Defensive Decisions Loom for New York Rangers

The Rangers have had their fair share of injuries through the first half of the season. Luckily, they are getting closer to being 100 percent. Unlucky for some players, especially on the blueline, there aren’t enough spots for everyone on the team.

The injured defensive trio of Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (separated shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka (foot) have practiced with the team throughout the week, albeit in non-contact jerseys.

Although there is no timetable for any of the three — though reports have indicated the team expects Eminger and Sauer to begin contact drills after next week’s All Star break — it poses some interesting questions for the Rangers moving forward.

Once all three return from injury — and no other player succumbs to one — the Rangers will have nine defenseman for only six to seven spots on the roster, leaving several players looking for work in the AHL or elsewhere.

The top five are set in stone, with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Sauer. You could even pencil Eminger in there as well, as head coach John Tortorella has warmed to the veteran, now in his second season in New York.

If my math serves me right, that’s four players for the final one or two spots on the team. Woywitka is in the most precarious spot, as he is a lefty on an already full side, as McDonagh, Del Zotto and Staal are all lefties. Good-bye, Jeff.

That leaves Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman fighting for the final spot as the team’s seventh defenseman, if they even choose to carry a spare. Although he has played well, you’d have to give the edge to Bickel, as he’d be more attractive to another team through waivers. According to Pat Leonard at the NY Daily News, Bickel’s contract pays him $600,000 in the NHL, while Stralman’s is $900,000.

Woywitka, who could already have left town by then, makes $650,000 while in the NHL.

Bickel is a young asset this organization has, and won’t risk losing him on the waiver wire and getting nothing in return. See Dale Weise. 

Tortorella has suggested possible conditioning stints for some of his defenseman to allow them to get some games in once players return to injury. We’ll see if anyone takes the bait.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

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