If you recall, Mark Messier, former NHL great and current New York Rangers special assistant to the GM, said back in June the one area the Blueshirts need to improve in if they wanted to win a coveted Stanley Cup was their depth.
From Larry Brooks of the New York Post, who spoke to Messier on the matter:
...Moving forward, as you can see, teams that win the Stanley Cup get stronger as series move on, so for us this year the big thing is to add depth so we don’t have to use as many players as much as we did.
The more depth you have, the less chance of wearing players down and having injuries.
Whether it's with the forwards or the back line, New York needed to add quality bodies this summer for a deep playoff run next year, especially when you consider the toll their style of play takes on the body. Messier's quote seems to be directed at the Ranger defense, which was mostly a five-man unit during mot of the season and playoffs.
Which is why bringing back journeyman defenseman Steve Eminger on a one-year, $750k deal was a smart move by Glen Sather.
Looking at the current crop of defensemen, the top four is stacked, with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto (assuming he re-signs, too). The bottom pairing will be a key factor to the Rangers' success next season. With Eminger returning, he'll be competing with Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel for two spots that need to be utilized more than four minutes a game if coach Tortorella wishes to preserve his horses for the playoffs.
Eminger's tenure in New York hasn't been the flashiest, but he's been serviceable when called upon if another defenseman isn't playing well. In 107 career games with New York, Eminger has four goals, seven assists and 50 PIMs.
If you're a fan of advanced metrics, Dave Shapiro of Blue Seat Blogs has Eminger's breakdown:
Looking at his GVT and DGVT numbers from last year, he did just that. His 1.2 GVT and 1.5 DGVT in 42 games average out to a 2.34 GVT and a 2.92 DGVT over 82 games. Using handy-dandy PVT, having Eminger as a depth defenseman gave the Rangers an extra point in the standings.
Looking at his advanced metrics (-.123 QoC, -3.4 RCorsi), Eminger was clearly used as a depth defenseman in regards to matchups. With Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal, and Anton Stralman all but guaranteed starting spots, and Stu Bickel all initially penciled in as the final starter, expect Eminger to be the seventh defenseman this year.
It's not about Eminger's numbers, though. He's a good soldier, handling the juggling between playing and sitting in the press box admirably with no complaints. At 28, Eminger looks content in his role as a swing player, and that's the mark of a good teammate.
With plenty of free-agent defensemen available in a buyer's market, do not be surprised to see Glen Sather bring in another body to add to the healthy competition that'll take place for spots No. 5 and No. 6 on defense. Had 2010 first-round pick Dylan McIlrath not been sidelined with a dislocated knee cap this summer, he could've been one of the players vying for a spot in the bottom pair.
It's a very non-descript move, but one the New York Rangers made to follow their new mantra of improving their depth.