GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The biggest reason the Rangers traded defenseman Patrik Nemeth to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday was to clear up some space under the salary cap to give the team a little more flexibility in assembling its roster.
The side benefit, to a guy like Matthew Robertson, is that Nemeth’s departure opens a spot on the Rangers defense corps. The 21-year-old Robertson will be one of those candidates who should get a long look as coach Gerard Gallant and his staff try to fill it.
On Thursday, as the Rangers’ prospects went through some on-ice testing on Day 4 of the organization’s Prospect Development Camp, Robertson downplayed the subtraction of Nemeth from the mix and what that could mean for him.
“It's out of my control who they bring in and who leaves,’’ Robertson said. “But either way, I don't think much changes. I still go in with the goal of trying to make the team and I’ve just got to go out there, do my best, and try to prove myself.’’
The 6-4, 201-pound Robertson, an Edmonton native, was selected by the Rangers in the second round of the 2019 draft at No. 49 overall. He played last season in the AHL with Hartford, where he had one goal and 10 assists with 36 PIMs in 65 games.
His defense partner at the start of the season, Braden Schneider, was called up to the Rangers in midseason. Although Robertson was happy for Schneider’s success, his partner’s promotion also served as additional motivation for him to try and make the Rangers himself at this fall’s training camp. What also helped was being called up after the season to serve as part of the Rangers’ taxi squad for the playoffs.
“It helped me a bunch, either with confidence, just knowing that I can skate and play with some of these guys, but just being around those guys, seeing how they conduct themselves, some of the things they do before games, and just how they are pregame, postgame, and even during the game,’’ he said.
Rangers general manager Chris Drury was noncommittal when asked if he intended to bring in a veteran to try and fill Nemeth’s spot or leave it open for one of the young prospects in the system. With the makeup of the five defensemen currently on the roster — righthanded shooters Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and Schneider, and lefthanders Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller — Robertson, a lefty, would seem the most similar to Nemeth in terms of his size and stay-at-home style.
But other prospects, such as offensive-minded Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist (a righthanded shot who might have to switch to the left side) will get looks too. And so, presumably, will the newly re-signed Libor Hajek and the veteran Jarred Tinordi.
Robertson is well aware of the in-house competition he faces in his battle to make the Rangers’ roster in the fall. But he doesn’t sweat it.
“I think that just raises the (level of the) competition,’’ he said of all the players who will be vying for a spot on defense. “We're all competing against each other, and we're all close to each other. We're all buddies. But at the end of the day, I mean, we're all competing for a job.’’
Notes & quotes: On the second day of free agency, the Rangers Thursday signed center Ryan Carpenter, 31, to a one-year contract worth $750,000, according to CapFriendly. Carpenter, who split last season between Chicago and the Calgary Flames, had a combined three goals and nine assists in 67 games in 2021-22. He previously played under Gallant with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18 and 2018-19.