Crawford's Corner: Plenty of Roster Shuffling Still to Go

Oct 3, 2014

The parent New York Rangers wrap up their preseason tonight at home against Chicago and tomorrow night at New Jersey, and the big club is still carrying 33 players on its roster.

That is 10 more than the NHL regular-season roster limit of 23, so the Wolf Pack will likely see another significant infusion of close-to-major-league talent before Tuesday, when the NHL clubs have to submit their rosters, and be under this season's salary cap of $69 million.

One of the 33 players still in camp with the Rangers is winger Anthony Duclair, who, at 19, is too young to play in the AHL.  If his strong bid to make the NHL roster does not ultimately succeed, he will have to go back to his Junior team, the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.  Another of the 33 is goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, and he was at Wolf Pack practice the last two days, so one can reasonably assume he will soon be assigned to Hartford.

That still leaves eight players who must be moved from the Ranger roster, from a group that includes 19 forwards and ten defensemen, and that's assuming the parent club will carry 23 players.  To increase cap flexibility, they might decide to keep only 22, which would mean that nine guys would have to be deleted from the roster.

The battle for the seventh defense spot seems to be ongoing, with Dylan McIlrath being the lone prospect still up and presumably jostling with Mike Kostka, Matt Hunwick and Steven Kampfer for the last spot.  Up front, veterans Matthew Lombardi and Ryan Malone have both missed time due to injury, and Lombardi has yet to see action in a preseason game.  It seems almost certain that J.T. Miller, who has a goal and two assists in three Ranger preseason appearances, will make the team, and it sounds like Chris Mueller is also pushing hard to be a guy who helps fill the void at center left by the injury to Derek Stepan.  Mueller also has 1-2-3 in three exhibition games.

There doesn't seem to be an obvious slot for Jesper Fast, unless Martin St. Louis is moved from wing to center, as is now being contemplated, until Stepan comes back.  Fast is making it very hard on the Rangers to think about sending him down, though, having scored three times on five shots in only two preseason opportunities.  Same goes for fellow right-winger Ryan Haggerty, the Stamford, CT native, who has 2-1-3 in three games.

Duclair, meanwhile, has been a sensation so far, leading the team in preseason points with 3-2-5 in in three games.  The 2013 third-round pick was limited by injury to 59 games with the Remparts last season, but scored 50 goals and had 99 points in those 59 contests.  One wrinkle with him is, the Rangers are currently right at the limit of 50 active NHL contracts, so if they want to activate Duclair's deal, they will have to off-load another contract.  That could have an interesting effect on the organizational depth chart.

Meanwhile, back in the Nutmeg State, the Wolf Pack today pared their roster down to 29 players from 39, moving out eight forwards, as well as defenseman Nick Crawford and goaltender Mackenzie Skapski.  All those moved were tryout players, including center Nick Latta, who played 11 games with the Wolf Pack at the end of last season, except for Skapski and winger Josh Nicholls.  Both of those guys are on NHL contracts and were reassigned to Greenville of the ECHL.

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