Nice win for the Blue Shirts tonight! The King was awesome, Gabby got a goal and the Rangers played a pretty solid game on home ice. But guess what, I don’t buy it. It was only 1 of 82 games that will be played this season; the Rangers have struggled for much of the season and have little reason to believe things are going to change drastically despite tonight’s success.
The time has come to accept the FACT this is a lost season and to prepare for the future. Look around Rangers fans: the Devils just acquired Kovalchuk to go with Parise and Brodeur; the Penguins have Crosby and Malkin; and the Caps have Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green and Semin.
The Rangers, as currently constructed, cannot compete for the Stanley Cup. Worse yet, there are no players attainable that the Blue Shirts could even hope to acquire that would make them Stanley Cup contenders this season.
So what should the Rangers do? The Rangers need to carefully analyze what they currently have, realize that they are not likely to compete for a Cup and build the roster for future Cup runs.
Rebuilding is generally viewed as a negative state for a professional franchise to be in. However, in this case, the Rangers would be best served to approach the coming offseason as if they were in a rebuild. They have several difficult decisions to make and if they (Glen Sather or his successor) have the guts to make those decisions, then the Rangers have a chance to quickly turn things around. Maybe even as soon as next season.
First and foremost, the Rangers have to create cap space. As it stands, they are close against the cap with only a couple of contracts coming off this summer as UFA’s (the newly acquired Olli Jokinen and Vinny Prospal). The Rangers have Chris Drury, Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival combining to suck up over $18.5 million in available cap space. Unfortunately, those players are performing well below their commensurate salaries.
As it stands, the Rangers have 15 players under contract and only $10.74 million in cap space for 2010 - 2011. With the deficiencies on the current roster and severely limited cap space, the Rangers don’t have many options to improve their roster this offseason.
Perhaps the best way to create cap space is via the buyout. If the Rangers were to buy out both Wade Redden and Chris Drury this summer the Blue Shirts would add another $9.6 million in cap space for this summer’s free agent frenzy; giving them just more than $20 million overall. For the 2011 – 2012 season, the Rangers will save just over $7.5 million on their cap as a result of the buy outs and have roughly $18 million available depending on the salary cap.
This may enable the Rangers to go into this offseason and address some of their weaknesses. The Rangers could certainly use an offensive Center…or two, and a physical, defensive defenseman. Can the Rangers possibly address their weaknesses with their potential cap savings? Let’s take a look.
Here are some of the players I would like to see the Rangers look at via free agency in the summer of 2010 with more than $20 million to possibly spend.
Tomas Plekanec C – Plekanec is a 3 time 20 goal scorer that has been more of a playmaker this year in Montreal. He has 15 goals and 58 points in 59 games this season to date. He will be an UFA this summer after signing a 1 year, $2.75 million deal this past year. I have heard from some Hockeybuzz readers that Plekanec might possibly like to play on Manhattan next season. If true, Plekanec may become the perfect Center for Marian Gaborik. My guess – 5 years and $20 million
Anton Volchenkov D – Volchenkov has been ½ of Ottawa’s best shutdown defensive pair for the last couple seasons with Chris Phillips. He enters UFA for the first time in his career and could cash in from a team looking to add a player of his ilk. The Rangers are a team looking for a physical defenseman just like Anton. My guess – 4 years and $14 million
Olli Jokinen C – Jokinen will be a surprise re-signing by the Rangers. He has had a couple of bad seasons which will affect his market value and the Rangers will use that to their advantage. Jokinen , who has a goal and an assist in 3 games as a Ranger, will experience some success on Manhattan and will feel good skating on the same ice with Gaborik et al. My guess – 4 years and $14 million
Derek Morris D – Morris finished the 2008 – 2009 season as a member of the Blue Shirts. He signed as an UFA with Boston and has had a solid season though Boston has not experienced the same type of success as they did last season. Morris will likely be available again on a 1 year deal which makes the Rangers a possible destination on the cheap. My guess – 1 year and $2.75 million
Re-Sign Vinny Prospal LW – Prospal has had some success after signing as an UFA following his buy out from the Lightning. He might be amenable to signing another short term deal for a low salary as a result. My guess – 1 year and $1.75 million
Re-Sign Dan Giriardi D – He has had his struggles but partnered with the right guy, Girardi can be effective. He is smart and can move the puck. Offensively he has some ability. My guess – 2 years and $3.5 million
Re-Sign Marc Staal D – Staal has the potential to be a top notch defensive defenseman. He has good size and I still think he has untapped offensive potential. It may take time for his full potential to be realized but it should happen here in New York. My guess – 3 years and $7.5 million
These additions will put the Rangers in this position:
Prospal – Plekanec – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Jokinen – Callahan
Avery – Anisimov – Lisin
Christensen – Boyle – Prust
Del Zotto – Volchenkov
Staal – Girardi
Morris – Gilroy
Notice Rozsival is out of the top 6? Demoting him would save the Blue Shirts $5 million on the salary cap. The additions and re-signing s would account for about all of the hypothetical $20 million in cap savings I mentioned earlier but the additional $5 million would allow for the Rangers to extend both Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky while also keeping some cash set aside for adding players for the playoff run in 2010 – 2011.