This is a Glen Sather specialty. Well, actually, it was a Glen Sather specialty.
Oh I'm sure Jeff Gorton had a say in some of the moves made by Sather when he was looking at his yearly reclamation projects. Some of them are successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams -- let's ignore how the Rangers somehow let him walk and just bask in the glow of Anton Stralman being a throwaway in the NHL at one point in his career -- and some of them are complete failures.
The good news? The risk involved on Sather making a move for Sean Avery or Stralman is the same as Sather going after Ryan Malone or Matthew Lombardi. At the end of the day neither of those moves worked out and it wasn't a big deal at all. Malone retired after being buried in the AHL while the Rangers and Lombardi mutually agreed to terminate his contract and he made a return to the Swiss league where he notched 17 points in 19 games.
At worst bringing in a second chance player does one thing: It takes a roster spot or a contract away from a prospect. But the benefits of at least giving it a try far outweigh the risks. Mike covered this topic last year, actually, and commented on this very line of thinking:
There is something encouraging about observing Sather put into practice this second chance philosophy of his. It provides a lot more than just "feel good" stories for fans and the media. It displays outside the box thinking, and in the world of the salary cap, a team can use as much of that as they can get. And who knows, with some of those second chances you might find a valuable player.
This year there's a little twist to the second chance idea. Gorton absolutely targeted a player with a few strikes on his record who is carrying around an ever-present sense that a change of scenery might do him some good. But I'm not talking about Jarret Stoll; I'm talking about a 23-year-old Russian who oozes talent in Kirill Kabanov.
There was a time when I desperately wanted the Rangers to draft Kabanov. They didn't, but Kabanov got a flavor for the area when he was drafted by the New York Islanders instead.
The warning signs were there from the get go. Kabanov was originally supposed to be a top-five talent in the 2010 draft, but a dispute with his QMJHL coach caused him to drop into the third round where the Islanders snatched him up with the 65th overall pick. My NHL Draft has more on that incident (keep in mind this was written before he was drafted):
In his only QMJHL playoff game against Cape Breton, Kabanov took a poor penalty in the first period, and was benched at the mid-way point of the second period. It would prove to be his last game in the QMJHL this season. In the frenzy that ensued, Kabanov left the Wildcats, poised to join Russia for the Under 18's, where he was promptly kicked off the team after the coaching staff determined they would be better off without the highly touted forward.
Suffice to say, his draft stock has fallen from being a consensus top three pick, to maybe not even going in the first round. NHL teams will have to consider his character in the ever important interview opportunities they have, because there is no doubt that he still has blue-chip talent. He's lanky, but his size is very enticing. Offensively, when he's on his game, he can simply dominate. He sees the ice well and has a very impressive shot, but can also utilize his teammates very effectively. Consistency and intensity are some question marks, and Kabanov has been labelled as a prima donna numerous times, but the sheer skill he possesses can't be questioned.
Despite the back half of that quote (which does make the mouth water in terms of what he can bring to the table) things went downhill from there. After a point-per-game campaign in his final QMJHL season (he came back for another year) Kabanov moved on to Bridgeport where he put up underwhelming numbers and butted heads with his AHL coaches. Eventually he was loaned to the SHL, got bought out by the Islanders, spent another year in the SHL after that loan was up and found himself looking for work this summer when he took a call from Gorton.
It should be noted that Kabanov is on a tryout, so he's fighting for his life here. Sometimes that brings something out of a player and makes them realize they really need to dial in. Use Benoit Pouliot's only Rangers season two years ago as an example of a player taking a "last chance" and turning it into something.
Will that happen this year with Kabanov? I don't know. I do know it's going to take a herculean effort for him to make the Rangers out of camp, especially since there's already too many bodies for too few roster spots. If he's willing to play a little in the AHL and prove himself he might have a real shot with the Rangers. This isn't John Tortorella's Rangers where offensive players had some trouble spreading their wings, Alain Vigneault seems to relish opportunities despite the bumps in the road (well, sometimes he does at least).
Hopefully Kabanov's agent told him that. Hopefully he realizes that Vigneault has done this before with other players and it might be his last shot at making an impact at the NHL level.
Or maybe it will be a disaster. Or maybe it won't be a disaster but it won't work out. Or maybe it will be another Anton Stralman situation.
You never know if you don't try.