Hockey is back! Boy I've waited a long time to say that. Enough of the CBA negotiation stories, no more titles headlined "NHL Lockout 2012" and no more wondering whether or not we're going to have hockey this year.
This is going to be a quick general overview of the upcoming season (spoiler alert: this was written before the CBA was signed or agreed on). We're going to go more in depth as the week goes on, but for now let's look at a few key issues for the New York Rangers:
Injury Concerns: Remember the days when we were concerned about how long the Rangers were going to be without Marian Gaborik? Those days are over. Gaborik -- who was expected to be back by Thanksgiving if there was a full season -- is expected to have made a full recovery. Due to the lockout, there wasn't much information flow about the Rangers players, so if anything changed over the course of time we'll obviously update you.
Aside from Gaborik, there were no other real injury concerns. Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh had "tweaks" while they were playing abroad, but both are expected to be in the starting lineup day in and day out. We will, of course, get a better idea of what's going on once training camp actually opens up.
Unsigned Players: You would be forgiven if you forgot that the Rangers and Michael Del Zotto have yet to reach an agreement. The RFA and Glen Sather don't have much time to come to an agreement, either. You could easily say the negotiations between Del Zotto and Sather got chippy as we were hurtling to the September 15th deadline, so it will be interesting to see what the Rangers do here. I can't imagine he doesn't get under contract as soon as possible -- John Tortorella loves the strides Del Zotto has made -- and I personally can't wait to see what he can do this year.
Just a quick note here, the Rangers can't enter contract negotiations with Del Zotto until the CBA has been ratified. So we might have to wait a day or two before the sides start negotiating.
Buyouts: We're going to go into WAY more detail on this later in the week, but I will leave you with this for now: Wade Redden is a lock to get bought out. As for the second? That's worth looking into, and analyzing, but it won't be Gaborik -- as some rumors have suggested. That would make no sense.
Prospects Who Might Make A Difference: For what it's worth, let's cross J.T. Miller off this list right now. I don't see the Rangers taking a flyer on him as of yet. I think the Rangers' brass wants to see him get a little more seasoning AHL this year. The goal medal in Ufa was awesome, and him leading the United States in scoring was even cooler, but it was his overall game in the World Juniors that opened eyes. It's one thing to do it on the OHL level, and another to do it at the WJC level. I love that we're seeing from this kid.
Chris Kreider gets added to this list as well. Many people are concerned about his lack of scoring in the AHL. Color me as unconcerned. I fully expect Kreider to start the year with the Rangers and I do expect him to make an impact. We'll go into more depth on Kreider as the week goes on, but for now expect him in Ranger blue.
I think Chard Kolarik might get a look as well, especially after his 14 goals and 14 assists in 33 games so far in the AHL. The Rangers' brass is also very high on Marek Hrivik. Aside from those four players, I don't see anyone else to add to the list. If anyone else pops up as time goes on, we'll update you.
OK, so that's the quick review. In the coming days expect to see some stories on the Rangers' offense, defense, goaltending, X-factors and more!
It's great to have hockey back, guys. But for now, the floor is yours.