NYR Development Camp opens for the future amid uncertainty in the present

Fast and Lindberg celebrate

Fast and Lindberg celebrate

The Rangers opened up the training facility in Westchester to their prospects today. Invitees stretch from draft picks from this weekend, and other more well known prospects like Brady Skjei and Adam Tambellini.

This is great news for the future but really doesn’t help where the Rangers are today. Here is a quick projected opening day roster.

Early 2015/16 Projected NYR roster (FTHN)

Early 2015/16 Projected NYR roster (FTHN)

Let’s just say the Rangers goaltending and defense is settled for next season. We can see that Henrik Lundqvist will start anywhere between 65-72 games, while Antti Raanta can easily handle the difference. On defense, the only question I can see before next year is moving Kevin Klein and re-signing Matt Hunwick for about 1M less per year on the cap.

Kevin Hayes (NYR)

Kevin Hayes (NYR)

The real questions come up front and hoping that Kevin Hayes will continue his extraordinary development to replace Martin St. Louis‘ departure. Hayes certainly showed flashes of superstardom as he led the Rangers in scoring from February on. Problem for the Rangers was his struggles during the postseason. Should that carry over into next year, the Rangers will have a huge hole on the second line.

J.T. Miller could be the answer there if Hayes should falter. Right now, I have him slotted on the third line with NYR hopeful, Oscar Lindberg. They both played with each other in Hartford which makes immediate sense to have them join forces on the big club. Of course, that is if Lindberg can make the team.

The loss of Carl Hagelin hurts the Rangers penalty killing more than anything. It was painful enough to see Tanner Glass on it at times last year, so I shudder to think he could see more ice time now. Once again, J.T. Miller can possibly pick up that slack. The real key will be the development of Jesper Fast and his ability to take a much bigger role going forward, especially on the PK.

Emerson Etem

Emerson Etem

Emerson Etem, the man Hagelin was traded for has a ton of promise. The issue? Well, according to most reports I read, he can’t finish. Not exactly confidence inducing to say the least. The 23 year old has plenty of time to reach his potential, but the Rangers are a win now team and he needs to expedite that timetable.

The Rangers have a lot players they need to sign and limited cap space to do it. Assuming they can fit Stepan, Miller, Fast and Lindberg in, they still need a 13th forward. For that, it wouldn’t make sense to bring up a kid from Hartford to sit on the bench. The Blueshirts will need to find a veteran forward for about 1.5 -2M on the cap. That won’t be easy and could require making that Klein trade I discussed earlier.

Last season, the Rangers tried to land Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik at the deadline. Could they revisit that this offseason? It is possible and could relieve some pressure on some of the younger guys if they struggle.

So here we are with the Rangers focusing this week on the future, while most fans fret about the present. Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton’s next objective is clear, get the RFA’s under contract immediately. Once that dust settles, they can worry about completing and fielding the best roster the salary cap will allow.