Optimism abounds!


Our 30-minute session with Tom Renney this morning touched on everything from the prospects successful trip to Traverse City (they won the tournament); the glut of veteran defenseman in camp (yes, the coach said, but it beats the alternative); who might be the back-up goalie (it’s wide open…sort of); and whether the rival Devils will suffer from opening their season with nine straight games on the road (they will probably turn it into a positive).

Tomorrow we’re going to touch on global warming and break down the Emmy nominations.

Welcome to training camp, where the slate is clean, and pretty much every topic is fair game.

Renney was already in mid-season form, equal parts honest and circumspect. No, he wasn’t going to tell you his line combinations, but yes, he did have some in mind. Yes, he hopes the Rangers are still playing hockey in mid-June, but as long as it’s line with the team’s long-term mission. Like I said, everything is fair game at this time of year. Of course, almost everything is also pure speculation.

As far as what passes for news:

  • The Training Center is closed to players today as the staff gets ready for the start of camp tomorrow. Tomorrow is a full day of physicals and interviews, so players won’t hit the ice until Friday.
  • The team will have 51 players in camp this year, down from 58 last year — a reflection, Renney said, of now having a better sense of what they’re working with. “There was a gray area (last year) so we had to educate ourselves with what our organization looked like,” he said.
  • The only player who played his way onto the training camp roster out of Traverse City is 21-year-old defenseman Clay Barthel. Relax. That doesn’t mean the likes of Marc Staal and Bobby Sanguinetti aren’t coming as well. It just means they were already invited.
  • Everyone is healthy coming into camp, and that includes Martin Straka, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. As I reported yesterday, Straka was already on the ice for informat workouts. This also means Jaromir Jagr has had a full season to work out as opposed to playing himself into shape like last year.
  • Renney’s response to my question about the inordinate number of veteran defensemen in camp: “It’s a healthy situation to be in to have to draw from a group of people who have some NHL experience in the very least and in some cases lots. It could be worse off in having four returning players and wondering where the other three are coming from.”

    Asked about the implications his roster decisions might have on the salary cap, though, Renney conceded it was a consideration.

  • Which brings up whether Marc Staal has a chance to make the team out of camp. Renney said the defenseman was “excellent” in Traverse City, and later said, “There’s no reason to think he won’t be given a real good shot and some serious consideration.”

    In my view, Staal and the overall defensive situation will be one of the biggest stories out of training camp.

  • When I asked Renney about the back-up goaltending situation, he said he had an idea in mind of how many games he wants Henrik Lundqvist to play, and beyond that, “We’ll give the (back-up) job to the person who fits best what we need.” I suppose that’s a fairly obvious answer. The larger question is whether it is Stephen Valiquette or Al Montoya who fits the Rangers needs. Stay tuned…
  • From the Rangers: Tickets for select games (and no, not the Jan. 24 Brian Leetch night), will go on-sale Saturday beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Ticketmaster via newyorkrangers.com, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone 212-307-7171, 201-507-8900,
    631-888-9000, 845-454-3388, 609-520-8383 or Ticketmaster outlets.

    Plenty more to discuss, but my fingers are tired and I dressed poorly for a press room that is directly adjacent to an ice rink. I’ll check in later.

    Meanwhile, a quick advisory on tomorrow: Unfortunately the Rangers open camp on Rosh Hashana, and while hardly a perfect Jew, I will be taking the day off. The esteemed Rick Carpiniello will be covering in my place, and I’ll try to get him to feed me some updates to post.

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    1. Sam,

      Chag Sameach, G’mar Chatima Tovah.

      L’Shanah Tovah!!

      For the rest of you… Happy Holidays, and wishes for a grear year!!

    2. Sam – Any word on the cap status? Also, are these guys spending another weekend in Lake George like last year?

      Gremer Mot – In Valiquette’s first stint with the team, he managed a .915 save percentage, which was a lot lower than what he scored with Long Island in 2000(.949 in 193 minutes of play). Is he Ken Dryden or Dom Hasek? No siree. But could he fill in for a bakers’ dozen games? Certainly. I think Valiquette’s number-one facet is that he’s a seasoned goalie who can stop shots, fill-in and come off the bench without a problem. He got used to doing that in Hartford, whenever the streaky Montoya would get shelled.

      Also, he’s not gonna look for much more than $600,000 per season. I mean, if a guy like Markkanen wants to come back at that price, I’m all for it(actually just read he signed in Finland). But for the cost, I don’t see them improving much…Maybe Wiickman, but he’s never even skated in the NHL.

    3. I think it would be a mistake to go into the season with Valiquette as the backup. He seems destined for a career in the ahl IMO.

