Are eight NHL-caliber defensemen too many? Or, as the saying goes, can you never have enough D?
When the inevitable injuries strike the blueline, depth is critical.
But with the Rangers' blueline healthy as the team approaches the 14th game of the season Saturday against the Coyotes, having eight defensemen ready to go for any game may be a luxury.
The Rangers are carrying rookie Dylan McIlrath as a spare, a seventh defenseman who played consecutive games, against the Capitals and Avalanche on the third pair, and didn't look out of place subbing for the slowing Dan Boyle, who is expected to dress against the Coyotes tonight.
McIlrath played 13:51 with four hits and a shot on goal in Colorado, and 19:50 with four hits and a shot on goal against Washington on Tuesday. The 6-foot-4 McIlrath also had a couple shifts short-handed.
There are issues, however.
At some point soon, the front office has to decide whether to recall defenseman Raphael Diaz, who would rather play in Europe or the NHL than the AHL, and the Rangers said they would try to accommodate him at some point.
No decision had to be made in the last couple weeks because Diaz, 29, who signed a one-year, $700,000 contract as a free agent last summer, was recovered from being struck in the throat by a puck and missing several games with the Wolf Pack. Diaz, a righty who played 58 games with Calgary last year, has a goal and an assist in five games.
But now, after numerous checkups and tests, Diaz has been medically cleared.
So what to do?
Boyle, 39, has a no-move and a no-trade clause in the final season of his $9 million, two-year contract. If McIlrath is considered suitable as a sometimes fill-in for Boyle, for when the schedule is compressed, as head coach Alain Vigneault said, then Diaz could end up in Switzerland, where he played for Zug for eight years.
Or, McIlrath, who may not be ready for a full-time role here, could be dangled for a draft pick rather than be subjected to waivers, because he might not clear, and the Rangers would lose the former first-round selection for nothing.
Another option: Summon Brady Skjei, 21, the team's top defensive prospect, from Hartford. But it appears that the smooth-skating Minnesota native could use some more seasoning there, perhaps until midseason.
Of course, the front office can sit tight until their hand is forced: Injuries happen. But that's not an ideal scenario.