After a two year absence in the playoffs the Hartford Wolf Pack have made some moves that will solidify their roster and make them a threat in the Northeast Division this season.
The Hartford Wolf Pack have made some signings that will definitely make them a contender. The Pack will have a new reconstructed roster and a reconstructed XL Center. The XL Center is well into it's 35 million dollar upgrade and the Pack have been busy upgrading their team.
The Wolf Pack have added depth and some scoring punch. The last two years had injuries and inexperience to blame but the New York Rangers have bolstered their overall roster with proven veteran talent and that will trickle down to the Wolf Pack this season for sure.
Chris Bourque has been signed to play in Hartford this year after he spent last season playing in Europe. Chris Bourque is a point per game player in the AHL, he has AHL and NHL experience and if and when the Rangers suffer an injury he will be there to help them in their offensive game. His brother Ryan was just resigned, Ryan Bourque just hit the 20 goal mark in the AHL last season. The Pack could be looking at two Bourque's who put the puck in the net consistently. The two brothers should bring Hall of Famer Raymond Bourque back to the XL Center to watch his sons. Ryan Bourque may be a choice for team Captain as well. We can expect some gritty and exciting scoring plays from these two this season.
Chris Mueller was signed by the New York Rangers after he just finished playing for the AHL's Calder Cup. He helped the Texas Stars win it all last season. Mueller has played in almost 50 NHL games and he has toped the AHL 20 goal mark three times in his career. A solid Wolf Pack veteran center and a potential depth call up for the New York Rangers.
Nick Tarnasky looks like a replacement for Michael Haley who signed with San Jose last month. Tarnasky has 245 games in the NHL including 297 penalty minutes. He has 715 penalty minutes in the AHL. There is always a physical part of the game and Tarnasky will be a Wolf Pack player who will be expected to protect team mates in games that turn physical.
Both Dov Grumet Morris and David LeNevue had tremendous stints with the Wolf Pack last season. However neither will be returning to the Wolf Pack this season. Veteran goalie Cedric Desjardins will be one of the workhorses between the pipes. Desjardins has over 100 AHL wins and has had a handful of games in the NHL. Desjardins will give the Wolf Pack the veteran leadership it needs in net. The team decided to sign a new veteran goal tender and the plan looks like it will be to bring up a goalie from the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors. The Wolf Pack tried to use their younger goaltender prospects last season but neither of the three, Jason Missiaen, Scott Stajcer, or Jeff Malcolm were deemed ready to handle the net at the AHL level. Desjardins will assure that what happened at the beginning of last season wont happen again. The Pack had three young goaltenders and the team play suffered as they tried to adjust.
The good news is last season in Greenville all three Ranger goaltender prospects hit a .91 save percentage and all three also had goals against averages under three. Malcolm played the most (27Gms) then Missiaen (21 Gms) both goalies played over a 1000 minutes in the ECHL last season. Stajcer played in eight games for Greenville last year. I think we will be seeing Missiaen to start the season as Wolf Pack back up goaltender but it is a long season and someone else could be holding that spot later.
The roster for the Wolf Pack is not complete but the core is there and I believe we are looking at a well balanced AHL roster, one that we could definitely imagine making an appearance in the second round of the playoffs. We won know the final roster till after training camp but the Rangers have definitely looked for depth after falling short in the Stanley Cup Finals, that depth will go along way to helping the AHL Wolf Pack and the team's quest for the Calder Cup.