In a very surprising move this afternoon, the New York Rangers have announced that both Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko, two of the team’s promising young defensive prospects, have been assigned to Hartford (per SNY). Both defensemen showed a lot of promise during the preseason and this will cause the angst of many fans looking forward to watching them this season.
Both Joe and I agreed that at least one of them would make it, with him leaning towards McDonagh and me taking Valentenko toward the end of camp. Because of this move, Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger will make the team. Sauer has played very well himself, and Eminger will be the team’s seventh defenseman.
Though I am disappointed, this is the right move from the Rangers standpoint. This was the first professional camp for both McDonagh and Valentenko, and though they both showed promise, there is no harm in them getting more seasoning down in Hartford. If there is an injury, one of them could then be called up. Neither could be used as a seventh defenseman because it is not smart to have a rookie sitting for long stretches of time. The veteran Eminger, should he last the entire season, will probable play around 30 games, so I would much rather have the rookies get 82 games in the minors than only a small amount in New York.
I do have my doubts about Eminger’s abilities, though. There is a reason why the 2002 first round pick has been on five teams in seven seasons prior to this one. He has also never played a full season and his +/- rating has never been anything to write home about. But even if he falters as the team’s seventh, a rookie still would not get called up in his place.
With rumors around involving the Rangers, I really do not know how to read them. Michael Sauer was involved (with Phoenix, supposedly), but he has made the team because he played well. I would imagine that they would have dealt him already if he was going to be moved at all. My guess is that the Rangers will bring in a cheap, veteran defenseman to be in that seventh role because I do not think the team feels confident with having Eminger.
It is great that the Rangers are fielding a very young, and almost entirely homegrown defensive corps, but they may be too young and need some more stability on the back-end. The season begins six days from now and I would not be surprised if we saw a transaction or two between then and now.
Michael Sauer is 23 years old and has three games of NHL experience with the Rangers during the 2008/09 season. He was also drafted by the team in the second round of the 2005 draft.
In other news, the Rangers also sent Mats Zuccarello and Dale Weise back down to Hartford as was expected after last night’s game.