    4. Thanks for the update Sam.

      This is truly exciting, as well as excruciating, waiting for the season to start. Just think in 4 weeks we’ll be entirely in the swing of things, and this extraordinarily long (seeming) off-season will be forgotten.

    5. Hoooooooooccccckkkkeeeeeeeeeeeyyyy!!!

      BTW, look out for Lauri Korpikoski, could be THE upset in camp this season… ;)

    6. Sam-

      Was Jordan Owens already invited to camp or is he not coming? From the boxscores it appeared he did really well at Traverse City. Thanks.

    7. Hopefully the cap situation forces them to keep a younger, cheaper defenseman on the roster. If Staal doesn’t make the team out of camp it would be very disappointing to me.

    8. I put the over and under on the number of rookies making the roster out of camp at two. Shame of it is they could easily tap five rookie skaters plus Montoya for the parent roster and take over the division by mid-season.

      I would go with Staal, Sanguinetti, and Sauer, all of whom have bypassed, or soon will bypass Malik, Mara, Tyutin and the other fringe D’s. Sanguinetti back to the OHL to accomodate Mara or Malik or Kas for another year on the parent roster is a sick joke.

    9. I felt like posting what Dubi said on Blueshirt Bulletin…

      “Fifty other players are expected when camp opens tomorrow with physical and medical exams.

      There will be six goalies — Lundqvist, Valiquette, Montoya, Wiikman, Zaba, and Chris Holt — no Antoine Lafleur, at least not as of now.

      Seventeen defensemen are currently listed — Rozsival, Malik, Mara, Tyutin, Girardi, Kasparaitis, Pock, Strudwick, Staal, Sauer, Sanguinetti, Andrew Hutchinson, Baranka, Busto, Liffiton, Jake Taylor, and Corey Potter — Barthel makes eighteen.

      Eighteen wingers — Jagr, Shanahan, Avery, Straka, Prucha, Callahan, Hossa, Hollweg, Orr, Dawes, Dupont, Bourret, Korpikoski, Jessiman, Dane Byers, Greg Moore, Francis Lessard, and Mitch Fritz — no David Kveton, Tomas Zaborsky, or David Skokan.

      And nine centers — Drury, Gomez, Betts, Dubinsky, Anisimov, Pyatt, Barnes, Bruce Graham, and Jordan Owens.”

    10. Robby Bonfire – Tyutin a marginal defenseman?!? What are you crazy?!? He’s young, he’s got a cannon and he hits hard. The only beef I’ve ever heard about Toots is that he’s spent WAY too much time honing his defensive game and hasn’t shown his true offensive output. Tyutin was originally billed as an heir-apparent to Leetch, long before Staal and Sanguinetti even hit the draft charts. He’s got size, talent, speed a shot and, just a month after he turned 24, you, Mr. “Play-the-kids” wants to throw him out with yesterday’s rubish? I bet there’s at least half of the NHL that would pay handsomely for a guy like Tyutin. Say what you will about Malik, Kaspar, Roszival, and even Mara, but lay the @#$% off Tyutin. The kid is solid.

      Rob – I thought Owens was signed by the Wolfpack, which doesn’t make him Rangers property, but does put him in the Ranger-system.

    11. Doodie Machetto on

      Tyutin is definitely no Leetch, on either side of the puck. That said, he’s still a really solid 2nd pairing defenseman. But with THAT said, that’s all he’ll ever be. 2nd Pairing.

      I think Roszival has the potential to have a BIG year if they could just get him away from Malik. We KNOW that the guy has a CANNON (see the playoffs for an example). He’s also not terrible defensively. Pair him with Staal and I think you’ve got a GREAT combination of offense and defense.

    12. Doodie Machetto on

      Oh, and for that over/under, I’m going with two maximum. Staal is the only defenseman with a shot. And then there’s the issue of third line center. If Straka or avery fills that spot, then there will be a wing spot open. If neither of them fill it, then Dubinsky or Ansimov will have to step up.

      No other rookie stands a chance, barring some godly performance that is well beyond anyone’s (including the player himself) expectations.

    13. Doodie – Agreed on Tyutin…what I meant was when he was first drafted, that’s the type of player he was billed as. Mind you, his draft year, he had 19 goals and 40 assists in 53 games…then he went back to Russia to stagnate.

      My top three rookies: Dawes, Dubinsky and Staal in that order. Renney’s recent comments on Staal suggests he’ll probably start in the AHL and make the team by mid-season. Dubinsky looked sharp in the videos I watched of him. Definitely looks like he could move to third line and bump Hossa down to fourth, if Hoss doesn’t have a good camp. In that case:


    14. Strudwick

      that is 17 defensemen in the system. Is Jake Taylor still there? anyway it should be no more than 15, so at least 2 have to be traded or waived.

