After the news broke of the Rangers signing Michael Del Zotto, a favorite Ranger prospect of mine, a series of thoughts went through my head over the next couple of hours. My first reaction was I can't wait to see him try to make the team. Then it gradually became more pessimistic, per usual, backtracking to the thought of him playing well for the Wolf Pack and then just generally wondering if he will make an impact in the AHL.
But one thing that is for certain is that GM Glen Sather has set up quite a roster battle for the final few spots left on the Ranger blueline come next autumn no matter who is involved. Along with this, we know that Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michal Rozival, and Wade Redden will be back next season. Accordingly, the Rangers defensive depth chart looks like this as of today:
Staal - Girardi
Redden - Rozival
??? - ???
Now, the signing of Del Zotto got me thinking about all of this because Del Zotto will most likely end up in Hartford next season unless he plays at Marc Staal levels in training camp. Therefore, I see at least one spot open for a Rangers prospect. My top 3 candidates would be recently-signed Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy, 1st round pick Bobby Sanguinetti, and breakout 4th round pick Corey Potter. We also cannot forget about AHL journeyman Brian Fahey and 2nd round pick Michael Sauer down with the Wolf Pack either.
What could make this roster battle much more interesting is if Sather decides to go ahead and heavily pursue either the familiar Paul Mara, who we suggested the Rangers should keep, or pursue and most likely over-pay an aged and over-achieving free agent. As of today, I feel that Mara coming back is a complete coin flip, but I don't see who the Rangers could sign as a free agent to take up the fifth spot with their cap situation. At the same time, the Rangers wouldn't have given Matt Gilroy a one way contract if they didn't think he could be up to the task. The club is clearly stocked with young talent on the defensive side, and I think many around Sather are calling for a closer look at some of these kids.
But once again the Blueshirt faithful are in for an interesting roster battle come September because of the Rangers situation with free agents and young prospects. Derek Morris will most likely not be back, and even if Mara returns, thus taking up the fifth defensive spot, we will still witness a great battle for the final defensive spot on a packed blueline.
So what do you faithful think? Can Del Zotto possibly fly by all the aforementioned and steal the final spot? Will Matt Gilroy play up to his potential? Do you think Sather is going to let Mara walk and count on the Rangers youth? Was Paul Mara born with a beard? Let's hear it.