BRUCE BERLET – AS THE PLAYER DOOR TURNS

BY: Bruce Berlet

Dale Weise’s gain was the Connecticut Whale’s loss on Tuesday.

After three eventful years in the New York Rangers organization, Weise was claimed off waivers by the Stanley Cup runner-up Vancouver Canucks, minutes after skating alongside Kris Newbury and Carl Hagelin in what turned out to be his final practice with the Whale.

The departure of the physical right wing wasn’t all of the Rangers’ moves three days before they open the season against the Los Angeles Kings in Stockholm, Sweden. The Rangers also waived left wing Sean Avery, who lost out to Erik Christensen for the 13th and final forward spot, and defensemen Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel.

Former Hartford Wolf Pack blueliner Michael Sauer was declared fit for the opener after sustaining a sprained shoulder in a game against Philadelphia on Sept. 26 but All-Star Marc Staal is out of the first two games because of headaches associated with post-concussion syndrome.

The loss of Bell and Bickel is unlikely, plus they could be retained by the Rangers if they aren’t claimed.

“I really wasn’t expecting to be claimed, but when the coach (Ken Gernander) came in and told me it was Vancouver, I was ecstatic,” Weise told The Province in Vancouver. “Vancouver was a Cup finalist and it’s playing for a Canadian team. I feel I can play any role, but if they want a fourth line guy who finishes his checks, sticks up for his teammates and scraps when necessary, that’s no problem. I’m more than willing to be an energy guy if that’s what they need.”

Weise, 23, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba was drafted by the Rangers in the fourth round in 2008, had 18 goals and 20 assists in 47 games with the Wolf Pack and Whale last season despite a series of injuries. He also was scoreless with 19 penalty minutes in his first 10 NHL games, gaining kudos from Rangers coach John Tortorella for his grit. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder made a memorable first impression when he got the better of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Dan Carcillo in his first NHL fight on Dec. 18, 2010, when Carcillo was with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Weise will be an upgrade on the Canucks’ fourth line, replacing Victor Oreskovich, who was placed on waivers Tuesday.

“He (Weise) is a big right-handed shot who can play a physical game and has the ability to play in both ends,” Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman told The Province. “Our pro scouts have watched this player a lot and we’ve tried to acquire him since last season.”

Weise is entering the final year of a contract that pays him $605,000 in the NHL and $85,000 in the minors. Weise had a good preseason, but there really was no real place for him on the Rangers roster. With Mats Zuccarello claiming the last spot on right wing, Weise was bound to be sent back to the Whale and was among seven players assigned Saturday.

“We’re going to miss Dale, but we’re happy for him and wish him good luck,” Gernander said. “He’s a guy who showed a lot of promise and potential, and right now Vancouver feels there is has a spot for him. Dale is a valuable commodity that we hoped would be a New York Ranger. He wasn’t sent down because the Rangers had no plans for him. He was sent down because the Rangers felt he needed a little more seasoning.

“It’s good for him and tough for us, but it’s all part of helping players advance. It’s going to leave a pretty good size hole for us, but as we always say, it gives an opportunity for somebody else.”

Newcomers Andreas Thuresson and Andre Deveaux and tryout Scott Tanski likely will be helped most by Weise’s departure. Tanski was the Whale’s leading scorer in preseason with three goals in four games and earned lots of positive comments from Gernander.

“He has made a strong case for himself,” Gernander said after Tanski scored the game’s first goal in the Whale’s 3-2 victory over the Worcester Sharks on Sunday. “He is one who if you give him directions he does the types of things that you want to see as far as showing yourself. These are kind of absolutes that you need to do regardless of how talented or highly touted you might be. He’s done all those little things that as a coach you request them to do.”

Avery was waived after being a healthy scratch in the Rangers’ last two preseason games.