    15. “Seventeen defensemen are currently listed—Rozsival, Malik, Mara, Tyutin, Girardi, Kasparaitis, Pock, Strudwick, Staal, Sauer, Sanguinetti, Andrew Hutchinson, Baranka, Busto, Liffiton, Jake Taylor, and Corey Potter—Barthel makes eighteen. ”

      I guess I ahould have read all the posts before posting.

      Anyway at least 3 defensemen have got to go. My vote goes to Hutchinson, Pock and Malik and Mara too and Strudwick has to play with Wolfpack and be their captain/leader/blogger.

      Staal and Kasparaitis with the Rangers, Liffiton is the 7th. Potter and Baranka are first up when there are multiple injuries.

    16. RWF I assume you’re Grim’s new name. Go read my message for both of you on the last thread. Get a new name pinko.Your knowledge of hockey is obviously kids only. The Wolfpack need more fans.

    17. ORR Knocks Reinprecht Out, Grim Gomez Starts to Pout..I Dont Know What Thats About!! on

      Has anyone seen the Staal “End to End” goal yet.

      Its on MSG.com

      Its prettty friggin sweet. Also an interview by Dupont with Potter, and Dubinsky. Also Sauer and Owens goals from the DET game.

    18. RWF if anyone deserves the name ‘braindead’ it’s you. Why don’t you root for the alqueda hockey team? Go play in your sandbox.

    19. Anyone know if the exhibition games will be televised on MSG? I’m gonna be in Las Vegas next week and I really need to set the TIVO before I go!! I don’t want to miss seeing some of these guys fight for a spot! GO RANGERS!!!!!!!


    20. Watched 2 clips with Sanguinetti playing and while he seems decent defensively, I don’t see any offensive wizardry. If he isn’t an offensively special defenseman, then I think it is best to trade him because we already got a ton of very good defensemen who are overall better than him.

    21. On NHL.com watch the clip of Staal especially in the end he kind of reminds me of Malik when he is just gliding towards the net where 2 Red Wings are wacking away at the puck and goalie. Not a pretty sight. We got to get Malik off the team so that Staal wouldn’t pick up more bad habits off of him.

    22. Tyutin needs to improve his all-around game, which was mediocre last season as he and Rachunek vied back and forth for the dubious distinction of being the Rangers weak defensive link – before Strudwick was brought in. That he has upside potential is fine, I don’t disagree with that assessment. But, to be honest, so many younger D’s – Girardi, Staal, Sauer, and Sanguinetti will be climbing over Tyutin by in the next year in terms of THEIR production and upside potential, with more like Busto waiting in the wings. Tyutin is rapidly becoming the next Pock – a marginal hanger-on, at best. This has to be his break-out season because he becomes expendable, if it doesn’t.

      Where the hell is Pock now, one year after everyone (yes, including myself) was on “the kids” bandwagon one year ago? Tyutin looks like this year’s Pock. Do the words “marginal” and “journeyman” resonate? If not, they should.

    23. Could we please trade Sanginetti, and his 23 goals of last season, and keep and play the Kasparaitis’s, Strudwick’s, and Mara’s of the world, Mr. Sather? Is that the entreaty, above? You a Fishstick or Devils fan, or just a seething masochist?

    24. They don’t resonate. the difference is Pock, last year, wasn’t very good. We just all really hated Malik, Fat Kaspar, Ozo, and Rachunek. That’s why we wanted Pock so much. Upon closer review, he isn’t that good. That’s why he’s gone from our hearts and minds.

      Meanwhile, Tyutin was, and still is, a decent hockey player. No reason for him to be in the AHL, at all. Pock is a fringe player and always has been. He was just a change from the horrid defensive form that the team (and in particular, Ozolinsh) displayed at the beginning of the season last year.

    25. “Could we please trade Sanginetti, and his 23 goals of last season, and keep and play the Kasparaitis’s, Strudwick’s, and Mara’s of the world, Mr. Sather? Is that the entreaty, above? You a Fishstick or Devils fan, or just a seething masochist?”

      his 23 goals in OHL are not a big deal.

      and in a year or 2 our defense could be:


      Not much need for Sanguinetti unless he is an offensive wizard.

      And didn’t you just say that Tyutin was one of the weak links? WTF are you smoking? Tyutin becoming the next Pock? Just shut the F up.

    26. It looks like the games on September 24, 25 and 29 are not being televised anywhere. Didn’t we get all but one pre-season game last September?

