Al Montoya

Rangers Make Deals At Deadline

The Rangers moved two players and added four in what turned out to be a bigger day for the Rangers than perhaps some expected. Gone are the inconsistent Marcel Hossa and oft-rumored Al Montoya, and in their place a group of prospects and potential AHLers.

Marcel Hossa‘s career with the Rangers started off well, but his inability to capitalize on his offensive potential ultimately cost him a spot on the team. After showing some promise last year when paired with Jaromir Jagr, Hossa struggled through 36 games with just one goal. The veteran 26 year old left wing had just returned from injury and a conditioning stint to play on the 4th line for the Rangers in Sunday’s win over the Panthers.

Down in Hartford, Al Montoya had shown some initial progress in his rookie year, but struggled with consistency throughout his pro career. Drafted out of the University of Michigan, Montoya has had an up and down career, putting up some impressive wins, winning the World Juniors gold medal and being selected to the AHL All-Star team, but injuries and some soft goals have been a hallmark of his stint with Hartford. At just 23 years of age, Montoya has plenty of time to right the ship, but will now ply his trade within the Coyotes organization for the man who drafted him Don Maloney.

From the St Louis Blues, the Rangers received defenseman Christian Backman. Signed for one more year with a cap hit of $2.3M, Backman had fallen out of favor with Blues fans and is probably considered nothing more than a second or third pair defenseman at this stage. The Swedish born blueliner is not considered particularly physical, nor has he put up significant offensive numbers, but with Paul Mara out for two weeks and Marek Malik playing inconsistently, the Rangers were likely just looking for another option to bolster their blueline. The Rangers traded a fourth round pick to the Blues in exchange for Backman.

From Phoenix, the Rangers received Fredrik SjostromJosh Gratton and David LeNeveu. Sjostrom, a 2001 1st round pick, is in his 4th season and reached double figures in goals for the first time this season. Sjostrom has just 32 goals and 41 assists in 261 NHL games, and will be 25 in May. The 6-1, 217lb left winger will likely challenge Nigel Dawes for a spot in the line-up.

In Josh Gratton, the Rangers have added a rugged forward who has spent most of his career in the AHL. At 27 years old, Gratton has played just 67 NHL games and just 1 this season with the Coyotes. He has 2 goals, 1 assist and 237 penalty minutes in his career.

Finally David LeNeveu provides a replacement for Al Montoya in Hartford and re-unites him with his former Goaltending Coach, Benoit Allaire. After a stand-out career for Cornell where he was compared to former Big Red great Ken Dryden, LeNeveu has struggled to adapt to the NHL level, appearing in just 21 games since getting his first start in 2005-06. He has not played any NHL games this year, and has only 21 appearances with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

There is also some speculation that the Rangers acquired a conditional draft pick in the deal with Phoenix.

Of the four players added, the Rangers are likely to start with just two of them on their NHL roster. Gratton and LeNeveu appear headed for the AHL, while Sjostrom and Backman will battle for spots on the roster. Backman is the only player signed to a contract beyond this year (one more year at $2.3M), while all three players acquired by Phoenix will be free agents this summer.

Cap Hits
Christian Backman – $2,300,000 (2007-08 and 2008-09)
Fredrik Sjostrom – $775,000 (2007-08) – Group II RFA
David LeNeveu – $643,720 (2007-08) – Group VI UFA
Josh Gratton – $550,000 (2007-08) – Group VI UFA

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