(Editor’s note… Various sites were reporting Tortorella’s feelings on Avery and they’ve been added here in italics)

“I don’t want to jam up Sean here – I think we have better players than Sean Avery, plain and simple,” The Rangers head coach told the beat reporters from the second floor of the Rangers hotel in Stockholm. “I can dodge it 10 different ways, without trying to run Sean over. I thought he had a good camp. But I think with the makeup of our team, and some of the people we’ve added, and some of the youth we’ve added as far as depth put Sean in this spot.

“I wish him good luck in everything, but we’ve gone by that. I think we’re a better club. The players that are here are better than Sean Avery. They’re more versatile in a lot of different areas.”

Avery’s agent, Pat Morris, confirmed the news in an interview with a Toronto radio station, adding he doubted Avery would be claimed because of his salary. If Avery clears waivers, he would be re-assigned to the Whale and his $1,937,500 salary cap hit would come off the Rangers’ books. Given the Rangers have only $239,666 of cap space, including Avery, and could be in need of a veteran defenseman given the uncertainty of All-Star defenseman Marc Staal, subtracting Avery’s salary makes a lot more sense than Christensen’s $925,000.

The Rangers are still splitting Avery’s salary with the Stars, who signed Avery to a four-year, $15.5 million contract before suspending and waiving him after 23 games and the NHL ordering him to enroll in anger management classes after making public comments deemed offensive. The Rangers claimed Avery at half his salary after the Stars put him on re-entry waivers. The Rangers could do that this season, recalling Avery from the Whale through re-entry waivers, hoping another team would be willing to split the pro-rated $1.9 million cap hit, with the Rangers being charged for dead space against the cap.

Tortorella had said Saturday that he wanted only one extra forward on the roster, and that it was a battle between Avery and Christensen. Christensen won because Tortorella said he feels he can use Christensen in more situations, and his ability to score in the shootout can be vital to the Rangers’ success. The Rangers got into the playoffs last season largely because it went 9-3 in the shootout, and Christensen scored on five of his eight attempts.

Avery had two goals and one assist in eight games with the Wolf Pack before joining the Rangers. He had three goals and 21 assists in 76 games last season and had 42 goals and 78 assists in 249 games in two stints as a Ranger, including 86 games before going to Dallas and 163 after coming back.

The Rangers are down to the 23-player limit, but are allowed an extra goalie, Scott Stajcer, because they’re starting the season in Europe. After the Rangers complete their European stay with a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, Stajcer is expected to be returned to a CHL team for an over-aged season.

The Rangers’ roster now includes goalies Stajcer, Martin Biron and Henrik Lundqvist, defensemen Staal, Sauer, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and forwards Christensen, Rupp, captain Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Prust, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Wojtek Wolski and Mats Zuccarello.

The Whale has goalies Cam Talbot and Chad Johnson, defensemen Wade Redden, Tim Erixon, Blake Parlett, Pavel Valentenko, Jared Nightingale, Tomas Kundratek, Jyri Niemi, T.J. Fast and Collin Bowman and forwards Newbury, Hagelin, Thuresson, Deveaux, Bourque, Chad Kolarik, John Mitchell, Kelsey Tessier, Chris McKelvie, rookies Tommy Grant and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and tryouts Tanski and Jordan Owens, who is back with the Whale after being traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Newbury on March 3, 2010.

QUINNIPIAC HIRES VALIQUETTE

Quinnipiac University has hired former Rangers, Wolf Pack and Bridgeport Sound Tigers goalie Steve Valiquette as its goaltending coach. The man known as Valley spent five seasons in the Rangers organization before playing for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia last season. Fortunately, he turned down an offer this season from Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, as most of the team died in a plane crash on the way to their season opener Sept. 7. … Goalie Jared DeMichiel of Farmington and Avon Old Farms was among three players released from their tryout agreements by the Providence Bruins on Tuesday. The others were forwards Everett Sheen of Holy Cross and Richard Purslow of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. DeMichiel earned the win in a 3-2 victory over the Springfield Falcons on Friday night, stopping 12 of 14 shots in 31:39. He is headed to Kalamazoo of the ECHL, where he split last season between South Carolina and Elmira and also was 2-1-0 in five games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

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