I could never understand how teams made bold trades or adjustments when they were on top of the league. When Claude Julien got dumped by Jersey a few days before the playoffs I laughed. When the Rangers moved Mike Gartner to the Leafs at the deadline in 94 I cried ( well a little) . But the truth is sometimes these head scratchers become huge chess moves in capturing the Cup.
The Rangers are sitting on top of the east ,but not all is rosey ( no pun intended) on Broadway. The Blueshirts gave up a league worst 7th short handed goal last night. The team continues to rely on the Vezina performance of Henrik Lundqvist to win games. Despite its 3rd- ranked team D ( last night) has some questions on the blue line in Rozsival. The 29 year old Czech defenseman is a -11 and has become the new Marik Malik in acting as the Garden's whipping boy. After two horrible plays on the line vs. Boston last Saturday his hands tightened up and the puck rolled over his stick,leading to a shorthanded Boston goal. The fans have made it know early that his performance is not acceptable. The irony is that Wade Redden was supposed to be the target on the line,but has continued to better his game. If the Rangers are smart ( and aren't already) they need to start shopping Rozsival now. The worst thing they need is 18 thousand scouts in the crowd decreasing his value every home game. Michal has had some great goals in NY ( OT playoffs vs. Buffalo) but maybe the loss of his fellow Czech mates has taken a slight toll on him. Could it be that he is feeling the affects of singing a 4 year $20 million dollar deal? Either way if a team is willing to listen ( Ottawa & St Louis) maybe it's time to let him go. The sad part is I like Rozi and think he's quite the serviceable D-man when on his A game. But the fact remains that the club has too many cap issues coming on soon,and his 5 million a year is expendable.
The play of Paul Mara definitely deserves a contract extension. I wouldn't go crazy but two years at 2.5$ could do the trick. Mara has been vocal on the ice every night and sits at a +3 this season. His leadership in the Locker room has steadied Marc Staal and he has stepped up his toughness,trying to take on the void left by Jason Strudwick's departure to Edmonton. If they can move Rozi,giving Corey Potter a few months on the line to prove his worth is all they need. The big Michigan native looked liked he belonged on the team in Sept,and has tailed off in Hartford. Yet, sometimes talented players need to play with better talent to show their worth.If Potter falters a little bit,the Rangers will have some cap room to bring on the much needed grit they still sorely lack. Maybe theres a chance John Davidson would be willing to listen to offers for Jay Mckee. Mckee would have another year left on his deal at 4 million per.The Rangers are going to need every penny if they are going to look at extending Marc Staal,Brandon Dubinsky,and Nik Zheredev. Plus, they will have young defenseman ready to add to the mix in the next few years ( Saguinetti,DelZotto,etc).
Not only will be resigning their own players be an issue,but protecting their own current assets are a must. Lundqvist takes a lot of abuse in the crease and their is no excuse for it. The club needs to add grit and attitude they lost when Avery signed in Dallas. They need it on the blue line and they need another forward who can shake up an opposing bench. Voros despite his 7-5-12 performance has dipped down to a -2 and may be coming back down to earth. Wild fans said that he would have dips in performance and that is one thing a winning team can not afford. Despite his issues on and off the ice,Sean Avery rarely took a night off of work. If the team loses the king to an injury from an opposing player,it will fall on the managements shoulders. Maybe the club is holding its breath for just a few more weeks until Sundin makes his final choice. If he's ready to play for the Rangers,it should help the power play and take much needed pressure off their blue line. Sundin is a beast around the net and some of the kill will be diverted to containing his game down low. As for the cap problem, one may have to decide if Scott Gomez's 7 million is enough to cut the cord on (3-1 with out him).On the other hand they may have to wonder if Dubinsky's drop in play is just another growing pain worth the gamble of a big money extension with a surplus of centers in the midst.
If the Rangers want prevent a drastic collapse like Ottowa last year it may be time reinforce the fort now.