The New York Rangers made some minor shake-ups when they announced the demotion of Arron Asham and Martin Biron. The moves are not surprising given how each has played thus far, but who are the best options to replace the demoted veterans?
When it comes to goaltending, the decision is pretty obvious for a number of reasons. Cam Talbot is younger than Biron, he is cheaper and he has more upside.
He also has a better mask, and it will be great once this lid gets some NHL exposure:
Talbot is the current starter for the Hartford Wolfpack, and he was contending for the Rangers' backup spot during training camp. There is no other goaltender in the system that could step in for Biron, and the Rangers don't have the cap space to sign a free-agent goaltender like Johan Hedberg.
The Caledonia, ON native has paid his dues at the AHL level, and playing behind Henrik Lundqvist will only enhance his growth as a player.
Spending time with an elite goaltender like Lundqvist will change how Talbot conditions and prepares for a game, which will ultimately help him develop into a quality starter.
This is an Olympic year, and Lundqvist is going to need all the rest he can get because of the tight schedule. Talbot is ready to step in; there was a reason why he was given significant playing time during the preseason.
Rangers brass wanted to see if he was ready for NHL duty, and the demotion of Biron indicates that they are ready to bring Talbot to the big leagues. The 26-year-old netminder also has a lower cap hit than Biron, so it will help give the Rangers some salary relief.
It is bittersweet to see a great teammate like Biron get sent down to the minors, but he wasn't playing well enough to remain on the Rangers roster.
Although Biron's replacement is crystal clear, the Blueshirts have a number of hungry players in the AHL who can replace Asham's truculence and pugnacity.
Brandon Mashinter is the best candidate for the job, because his 6'4", 235-pound size makes him an ideal heavyweight to carry on the roster.
He’s also an ideal player to put on the fourth line, because he has shown that he can score from time to time. In 35 games last season with the Connecticut Whale, Mashinter tallied 19 points. He has three points in four games this season.
The former San Jose Shark was also one of the last cuts from training camp, so that should tell you how close he was to making the 2013-14 Rangers’ opening-night roster. In addition to what Mashinter brings to the table in terms of attributes, he only makes $550,000, so he would give the Blueshirts some cap relief.
If for some reason Mashinter is passed over, the Rangers could opt to call up J.T. Miller, because he has some NHL experience and plays a good enough two-way game to fit Alain Vigneault's system. Miller played OK during training camp, but he was sent down once Ryan Callahan joined the active roster.
Another potential replacement for Asham is career pugilist Michael Haley, because of his physicality and willingness to drop the gloves. Haley is another bottom-six forward who fits the profile the Rangers are looking for, but they could opt to go in yet another direction.
Chris Kreider and Danny Kristo are outliers who could get a shot, but the above players would be direct replacements for Asham. Calling up either Kreider or Kristo would indicate that Asham was cut to open up a spot in the lineup for a scorer.
Although Kreider and Kristo would add some skill to the roster, they are younger players who would be better off developing in the AHL. Right now the Rangers should leave them where they are and should replace Asham with one of the above players listed.
Right now the Rangers are not playing well, so management felt the need to make a shakeup. It wasn’t a big shakeup, but it will put the rest of the team on notice. Vigneault is still feeling out his roster, but if the team continues to struggle, don’t be surprised if more players are demoted and promoted.
Things could get worse before they get better, and this could be the beginning of many personnel changes for the Rangers.