    27. BTW, Renney’s comment about Anisimov finding his offense is exactly what I was saying all along–he will and should be on top 2 lines in Hartford and learn to produce offense every game for 70+ games a season.

    28. Welcome back, Sam. Happy to have you back in the saddle for the season. I come to your blog religiously and it gives me my fic of Rangers inside news and views. The fact that you are a westchester guy and work for the Journal News, our paper, is nice too.

      By the way, I believe the camp roster invite list is up to 52 players now. This year’s goalie who was drafted, Antoine Lafleur, who played in the Travewrse City tournament as well, will be invitedto camp from what I understand.

      Along those lines, the goalie job will go to Stev Valiquette in my opinion. Vally is not my choice for a backup, Montoya is, however, Montoya’s NHL salary is at or above $1 million, which at this point is too much of a cap hit for the Rangers to take. Unless they make a roster move that clears some salary (and that is in addition to the inevitable move of Kaspar to the minors which will free up nearly $3 mill in cap space) the team will have no room for Montoya’s salary on their active roster for the start of the season.

      I am excited about the kids we have in this organization, in particular Staal, Michael Sauer on defense, Artem Ansimonov and Dubinsky at center, Brodie Dupont and the emergence of Alex Bourret (could prove to be a steal of a trade for Dupuis at last year’s deadline). I think when it all shakes out, Staal will make the opening night roster on defense, Sauer will play in Hartford this season, Ansiminov will play in Hartford (Renney’s comments in recent days seems to pont to the fact that Art needs to add some weight to his frame before he makes the big club), this will lead to Dubinsky getting the 3rd line center position, Bourret will surprise and make the opning night roster I believe. Where does that leave Nigel Dawes you ask? I look for him to be traded before opning night to another team (Western team probably – Oilers?), either for help on defense or for a prospect or pick.

      That is my 2 cents. Looking forward to the start of the season. Let’s go Rangers!


    29. Actually Nick, Montoya would be a $1.8 million hit, so you’re right, he won’t be with the big club. I would actually expect the Rangers to perhaps start off with Valiquette and then if that seems to not be working, to try to sign a free agent backup for around $1 million. If Hank then goes down with an injury, that FA backup and Montoya will fight it out for the #1 spot. If MOntoya plays the full year in Hartford and Hank has another Vezina year, Montoya will be dealt at the deadline to a rebuilding team for some last minute help in a playoff push.

    30. pghas Montoya goes nowhere except to Hartford until they have another real backup for Lundquist in case of injury. They obviously picked Valliquette over Weekes for the regular role, but Montoya better get himself ready or they might have to look for insurance if & when. To trade Montoya , they would have to pick up a vet goalie.

    31. We all talk about Montoya not making the team because of the salary cap, but let’s get real: he hasn’t shown that he is much better than Valiquette in the AHL yet from game to game, and he is being groomed as a starter somewhere, while Valiquette will be a career backup or AHL player. They wouldn’t put Montoya on the Rangers to only play 10-20 games, even if his cap number was half of what it is. I wouldn’t worry about the backup situation too much; we have plenty of prospects so that we could trade one for another goalie if we really need to.

    32. The main problem this year will be how tight we are against the cap – in our current situation it will definately be a big hurdle in the way of Montoya being Henrik’s back-up. His bonus was pretty big so even though his salary is

    33. continued from above…….

      ..just below $1m his bonus puts the cap hit at $1.834.
      Staal’s cap hit is reasonable (higher than Hutch, Pock or Struds) but if he has a good enough camp and one of Malik, Mara or Kaspar are taken out of the equation he should be starting the season in NYC not Hartford.

    34. Two things:

      The way Bourett played in Traverse City and given Gordie Clark’s recent comments about him and Dubinsky, don’t rule out Bourett as having a shot to fill that 3rd line center role (I believe he has experience there).

      Also when looking at what prospects are “ready” you have to understand the difference between putting a kid on the ice at forward and on defense. You can hide a stuggling winger or center when you have a group of 11 other forwards to make up for him. A forward who is missing his assignments isn’t going to necessarily cause the puck to end up in his own net and he can be benched with someone double shifting in his place. It is a lot easier for to throw a young winger out there than a D-man.

      What Renney has said, and he is right, is that they will play guys who are ready and can help the team win. With only 6 guys on D in a given game you can’t hide a kid that is struggling. Thats why if Staal makes the team out of camp it will mean he is ready to play 18-20 minutes a night because all D-man have to log those kinds of minutes. But given the nature of the position it is also why it takes longer for defenseman to NHL ready.

