Friday: All three players have cleared, and can now be assigned to their respective AHL affiliates.
Thursday: The New York Rangers are not having the season they expected. Today, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, they have placed Brendan Smith on waivers less than a year after re-signing the defenseman to a four-year $17.4MM contract. He’s joined by Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris of the Carolina Hurricanes according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
The Rangers recalled Neal Pionk earlier in the day and needed to make a corresponding move, but many expected it to be Marc Staal headed for injured reserve with his continued neck troubles. Instead, the team has decided to make Smith available to the rest of the league in an attempt to rid themselves of his contract. New York have allowed 35 goals in their last eight games and seen Henrik Lundqvist chased from the net three times, seemingly unable to complete simple defensive rotations at times. While Smith is still a capable NHL player, his extension is quickly looking like a mistake.
Kruger and Jooris are the first victims of a Carolina team that has said recently that they can’t keep running the same group out every night. Head coach Bill Peters and GM Ron Francis believe this team is good enough to compete right now, but still find themselves struggling near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. Kruger, acquired in the offseason from the Vegas Golden Knights after he was part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ expansion package, comes with a $3.1MM cap hit for this year and next. Jooris is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent again this summer.
The Rangers and Hurricanes will both save the prorated version of $1.025MM in cap space by sending Smith and Kruger to the minors (along with the entirety of Jorris’ $775K hit) if they should clear, but this seems more about giving other players a chance. Both teams are fed up with how their seasons have gone, and are starting to bring in new blood to try and turn things around down the stretch. While the Rangers prepare to sell at the deadline, Carolina still seems undecided over which path they will follow.