In his pre-game media scrum late this afternoon New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella discussed the possibility of sending Wojtek Wolski and Eric Christensen to the AHL’s Connecticut Whale for conditioning stints. According to the New York media in attendance, it was, “being discussed.”
Wolski has not played since November 3rd, while Christensen, a healthy scratch in the Rangers past nine games after taking Sean Avery’s spot in the lineup, has been out since December 17th.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, there is no real choice, short of putting them on waivers and risking losing them for nothing, in sending them to Hartford safely. The move must be a conditioning stint for the two veteran wingers and it must be with their consent. As much as the big market teams like the Rangers would like to, you simply cannot dump all your financial woes in the AHL. The Connecticut Whale currently at the six player veteran maximum on the roster. That means sending these two veterans poses a potential problem in terms of who gets to play and who has to sit. According to the AHL rules, the veteran requirement states…
“Each Member club must dress for each regularly scheduled or playoff game at least twelve (12) players, other than goalkeepers, who have played in a total of not more than two hundred sixty (260) regular season games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, International Hockey League or any European Elite League, prior to the start of the season…”
The current veterans on the Whale roster: Sean Avery, Brendan Bell, Andre Deveaux (suspended), Kris Newbury, Wade Redden, Aaron Voros and Andreas Thuresson. The rule however does not account for players sent to the minors on a conditioning stint outlined as follows…
“Players on loan from the National Hockey League for a first fourteen day conditioning period shall not be affected by the afore said experience requirement“
As mentioned above, any player asked to go on a conditioning stint must give his approval. Wolski may not be as receptive to the AHL while a player like Christensen might.
In terms of the salary cap, there’s no benefit to the Rangers since anyone on a conditioning assignment stills counts against the cap.
From the NHL CBA regarding conditioning assignments:
“13.8 Conditioning Loan: Unless a Player consents, he shall not be loaned on a Conditioning Loan to a minor league club. Such Conditioning Loan shall not extend for more than fourteen (14) consecutive days. The Commissioner may take whatever steps he deems necessary to investigate the circumstances under which a Player is loaned on a Conditioning Loan. If the Commissioner has reason to believe or determines that the Club has used the Conditioning Loan to evade the Re-Entry Waivers, or otherwise circumvent any provision of this Agreement, he may take such disciplinary action against the Club, as he deems appropriate. The Player shall continue, during the period of such Conditioning Loan, to receive the same Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, and be entitled to the same benefits, that he would have received had he continued to play with the Club”
The advantage to the Rangers in sending a player on a conditioning assignment protects the team as neither player would require waivers to go to the Whale, but once again as noted above the player can only be on this assignment for fourteen days.
It would be in the best interests of both players to accept the assignment if they are asked. With the way the Rangers are playing it looks as if neither has a chance to break into the lineup any time soon, and with the trade deadline coming up if they want to get back to a regular position and regular playing time , obviously that’s going to be on another team and the only way that will happen is if they showcase themselves by making a positive addition to another team in the NHL. What better way to do it then playing with the star-studded cast that Ken Gernander has with the Connecticut Whale as they remain atop the AHL’s Northeast division with a 19-12-6 record.