Tanner Glass, Oscar Lindberg, and Season Deciding Decisions

Looking at the roster decisions that could make or break the New York Rangers in 2015-16.

When the New York Rangers finished the 2014-2015 regular season with the best record in the league, primed to make another run to the Stanley Cup, many misguided analysts spoke about them as the "most complete team in hockey." This misconception caused those same analysts to feel surprised when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated those Rangers in seven games, winning a Game 7 on the road at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers had a rapidly declining into being useless forward in Martin St. Louis, Tanner Glass, and a snow-angeling albatross in Dan Girardi playing in key parts of playoff hockey games, signaling the lack of a complete roster, and the lack of understanding of who should be plugged in and when they should be plugged in.

Moving forward, however, the Rangers have the opportunity to completely flip their deficiency into a strength. With St. Louis retiring, a top six spot will no longer be filled by an aging possession void that fans on passes and muffs shots. To be clear, St. Louis was not always a negative for the Blueshirts, but after hitting a wall in the middle of last season he never recovered, and the Rangers suffered greatly.

New York can fill St. Louis' spot with one of Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, a free agent, or even Emerson Etem if he reaches the potential he is believed to have. While the third line would be losing a player in the process, the second line will actually improve, rather than falling off like many believe. Simply put, St. Louis was an anchor weighing down the second line for the second half of the regular season and the playoffs. While Hayes, Miller, or Etem may not be fully ready for top six duties, there is little chance they would actively harm the abilities of Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.

Moving forward to the third line, the Rangers can put together any three of Miller, Hayes, Etem, Viktor Stalberg, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg. Compared to the regular season line of Hagelin, Hayes, and Miller, the Rangers do lose some defensive abilities due to the loss of Hagelin, but overall the talent level will be nearly the same. Etem should add a different dynamic offensively, and analysts have praised his neutral zone and defensive zone abilities, somewhat filling Hagelin's role. Overall, the third line should not take any kind of a major hit with the roster changes made so far this offseason.

The fourth line is where the major decisions come in. For the majority of last season the fourth line consisted of Glass, Dominic Moore, and Fast. Moore and Fast are all but certain to return in their same roles, with Fast taking some extra defensive shifts to cover the minutes lost with the loss of Hagelin.

Lindberg has torn up the AHL for over a year now, while Glass has actively worsened the NHL team's chances to win hockey games. Glass is being kept on the roster to be an enforcer of sorts, releasing the hurt on opponents on a nightly basis. Instead, Glass has proven that the only team he hurts is the New York Rangers. Meanwhile, Ryan Bourque has quietly improved with each passing season, and is ready to battle for a spot on the fourth line in a role similar to Glass'.

With Lindberg and Bourque ready the time to buyout, bury, or trade Glass is now. Lindberg requires waivers to be demoted to the AHL, and Bourque has done just about everything he can in the minors. Should the Rangers lose Lindberg they would be losing a valuable depth player for nothing, while another toils in the minors for no good reason.

In addition, the money saved in ridding the team of Glass could be used towards extending Stepan. While the Blueshirts are not in terrific shape financially, cutting Glass can save some cash, as well as trading Kevin Klein. While Girardi is the guy that should be traded of the two, he has a full no-movement clause in his contract, meaning Klein is easier to move. With McDonagh, Girardi, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, and Keith Yandle going nowhere, the Rangers have two options: paying Klein $2.9M to play somewhat solid third pair defense or trading Klein and moving Raphael Diaz or prospect Brady Skjei into the third pair position, with the other one of the two filling a backup role. In addition, another player the Rangers will lose to waivers if he does not make the team is Dylan McIlrath, who will either take a roster spot away from Skjei and rarely play, or likely be lost to another team when waived. Moving Klein gives the Rangers cap space and the ability to give other defensemen chances.

So, while the Rangers roster could look like this:

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan without an extension-J.T. Miller

Viktor Stalberg-Kevin Hayes-Emerson Etem

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

There is the opportunity for the roster to look like this instead:

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan with an extension-J.T. Miller or UFA winger (Alex Semin!)

Viktor Stalberg or J.T. Miller-Kevin Hayes-Emerson Etem

Viktor Stalberg or Oscar Lindberg or Ryan Bourque-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Raphael Diaz or Dylan McIllrath or Brady Skjei

The Rangers may not win as many regular season games, as a Presidents' Trophy is a tough task to accomplish in consecutive years, but the latter roster is a complete team that would be capable of going against any of the NHL powerhouses. Yandle being used in Girardi's high-pressure minutes would go a long way in improving the team's chances, but overall there is no weakness in the latter roster.

The hope here is in the coming months we see the latter start to form.