Ever since Alexei Semenov backed out of an agreement with the Rangers to be their 7th defenseman, it was thought that the team would pursue another veteran blue liner to fill that role; whether by trade or free agency. Salary cap restrictions and the lack of quality UFA’s on the market made it a difficult task for Glen Sather and his staff to find the right kind of fit for that spot.
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A 7th defenseman on this Rangers team has to be prepared to not play for long stretches when things are going well but also be ready to step in at a moment’s notice if an injury occurs or if one of the top 6 guys is not playing well. With the Rangers committed to playing two rookies as much as possible, the large salary obligations to Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden and the presence of young, talented blue liners Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, there would be no guaranteed ice time for a 7th guy.
Carrying just 6 defensemen can be dangerous though; especially when you have two rookies in this year’s lineup and two expensive veterans coming off of dismal showings last season. John Tortorella is not the type of coach to sit idly by and watch as veterans under-perform. He’d like to have an experienced and dependable option available in the event that he wants to bench a struggling defenseman.
Enter Mathieu Dandenault, a veteran of 13 NHL campaigns with Montreal and Detroit and who was cut loose by San Jose after failing to make their squad as a training camp invite. Dandenault has a career line of 68 g -135 a – 203 pts and is a +42 in 868 NHL contests. The 6’1” 210 Dandenault has played both defense and forward in his career and has his name etched on the Stanley Cup 3 times thanks to his time with the Red Wings.
Dandenault isn’t the big, physical presence that maybe Tortorella would have liked but he is a solid veteran guy who has been a part winning programs in the past. If he proves himself capable of contributing while skating with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers will sign him to a prorated, 1 year deal worth somewhere around the league minimum in all likelihood. If his play isn’t up to snuff then they simply release him from his tryout and move on; a perfect no-lose scenario.
I like this addition for the Rangers. Dandenault is a good team guy who has filled in at both defense and forward during his lengthy career showing his willingness to compete and do whatever is asked of him. He’s been a gritty competitor throughout his career, not afraid to mix it up with the opposition. The fact that he brings some Stanley Cup winning experience makes it an even nicer addition potentially.
This is they type of under-the-radar move that every playoff team must make to ensure they have the necessary depth come playoff time. With his experience, Dandenault is a nice fallback option in the event of an injury to or substandard performance by any of the top six.
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