The New York Rangers continue to employ the conditioning loan to manage their depth on the blue line this season. After Libor Hajek spent time with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack earlier this season, it is now Jarred Tinordi’s turn. The team has announced that the veteran defenseman is on his way down to the minors for a conditioning stint.
Tinordi’s loan is a bit more puzzling that Hajek’s, however. While Hajek, 23, is still a young and once-promising asset that could have been lost on waivers, Tinordi is a lesser risk. In fact, the 29-year-old stay-at-home specialist already cleared waivers earlier this season. There is also the fact that the Rangers have a clear top six and wouldn’t be significantly harmed even if Tinordi was claimed. Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, and Patrik Nemeth have played in all 25 of New York’s games, while rookie Nils Lundkvist has suited up for 20. Tinordi has played in only five games, the last of which came all the way back on November 21, and is averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time per game. Hajek meanwhile has amazing still not seen NHL action this year. With such a solid six, is it worth manipulating the roster in this way just to ensure a player like Tinordi isn’t claimed?
The counter-argument is this: beyond their current top six, the Rangers are not as deep as they may seem on defense and Tinordi is more of an established NHL value than it may seem too. While New York has been fortunate enough to not have to dive into their defensive depth yet this season, an injury or tow, especially to one of top blue liners, would leave the team exposed. Miller and Lundkvist are both very young and raw and there are more like them in Hartford. Though all very talented prospects, leaning on the inexperience of Zac Jones, Braden Schneider, or Matthew Robertson in the event of health issues on the NHL blue line would leave the Rangers with very little veteran leadership and know-how. If Tinordi was lost on waivers, only Anthony Bitetto would offer an experienced depth option. Just last year, Tinordi was claimed on waivers too. The Boston Bruins took a shot on the big rearguard when the Nashville Predators risked him on the wire and Tinordi ended up playing out the season in Boston and even suiting up in the postseason. Given their lack of veteran options, it seems that the Rangers are unwilling to risk history repeating itself.
So, Tinordi will get some play time and stay game-ready with a stint in Hartford. The move could also allow for Hajek to finally draw back into the Rangers lineup and could provide the promising Wolf Pack blue liners with another veteran mentor, at least for the time being. It’s not exactly a critical move for the franchise, but it’s a safe play for a team with their eye on finally getting back to the postseason this year.