Cap crunch has Rangers looking deep into draft

Rangers general manager Glen Sather addresses the media

Rangers general manager Glen Sather addresses the media prior to the Rangers' game against the New Jersey Devils. (Feb. 27, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

With the Rangers' first selection in Sunday's NHL draft in the third round -- a rarity that hasn't occurred since 1968 -- the news of the day could develop off the board.

The club could be preparing a trade to move up in the annual gathering, which will be staged at Prudential Center in Newark, or perhaps packaging picks, prospects and players to bolster the current roster.

Having sent their first-round selection to Columbus in the Rick Nash trade last July and their second-rounder to San Jose for Ryane Clowe in April, the Rangers have five picks in the seven rounds: three third-rounders (Nos. 65, 70 and 80), a fourth (110) and a sixth (170).

"The top half of the first round is deep, and teams are holding on to those picks, so I don't see us going there," director of player personnel Gordie Clark said. "But we'll be watching to see if players we like will be available in the second round or fall. Whatever, we believe we can get good players in the third and later."

So the thinking is that the Rangers certainly will add to their stable of prospects but won't get any immediate help. Nor are they expected to be major players in the free-agent market, which opens Friday.

With Rangers brass deciding not to use a special compliance buyout on veteran Brad Richards this summer, their salary- cap space will be extremely limited compared to many teams once they sign their top restricted free agents: Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and possibly Mats Zuccarello.

The club's recent track record on third-round picks is mixed. Center Stephen Fogarty (2011, No. 72) had five goals and 10 points in 41 games as a freshman at Notre Dame. Ryan Bourque (2009, No. 80) is playing for Hartford. Forward Evgeny Grachev and defenseman Tomas Kundratek (2008, 75 and 90) no longer are in the organization. Harvard's Dominic Moore (2000) became an NHL regular.

With enough centers in the system, the Rangers -- who had always had a first-rounder since 2002 -- are expected to target wingers (especially on the left side), defensemen and a future goaltender.

"Anybody we're interested in, we've met three or four times during the season," said Clark, who along with assistant general manager Jeff Gorton and the scouting staff handles the assessment and recruiting.

On the goaltending front, the consensus No. 1, Zach Fucale (Halifax), will be gone, but the Rangers should have numerous choices in the third round, possibly the second-ranked netminder: Tristan Jarry, who led the WHL in goals-against average and save percentage.

Other options: Philippe Desrosiers, who posted a .970 save percentage in Under-18 tournament play for Team Canada; Eric Comrie (WHL's Tri-City Americans), who had some bone shaved from his right hip but has recovered; Cal Petersen (USHL), headed to Notre Dame, and Spencer Martin (OHL's Mississauga), who reminds some of Buffalo's Ryan Miller. If they prefer a Swedish youngster whom Henrik Lundqvist could mentor, there are juniors Ebbe Sionas (AIK) and Marcus Hogberg (Linkoping).

Among the blueliners who could be on the board in the third round are Brett Pesce, a Tarrytown, N.Y., native at the University of New Hampshire; Shea Theodore (WHL, Seattle), a potential power-play QB; Tommy Vanelli, one of the top high school prospects, who will play at the University of Minnesota this fall, and Sweden's Linus Arvedsson. Forwards include Nick Moutrey, Saginaw (OHL); Hudson Fasching (U.S. National Team Development Program, USHL), and Emile Poirier, Gatineau (QMJHL).

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