Back in 2010-2011 the New York Rangers brought in Steve Eminger to help shore up their defense and provide the team with defensive depth. Before the lockout last year, Glen Sather saw reason to bring Eminger (who was a free agent) back for another season; mainly to be the first line of defense if anyone on the defensive corps got injured. Which is exactly what happened.
Eminger played in 35 games with the Rangers last year, and then played in another 11 games in the playoffs. I'm not sure if it was in the Rangers plans for Eminger to play so much in the playoffs (especially after they made a move to pick up Roman Hamrlik off the waiver wire earlier in the year) but he stepped in and did a serviceable job on the bottom pairing.
Eminger, who was the 12th overall pick by the Washington Capitals in 2002, is one of the cheapest options on the Rangers, signing a one-year $750,000 contract last summer. It's expected that he wouldn't get much of a raise if the Rangers wanted to bring him back again.
So here's the question: Keep him for defensive depth next year, or drop him?
The Rangers do have a few question marks on defense. Marc Staal - at least until it's confirmed that he's healthy - is a question mark. Michael Sauer (who is being evaluated by the team doctors this week) is a question mark. We're not sure yet if the Rangers are going to make any offseason moves that impact the defense. We're not sure if Dylan McIlrath is ready to make the jump (my guess is he won't) and the team still has to negotiate a new contract with RFA Ryan McDonagh.
And while I don't expect anything drastic to happen to the blue line, I do think having a guy like Eminger on the roster for a low price tag is worth it. He proved last year that he can be effective, and he stepped up in a very high-pressure situation when John Tortorella threw him into the lineup for the playoffs.
That, to me, is worth having. You never know when the injury bug will strike, you never know what will happen. So to have a backup plan or a safety net is worth it. Especially when it comes as cheaply as Eminger. There might be more effective players in the free agent wire (although not by much) but Eminger was willing to come back in a limited role last year, which is big. Not many players are willing to do that.
What do you guys think?