UPDATE: Hat tip to the comments below for clarifying that Dubinsky didn't have arbitration rights. Apparently there is a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement based on age and years professional. Here is a little something to clarify.
The Rangers traded away their top line center in Scott Gomez with hopes that another center would be able to come in and skate with potent winger Marian Gaborik.
However, with no major signings or trades down the middle, the Rangers appear to be looking within to take over that spot.
So who on the current roster could fill that role?
It seems like only yesterday fans were clamoring on July 1st for centers and they got Gomez and Chris Drury in return. Today, they are scratching their heads as to what has become of the Rangers center ice position.
First, Drury does not fit the role of first line center. His speed is not the same as Gaborik's and his north-south style isn't necessarily of the play-making variety. Yet, between Chris Higging and Ales Kotalik, the Rangers have a very strong second line.
By this point, readers are asking themselves: What about Brandon Dubinsky ?
And that's a fair question: what ABOUT Dubinsky?
Isn't it a bit peculiar that the likely first-line center hasn't been signed yet?
There seems to be a couple scenarios to explain Dubinsky's situation. First, upon entering the offseason as a Restricted Free Agent, Dubinsky declined to go to arbitration, a classy move toward the organization. Most interpreted this as a devotion to the Rangers club and expression of just how much he wants to stay in the Red, White, and Blue.
Once Ryan Callahan signed, it seemed inevitable that Dubinsky would sign for a similar amount as the precedent had been set.
Has he? No.
So what's the holdup?
At face value, many speculate that his signing will be linked to Nik Zherdev's arbitration hearing tomorrow. Yet, the standard has already been set by Callahan, so where's the debate? Zherdev will likely get too high a ruling and the Rangers will walk away. I suppose hypothetically Dubinsky is waiting to try and squeeze more money out once Zherdev is gone.
Regardless, Dubinsky should be signed for about $2.5 million per season for two or three years, plain and simple.
Another scenario could be that the Rangers simply want to use Dubinsky to trade for a true top line center. It would seem to be an ill-advised decision, but depending on the return, may prove beneficial.
Or perhaps Dubinsky doesn't want to stay in New York. That's always a possibility.
Nonetheless, there is something going on that doesn't quite add up. And yes, there are upsubstantiated reports that the Islanders are trying to sign him to an offer sheet.
Back to the issue of top center. If we've ruled out Drury and Dubinsky is not yet a sure-thing, who are we left with?
Artem Anisimov, the burly Russian center, has shown the ability to score in the AHL, averaging better than a point-per-game last season. Could he skate beside Gaborik? Possibly.
Not much is known about Anisimov, but his brief appearance in the playoffs last year has led to some delving around the tri-state area.
Friends of Blueshirt Bulletin, NYRangersCast, recently sat down with Anisimov. And the local writers have all pegged him to make the big club.
But is he ready for the NHL? Yes. But is he seasoned enough to stay atop the front line? Not sure.
He has a lot to prove, but has shown the potential and skill to do it.
Of course, there are also trade possibilities (such as Larry Brook's campaign for Brad Richards), but nothing seems imminent on that front.
The most likely scenario at this point is that Dubinsky is signed and starts on the top line. Drury centers the second while Anisimov plays the third. But, hey, with John Tortorella, anything is possible!