It has been pretty quiet for the New York Rangers the last few weeks. With the team only two weeks away from reporting to training camp and less than three weeks away from their first preseason game, it is sure to heat up.
Now is the time for the players to be heading to the New York area as they still have COVID restrictions and could face potential quarantines if anyone tests positive. The big news out of the NHL the last week was the restrictions on players due to the pandemic, especially for any players who have not been vaccinated.
NHL COVID rules
The NHL issued a very strict set of rules regarding COVID and it is clear that they are encouraging all players to get the vaccination though it is not required. In fact, they are making it so tough on players who are not vaccinated, it would be virtually impossible for them to stay with their teams.
The biggest penalty is that teams can suspend unvaccinated players who are “unable to participate in club activities,” meaning practices or games. They will have to quarantine for seven days before training camp. Unvaccinated players will be tested daily as opposed to every three days for vaccinated players. They will also face severe restrictions on what they can do and where they can go while on the road.
There’s no way of knowing how many New York Rangers players are vaccinated. In April, the team staged a vaccination event and said that “many” players and staff had opted in.
With the COVID-19 vaccine now extended to anyone over 16, we’re excited that many of our players and staff opted to get vaccinated. We applaud New York’s efforts to expand eligibility and encourage our fans to get vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/4sKY4K6aVA
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 7, 2021
Players who are vaccinated and contract COVID-19 will be treated as if they had sustained a hockey-related injury.
There is still no word if the NHL is going to go with the “taxi squad” concept this season. One big change for fans the upcoming season will be that vaccinated and masked media will be allowed into the locker rooms so that means an end to those zoom press conferences with only selected participants from the teams.
As reported here, Libor Hajek signed a contract extension meaning all New York Rangers are under contract for the coming season. It leaves them with 48 of the maximum 50 players under contract so if Chris Drury has any plans to make deals before training camp, he will have to get rid of some players who are signed. Teams usually need to have at least a couple open slots below the 50 contract maximum.
Although they signed Hajek, he has to clear waivers if he is to be sent to Hartford and considering the depth of the Rangers defense, that is a possibility. The question is whether he will be claimed if they do try to send him to the AHL. With a salary of $874k and his NHL experience, another team that still believes he has potential could snatch him up.
What it means is that the team could be more willing to send waivers-exempt players like Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist to Hartford and keep Hajek around to start the season.
He’s not a Ranger anymore, but Jack Johnson has signed up for a Professional Tryout with the Colorado Avalanche. His brief tenure with the Rangers was fairly disastrous, but it’s clear that in NHL circles, he is highly regarded and teams are willing to give him a look, despite abysmal possession numbers.
David Quinn gets a job
Former Ranger coach David Quinn has been named an assistant coach for the United States Olympic team. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was named head coach of the team and this reunited the two former Boston University teammates.
With the news that David Quinn will be assisting Mike Sullivan at the Olympics, we had to throw it back to this great Quinn-to-Sullivan goal from a 6-1 win over Minnesota in 1987. pic.twitter.com/JDgSUpZcpa
— BU Men’s Hockey (@TerrierHockey) September 4, 2021
The other USA assistants are Todd Reirden, John Hynes and Ryan Miller.
With Jon Cooper named coach of Team Canada, it means that no members of the current Rangers brass will be part of the Olympics teams coaching staffs. The assistants for Canada are Barry Trotz, Bruce Cassidy and Peter DeBoer.
Say hello to Jim Midgley
Who? Jim Midgley was the final addition to Gerard Gallant‘s coaching staff. In an interview with the New York Post, Gallant raved about the final addition to his staff. Midgley is not a household name, but has been in hockey for 25 years first as a player for the Belleville Bulls and a coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and most recently as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gallant has roots in the QMJHL when he was head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs from 2009-11 where Midgley had served as an assistant before Gallant arrived. Midgley was also an assistant for the Halifax Mooseheads for three years before serving as their head coach for the 2017-18 season.
It’s a big step for the 43-year-old Midgley as he joins Mike Kelly and Gord Murphy as assistant coaches.
Christian Dvorak to Montreal
Take Christian Dvorak off the list of potential trade targets for the Rangers. We recently made the case for the Blueshirts to pursue the Coyotes center as a long term option to replace pending free agent, Ryan Strome. The Canadiens moved quickly to shore up their center position after losing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes.
While most hockey observers were quick to poke fun at Montreal for being forced to choose between overpaying Kotkaniemi or lose him to an Eastern Conference rival, now the common opinion is that with all said and done, Montreal actually did well.
The belief is that Dvorak is an upgrade over Kotkaniemi who has been a disappointment after going third overall in 2018 draft (before Brady Tkachuk and Quinn Hughes) and the price of a 2022 first round and a 2024 second round draft pick was fair. The Canadiens got a first and third round pick as compensation, so as far draft picks, they are almost even.
Even better for Montreal is that Dvorak is under contract through 2024-25 with an AAV of $4.45 million. The Kotkaniemi signing put the Hurricanes over the cap, but they immediately announced that Jake Gardiner and his $4.05 million AAV will miss the entire season after hip and back surgery, meaning that they are back under the salary cap once they put him on long term injured reserve.
The Rangers have not been very adept at utilizing the injured reserve strategy to stay increase their payroll, something that the Tampa Bay Lightning have made an art form. Other NHL teams are routinely using that strategy and it’s a reason you see players like Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw getting traded and why Anaheim is shopping the injured Ryan Kesler.
In essence, the Canadiens traded Jesperi Kotkaniemi and a second round pick and got Christian Dvorak, a third round pick (from Carolina) and $1.6 million in cap savings. Considering their lack of depth at center after losing Kotkaniemi and Phillip Danault, they had to replace Kotkaniemi and do it fast.
For our readers, a couple questions. Did Montreal end up ahead in the long run? Should the Rangers have been in the Dvorak trade sweepstakes (if it meant the end of Ryan Strome’s career in New York)? Was the price for Dvorak fair? Finally, if no moves are made with training camp set to start in two weeks, is this the Rangers team we want to see in Washington on October 13?