The Rangers got closer to their opening-night roster Wednesday when they announced the assignment of nine players to Hartford of the AHL.
The Rangers first had to put forwards Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen on waivers – they can be claimed until noon Thursday. Defensemen Mat Bodie and Chris Summers cleared waivers Wednesday and were assigned to Hartford, along with John Gilmour, Ryan Graves, and forwards Robin Kovacs, Malte Stromwall, and goalie Mackenzie Skapski.
The team also confirmed that forward Max Lapierre was released from his tryout on Tuesday.
That leaves the Rangers with 18 forwards — including injured Oscar Lindberg, Josh Jooris, Boo Nieves and Gabriel Fontaine – plus eight defensemen and three goalies. Jooris and Nieves could play Thursday’s preseason finale against Philadelphia at the Garden.
Lindberg, who hopes to return from hip surgery in November, would start the season on injured reserve.
Goalie Magnus Hellberg will be assigned to Hartford following Thursday’s game.
The Rangers are expected to go into the season with 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies, which would be one player short of the maximum 23-man roster due to salary-cap implications.
Of the eight defensemen, Brady Skjei, Dylan McIlrath and Adam Clendening are battling for the sixth and seventh spots.
Skjei, who was up and down last season, but impressed in the brief playoff loss to Pittsburgh, is the most interesting case since he was seen as a lock to make the team but had a difficult training camp and preseason.
“I haven’t honestly seen him play with the same speed and decision-making that I saw him playing last year,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Obviously we’re early in the season. Guys are trying to – everybody’s trying to find their rhythm, young players and older players. Brady is, without a doubt, a skilled young defensemen that we have a lot of confidence in. But like some veteran players he needs to do a little bit more here and hopefully it will start next game.”
It would appear that Tanner Glass and Nathan Gerbe are dueling for the final forward spot, assuming the Rangers go with 13, though either could play on a fourth line on opening night at the expense of Brandon Pirri or Pavel Buchnevich. It remains possible that Buchnevich starts the season in Hartford, though.
All of those bubble players are expected to play Thursday, and the Rangers will have a week before their opener against the Islanders Oct. 13 at the Garden.
The remaining roster:
Forwards (18): Pavel Buchnevich, Jesper Fast, Gabriel Fontaine, Nathan Gerbe, Tanner Glass, Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes, Josh Jooris, Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Cristoval Nieves, Brandon Pirri, Derek Stepan, Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello
Defensemen (8): Adam Clendening, Dan Girardi, Nick Holden, Kevin Klein, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, Brady Skjei, Marc Staal
Goaltenders (3): Magnus Hellberg, Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Raanta
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.