The transition from a really smart, really effective summer to "what exactly is happening right now?" as the New York Rangers trimmed their roster to the maximum 23 players last week was pretty jarring.
When Jeff Gorton dipped his toes into the free agency pool he did so to bring in depth talent at an efficient price tag. Viktor Stalberg and Raphael Diaz were talented players teams will probably wish they had signed come the trade deadline, while Jarret Stoll represents a different type of second chance for the Rangers (although he is sporting a no-risk contract).
The point is the Rangers did a lot of smart things to improve their roster this summer. That Oscar Lindberg and Dylan McIlrath forced their way onto the team was a bonus. The Rangers finally seemed poised to have a very solid lineup top to bottom after last year's merry-go-round of trial and error (and oh was there a lot of error).
And then the Rangers waived Raphael Diaz and contorted themselves right up to the salary cap by keeping Tanner Glass in the lineup even though he doesn't really have a spot on the team right now (or so we think). In a lot of ways it doesn't make sense, because even if Alain Vigneault keeps Emerson Etem out of the lineup, someone else would have to sit as well to fit him into the lineup.
Which sort of brings me to my point: The Rangers are not going to stay like this for long. There's no way Gorton doesn't want to create some cap flexibility and there's even less of a chance he wants two forwards sitting every night. It just doesn't make sense.
There is some strange activity going on with Diaz, though, that hints something might be brewing. After he was waived there were rumors Diaz was not going to report to Hartford so he could play in Europe instead. Diaz, of course, inked a one-year deal with the Rangers and would not be permitted to play elsewhere while he was under contract without the Rangers' approval.
On Sunday Diaz cleared waivers (surprisingly) and changed his tune. He would report to Hartford, but if he didn't make it back to the NHL in a month's time his camp was going to ask for a release so he could go play hockey in Europe. Seems like just enough time for Gorton to make a few moves to bring things back into order.
After sort of writing off McIlrath, I've completely changed my tune. He's proven me wrong at pretty much every turn this preseason and has easily earned a starting spot over Kevin Klein. If the Rangers wanted to make some more room under the cap -- and you'd have to assume they do want to -- then Glass and Klein have to be at the top of the list. I outlined some of the ways to do that here.
This doesn't mean change is going to come by Wednesday. The Rangers are compliant right now so they can stay this way as long as they want, but it's a far cry from the "we might keep eight defenseman" mantra from the beginning of camp and an even further cry from what makes sense for a normal roster.
Is this because Vigneault won't part with Glass, or is it because Gorton actually thinks he can move him or another bad contract to make room? The answer to that question will either clear everything up or create more questions as we go along. No one said this was going to be a smooth ride.
Regardless, we should have some answers soon. One way or another.