It seems that the NY Rangers were mentioned as contenders in every big prize during the lead up to the Draft and the FA period. But it seems between the huge moves made by the Penguins and the Wild, the Rangers (along with most the rest of the NHL) were left debating on making passes at Shane Doan, rolling the dice on Alexander Semin and recently seem to have let the idea of Shea Weber pass by.
The Nash saga has reached a level of deafening quiet where you have everyone silently wondering what the hell is going to come of it. I can't see the teams interested in Nash trying to pony up scraps to get him. There had to be at least one or two deals on that table that warrant further discussion. Even if it doesn't send him to NY.
So what did the Blueshirts do? They signed Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt and Jeff Halpern.
Now, the talk of the Blueshirt Faithful is that the Rangers have an issue with offense. This is not true. Though they did have trouble in the post season the outcome of the regular season was more than admirable for a group whose average age is 26. They'll miss Gaborik for the first half but they didn't have Kreider last season and the kid looks poised to do great things. 20+ goal season this year for sure. And as far as lacking some offensive spark in the post season the Rangers STILL came within two victories of advancing to the Cup Finals.
The moves however, beg the question, "Why haven't the Rangers, who made a huge move last year with Brad Richards, made a splash this year?".
Put simply, it isn't necessary.
Most of the players who saw the team to the EC Finals are returning. No Prust, no Fedotenko, no Mitchell, but they were not integral cogs in the machine and are easily replaced with the likes of Asham, Pyatt and Halpern. I hate to be cliche, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. The Rangers organization has, in the past, gone after the big fish for no reason and blown up a great core of players to try and get a big gun. Not this time.
Sather has said that he will not dissect the nucleus of the team or trade away a young Kreider, Hagelin plus draft choices and a few more prospects for Nash. And he's right not to.
If the Rangers can get off to a good start and maintain a presence in the Eastern Conference for the first half of the season using Kreider in Gabby's top line spot they could be in great shape toward the second half to get playoff positioning and start gaining momentum for the post season.
If you play Richards on the first line with Kreider and Hagelin you have two quick wingers who can create space with Richards skills he could be an assist machine with the two young guys.
You put Halpern with Anisimov and Callahan and you have the same youngsters flanking vet dynamic but Cally and Halpern might get Anisimov some space or convince him to use his body more. Anisimov has shown flashes of being a player with a style like Jagr, strong skater with good hands but not too shy with the body, but really needs to assert himself as an offensive presence if he wants to remain at this level. Seems to slink back a bit. He needs to show the moxie he did when he did they "rifle" celebration after a goal.
Third you get Pyatt to center a line with Dubi and Stepan. I was impressed with Pyatt's play in the postseason for Phoenix and I'm eager to see what kind of effort he can bring to NY. If the Nash deal does go down everyone expects to see Dubi, Stepan or both going in the deal.
And on the back end you have the obvious Boyle between Asham and Rupp. Not much to say there other than Boyle seems to be more than just a fourth line center after his season and return from concussion in the playoffs. Rupp has had some flashes of offense, but I see these guys just grinding and getting some traffic in front for some dirty goals.
As the roster stands it doesn't have the flash of big names, but there is a good deal of talent and I can bet that we will probably see the likes of Christian Thomas filling a few slots for some guys if they are in good shape early on and have an injury. The kid is a bit small but so was Theo Fleury and he managed to score some goals and really piss off the competition. And his dad is Steve Thomas, which doesn't hurt. Beyond Thomas, the Broadway Blue have some other great prospects in their system and I'd hate to see them trade them all away to try and make up for a possible 20 lost goals in the front end of the season due to a recovering Gaborik. I'd venture to say the Rangers will have a hell of a forecheck next season and the shot blocking will continue. However, I see them spending more time in the opponent's zone. Shot blocking is only a piece of what makes this group something to keep together. During the playoffs last year they faced some huge challenges and found a way to overcome many of them and that is the kind of players you want. The kind that will dig down deep and come up with a little more when it seems they are all tapped out. Can't wait 'til October!!