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|25 января 2007
Rangers waive Kasparaitis // The Journal News
By SAM WEINMAN
The trade-off was apparent with Darius Kasparaitis this season. In the veteran defenseman, the Rangers had one of their most colorful characters, a bubbly dressing-room presence who bridged the gap between players of disparate backgrounds. But the team also had a 34-year-old player coming off two serious offseason surgeries, and who was set to make $3,268,000 this season, yet struggled to play the game with his usual tenacity.
The debate over the native Lithuanian's worth to the Rangers came to a head yesterday when the team placed its longest-tenured player on waivers, potentially ending his career in New York.
Most likely, Kasparaitis is headed to Hartford of the AHL, where he had completed a two-week conditioning assignment earlier in the season. Kasparaitis yesterday was already preparing for his return to the minor leagues. And some Rangers fans were already lamenting what they'll be missing in his absence.
"The only thing that concerns me is who other than (forward) Ryan Hollweg is going to take the body on this team. This team doesn't have a lot of physical players, but Kasparaitis had been one of them," said Rich Sampieri, a graduate student at Manhattanville College in Purchase. "That's what bothers me when I watch these games. They don't have many guys who take the body, and now without Kasparaitis, I don't know what they're going to do."
Since he was placed on waivers yesterday, Kasparaitis could be claimed by another team before clearing at mid-day today. But acknowledging his hefty salary, even he said that was unlikely. More likely, he will return to Hartford, and the Rangers will call up a younger defensemen such as 22-year-old Daniel Girardi in his place. The team returns from the All-Star break for a practice at 5 p.m. today.
"It hasn't been a fun year for me, but sometimes this is what happens," Kasparaitis, who had two goals and two assists in 24 games this season, said by phone yesterday. "I do believe in myself. I just need the support and a chance. I know they gave me that chance, but it's tough when you feel like every game could be your last. But I don't blame anyone. I guess in my career, things happen. Last time I was in Hartford, it made me work harder. And that's what I'm going to do."
While his outgoing personality has endeared him to fans since joining the Rangers in 2002, many acknowledge that Kasparaitis isn't the player he was during his prime. And for a team that is scrambling for a playoff spot, the move yesterday might have been a necessary measure.
"Kasparaitis' reputation had been one that if you came down on his lane,
he'd take you out," said Rangers fan John Thomas, 39, of White Plains.
"The last three or four years, he hasn't demonstrated that ability. Let's
face it: He was known to play the game hard, but I don't know if physically
he could keep up with the new NHL."