There is no doubt the Rangers took a step backwards in 2012-2013. Glen Sather shook up the entire team with many offseason moves last summer. As we saw they were moves that destroyed team chemistry and divided a locker room. Now add in the shortened season because of the lockout and it spelled disaster for the Rangers from top to bottom. John Tortorella lack of patience and brutally honest nature caused emotions to fly and productivity to diminish. From the failure to manage two top scorers in Gaborik and Nash to added pressure on Callahan and Richards to keep the locker room together. We saw young players like Kreider and Miller Struggle to stay in the lineup because of a short leash for growing mistakes. After a season that brought us to the conference finals and being on the verge of a Stanley cup birth, the Rangers became a team who struggled to make the playoffs. Because of this the Rangers are now in need of many moves this offseason to get back the steps they lost last year.
The firing of Tortorella was only the beginning for the offseason for the Rangers. Moving forward the Rangers need a coach who can manage a locker room, keep his stars producing, find power play success and talk to the tough media in New York. Finding a suitable coach is obviously number one on the Rangers list of needs. So here are five keys to the Rangers offseason besides a suitable coach.
1) Buy Out Brad Richards
There is no question Richards is past his prime. At approximately 6.6 million a year and an old 33 years of age his time in New York should be over. His point production has drastically dropped and he is no longer a player who can quarter back a power play. Richards could not fulfill his role as a number one center to play with Gaborik or Nash this past season. A play making top center is crucial to play with a top scoring winger in the NHL today, and Richards can’t fill that role. With a buy out the Rangers can save 6.5 Million a year in salary cap room. Add that to the current 13.5 million of space and the Rangers will have 20 million to play with this offseason.
2) Trade Away Depth Players
Darrel Powe and Taylor Pyatt were brought into New York to fill the vacancy left by departing players like Dubinsky, Anisimov, Fedotanko, and Prust. After one season in the big apple it was clear these two players could not fill that
void. Darroll Powes role with the rangers was minimal at best this season. A healthy Derek Dorsett should be an upgrade over Powe this coming season. Taylor Pyatt on the other hand was given every opportunity to succeed in New York. Torts had Pyatt in every role possible and at the end of the day he did not deliver. If Glen Sather is able to work a miracle trade to unload these two contracts, for a minor league prospect or even a bag of pucks the Rangers could add an additional 2.5 million in cap space.
3) Resign Key Ranger Free Agents
Three players the Rangers must resign are Ryan Mcdonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin.
First Mcdonagh proved he is a top 10 D man in the league this season. With the uncertainty of Marc Staals future Mcdonagh is a necessity for New York. He is a first line shut down D man who has shown he can also add moderate offense. His pure skating ability alone makes him a stand out defenseman.
Second Stepan had a breakout season in new York. While filling the role of top line center Stepan registered 18 goals, 26 assist for a total of 44 points in all 48 games this season. He then added 5 points in 12 playoff games on a team that needless to say lacked the ability to put the biscuit in the basket. Stepan can play in all situations of the game and fill any role needed by his team. The way Callahan and Stepan seemed to gel is great news for the Rangers and Team USA in the future.
Third Hagelin is a player that should breakout with the firing of Tortorella. His speed is undeniably top in the NHL and with this speed he can change the outcome of any game. His added scoring touch and ability to play with top players like Callahan and Stepan make him a must sign for the Rangers. With Tortorell gone a relaxed Hagelin should have a big year for the Rangers.
4) Sign Ryane Clowe
At 30 years old and a proven power forward in the NHL, Clowe will be a great addition for New York. When Clowe was healthy in his short stay in New York, he fit in great on the opposite wing from Rick Nash. His size, scoring ability and presence on the ice took a ton of pressure off of Nash. It was not hard to see how comfortable Nash was alongside of Clowe. For that reason alone Clowe deserves a contract with the Rangers.
5) Sign Mike Ribeiro
Finding a number one center to play with Nash is a must for the Rangers. Look at all the top scoring wingers in the league and they all have a top playmaking center to play with. Mike Ribeiro season in Washington proves he can still play. Just imagine Ribeiros fantastic hands setting up Nash streaking down the boards. Not only will Nash benefit, but the entire depth of the Rangers center position will shift. Stepan will move to the second line center which will take a lot of pressure off a young player. Derick Brassard can center a talented third line with the ability to pop in a timely goal. Brian Boyle will move to where he should be from the start. A forth line center to eat minutes, grind the corners, score a goal here or there and kill penalties. Mike Ribeiro will make the Rangers a deep team at the center position.
6) Honorable Mention
Mats Zuccarello proved to be a far better player than his first time in New York. He grew up became stronger and looks like an NHL player. He could fit in great on a third line to provide scoring depth for the Rangers.
2013-2014 Rangers Lineup
Line 1 Nash Ribeiro Clowe
Line 2 Callahan Stepan Hagelin
Line 3 Zuccarello Brassard Kreider
Line 4 Dorsett Boyle Miller/Asham
Defense 1 Mcdonagh Girardi
Defense 2 Del Zotto Stralman
Defense 3 Moore Staal/Eminger
Goalie 1 Lundqvist
Goalie 2 Biron