It’s inevitable this time of year to worry about the players who aren’t going to make the team out of camp. With every team making these decisions, the waiver wire is something of a battlefield where teams are trying to smuggle some of their better players who just aren’t good enough yet into the safety of their AHL franchise.
As is such, teams have to factor in the likelihood of losing a player on waivers for nothing. Not all players have to go through waivers, of course, but that only complicates the decision.
Yesterday, a few beat reporters tried their hands at projecting what they thought what going to happen when the Rangers made their final cuts. Larry Brooks speculated the below (note, this is his projection for what he thinks is going to happen, not necessarily what he wants to happen):
Projected D: 27-22; 76-42; 18-55; 77; Pionk, Graves and Kampfer to AHL though NYR could be wary of losing Kampfer on waivers.— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) September 27, 2017
We walked down this road last year with Dylan McIlrath, although that was a far more justifiable worry. The former 10th overall pick probably had value on waivers (later in the year he was sent down and no one picked him up on waivers; then was traded anyway) and there was logical reasoning for not wanting to send him through the wire.
The above speculation from Books (which I fear is shared by the organization) is unjustified, however. Steven Kampfer is a nice defenseman. He’s a solid AHL player who could jump up to the NHL and fill in for injuries and short-term stints. As true as that is, he is not someone the team needs to be worried about losing to waivers.
Especially if it comes at the expense of Neal Pionk — who has earned a spot on this team — for the simple reason that he wouldn’t have to go through waivers. You dress your best lineup today, unless there is an exceedingly good reason not to. In this case, Kampfer does not quality as such.
Steve Zipay made a similar assessment about the forwards:
Just FYI: NYRers Kampfer, Carey, Puempel would have to clear waivers. Pionk, Graves, Nieves, Lettieri among those who wouldn't.— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) September 27, 2017
I think we’re going to see Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson for the first nine games regardless; which I discussed at the end of the preseason. But for a guy like Vinni Lettieri, the difference of him making the team and not making the team shouldn’t be the fear of losing a flash-in-the-pan guy like Paul Carey to the AHL. From that assessment:
Vinni Lettieri: I was really impressed with Lettieri after the first game where he was dreadful, and there were times he stood out nearly every time he touched the puck. I like him a lot, and I think he has value here. The reason why he’s in this category is because I’m not sure he did enough more than Chytil to earn the “this kid needs to get an actual role” spot. And if Lettieri is going to do the whole “fourth line for seven minutes a night” thing, he’s better served in the AHL.
It’s not that I wasn’t impressed with Carey in the preseason, but not enough to give him a role over Chytil, Andersson, or Lettieri if the biggest reason is because Carey can get claimed on waivers. Now, if the reasoning was based on the below (bold is my emphasis) ...
Paul Carey: That the 28-year-old even talked himself into this conversation is an impressive feat, but here we are. At his age, and with his AHL experience, I don’t think there should be a real opportunity for him here. Discriminatory, I know, but if there are kids who can get the experience then to me they get the edge. Both Lias Andersson and Chytil (in different ways) give the team far more than Carey. However, if he makes the team to start for Fast I get it, especially if he’s thrown into a bottom-feeder role since you don’t have to worry about his development.
Again: The team should be taking losing a guy to waivers into consideration, but 95% of the time it shouldn’t be the main reason to make a decision. Of the forwards/defenseman Brooks and Zipay talk about above, only Matt Puempel is worth any concern over losing. And even then, it should be mild concern.
The Rangers no longer have a dumpster fire in their farm system. They have a precious few players who can be relied on enough that losing a guy like Kampfer/Puempel doesn’t matter. If Boo Nieves needs to step up for a little bit of time, or if the Rangers give Chytil the extended look he might earn, so be it.
The point is the Rangers need to make these decisions based on merit, not which AAAA player or tweener they might lose to waivers.