*Disclaimer: The following is a purely hypothetical and fictional re-creation of the summer of 2008. It is unknown to me whether any of that summer’s UFA’s that I bind to the Rangers now would have signed with New York then for the same terms which they signed with their actual teams.
It seems to me that the wrong Glen was in charge of the New York Rangers in the summer of 2008. Instead of Glen Sather maybe Glen Miller would have been a better option to be in charge of doling out rich, free agent deals. Hell, Glen Campbell might have worked out better than Sather did.
The Rangers entered that summer with much to do. Among the many Blue Shirts headed into the uncertainty of UFA were Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Michal Rozsival, Marek Malik, Marty Straka and Sean Avery. It was unclear which, if any, Sather would try to re-sign.
Regardless of who was brought back, many pundits felt that the Rangers would still lack a good puck-moving defenseman; the type of guy to quarterback a good PP. There were many good candidates on the open market that summer but Sather reached for Wade Redden, formerly of the Ottawa Senators, to fill that niche.
Redden had fallen out favor in Ottawa due to inconsistent play. He had been an All-Star in Ottawa before the lock-out but had struggled to perform at that level since. Sather, who must have believed that he knew better than anyone else, scooped up Redden for the low price of $6.5 million per for 6 years. I can’t imagine any other GM would have been so foolish but there was Sather, chomping at the bit to get this one done.
So what has Redden done in 1 ¼ seasons on Broadway? In 102 games, Redden has exactly 31 points and is a -3. He has contributed just 2 goals on the PP. He isn’t even considered one of the Rangers top blue liners. One word describes Redden’s tenure on Manhattan; BUST!
With fan favorite Sean Avery hitting the market and not willing to play for what Sather was offering, the Rangers dipped into the UFA market to add marginal NHL’ers Aaron Voros and Pat Rismiller each on multi-year deals for $1 million per each. Voros and Rismiller each bring size and…….and……well and nothing. Rismiller is in Hartford while Voros is reduced to playing paper, rock, scissors with Donald Brashear before each game to see which one of them sees the ice that day.
Sather then decided it would be wise to retain one of his own. So did he bring Jagr, who was still a force offensively, back to the fold? Nope. Well then Slats must have brought leader, all-around-good-guy and still effective PP performer Brendan Shanahan back, right? Wrong again. No, Slats decided that Michal Rozsival needed to be a Ranger for the next 4 years. Ok, not bad; Rozsi had performed pretty well in New York. What did Slats pay him, $3 million per, maybe $3.5 million a year? Try $5 million…….a year……for the next 4 years. Ouch!!!
After blowing most of the Rangers cap space, it become pretty obvious that the Rangers wouldn’t have room for Jagr since he wanted to be paid like on of the best players on the team; which he was. That would have put his price tag in the $6 million - $7 million per season range since that is what Sather had given Centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury the year before. No, Jagr would have to move on.
That’s alright, Sather has a plan!! Markus Naslund BABY!!! Yeah, that’s the ticket, Markus Naslund. Sure he struggled the last few years in Vancouver; watching his point totals drop in successive years. But all he needed was a change of scenery. He will recapture his 30 goal a year days here in New York. Well, not quite. How do 24 goals sound for $4 million? Fortunately, Naslund retired before this season started or else Sather wouldn’t have had the money to have signed Vinny Prospal.
The one thing that Sather did get right was re-signing Paul Mara to a 1 year deal worth $1.95 million. Mara played well on Broadway and was a relative bargain at that price. He stood up for his teammates physically and was solid defensively.
Ok, I realize that hind-sight is 20/20 and I don’t have any proof that I didn’t like these moves when they were made. You’ll just have to trust me. I hated the Redden signing, thought that we overpaid for Rozsival, liked the Naslund signing ok (though I wasn’t jumping up and down about it, I thought he could get back to 30 goal production) and was neutral on the Rismiller and Voros signings. My neutrality was based on ignorance; I hadn’t seen either one of them play much before. You see, I wasn’t getting paid to see them and know if they were any good or not; that was Glen Sather. Sather thought they were worth $1 million each; he was wrong.
Here are the names of some UFA’s from that summer whom the Rangers did not sign:
Mark Streit – signed on the Island for 5 years at only a $4.1 million cap hit. He has 11 points this season a year after finishing up with 56 points and a +6 rating on a last place team. Sound like a bargain for that price? Would you rather have Redden or Streit right now?
Matt Cooke/Jarkko Ruutu – both of these guys play the type of styles that Sather envisioned Rismiller and Voros playing; aggressive fore-checking on the 3rd or 4th lines. Voros and Rismiller hit the Rangers for less ($2 million combined) than what Ruutu and Cooke account for ($2.7 million) but would you rather have 2 productive NHL’ers for the extra $700,000 or two stiffs taking up room in Hartford or in the press box.
Matt Walker – signed for one season in Chicago and for Tampa this season is a +7 in 18 games. Is a big physical guy that would have negated the need to sign Dmitri Kalinin (whom I left off the list above). Good 6th defenseman.
Cory Stillman – signed a 3 year, $10.6 million deal in Florida. If the Rangers really wanted some scoring, instead of Naslund they could have had Stillman. The veteran winger had 49 points in only 63 games last season (about 63 points over a full schedule) and has 13 in 19 games this year (56 points in full season). Obviously, the Rangers would have had to fork out more money over the life of the deal and Stillman isn't a stud but at least Stillman is producing decent numbers in the NHL versus playing for free in Sweden.
Rob Blake – I don’t think he would have come to New York as I think his preference was to stay on the west coast. However, for the same $5 million cap hit as we committed to Rozsi, the Sharks got 45 points and a +15 rating from Rob Blake. The best part is that he would have been a UFA again after the season so the Rangers could have gotten that cap space cleared for a run at other players this previous off-season. Instead it was tied up in Rozsi and forced Sather to find a sucker (Bob Gainey) to take more dead weight (Scott Gomez) off of our hands in order to have the resources to land Gaborik. Can you imagine if we also would have had Rozsi’s $5 million too?
Those are just some of the players that could have helped out the Rangers more than what Sather invested in. The two that absolutely kill me and the Rangers’ payroll flexibility are the Redden and Rozsi deals. Those guys get paid like top blue liners but are being outperformed by several younger defensemen on the roster. What a waste of resources.
Alright, forgive me for regretting the past; I’m sure most of us do the same whenever we see Redden or Rozsi cough the puck up to an opposing forward or we see Streit pop a goal against us. Hopefully Sather and the rest of the Rangers’ management see enough in the current group of kids to prevent them from going down the perilous UFA road this next off-season. It’s looking a lot like we won’t have the cap space available to do much anyway. Unless Sather does something smart; then he will have the room to do something stupid all over again.