Center Matt Lombardi, whom the Rangers signed to a two-year, $1.6-million contract during the summer, was placed on waivers Sunday along with defensemen Michael Kostka and Steven Kampfer and goaltender Cedric Desjardins.
As a result, defenseman Matt Hunwick, who has played almost 300 games with Boston and Colorado, will be the seventh defenseman on the Opening Day roster. Presumably, Hunwick was kept to start the season because he is a better skater and puck-mover than Kostka and can play both sides.
The transactions also eliminated Lombardi from the competition for a center spot for the first game in St. Louis on Thursday. Lombardi played Saturday in New Jersey after sitting out part of camp with a groin injury.
Lombardi has not played a full NHL season since 2009-10 because of injuries and concussions. It is likely that he will clear waivers and report to Hartford (AHL).
Boston College prospect Kevin Hayes, Chris Mueller and Swede Oscar Lindberg, who all have played center in camp, remain in the mix, as do wingers Ryan Malone, Jesper Fast and Anthony Duclair. Malone and Mueller would have to pass through waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
Duclair, 19, who has opened eyes with his speed and skill in camp, could be kept for nine games before being returned to his junior team, the Quebec Remparts. But the Rangers are at the 50-man contract limit and would have to make room by moving a player.
More reassignments are coming today. It appears likely that the Rangers will place Derek Stepan (broken fibula) on long-term injured reserve and use his $3.075-million cap charge to keep some extra personnel until he returns.
After Saturday's game, coach Alain Vigneault said he was "leaning" that way in order to keep 14 healthy forwards. He added that he planned to discuss the issue with president and general manager Glen Sather and assistant general manager Jeff Gorton.
Two goalies and seven defensemen are set, and 10 forwards appear to be locks: Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin, Dominic Moore, J.T. Miller, Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak.
Kostka, who signed as a free agent, showed promise as a shot-blocker and was afforded some power-play time. Kampfer didn't appear ready. Desjardins, whose mask features images of Derek Jeter and Frank Sinatra, will be the No. 1 goalie for Hartford.