. Louis, Anthony Duclair, Mats Zuccarello, Captain Ryan McDonagh, and this years model of the Blueshirts. Injuries have hampered these Rangers right out of the start of the season and are still without Captain McDonagh and are 9wins,7losses, and 4OTL in the first 20 games. That is good for 22 points in those first 20 games and right in the middle of the pack for the playoff spots. The last 2 games (against the Flyers and Montreal), the Rangers have shut out their opponents while controlling those games. This years Rangers are finally getting together and shaking the rust off but need to be more consistent. Rick Nash has been Nashty all seaon so far and could be on pace to score over 40 goals on the season at this pace. Things are starting to look up for the Rangers now and will only get better when Captain McDonagh comes back.
Glen Sather and the Rangers organization have some choices to make soon as there are a few Rangers on contract years. Carl Hagelin(probably around $3.2 per), Derek Stepan(probably $5 per), Mats Zuccarello(probably $4.5 per), Martin St. Louis(probably $5 per with bonus money added that can be deferred to the next years cap), J.T. Miller(qualifier), and John Moore(probably $1.5per). The biggest question is to keep or trade Marc Staal? The rumours have been out there for awhile that the Rangers have offered $5.5 per for around 6 years but Staal is looking for more like $6 per. The Rangers can afford the extra 1/2 mil per but the real question is if the rangers feel he is worth the $6 mil per or can Kevin Klein do the job at his $2.9 cap? Will Brady Skjei be ready to leave college and pay next year in the NHL. Will Mat Bodie be ready to compete with Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath to play on the bottom pairing? I am hearing the Rangers are leaning more towards trading Staal than to pay him what he wants where the Rangers would save at least $4 million on the defensive side that could be used next year for a another center or sniper for scoring. Hell, why not get someone who can win faceoffs! Trading Staal this season once McDonagh gets back healthy would seem like the smart thing to do and get a center with an expiring contract and a high draft pick. Klein has shown he can play Staal's minutes with the 6th and 7th spot being filled by Allen, Bodie, McIlrath or someone that Sather can pick up for a mid level draft choice.
The wheels seem to be back on the bus and the world is not coming to an end in Rangers world. The players are getting healthy and starting to click while the King is playing like the King with 4 shutouts already in the first 20 games. LET'S GO RANGERS!!!!!
Henrik Tallinder has agreed to a PTO to play with Hartford. He is the 2nd veteran defenseman to try out for a 53rd pairing defense position. Kaberle was asked to extend his PTO with the Rangers to get more games in Hartford but signed with a Czech league team instead. If Tallinder shows he can still play at the NHL level, is this the piece needed to finally move Marc Staal? Tallinder had looked good earlier in the spring when he tried out for Toronto on a PTO until he injured himself. Tallinder has been cleared and is healthy. He can play a shutdown roll with his size of 6foot 4inches and 207 pounds. and work with John Moore as the 3rd pairing.