Just after the game the Rangers announced the cuts that has brought their team down to 25 players in camp, among them are a few surprises.
Latest NYR cuts: Adam, Bodie, Bourque, Gibbons, Graves, Hellberg, Skjei & Summers to the AHL. No surprises. 25 players in camp. 15F, 8D, 2G— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) September 27, 2015
Brian Gibbons and Brady Skjei, despite both having very strong preseason performances, have been sent down to the AHL. I honestly thought we'd be getting one last look at Brady Skjei but it looks like the Rangers are choosing to take a longer look at Dylan McIlrath instead. A major contributing factor to Skjei being out of camp and McIlrath still being in camp is McIlrath's waiver eligibility. Raphael Diaz, Dylan McIlrath and the six defenders from the Rangers' roster in the 2015 Playoffs are the only blueliners left in camp. McIlrath still has some work ahead of him here, I wouldn't be surprised to see him dress in the next two preseason games. McIlrath's time with the Rangers, even after a nice game tonight against the Devils, might soon be coming to an end. Mat Bodie and Chris Summers were also among the blueliners that were sent to the AHL in this most recent wave of cuts.
The remaining training camp roster is down to these 25 men.
So, in addition to the Rangers' blue line group getting whittled down, we have also learned that Magnus Hellberg has officially lost the battle for the job of the Rangers' backup goaltender to veteran Antti Raanta, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks. To be honest I'm not sure if Hellberg really ever had much of a chance. I liked his size a lot and the way he takes away the bottom half of the net, but he had a lot of issues with rebound control and puck tracking in the preseason. Antti Raanta had the inside track on this battle from the word go. The Rangers made the right choice to keep him as Lundqvist's understudy.
There are a lot of people that are understandably surprised that Brian Gibbons was among the cuts after tonight's game. However, the other dark horse standout, Jayson Megna, is still with the club. Megna has some tough sledding ahead of him to prove that he can offer more to the team than the veteran competition he is directly competing with in the Rangers' camp. Megna is subject to waivers.
If nothing changes, Vigneault has said he wanted 13 Fs and seven or eight D. Thinking Jayson Megna will soon be re-assigned, which leaves 14— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) September 27, 2015
The Rangers have just two preseason games remaining on their exhibition schedule before the team must prepare for the regular season. On Monday they'll play the Flyers at the Garden and then they'll host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night to finish off their preseason schedule.
The focus now turns to players like Viktor Stalberg, Tanner Glass, Jarret Stoll, and Oscar Lindberg who are all battling for spots in the Rangers' bottom six forward group. I'm not sure what McIlrath has to show to beat Raph Diaz for the role of the club's seventh defenseman, but I don't like his chances and, frankly, Diaz is the better and more complete player. It goes beyond his two power play goals tonight against the Devils. Diaz is more than good enough to give the Rangers the option to shop one of their top six defensemen if they so choose, although only two of them are without NTC or NMC clauses.
There is some talk about how underwhelming Emerson Etem's preseason has been, but its unimaginable that the Rangers would send him down and make him vulnerable to waivers after trading Carl Hagelin to acquire him on Draft Day. The most vulnerable forwards remaining with the club are Jayson Megna and Tanner Glass based on how they've played thus far and what they can contribute to the roster, although Jarret Stoll certainly hasn't shown anything to give fans and analysts something to get excited about.
The real crime here would be Oscar Lindberg somehow not making the roster. It now goes without saying, but Lindberg's versatility, penalty killing, and superb two-way play makes him a player that would be invaluable to the Rangers in the 2015-16 season. Lindberg has the goods to be a shutdown third line center in the league one day and, as it turns out, that day might be coming sometime this regular season.
Thanks for reading. Let's go Rangers.