Monday, August 15, 2011

Doughty, Selanne lead remaining FA's, Devs/Rangers go young on D

Believe it or not, there are 16 days left in August. That means hockey's around the corner. It still is offseason with some names still lingering around like former Ranger captain Chris Drury, who hopes to get a tryout somewhere. That's probably the best bet. While some familiar faces like Alex Kovalev and Nikolai Zherdev have left for the KHL, vets like Cory StillmanSergei Samsonov, Marek SvatosMarty Turco, Bryan McCabe, Craig Rivet, Nick Boynton, John Madden, Jarkko Ruutu, Mike GrierBrian Sutherby, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and Paul Mara are still available. Finnish Flash Teemu Selanne won't decide if he's returning until September. American hero Mike Modano still hasn't retired.

There are also key restricteds with Drew Doughty still the main headliner. One of the game's bright stars on the blueline, still hasn't come to terms with the Kings on a new contract. Considering what Shea Weber was awarded, it probably didn't help, even though Doughty has hardly achieved that lofty status. Something will get done. Our guess is the closer it gets to camp, they'll work something out. Other Group II's of not are Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian, Toronto's Luke Schenn, the Isles' Josh Bailey, Chicago's Chris Campoli and the Yotes' Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker.

Two players who were signed by the Hudson rivals are both defensemen added for depth. The Devils signed ex-King Peter Harrold to a one-year two-way deal. Considering the Devs' youth transition, figure Harrold to spend his time in Albany. Meanwhile, the Blueshirts signed former Senator Brandon Bell for essentially the same reason. With Steve Eminger re-signed and the likes of Mike Del Zotto, new Ranger Tim Erixon, plus hopefuls Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek, Bell should be ticketed for Connecticut.

Indeed, both the Devils and Rangers are now on a similar path with youth served on the back end. New Jersey boasts No.1 pick Adam Larsson, who's expected to step into the top four. There's also Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Matt Taormina, Mark Fraser and Matt Corrente- plus hopefuls Alexander Urbom, Tyler Eckford and Eric Gelinas. That doesn't include American prospect Jon Merrill, who the club selected in Round Two a year ago. He's one to keep an eye on.

While the Devils re-load with key cogs Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder vital to any success, the Blueshirts again will not boast a D over 30 thanks to the core of Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer. With Eminger the elder statesman at 27, the Rangers are banking on a turnaround from Del Zotto and key acquisition Erixon to round out one of the league's youngest bluelines. Figure Valentenko and Kundratek to provide stiff challenges in camp while Bell looks to impress brass. Others to watch for are Sam Klassen, Lee Baldwin and Jyri Niemi, with the latter two taking part in Traverse City next month. Former No.1 Dylan McIlrath will also be included.

Factoring in the up and coming Islanders, youth will be served in the metro area for the future.

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