Tomorrow night the Rangers host Detroit – 7:00pm MSG – in what will be the fourth of the six scheduled pre-season games. After the game, the Rangers will make close to their final cuts, bringing the roster likely down from 27 to 24 or 25.
The subject of today’s Rangers Countdown profile – Michal Rozsival – won’t have to worry about being cut, but will need to pick up his game if he wants to stay in New York in the longer term.
The Rangers took a gamble of Rozsival back in 2005 coming out of the lockout, and all things considered, they probably got a good deal. The then 26 year old defenseman, had missed all but one AHL game with a knee injury in 2003-04, and had played 51 games in his homeland during the lockout.
A fourth round draft pick by the Penguins in 1996, Rozsival had managed to calve out a solid NHL career before injuries began to take their toll, causing him to miss 29 games in 2002-03, and then the entire year leading up to the lockout.
Brought in as part of the Czech revolution, Rozsival immediately benefited from limited competition for ice time, and the bonus of seeing significant ice time and power play time behind Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers’ top line.
In his first year in New York he set a career high for assists (25) and points ( 30). He topped that the following season by setting career marks in goals (10), assists (30) and points (40), and then extended his goal total even further with 13 in his third year with the Rangers.
With the departure of Jagr in 2008, his offensive game began to wane. He did manage to reach 30 points in that first post-Jagr season, but dropped to just 3 goals and 20 assists last year, as he lost ice time to the more offensively talented Michael Del Zotto.
It’s clear now, if it wasn’t earlier in his career, that Rozsival is very much a support player who will rise and fall with the fortunes of the team. He’s proven to be reliable for the most part, missing just ten games to injury in the five seasons he’s been with the Rangers, and is generally sound, if not spectacular in his own end.
It also didn’t hurt that Wade Redden joined the team in 2008, and perhaps drew the attention away from one of the team’s other overpaid veterans – Rozsival himself.
Given $5M a year, Rozsival was clearly priced beyond his value to the team. With two years remaining on his contract – including this season – he’s entering a point where he could potentially be traded in the right scenario.
That seems unlikely at this stage, with the Rangers still operating an inexperienced defensive corps, that got even younger following the recent demotion of Wade Redden. As it stands today, the team will enter the season with just one blueliner over the age of 26, and that includes likely 7th defenseman Steve Eminger.
As the elder statesmen of the defensive corps, the 32 year old Rozsival will be looked to as a reliable 2nd pair defender, who can contribute on the second unit power play, and play in all situations.
Beyond this season, and his value to the team will likely lessen, and perhaps if the Rangers can find a taker, they’ll move him in order to beef things up a bit.
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 3 goals, 20 assists and 78 penalty minutes in 80 games
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 5 goals, 20 assists 66 penalty minutes in 82 games
Rozsival is one of just two Rangers still with the team, who played in the 2005-06. The other was Henrik Lundqvist.