Rangers Have Interesting Choices For Third Line Center
Glen Sather threw a monkey wrench into what appeared to be shaping up as a battle for the No. 3 center spot between former first-round draft choice J.T Miller and Swedish hopeful Oscar Lindberg this past week when he signed 32-year-old NHL veteran Matthew Lombardi to a two-year contract.
With Derek Stepan and Derrick Bassard seemingly locked into the top two center spots heading into training camp and Brad Richards now a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, the big question for the Blueshirts is who will step up as the third center in the rotation. Of course, fan favorite Dominic Moore might also have something to say about how the lines shake out and who will be afforded additional ice time inside the faceoff circle.
Prior to the signing of Lombardi, who last played in the NHL for the Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks during the 2012-13 season prior to playing last year for Geneve-Servette in the Swiss professional league where he led the NLA in scoring with 50 points in 46 games, the Rangers appeared to be comfortable with letting Miller, Lindberg, and possibly Moore duke it out for the No. 3 center prize.
But with Lombardi now in the mix, will the landscape change?
The battle is shaping up as an intriguing one as Lombardi, Moore, Lindberg, and Miller all bring different skill sets to the competition. And of course, Lombardi, who has a history of concussions while playing in the NHL, will have to prove he can stay healthy and on the ice in order to be a serious contender.
While healthy, the scouting report on Lombardi reads as an experienced NHL forward with good speed who can also kill penalties and contribute more offensively than most third-line centers. Of course, he still needs to prove that he can score at the NHL level.
The Rangers would like nothing more than to have Miller step forward and earn the No. 3 center spot. The Blueshirts’ first-round draft choice in 2011, Miller plays a hard game and has shown flashes of promise in 56 NHL games over the past two seasons (split with Hartford Wolfpack of AHL) but must find consistency and prove to the Rangers’ brass that he can bring it to the rink every night. He has also played both wing and center.
Perhaps the most intriguing option is Lindberg, who scored 18 goals and added 26 assists in 75 games for the Wolfpack last season and appears ready to make the jump to the NHL. Lindberg posseses a solid all-around game and is viewed as a dependable player at both ends of the rink.
And of course, the final option would be to simply promote Moore to the No. 3 center spot. The Masterson Trophy winner has nothing left to prove at the NHL level but a move to the third line would mean more ice time. Could the 33-year-old diminutive forward handle the additional minutes and continue to be effective? And of course, those additional minutes would come at the expense of his valuable penalty killing heroics.
So which direction will the Rangers take? Will Lombardi arrive on the scene and steal the No. 3 center spot from Miller and Moore? Or has Lindberg finally earned his Rangers sweater?
Stay tuned…training camp is right around the corner.