An Interview With New York Rangers Beat Writer Andrew Gross

Todd CordellCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2010

I would like to welcome Rangers beat writer Andrew Gross. His work can be found here , and he can also be found on twitter @AGrossRecord .

Q: What are your thoughts on the Rangers signing Alex Frolov?

A: The cynical answer would be that the Rangers have been there/done that before as Frolov could remind one of Alexei Kovalev or Nikolai Zherdev. Or both.

However, GM Glen Sather has always shown himself as a man who likes giving others second chances and, at one year, $3 million, this is actually a low-risk, high-reward move for the Rangers.

Frolov clearly showed he has no desire to go to the KHL and seems to understand a bad season in New York might bring about that scenario. So he certainly has the motivation to play well.

Of course, the same could have been said for Zherdev, who sulked his way through his one season with the Rangers, particularly when John Tortorella took over for Tom Renney.

But I don't think, in Zherdev's wildest dreams, going back to Russia to play was something he thought was remotely possible. So there's a major difference with Frolov.

Frolov will be given every opportunity to show he belongs on the top line with Marian Gaborik, and that could be a potent combination.

Frolov might have to go to the net a little more than he's used to and he might miss a shift or two here and there if Tortorella doesn't think he's giving a maximum two-way effort. But I like the upside of this move for the Rangers.

Q: What is the latest on the Marc Staal situation?

A: Status quo, as far as I can discern. The Staal camp is not discussing the negotiations publicly, but there seems to have been little to no movement since Sather described the difference between the two sides as a "chasm" at the NHL Draft.

The main sticking point seems to be the length of the contract. The Rangers want to lock up Staal for as long as they can. Staal, presumably, would like to test the market when he becomes eligible to be an unrestricted free agent.

I'm sure Staal would love to receive an offer from another team to force the Rangers' hand, but I believe Sather when he says the Rangers would match any offer for the restricted free agent.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Rangers' young defensemen (Staal, Del Zotto

A: I've always loved Staal's game; he just has tremendous hockey sense. But it took a bit longer last season for him to get comfortable with what Tortorella was asking him to do.

However, Tortorella said the last two months of the season, Staal's game became much more instinctual both offensively and defensively and I look for him to build on that this season.

The only thing that can stop Michael Del Zotto is Del Zotto. Tortorella cautioned on breakup day that the confident Del Zotto couldn't take any of his rookie success for granted and needed to keep working at his game.

Getting to know Michael last season, I don't think that will be a problem.

I think Matt Gilroy needs to regain his confidence because he seemed like a lost puppy by the end of the season. It was noticeable in his personality.

Friends say he's a fun-loving guy and by the end of the season he was fairly glum. He needs to enjoy hockey again.

Dan Girardi is just steady, really more of a top four defenseman than a top two defenseman, but he's well-liked and well-respected by his teammates.

He got a bum rap for not coming to Gaborik's aid against Dan Carcillo in Philadelphia, but I'm convinced he had a confused moment there as he didn't want to get on Tortorella's bad side for taking a penalty. He's not a guy that backs down easily.

There's also a belief within the organization that Ryan McDonagh could be NHL-ready.

Q: What is the Rangers biggest remaining need?

A: They still need a legitimate No. 1 center, unless Artem Anisimov blossoms well past their expectations this season. Erik Christensen needs to be more consistent if he's going to fill that role. It could wind up as Vinny Prospal's job by default.

Q: What can we expect from the Rangers this season?

A: Acquiring Frolov and the potential emergence of Mats Zuccarello-Aasen could help the Rangers' scoring deficiencies.

But if these are the top two lines (Frolov-Christensen-Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky-Anisimov-Ryan Callahan), it's probably a team that will still suffer through some scoring droughts.

However, I'm more optimistic that scoring won't be as much as an issue with this squad as it was last season, when the Rangers tried to rely on Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik, and later Olli Jokinen.

Q: Can the Rangers make the playoffs this season?

A: Yes, the Rangers can make the playoffs. Will they, though? It's likely to be yet another season where the Rangers are among a group of teams battling for the last three seeds.

The Rangers finished ninth and the team right behind them, the Thrashers, had one of the better offseasons.

The Lightning, under new GM Steve Yzerman, have also added talent to their young core and will battle for a playoff spot.

The Canadiens and Sabres may have taken steps backwards. The biggest key might be how well backup goalie Marty Biron plays. If he's steady enough to not only play 15-20 games, but to keep the Rangers over .500 in games Henrik Lundqvist is not in net, the Rangers should get in.

This concludes my interview with Rangers beat writer Andrew Gross, enjoy!

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