We are now one full week into free agency and I thought it was a good time to take a look at where the Rangers are at as a team and in what directions they may look to further improve the team. To date, the Rangers have traded high-priced Center Scott Gomez to the Canadiens in a six player deal that landed the Rangers Forward Christopher Higgins and defense prospect Ryan McDonagh (a former 1st round pick of the Canadiens). The Rangers also signed UFA’s Donald Brashear to replace Colton Orr as the team tough guy and goal scoring but injury prone Marian Gaborik. In addition to losing Orr, the Rangers saw Nik Antropov flee to Atlanta. Two former Rangers Defensemen, Derek Morris and Paul Mara, are still looking for teams though it is still possible the Rangers bring one back.
Here is what the Rangers have under contract to date:
Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, Chris Higgins, Sean Avery, Donald Brashear, Aaron Voros, Pat Rismiller, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle
Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal, Matt Gilroy
Ryan Callahan, Lauri Korpikoski, Nik Zherdev, Brandon Dubinsky
The Rangers have roughly $8.5 million to re-sign their RFA’s and add a back-up goaltender, likely a re-signed Steve Valiquette. Complicating matters is the fact that both Ryan Callahan and Nik Zherdev have elected arbitration making it harder to guess what their salaries might be next year. In fact, Zherdev is said to be seeking as much as $4.5 million in arbitration; a figure the Rangers would surely walk away from. Dubinsky and Korpikoski have little leverage but coming off another campaign of at least 40 points, Dubinsky is sure to receive a sizable increase from his $635,000 salary. Korpikoski earned more than $1 million and can’t expect much of an increase from that.
Depending on what happens with Zherdev will determine how much the Rangers have left under the cap. If he wins an arbitration award more than the Rangers are willing to pay and the team walks away then that would probably leave the Rangers with about $4 million of available cap space after signing their other RFA’s. Looking at the roster, the Rangers could certainly use another offensive-minded forward (with or without Zherdev) and a veteran defenseman. Here are some of the players who could fit that mold.
Mathieu Schneider - a former Ranger who could help on the Power play. At 39, Schneider doesn’t have a lot left in the tank but he helped Montreal after a mid-season acquisition.
Sergei Zubov – Another former Ranger, Zubov is one of only two active players from the 1994 Stanley Cup winning Rangers (the other being Alexei Kovalev). Zubov missed most of last season after a similar hip injury and surgery as Gaborik went through. He would also provide a veteran mentor to the young Ranger blue line and a boost to the power play. Looks more and more likely that he will leave Dallas and the rangers have been rumored as a potential landing spot.
Paul Mara – I really liked the job Mara did last year. The Rangers brought him back at a discounted price and Mara was a real leader. The one thing that sticks out to me is that every Ranger’s game I watched on TV, Mara was always the guy high-fiving his teammates as they came back onto the ice between periods. He always stood up for his teammates even taking on noted tough guys in fights. He can still contribute some offensively but is now more of a steady defensive defenseman. Could be brought back again at a lower price.
Derek Morris – Looked very solid after a deadline deal with Phoenix brought Morris to the Rangers. Morris never developed into the potent offensive force from the blue line that was expected earlier in his career but nevertheless can move the puck and still has a good, hard shot from the point. If Morris is willing to play for less than half of what he earned last season then he could be brought back next season.
Robert Lang – Lang had 18 goals (8 on the PP) in an injury-shortened season. The 39 points he recorded in only 50 games would prorate to better than 60 points in a full season. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in Lang this off-season so he could be had for under $2 million and he would address a Center position that is a little light after the Gomez trade.
Mike Comrie – As recently as the season before last, Comrie recorded 21 goals with the Islanders. He is still only 28 but has been up and down throughout his career. He could represent a cheap gamble to improve the offensive output of the forward units.
Alex Tanguay – Has been a solid offensive producer over his career but injuries cut into his production last season. I doubt his price would fall into the Rangers budget.
Joe Sakic – I know he is expected to retire but I included him on this list because I thought as recently as a couple days ago that he would be a great fit on this team. With his leadership skills and the offensive acumen he displayed as recently as two seasons ago, Sakic could have been the ideal fit at C for this team. Whether he would have been willing to play for the price the Rangers could have offered or even if he would have been willing to play for an organization other than the Quebec/Colorado organization is unknown but it would have been fun to see. People may not remember but Sakic signed an offer sheet back in the mid ‘90’s with the Rangers; one that the Avalanche had a difficult time matching financially but one they are sure glad they did.
There you have it, some players that still could fit into the Rangers plans and fill some holes. What are your thoughts; did I miss anyone? Should the Rangers just focus on re-signing their own RFA’s and wait until later in the off-season or even until the trade deadline to add more? Talk to me.