For the many faithful readers (maybe 2 or 3 in all) of my blog posts I apologize for not reacting to the monumentally critical signing of RW Ales Kotalik by the Rangers immediately upon the announcement. If this addition doesn’t guarantee a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals then I don’t know what else Glen Sather can do as President/GM. This is the player who will set up for Gaborik and cure our power play woes. Kotalik is the total package and to get him for 3 years at the stunningly low cost of $3 million per just goes to show how much the allure of playing in New York serves to attract the marquee names. What a beautiful addition by the genius that is Glen Sather.
OK, enough of the sarcasm; for now at least. I purposely took several days after the signing before putting pen to paper. My initial reaction was one of stunned confusion. I couldn’t validate signing this guy at that price considering we will now likely be forced to either walk away from the arbitration award for Nik Zherdev or find a willing trade partner for his services. Retaining him and re-signing our other RFA’s (Lauri Korpikoski, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan) will put us well over this year’s cap ceiling. In a separate blog post on Islesnet, I have already highlighted some reasons why I thought bringing Zherdev back was a good move; even at a higher price. For those of you who missed that, I will compare and contrast Kotalik’s and Zherdev’s numbers over the last 4 seasons to articulate why I think retaining Zherdev would have been better than signing Kotalik.
2005/2006 82gp 25g 37a 62 pts 10ppg
2006/2007 66gp 16g 22a 38pts 3ppg
2007/2008 79gp 23g 20a 43pts 12ppg
2008/2009 75gp 20g 23a 43pts 9ppg
2005/2006 73gp 27g 27a 54pts 10ppg
2006/2007 71gp 10g 22a 32pts 3ppg
2007/2008 82gp 26g 35a 61pts 7ppg
2008/2009 82gp 23g 35a 58pts 4ppg
The bottom line is this:
Zherdev has outscored Kotalik in goals (86 – 84), assists (119 – 102) and total points (205 – 186) over the last 4 seasons combined. Nik Zherdev was also a +6 finishing with the 2nd best +/- rating on the Rangers last year. Ales Kotalik has never finished a season with a + rating. Kotalik has produced more power play goals (34 – 24) over the last 4 seasons than Zherdev. Kotalik has been more of a threat on the power play than Zherdev but Zherdev has demonstrated that he may be a better 5-on-5 player given his higher +/- rating.
On the surface, Zherdev’s slightly higher offensive production may not be worth the extra dollars it would take to sign him. He has been reportedly asking an arbitrator for $4.25 million annually. Kotalik’s salary of $3 million may even look like a bargain by comparison. Here’s my take on that though; Zherdev is only 24 and has room to improve further. Kotalik is already 30 and we’ve likely seen his best. At best, Kotalik is a 60 point scorer while Zherdev has the ability to put up 80 or more a season.
So the question I ask is this: why did Sather sign Kotalik at the likely cost of losing Zherdev? I think that Sather was angered by Zherdev’s asking price and the veiled threat of Zherdev walking away to the KHL. Sather also may be hopeful that a Kotalik reunion with former Sabres’ teammate Chris Drury may spark something in both players. Kotalik and his big shot will certainly be an asset on our pitiful power play; something Zherdev was not last year.
All-in-all, this move makes me wonder if Sather actually has a plan in place. If he does, how much is he deviating from that plan? Some of his moves seem to be more reactionary instead of visionary. For a team that is light on offense already to likely walk away from a 24 year-old, potential 80 point scorer in favor of a 30 year-old power play specialist whose ceiling may be 50 points a season over maybe $1 million or so, is bad business in my opinion.
I’m willing to give young defensemen; Matt Gilroy, Mike Del Zotto, Bobby Sanguinetti, Iikka Heikkinen and Mike Sauer a shot at cracking the top 6 this year before we go looking for more help there. Hopefully two of the above named are ready to contribute at the NHL level. As nervous as I am about not having a true #1, playmaking center for Gaborik, I am also willing and looking forward to seeing Artem Anisimov and Evgeni Grachev get their shot to crack the forward ranks. The signing of Kotalik though just doesn’t seem to fit into what the Rangers are doing and still need to do.
Sather has had plenty of time to re-shape this organization in the image that he sees fit. Every year he rolls the dice on high-priced free agents and so far has rolled snake eyes every time. Granted, the organization has loads of young players with the potential to be solid NHL players; something that wasn’t the case when he took over. If this year’s moves (Brashear, Gaborik, Kotalik and Higgins in while allowing Mara, Antropov, Betts, Orr, Sjostrom and Gomez to depart) don’t pan out then it should be time for a change at the top.
P.S. I have been invited to also blog for the website Islesnet which is a site dedicated to all things Islanders. However, the site is looking to expand its reach and asked me to provide a voice for the Rangers. I couldn’t help but take the offer. My plan is to blog on the Rangers, of course and to extend the heated Islanders/Rangers rivalry to this website. I will also be blogging on all sorts of NHL related topics.
The writing on the Islesnet site is first rate if I do say so myself. My counterpart and I are both active bloggers interested in more than just our own favorite teams so I think this will be a good pairing to provide quality, entertaining blogs for you the readers. Please check out the site at http://islesnet.blogspot.com
and tell me what you think.