Continuing with defenseman, today we’ll explore Steve Eminger’s first season on Broadway.
Acquired via a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for beleaguered forward Aaron Voros and Ryan Hillier on July 9th 2010, Eminger’s arrival meant a new piece to the defenseman pie for the upcoming season. However, fans were extra giddy for the move. Not because they were acquiring Eminger’s services per say. Excited because the addition of Eminger meant the eventual subtraction of Garden whipping boy and $6.5 million dollar cap hit Wade Redden. The Rangers already had enough defenseman at the time of the trade and there was rampant speculation that Redden would be sent to the AHL for cap relief. When you look past all of that, you realize the Rangers made a solid depth move, acquiring a young (Eminger turned 27 this past season), cheap ($1.25 mllion cap hit, UFA next season) two-way defender who still had some upside. Even Blue Line Station applauded the move when it went down. Although at the time it was under the direction of someone else.
Let’s take a look at Steve Eminger’s 2010-2011 campain with the New York Rangers:
What We Expected
With Marc Staal and Dan Girardi as locks, and Michael Del Zotto & Matt Gilroy as probables, the remaining 2 spots were open for competition. The Rangers had rookie Michael Sauer & Ryan McDonagh to keep an eye on and determine if they were NHL ready. Veterans Garnett Exelby and Alexei Semenov were in camp on a try out basis. Eminger’s presence on the Rangers back-line wasn’t a guarantee. Still, at the very least, we expected Eminger to make the team as their 6th or 7th defenseman. John Tortorella cited the lack of a 7th defenseman for most of the 2009-2010 campaign as the reason the defense struggled and why rookies Del Zotto & Gilroy played so many games. Eminger looked as though he could be the guy to fill that void as a young veteran who plays a physical game and could add a touch of offense to a Rangers defense that likes to join the rush.
How He Did
Eminger ended up having an up and down year. After getting off to a shaky start, Eminger seemed to settle in to his game and for most of November & December was one of New York’s better defensemen. However, when the calendar turned to February, Eminger saw himself in the press box and Matt Gilroy in his place. After the Rangers traded for veteran D Bryan McCabe, Eminger saw himself back in the lineup and occasionally paired with McCabe. Eminger was a victim of the numbers game when the playoffs started, as he didn’t see any action in the 5 game series against Washington. In basic terms, Eminger just couldn’t maintain enough consistency in his game to force John Tortorella to keep him in the lineup.
However, the quality Eminger did possess that put him in the lineup and became a staple of Torts’ press conferences was “jam.” Not the strawberry kind of course, but the ability to play physical and be “hard on the puck.” Eminger did display the penchant for taking the body on most occasions, which is something you want from your defenseman. On the other hand, Eminger would put himself out of position at times and be guilty of chasing the puck. It wasn’t a Jekyll & Hyde situation with Eminger, but it was enough to put some doubt in the coaching staff’s minds.
Final Grade: B-
Steve Eminger did not have a bad season by any stretch. He played in 65 games, totaling 6 points (2g, 4a) but his game can’t be evaluated by the numbers; its what he accomplished that doesn’t show up on the score sheet. Eminger played the role of a good soldier and a good teammate. Essentially, Eminger did what he was brought in to do. He made the team out of camp, became their 6th/7th defenseman, played a reasonably defensive game when called upon, and didn’t hurt the team too much. The only knock against Eminger is his inconsistency, which would explain why he’s never found his niche with any particular team. John Tortorella eventually opted to go with the youth & a position of offense from Matt Gilroy over Eminger’s game.
Steve Eminger is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the Rangers have several tough roster decisions to make. Having said that, I see no reason why the Rangers shouldn’t bring Eminger back. He’s a good depth defenseman and is still young enough at 27 years old to contribute. Plus, considering how young the Rangers defense corps is, having a veteran presence back there is always beneficial. I don’t see Eminger and his agent asking for a long-term deal or lots of money so its possible the Rangers could sign him to a one-year deal with a minimal pay cut. It would wise on Eminger’s part to try and re-establish his value here and a good way to do that is to take a one-year deal and play your heart out. It could be a situation that would be mutually beneficial to both parties.