Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather is like a kid in a candy store each July when free agents hit the market.
He’s got a knack for putting his faith [and checkbook] in the wrong name brands though and instead brought bubblegum busts to Broadway at overinflated expense. Wade Redden, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury are just a mere sampling.
The Rangers have roughly $22 million to dish out for salaries this summer but also some important restricted free agents they need to lock up before venturing out to make a splash in the unrestricted free agent market. While the recent increase of the salary cap to $64.3 million ,the Blueshirts still have some bloated contracts on the books that should be shed in order for serious investment in the future to begin.
Here are some Dos and Don’ts that Slats should keep in mind come July 1.
Do lock up restricted free agents Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Michael Sauer. Dubinsky and Callahan are a perfect second line tandem. They also represent the blue collar future of the organization. Sauer wasn’t always noticeable last season..in a good way. The rookie seemed to blend in and protect Lundqvist’s net seamlessly while throwing his weight around.
Don’t give up on restricted free agents Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov just yet. Although perhaps less pressing, both forwards have potential to get the puck in the net. Boyle has the right physical presence while Anisimov seems to click with Dubinsky and Callahan. If they can be locked in at the right price while leaving room for future deals, go for it.
Don’t discount the value of veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko. The unrestricted free agent (a $1 million cap hit) was a sparkplug at times last season and really embraced the “grind it out” mantra. A second serving could be in order.
Do set the captain on a new course. Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News does a fine job explaining [in English] what the Chris Drury buyout situation fully entails. Waivers, salary cap, no movement clauses, injury reserve and all. In a nutshell, no matter what, Drury won’t be hitting the ice in blue come October. The over paid and injury plagued captain hasn’t been able to live up to his $7 million salary bestowed on him.The Rangers should still be able to pursue Richards regardless of whether he’s bought out now or sent to the curb later. (Next summer he becomes an unrestricted free agent.) “If the Rangers buy out Drury, they will save $3,333,333 against the 2011-12 salary cap, including this summer’s offseason cap. If he is medically precluded from being bought out, his $7.05 million charge will apply all summer, but the Rangers will be allowed to exceed the regular-season cap of $64.3 million by that much once he is placed on LTIR at the start of the season.” – Daily News
Do whatever it takes to get defenseman Wade Redden’s yearly $6.5 million cap hit off the books. He spent last season in the AHL, so finding a taker will be difficult. But teams below the salary cap floor might be willing to take a chance on the veteran. The Florida Panthers took Brian Campbell off the Blackhawks hands via a trade last week. So it’s not impossible, just highly unlikely. Insert unhappy smiley emoticon.
Don’t waste any money resigning Bryan McCabe. The unrestricted free agent veteran acquired in a trade last winter was unimpressive on the power play and not particularly utilized on defense either. His minutes paled in comparison to the Staal/Girardi duo.
Do consider making a go at unrestricted free agent defenseman Tomas Kaberle. The 33-year-old could bring a touch of experience and offense to the blue line. He didn’t always look particularly comfortable after landing on the Bruins via a trade, but shined in the playoffs en route to the B’s Stanley Cup. A shorter term, non-Redden esque deal is worth a try.
Don’t lose sleep over restricted free agents Matt Gilroy and Steve Eminger. Neither defenseman was consistently impressive or given the trust of Coach John Tortorella to keep a spot in the lineup. Gilroy’s hefty $1.75 million contract just can’t stay on the books despite his jump in play during the playoffs. Set ‘em free to shine elsewhere.
Do prioritize getting a first rate center with skillful hands to get sniper Marian Gaborik and the power play going.
Don’t expect Brad Richards to be the answer. Throwing the 31-year-old — on the heels of a concussion and one awkward head hit away from an altered career — a long term, front loaded, overblown $6 million contract has déjà vu written all over it. He had respectable numbers last season, 28 goals and 49 assists in 72 games. And also won the Conn Smythe trophy under John Tortorella when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup back in 2004. But can he handle the offensive-playmaking weight that will be thrust on his shoulders in the Broadway spotlight? As Ranger fans well know, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. A less risky and shorter term deal would be the best scenario but the most unlikely to achieve landing the most prized center this free agent summer has to offer.
Do invest in youthful starpower. If giving up some prospects, a piece of the core cake and some moola meant stealing restricted free agent and phenom forward Steven Stamkos right from under Tampa Bay’s nose, do it. He’s the kind of young forward of the future who can take the hits (i.e. returning to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final after his nose got smashed by a speeding puck) that would be worth the cash. Next summer, buzz names like Patrick Sharp and Capitals’ winger Alex Semin become unrestricted free agents. While risky in his consistency and tendency to take bad penalties, Semin is another promising scorer the Rangers should keep on their radar and keep cash stashed under the pillow for.
Do keep eyes peeled for some scoring depth on the wing, especially if it’s possible to unload the invisible Wojtek Wolski. Perhaps sign Hurricanes’ Jussi Jokinen or make a run at Flyers’ Ville Leino on the cheap. Keep fingers crossed that it doesn’t turn out to be a Frolov or Zherdev experiment gone awry.
Don’t lose patience. The kids are alright. Ranger fans appreciate the hardworking, homegrown products that are now the core of the team. Keep developing the youth while shopping for the right skilled hands to man the top line.
About the Author
Written by Margaret DeJesus
I'm a recent college graduate looking for a dream job covering hockey. I've been watching the New York Rangers since my grade school days of VHS and Gordon Bombay's "ducks fly together" speech. While studying journalism at Boston University (COM '10), I wrote for the Daily Free Press, the student newspaper. I worked two summers at the Staten Island Advance, my hometown newspaper, writing city news and features. I've also written CD reviews for Music-Reviewer.com. One of my favorite gigs was interning for hockey analyst extraordinaire Stan Fischler covering the Boston Bruins and attending all their home games in the 2009-2010 season. (Yes, including the crushing defeat against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference playoffs.)