As the off-season winds on we are starting to see more teams signing veteran journeymen to provide organizational depth. Much like the Rangers earlier signing of Tyler Arnason, these moves may not pay dividends to the NHL roster but can provide teams with veteran role players to fill in at the NHL level in case of injury and also offer AHL prospects a veteran mentor to show them how to be a professional. The last few days have seen a few minor moves either involving the Rangers directly or touching on some former Rangers’ players as they continue their careers post-Manhattan. I’ll give you the headlines and a few thoughts on each here.
Rangers Swap Defensemen with Avalanche: The Rangers sent veteran AHL defenseman Brian Fahey west to the Colorado Avalanche for Defenseman Nigel Williams, a former 2nd round draft pick of Colorado’s (#51 overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft. Fahey, 28, has never skated in a regular season NHL contest. He has appeared in 283 games at the AHL level over the last 4 seasons with Iowa (2005/2006), Chicago (2006/2007 and 2007/2008) and Hartford (2008/2009) plus 3 games with Idaho in the ECHL in 2005/2006.
Williams just completed his first professional season with Lake Erie of the AHL after wrapping up his Junior career with stints in both Saginaw and Belleville of the OHL. Williams, 21, stands 6’4” and weighs in at 226 pounds. He recorded 21 points and 55 PIM in 70 games with Lake Erie.
This is a curious move on the part of Colorado. With injuries to Dmitri Kalinin and Michal Rozsival last year the Rangers called up Michael Sauer and Corey Potter instead of a more experienced pro in Fahey. That decision may have been at least partially due to the salary cap but still, after not appearing in any NHL games in his career, you have to wonder if Fahey will ever contribute in the NHL at all. For the rebuilding Avalanche to give up a young defenseman that they liked enough to choose with the 51st overall pick in the 2006 draft for a journeyman AHL’er, you have to conclude that either the Avalanche have soured on Williams or they see something that no one else has in Fahey.
This is the third young defensive prospect added to the Rangers organization since the onset of free agency; Ryan McDonaugh and Pavel Valentenko from Montreal in the Gomez deal and now Williams. Combined with Michael Del Zotto, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Michael Sauer, the Rangers are building terrific defensive depth in their organization. More and more it seems that Sather can’t navigate free agency very well but he is very adept at the art of trades.
Former Ranger Nigel Dawes Claimed by Flames off Waivers: In another move that I don’t understand, the Phoenix Coyotes placed F Nigel Dawes on waivers where he was claimed by the Calgary Flames. Dawes scored 10 goals and 21 points in 64 games last season split between Phoenix and the Rangers. He had ben dealt at the trade deadline to Phoenix with F Petr Prucha and Defenseman Dmitri Kalinin in exchange for Defenseman Derek Morris.
I really thought Dawes and Prucha would both be getting good opportunities by going to Phoenix. Coyotes GM Don Maloney was with the Rangers organization when both players were drafted. I saw a lot of Dawes while he was with the Rangers and I couldn’t decide if I thought he was going to be a regular or not. He has some offensive skill to be sure but he is not really a playmaker and he isn’t shifty enough or strong enough to get into the prime scoring areas consistently. Seeing him get regular ice time with a team like Phoenix would have gone a long way toward determining whether or not Dawes can be a legitimate NHL’er.
Now his chance will have to come in Calgary. The Flames look to be a strong team so ice time will have to be earned. Dawes is a RFA who filed for arbitration but is said to be looking for a 1 way contract with a salary of less than $1 million. I am surprised that Phoenix chose to place Dawes on waivers instead of giving him the money. It would only cost $400,000 or so more than a player making the minimum and Dawes does have some upside. I suppose that Phoenix may have concluded that there wasn’t going to be enough ice time on the two top lines for Dawes. Still, I would have thought another team would have been willing to pony up a late round pick for a young guy with upside.
Sharks Add Former Rangers Forwards Jed Ortmeyer and Dwight Helminen: This is another example of a team adding organizational filler. Ortmeyer turned himself into a serviceable 4th line/penalty-killer in parts of three seasons on Broadway. Ortmeyer’s hard work and aggressive play made him somewhat of a fan favorite in New York. He left the Rangers to sign with Nashville and after appearing in 51 contests with the Predators in 2007/2008 and recording 4 goals and 8 points, Ortmeyer spent most of last season in Milwaukee of the AHL only appearing in 2 NHL games.
Helminen appeared in 23 games with the Carolina Hurricanes scoring 1 goal and 2 points in that time. Heminen has spent most of his pro career in the minors with the Rangers organization posting pro career highs of 32 goals and 56 points in 2005/2006. He spent the 2007/2008 season in Finland before signing with the Hurricanes and getting his only NHL action of his career.
With Mike Grier departing as an UFA, there may be a slot for Ortmeyer if he has a good training camp. He is a high energy type that can hold his own killing penalties and playing on the 4th line. He won’t contribute much offensively but is a responsible defensive forward. I don’t like Helminen’s chances of sticking with the Sharks as much as I do Ortmeyer’s. Helminen will likely spend most of yet another season in the AHL but does provide some experienced depth in case of injury.