Rangers Have Too Many Forwards
Unlike the Devils, whom they visit at Prudential Center on Tuesday night for the first of five remaining games this season, the Rangers have a problem unique to N.H.L. teams as the calendar turns to February: a roster logjam.
This is especially the case at forward, where John Tortorella’s club has 14 players on the roster. Coaches usually dress 12 forwards and 6 defensemen in each game; sometimes they play 11 and 7.
Erik Christensen has returned to the Rangers’ roster after a conditioning stint with the minor league affiliate in Connecticut. Christensen, who has been unable to claim a spot on Tortorella’s top three lines but is valuable as a substitute and for his prowess in the shootout, has not played for the Rangers since Dec. 17.
Wojtek Wolski struggled in three games this month after missing 30 with a groin and hernia issues. In Wolski’s last game, Jan. 15 at Montreal, he was minus-3 in just 6 minutes 20 seconds of playing time.
Wolski and Christensen are currently the Rangers’ 13th and 14th forwards – not necessarily in that order. The organization also has Sean Avery in the minors. Avery would have to clear re-entry waivers to be recalled, and there is a chance he would be claimed.
All this depth is a good problem to have. The trade deadline is Feb. 27. Although Wolski and Christensen would not bring back much in a trade – Wolski makes $3.5 million this year – the quantity and quality at the position are assets for General Manager Glen Sather. Avery could also be moved for a midround draft pick.
On defense, Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka have resumed practicing with the team and will be available to play soon. On the maximum roster of 23, if the Rangers employ 14 forwards, there would be room for only one extra defenseman. Eminger, a veteran who is popular among teammates, is the clear favorite to stick with the Rangers for the rest of the season.