PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 15:  Steve Eminger #44 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center on November 15, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Rangers defeated the Penguins 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 15: Steve Eminger #44 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center on November 15, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Rangers defeated the Penguins 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Did Steve Tell You That Perchance?

The Rangers prospects kick the Rangers preseason off today with their first game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Traverse City. The rest of the team will gather for official training camp next Friday.

One of those who’ll go into camp looking to impress is Steve Eminger, acquired over the Summer in exchange for Aaron Voros.

Player Profile
The Rangers picked up Eminger from Anaheim to add depth to a relatively young blueline, but more importantly to potentially fill in for Wade Redden. The aging veteran’s best days are far behind him, and with over $6M in Cap hit allocated to his contract, and the Rangers already over the $59.4 limit, it looks all but certain that his contract will be disposed of, in some form during camp.

This gives the 6-2 210lb Eminger a solid chance of being in the line-up on a night to night basis, after struggling to make an impression over on the west coast last season. Playing in 64 of the 82 games, he more than once sat on the sidelines as a healthy scratch.

Drafted 12th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft – Rangers did not have a first round pick that year and chose Lee Falardeau in the second round – Eminger broke into the league with the Capitals as a 19 year old, before ultimately being sent back down to the OHL.

He split his second year between the AHL and NHL, before finally securing a spot – and his first NHL goal – in the first year after the CBA lockout. Eminger put up five goals – a career high – and thirteen assists in sixty six games that year, and looked destined to be a solid contributor on the blueline for years to come.

As it turned out, that wasn’t how things were to progress. Instead of becoming part of a rebuilding/resurgent Washington Capitals team, he struggled to be consistent offensively or defensively, and ultimately was traded in June of 2008 after missing much of the season with an ankle injury.

In 2008-09 he was traded twice, but managed to match his career goals total of five, and set new highs for assists (21), points (26) and shots (85).

A smooth skater and willing to be physical, Eminger’s critics would point to his decision making in the defensive zone as one of his weaknesses. Last year with the Ducks, he finished fourth on the team in ice time amongst defensemen, and was used on the second pair for both penalty kill and power play.

While there have been signs that he might be able to contribute more offense, his career record from juniors and the AHL suggest that he’s probably not likely to add much more to his resume than what he’s already accomplished.

During camp, Eminger will likely face the most competition from Ryan McDonagh, but it seems at worst that he’d remain with the team as a seventh defensemen for at least the start of the year. Whether he can stay the whole year with the team remains to be seen, and it’s not inconceivable that he gets sent down or moved at some time.

In the last year of his current contract, he may be of interest to a team looking to shore up their blueline later in the year.

2009-10 Statistics
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 4 goals, 12 assists and 30 penalty minutes in 64 games

Prediction
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 2 goals, 9 assists and 12 penalty minutes in 40 games

Fun Fact
Steve Eminger has had just three fights in his NHL career, the last was back in 2006 when he fought Maxim Afinogenov, and at best managed a split decision.

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