First, there was spate of players on waivers, the reassignment of Tim Erixon to Connecticut, then Erixon’s recall, and today, there is the claim of Jeff Woywitka off the waiver wire. This has certainly been a whirlwind week for Rangers’ transactions.
With Avery reassigned to the Connecticut Whale, the Rangers cleared more than $1.9 million dollars of cap money on Tuesday. It was no secret that the Rangers were in need of a solid veteran blueliner, not too old and not too expensive, but they needed Avery’s money to have some choices. They were talking to a couple of free agents, but as Gordie Clark told me last weekend, he was watching the waiver wire like a hawk. Today, they found their man in Jeff Woywitka, the former Dallas Stars defenseman, who Montreal tried to reassign to Hamilton. At 28 years old, and with only a $650,000 hit in the NHL (Woywitka would have made $105,000 in Hamilton if he had gone unclaimed when Montreal had tried to reassign him to the AHL), he may just be what the Rangers were looking for as a seventh defenseman on what right now is a shaky D. Not flashy and positionally pretty good, Woywitka is not likely to lose games for his team, which right now is what the Blueshirts need.
It is very likely that Head Coach John Tortorella will feel more comfortable with Woywitka on the blueline than either Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel, who were smartly put on waivers in anticipation of reassignment earlier this week. Although later in the season, it is possible either or both of Bickel or Bell would have been claimed, early in the season when teams are set, but before injuries, it was a good time for Bell and Bickel to be exposed. Both went unclaimed and New York has 30 days within which to reassign them. It is not known when, as there is no word as to whether Woywitka will be flown over to Europe in time for this weekend’s games.
Of course, it is possible that the Rangers could reassign Erixon (again), but that is not likely to happen prior to the team’s return to North America. Erixon has already been to Europe, back to the United States, and then back to Europe, all in a span of a little over a week. It’s hard enough for a rookie to get ready for the start of the regular season traveling with the team and bonding, but to be bounced back and forth is not optimal. The Rangers know this, but they have no choice. Marc Staal’s treatment did not bring magic relief, and he is not near ready to begin the season. Put on the IR yesterday, Staal may be out for awhile and the Rangers are being really honest when they say that they don’t know when he will be back.
Somehow, the Rangers will have to play solid, basic defense and get the job done until then, but away from home, and then bouncing around in North America, this is not going to be an easy month. If they can win as much as they lose, consider it a successful October.