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How Long Until Hockey Season? August 13, 2007

Summer Boredom Leads to Some Wild Speculation

Most avid New York Ranger fans are genuinely excited about the coming year. The Acquisition of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, along with the signings of Henrik Lundqvist, Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa, bode well for the team. Most experts are picking the Rangers to finish second in the Atlantic Divivion behind the young and talented Pittsburgh Penguins.

However, there is still a level of unrest among devoted Ranger fans. Although experts like Rangers radio analyst Dave Maloney have stated that the Rangers roster is set, some fans seem to expect more trades and signings.

One of the saddest yet most understandable moves by the Rangers was the release of Jed Ortmeyer. Ortmeyer was highly respected by the teammates and loved by many of the fans. In his three seasons with the Rangers, he shared the team’s Players’ Player Award (2005-2006) and twice won the Steven MacDonald Extra Effort Award (2003-2004 and 2006-2007). While most Ranger fans hated to see him go, they also understand that the team needed to clear cap space and it was time for another player.

Much less controversial for the fans was the departure of Michael Nylander, who disappointed some fans with his lack of shooting and his excessive habit of skating in circles. The simple fact is that cap space was needed to sign Drury and Gomez who are younger than Nylander and add depth to both the power play and penalty killing units.

The trade of Matt Cullen to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, forward Joe Barnes and a 2008 third-round draft pick seemed to catch Ranger fans by surprise. Cullen’s performance as a Ranger did not live up to the expectations of many despite a good second-half of the year and Cullen’s undisputed hustle and effort all year long. Conventional wisdom says that this was a move to clear cap space and to avoid overpaying a player likely to be the third line center.

In essence, the Rangers swapped Nylander and Cullen for Drury and Gomez, undoubtedly a major improvement for the team. Yet it is understandable why some may be nervous. Nylander and Cullen were the team’s #3 and #5 point-getters in 2006-2007, and Ortmeyer was a key part of the penalty killing unit. The departure of other players like Karel Rachunek and Kebin Weekes, on the other hand, was relatively invisible.

Although Avery and Lundqvist signed one-year deals, it is expected that both will be offered longer contracts soon after January 1 (when the NHL allows such extensions and renegotiations).

However, while many hockey writers think Ranger fans should be excited with their present roster, there have been persistent rumors that the Rangers have an interest in Michael Peca, an unrestricted free agent from the Toronto Maple Leafs who missed a good part of last season following a leg injury. Most of the rumors seem to have been generated by Peca himself, his agent Don Meehan (who, coincidentally, is also Lundqvist’s agent) and some sporadic and unsubstantiated sources which are dubious at best.

The story took on a life of its own after a Friday, August 10th article in the The Daily News, largely fueled by Meehan, said that the Rangers would give Peca an answer by the end of the day. At the close of business on Monday, August 13, there was still no news of a signing. Regardless, the acquisition of Peca at this time would largely be inconsequential, at least to the point that the third line center on this team of offensive superstars is not going to hinge on the performance of the third line center. The position is important, but it can be satisfactorily be filled by Blair Betts or a rookie like Brandon Dubinsky. Although Ryan Hollweg is listed as a center, he is more likely to share time on a wing with Colton Orr and/or another rookie.

No need to worry, Ranger fans. Training camp is just around the corner and any questions will be answered by Coach Tom Renney’s 2007-2008 squad.


One Response to “How Long Until Hockey Season?”

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