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Rangers Early Offseason Update

Posted By Dan Rakusan On Jul 16 2009 @ 6:09 pm In New York Rangers | 4 Comments

Well Rangers fans, where do we stand?  It certainly has been an interesting offseason so far, although there's still plenty of moves left to make, even for a team closing in on being cap-strapped…

Let's take a look at some of the roster moves made, both incoming and outgoing…

Rangers trade Scott Gomez to the Habs along with Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto for Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Doug Janik and Pavel Valentenko:  On the surface, this looked like a cap-positioning move by the Rangers in order to get into the Dany Heatley sweepstakes, but after their offer was laughed off of Bryan Murray's desk, they found themselves with cap space to utilize elsewhere.  More on that later…  Gomez was a player I'd have liked to retain, but it is unlikely that there was the same kind of market for Chris Drury, who I would have rather seen let go.  In my opinion, Chris Higgins will fit in very well with the Rangers, who need a capable scorer on the wing in the event that Nikolai Zherdev takes a walk.  Ryan McDonagh is a player I believe will develop into a very good defenceman, and might someday be paired with Marc Staal.  A former 12th overall pick, McDonagh has a well-rounded skillset that could see him develop into a powerplay mainstay, or conversely, into a big-time shutdown role.  Time will tell on that.  Janik and Valentenko are both likely to either play in the AHL, or in Valentenko's case, in the KHL.  I don't see them as impact acquisitions.  NOTE:  Higgins has been re-signed for one season at a reasonable cap hit of $2.25M.

Rangers sign UFA Marian Gaborik to a 5 year, $37.5M contract: As everyone knows, Gaborik is a bit of an injury concern.  This is no secret.  However, he and his agents claim his mid-season hip surgery has been extremely successful, meaning Gabby might last a full season.  This kid has superlative talent, but was somewhat stifled in Minnesota under Jacques Lemaire's uber-defensive system.  This kid replaces the speed lost in the Gomez trade, while adding far more potential offensive upside, especially as a goal-scorer.  I have to say that I'd have preferred to see Marian Hossa come to Broadway, but this is a close second.  It will be interesting to see if John Tortorella's far more offensively-oriented system (ie – vertical attack) helps Gaborik develop into the superstar he is capable of being.

Rangers sign UFA Donald Brashear: With the loss of tough guy Colton Orr, to the godless Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers needed to find a new police officer.  There are very few guys in the NHL who are as feared among enforcers as is “The Don”.  Brashear might not contribute much outside the proverbial ring, but when the gloves come off, there aren't many who do it better.  The issue here will be to see if the Rangers can forgive and/or forget about Brashear's cheap, late hit on Blair Betts in the playoffs last season.  The blindside elbow knocked Betts out of the series with a broken orbital bone.  Perhaps this explains why Betts hasn't been re-signed to this point?

Rangers sign UFA Ales Kotalik: Kotalik comes with mixed reviews.  Many Buffalo fans have told me he is an extremely frustrating player to have on your team because he possesses good size, good skills and a lazy attitude.  My response to them has been that if he wants to be lazy, he'll quickly be benched by Tortorella the way Zherdev was in the playoffs last year.  Kotalik has a booming shot, which will be helpful on the powerplay – a particularly obvious weakness of the Rags last season.  However, will he be able to play up to his overall potential and take on a first or second-line role?  This will depend on his attitude.  My feeling is that with increased ice time, he'll start to play the way he does for the Czech National Team.  I could see him putting up around 50 points in his first year in New York, and potentially more in the subsequent 2 years of his contract, which carries an annual cap hit of $3M per season.

Rangers re-sign Ryan Callahan to a 2 year contract: At a reasonable $2.25M per season, Callahan could see his role with the team expanded dramatically after his breakout last year.  He put up 22 goals and 40 points last season, playing largely on the third line.  He was one of the few bright spots on the Rangers in the playoffs, as he never took a shift off and played with a lot more vigour than most of his teammates.  Although he is a smallish forward at 5'-11″ and 190lbs, he plays well in physical situations, and is a strong forechecker.  Perhaps a more offensive role would suit his skillset better than a checking role, but he's a viable option for the third line should he not be able to handle more minutes.

Rangers trade Lauri Korpikoski to Phoenix for Enver Lisin: While Korpikoski was a decent plug on the fourth line for New York, I really like the potential of Lisin.  When he was drafted, he was considered one of the fastest skaters in his draft class.  Since then, Phoenix bench boss Wayne Gretzky has commented on his speed many times.  Couple his raw speed with the fact that he outscored Korpikoski (13g 8a in 48 games compared to Korpikoski's 6g 8a in 68 games) and I fail to see anything negative about this trade.  Lisin should get a chance with the Rangers this season, and possibly even on one of the top two lines.

Rangers Linked To The Following In Various Rumour Mills:  Dany Heatley (ugh), Sergei Zubov, Brad Richards (yeah, right!).

Players still un-signed, who should be retained:  Brandon Dubinsky, Blair Betts, Nikolai Zherdev.

I'll have more about the Rangers' offseason soon, including a look at the prospects drafted.  For now, we can only say for sure that the Rangers will be a very different team from the one that petered out in the first round against the Washington Capitals.  That can only be a good thing, right?

DR

czechmate@sportsfiend.ca

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