Calling from the airport, where he was awaiting a flight to Milwaukee of the AHL, Hugh Jessiman could have been bitter. The player was anything but.
“I have nothing but gratitude for the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack,” said the 24-year-old wing. “They molded me into a player I never thought I’d be. They gave me every opportunity.”
That opportunity stil resulted in the Rangers cutting Jessiman loose today, trading him to NashvilleÂ for future considerations. You could tell in the player’s voice he was emotional about never making it with the Rangers, the team he grew up rooting for in Darien, Conn., and the team that gambled on him with the 12th pick in the 2003 draft. But he also knew a move to another team represtented best chance of ascending to the NHL, something that became even more apparent when he was scratched for two games by Ken Gernander in Hartford.
“I really thought coming ino the season with Hartford I was going to be one of their top guysÂ who would have a chance at being called up. But it wasn’t really looking like that was going to be the case,” Jessiman said.
The irony is through the first weeks of the season, many of Jessiman’s friends and family suggested he should ask for a trade to another team. But the player was the one who insisted on staying put.
“I didn’t want a trade,” he said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere because I wanted to be a New York Ranger.”
Instead, for the short term at least, Jessiman will be a Milwaukee Admiral, and then maybe, a Nashville Predator. In Tom Renney’s eyes, the 6-foot-6 Jessiman still has a shot at making it in the NHL. But the coach, who in his old job as director of player personnel was instrumental in drafting Jessiman, also acknowledged the player’s tenure as a Ranger didn’t work out as hoped.
“The bottom line is he needed a change, and as much as anything else, we tried to accomodate him,” Renney said. “I take some responsibility for where this is today. I’m disappointed it didn’t work out for Hugh here. I also look at how I evaluated him and the process we went through to address him as a prospect and hopefully you learn from it.”
Some other notes:
<li>So I stand corrected at least on how the lines will look to start tonight. Renney will go with the same combinations he went with Monday on the Island. But again, don’t be surprised if he mixes it up.
<li>Sounds like the coach is leaning toward playing Stephen Valiquette Saturday in Toronto.
<li>Renney on the demotion of Lauri Korpikoski: “He needs to play. He needs to stay confident. We anticipate at some point in time he’ll be back here.”