September 10, 2008
"I appreciate compliments about my role as a leader or mentor, but I'm not playing in the NHL this year to be a, 'Good locker room guy' ... I'm coming to play hard on both sides of the puck, to attack and defend, and to help my team win games." - Brendan Shanahan, free agent, to the New York Post
The majority of NHL fans want to see Brendan Shanahan in the League this season, and those who don't are hoping he'll retire and become commissioner. We receive an e-mail about Shanny's status every few days; just yesterday, Puck Daddy reader Patrick pointed to this Shanahan sighting at the MSG training facility, as he skated with the New York Rangers.
Larry Brooks has a piece on UFA Shanahan and the Rangers today that's quite revelatory. GM Glen Sather tells Brooks in an e-mail that "the door is open ... However there are complications that need to be worked out" in regards to Shanahan's new contract with the team. Brooks is also convinced that this delay isn't about Mats Sundin's decision, and that Shanahan only wants to play for the Blueshirts after turning down other jobs this summer.
But the most interesting section of the article deals with the potential Rangers' lineup this season, and why Shanahan might be on the outs.
It's safe to presume that Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev, Colton Orr and Aaron Voros have jobs on the wing. Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan enter camp as incumbents. Space for two or three more. That means Shanahan - who can play either side - would be competing with Petr Prucha, Patrick Rissmiller, Fred Sjostrom, Lauri Korpikoski, Andreas Jamtin, Hugh Jessiman, P.A. Parenteau, and perhaps Petr Nedved for a spot on the roster.
You'd figure Petr Prucha's in the mix. Sjostrom saw time last season. Rissmiller can be a tenacious player on a fourth line. Jessiman, a former first-round pick, had 42 points and 154 penalty minutes in Hartford last season. And this projection doesn't even take into account that the Rangers have at least five NHL-quality centers on their roster. Does Dan Fritsche get scratched every night? Could someone like Blair Betts shift to the wing?
Looking at this lineup on paper, there does seem to be a hole for Shanahan as a scoring winger on the second line (he had 23 goals last season). But is it in the team's best interests to have a player entering into his 22nd season filling a role that could otherwise serve as a professional trial for a player like Jessiman or another former first-rounder like Lauri Korpikoski?
For all his value to this team, isn't Shanahan a bit of a placeholder at this stage in his career?
Sam Weinman has more on the financial and personnel implications for Shanahan's return. Again, this isn't to say that Shanahan is done; the man hasn't scored less than 20 goals in a season since 1988. But it is a question about whether his return would just be another example of the stereotypical "Ranger mentality" that slots veterans on the downside of their careers ahead of young players who may deserve an audition.