Ryan Reaves is stuck in Rangers limbo
So that’s four of the last five games in which Ryan Reaves has been a healthy scratch, and if head coach Gerard Gallant’s post-practice remark about liking his line combinations in Sunday’s win against Arizona hint, it will be five-for-six in street clothes for No. 75 when the Rangers open their four-game Western swing with Thursday’s game at Seattle.
And with the Blueshirts seemingly fully healthy with Vitali Kravtsov back on the ice after missing back-to-back weekends with dental issues, it raises the question of whether Reaves is on the endangered species list when it comes to managing to cut a forward from the roster in order to create immediate breathing room under the cap and, more critically, needed space at the deadline.
If the fragile Kravtsov — who has had four separate health-related absences with a total of 10 of the first 17 games can avoid another setback on this trip, general manager Chris Drury could be called upon to perform in the club’s Thanksgiving return from the West Coast.
Removing Reaves from the roster on Nov. 28 would save $1.125 million prorated (the AHL allowance) under the cap and create an additional $3.825 million in cap space at the March 3 trade deadline. That assumes no team would claim Reaves off waivers and he would join the wolf pack.
Reaves told The Post on Tuesday that he had “a brief conversation, very brief,” with the coaching staff about his role. After playing the first eight games, the winger has been a scratch in five of the last nine, averaging just 8:27 of ice time per, more than two minutes below last season’s 10:39 .
It doesn’t matter if one is top six or fourth, it’s a lot difficult for a 30-year-old player to play at maximum capacity with ice time to spare.
“When I was out of the lineup this week, I needed it to get back up to speed,” said Reaves, who went Nov. 3-12 without a game. “I felt like I had been slow, so I worked every day to increase my speed and confidence.
“I skated with a bag every day and worked every day [skills coach Mark Ciaccio]. I do extra work after practice, I work as hard as I can in practices that follow games where I haven’t played. This is necessary for me.
“But we’ve got a lot of bodies out there and I don’t know how it’s going to shake out.”
Gallant said he doesn’t like to build a lineup based on an opponent’s personnel, though he acknowledged that at least part of the decision to dress Reaves Saturday in Nashville was due to the Predators’ size and physical approach . The winger accepted Tanner Jeannot’s invitation to drop the gloves after plastering Ryan McDonagh on the end glass late in that third period.
“I want Reavo to be a good player every night and be a big part of our group and that’s what we asked for from Day 1,” said Gallant, who of course coached Reaves in Las Vegas. “Right now we’ve added a bit more speed to our group and when he’s not playing that’s probably the reason – to add more speed.
“When Reavo plays well, I love that he’s part of our group, a big part of our group.”
Julien Gauthier has hit some high notes in the eight games he has played since being recalled from the Wolf Pack on Oct. 26 while bouncing around the lineup. He carried the speed of the notebook ahead of Sammy Blais on the fourth line Sunday centered by Ryan Carpenter, while Barclay Goodrow moved into the top six to fill the vacancy created by Kravtsov’s absence.
Gauthier can play just one more game before being required to go back on waivers in order to return to Hartford. The winger came off the training ground but this impressive second look could spark a claim from a team in need. The Blueshirts may not want to take the risk.
Reaves has not scored a point. He has been on the ice for one goal in favor (in the opener against Tampa Bay) and six against. Still, there would also be a risk in removing Reaves from the equation.
While not necessarily a deterrent, there’s no doubt that his presence tends to encourage his more finesse-oriented, less physically inclined teammates. There’s also the leadership quality Reaves brings to the room, though the winger acknowledged his influence diminishes when he’s not in the lineup.
“To a certain extent, it is different. I’m not with the boys on game days. I’m not there to unleash them and bring that kind of energy to the forecourt,” Reaves said. “It’s a little different now.
“Going forward, I’m not sure how it’s going to work. It’s not my decision. I’ll stay ready and make sure I can contribute when called upon.”
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