After Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Flyers in the Rangers’ final preseason game, coach Alain Vigneault said that he expected that it would take until at least Saturday to decide what the opening night’s roster would be.
But yesterday there was a surprise. Four players were reassigned to Hartford and one to his junior team, leaving only 24 players remaining in training camp. It is possible that today’s cuts might be the final ones, because if Oscar Lindberg starts the season on the IR, the Rangers will have their 23 players on their opening night’s roster–including 13 forwards, 8 defensemen, and two netminders.
AV has said that he preferred to keep eight blueliners, which was “in discussion” with the other powers that be in the organization. With today’s cuts of Nathan Gerbe and Tanner Glass, all indications are that he has gotten his wish.
The cuts of Gerbe and Glass are somewhat of a surprise, but it appears that most of what made them expendable was the numbers–that and the fact that it is likely that both will clear waivers, so the Rangers will get to keep them in their system. Before last night, Gerbe had played really well in the preseason. Last night, he looked very ineffective between Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes. But Vesey and Hayes were also terrible, so Gerbe cannot be completely to blame. Gerbe definitely looked like he had earned a spot.
Glass did not play last night, but he looked good on the Island on Tuesday–filling his role as a rugged forward, playing with grit, defending teammates. Glass is not my favorite type of player, but he is definitely one of AV’s favorites and he has done his job in the preseason.
The two players who got to stay in place of Gerbe and Glass are Josh Jooris and Michael Grabner. Both could have been cut, but, after all was said and done last night, the numbers were on their side. Grabner, who has been very unimpressive this preseason, has speed and “potential”, plus he has a two-year contract that would cost the Rangers quite a bit of money if he was claimed off waivers. And, there was a good chance, he would be claimed. The 29-year old eats up shorthanded minutes, he skates like the wind, and during one season two years ago (2014-15), he looked like he had real offensive upside.
Jooris, who played center last night, is also steady on the PK. And he can take faceoffs and win them–his win percentage against the Flyers last night was 56%. Neither Gerbe nor Glass can contribute in the same way as Jooris can–the Rangers are absolutely desperate for centers who can win faceoffs.
It is also true that Grabner and Jooris do fit the fourth line that AV was talking about wanting last week (he wants three scoring lines and one that will do well on the PK). And it looks like Jesper Fast will be the third forward on the fourth line with them.
So Gerbe and Glass took the fall today. But what about Gerbe, who has some offensive upside, immense speed and can play on the PK as well as Grabner and Jooris? Frankly, he is too good to stay in the AHL for long.
And, what will happen when Lindberg comes back?
There are no answers to these questions yet, but one thing is guaranteed, more changes are coming. Stay tuned.