While other teams made a splash, it was anything but for the Rangers. Their Canada Day was uneventful. The highlight was the official announcement from Glen Sather that he was moving upstairs to Team President while handing over the reigns to new general manager Jim Gorton. The long-time assistant GM finally takes over after the club rejected interview requests from the Bruins and Leafs.
With little cap space due to having to re-sign Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Emerson Etem, the Rangers made a couple of minor signings on Day 1 of the free agent frenzy. After losing dependable extra defenseman Matt Hunwick to Toronto (2 years $2.4 million), they quickly signed replacement Raphael Diaz for one year, $700,000. The 29-year old from Switzerland played 11 games with the Blueshirts posting a goal and helper in 2013-14. He spent the past season with the Flames going 2-2-4 in 56 games and getting into three postseason contests. At least he’s familiar with the system. But it’s a downgrade from Hunwick.
While a few Blueshirt fans tried to put a spin on adding depth forward Viktor Stalberg for a year at $1.1 million, it’s a fringe move for the 29-year old who spent part of the season in Nashville AHL affiliate Milwaukee where he had 11 goals and 17 points. He only took part in 25 games with the Predators tallying two goals and eight assists. A far cry from the player he once was with the Blackhawks. Imagine a player with size who goes 6-3, 210 pounds and doesn’t use it. That best describes Stalberg. Another finesse forward.
The one intriguing addition involved trading a 2017 fifth round pick to Nashville for Swedish goalie prospect Magnus Hellberg. The 24-year old netminder was drafted by the Preds in the second round of 2011 number 38 overall. He spent part of one season with Frolunda. Hellberg’s spent a majority of time with Milwaukee going 15-10-6 with a 2.33 goals-against-average, .913 save percentage and three shutouts in 2014-15.
With Mackenzie Skapski recovering from hip surgery, it makes sense. Hellberg is three years older and new Rangers backup Antti Raanta is only signed for one year. I like it.