Dale Purinton

Adding Some Punch

Anyone would think that the Rangers were looking to break the NHL record for penalty minutes after watching GM Glen Sather stockpile players this off-season.

It’s hard to know how much this will impact the Rangers roster but one thing seems assured, Hartford will be an uncomfortable place for visiting teams this coming season.   The trend started last year by the Rangers is to get tougher, and that they did when they traded for Sandy McCarthy, Brad Brown and to a lesser extent Michal Grosek.  It was apparent that Sather was attempting to build a team more suited to the Atlantic Division than the previous unsuccessful models.

Added to the mix were Dale Purinton and Tomas Kloucek who both provided a physical aspect to the game in their rookie debuts.  The trend has continued this year as the Rangers acquired one physical player after another.  This week we take a look at what these players might bring to the 2001-2002 version of the New York Rangers.

Igor Ulanov 6’3″ 211lbs – Largely brought in to strengthen the Rangers defense, Ulanov is expected to provide a physical force in front of the net with perhaps more mobility than Pilon and Brown had last season.  Not a big fighter, Ulanov is more of an agitator in the mould of Ulf Samuelsson, and will be happy to take a cheap shot when the ref isn’t looking.  Averaging around 20 minutes a game he’s probably more suited for second pairing duty but could find himself teamed with Leetch due to lack of options.

Dave Karpa 6’1″ 210lbs – Tough defenseman who happens to own the Anaheim franchise record for Penalty Minutes (788), but has struggled with injury and form since he moved to Carolina three seasons ago.  Two injuries in the 98-99 and 99-00 seasons kept him to only 60 games, while last season’s -19 was easily a career low.  When healthy Karpa can be a solid 3rd pair defenseman who won’t back down against the opposition.  With over 1200 penalty minutes in his NHL career expect to see Karpa in the box plenty in the coming season while providing a steady defensive contribution.  Will have to be careful with the puck.

PJ Stock 5’11” 183lbs – The “midget” of this group, PJ returns to the Rangers in a second tour of duty after time with the Canadiens and Flyers.  In his first go round with New York he quickly became a fan favorite, but he  will be best known for his agitating ability and not his hockey ability.  Stock may see some NHL ice during the season if the situation or injuries warrant it, but at 183lbs he is largely ineffective as a physical presence and will be relied on as more of a spark plug type player.  Will spend most if not all of the season in Hartford with occasional call-ups possible.

Steve McKenna 6’8″ 255lbs – The Rangers most recent signing has parlayed his size into an NHL career.  One of the biggest players in the NHL today (he will be the largest ever Ranger if he manages to crack the line-up), McKenna brings little in the way of NHL hockey ability.  Averaging almost 2.5 penalty minutes a game over his career, there’s not much question over his role.  With poor skating and not much in the way of NHL hockey skills, McKenna will be in the roster for only one reason.

Kyle Freadrich 6’6″ 250lbs – Another monster, Freadrich is best known for a memorable fight with former Ranger Ryan Vandenbussche.  Although relatively young at only 22, Kyle is considered somewhat of a project with his limited hockey skills and skating.  Although it’s too early to categorize him as a career minor-leaguer, it appears questionable that he’ll ever be able to take a regular shift in the NHL.  Will most likely be given the opportunity to develop his game under the watchful eye of John Paddock.

Christian Gosselin 6’5″ 225lbs – Considered a “throw-in” in the trade that brought Graves to the San Jose Sharks, “The Big Goose” appears destined to be a career minor-leaguer.  Another tough guy with dubious hockey skills he has spent the past four years in the AHL amassing 535 penalty minutes in only 147 games.  Time is running out for Gosselin to make a name for himself and he may find himself sent down to Charlotte before the season’s out.

Sean Gagnon 6’2″ 210lbs – Another former Oiler (along with Ulanov), Gagnon has pretty much established himself as a career minor leaguer.  With only 12 NHL games to his name over the last four seasons, Gagnon has been used mostly as a goon defenseman.  Another player with questionable skating ability, Gagnon may find himself used as an experienced 6th defenseman in the event of injuries.  Had an impressive 457 penalty minutes in 1996-1997 with Fort Wayne of the IHL.

With exception of Ulanov and Karpa, most of these signings appear to be cheap gambles.  Few of these guys will ever be confused with real NHLers, but with their addition and the likes of Chris St Croix, Darren Van Impe (both edgy players) and of course Eric Lindros, the organization as a whole has gotten a lot tougher.

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