      The same is even more true when you look at goalies, they tend to develop even later and spend even more time in the minor leagues. Of course there are always exceptions like a Marty Broduer or Patrick Roy but those are once in a decade type of players. Most goalies don’t crack the surface until 23 or 24, 5 or 6 years after being drafted.

      The closer you get to your own net the longer the development process takes and while I know a lot of fans feel frustrated seeing some marginal D-men playing for the Rangers right now and it seems like you have been hearing about guys like Staal, Sauer, Sanguinetti and Baranka forever in truth the longest any has been in the sytem is 3 years (Baranka). It takes time for these guys to get there but they will.

    35. Not sure if this earlier question was answered by some one but according to Blueshirt Bulletin Taylor is signed to an AHL contract.

    36. “Tyutin needs to improve his all-around game, which was mediocre last season as he and Rachunek vied back and forth for the dubious distinction of being the Rangers weak defensive link”

      Disagree…Weekest link was Ozo, Kaspar, A.Ward and then Rachunek in that order. Tyutin played an all-around solid game until going down with injury. He was one of the teams only physical defensmen.

      Girardi plays a different, less physical game than Toots. There’s no comparisson there. Sauer has at least one year in Hartford and Sanguinetti(who is also a differnt brand of blueliner has at least two). Staal may, as you say, ‘leapfrog’ Tyutin, but that’s just because he’s an all-around more talented player.

      For more than four years, this team has seemed to have an incredibly high opinion of Tyutin. Teams were trying to pluck him away for the better half of two seasons before he broke in. Now, you have a physical blueliner, who at 6’3, should start damaging people with his hits. And he can score.

      As for Pock, there’s a reason he’s still with the team and has been since the lock-out for the most part. They must see something in him and seem to have him in future plans, otherwise I doubt they would have kept him with the team last season.

      It comes down to the age-old argument we seem to have: do you think guys are over-the-hill at 25 years old? As I always do, I’ll say F-No. In fact, there’s a maturity at that age in body and mind that really gives players a chance to blossom. Will Pock ever be Bobby Orr? No. Will Tyutin ever be Brian Leetch? No. But could both see fruitful careers in the NHL? Yes.

    37. Montoya will not get the bonuses as a backup so his cap hit likely is under a million

      “Please, no more “brain stormsâ€? about having youngsters “stashed on the fourth line.â€? Five, 6, 7 minutes a game on the fourth line is a waste of time. If they can’t play on the second or third line, have them play 20-25 minutes a game in Hartford.”

      I disagree, first of all 4th line should be playing around 10 minutes and second those young players will be given more and more icetime if they show they deserve i and will move up the lineup with injuries or penalties and could force Sather to trade someone above if they show they are much better.

    38. “It comes down to the age-old argument we seem to have: do you think guys are over-the-hill at 25 years old? As I always do, I’ll say F-No. In fact, there’s a maturity at that age in body and mind that really gives players a chance to blossom. Will Pock ever be Bobby Orr? No. Will Tyutin ever be Brian Leetch? No. But could both see fruitful careers in the NHL? Yes.”

      it is not his age, he just sucks–slow, not physycal, not great defensively or offensively and there are better players being blocked by him–Baranka, Liffiton and Potter.

    39. No way was Toots the weak link. And Dawes still hasn’t been very impressive in his, albeit limited, time in the NHL. I like the thought of him being shipped for picks.

    40. The washout D’s you mention were gone when Strudwick was acquired. That is why Strudwick was brought in here for the stretch, as a last resort.

      That is why I compared Tyutin with Rachunek, with Strudwick’s arrival as the qualifier – the other imposters were out of the mix, by springtime. Again, you contort my words out of context like a backwoods county court house lawyer more focused on lunch and his golf game.

    41. Bonfire – so you’re ready to throw Tyutin under the bus, that’s just beautiful. I know he’s 24 and not 16 but he’s a solid player. He was also injured at end of season which explains some of his “mistakes”. Enough with the 16 year olds.

    42. Bonfire’s “under the bus” roster: Kasparaitis, Strudwick, Mara, and Hutchinson, with Malik expendable for more value in return, and Pock on the bubble. Tyutin is safe here, just far down on the organizational depth chart when you rank all the talented kids who will not be here, this year, including Busto, Baranka, Liffiton, Sanguinetti, and Sauer, with the big question revolving around Staal’s address, come October.

    43. Bonfire – I would agree that some of the kids might be better right away or even in the 1 -2 yr time frame than Tyutin. My guess is only 2 of them though Staal and Sauer. I personally think Sanguinetti will always be too weak on the defensive end to be a strong part of our future (think Poti type). I’d be shocked to see more than 3 of the 5 you listed really make it and that’s pushing it.

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