Heading into this off-season, the New York Rangers find themselves in quite good shape when compared to the last few summers. The Rangers must establish a true first line in order to justify their investment in Marian Gaborik, whose disappointing 2010/11 campaign could have been attributed to injuries and lack of chemistry with players around him. He will, and must, look to regain his form found in the previous seasons.
Brad Richards is the only marquee free agent on the market when it comes to offensive players. Richards, 31, is the number one center the Rangers need if they would like to take their development one step further. The mentality of the Rangers’ youth movement is nice, but they need top line talent to win. Unfortunately, this top line talent does not exist anywhere in the organization outside of Marian Gaborik. Pairing Richards with Gaborik and Wojtek Wolski would give the Rangers a top line. Wolski is a question mark on that line, but given he gels with talented players we could see him have a breakout year.
The Rangers have two players in Chris Drury and Sean Avery who are both primed for buyouts. The Rangers cannot endure one additional season while carrying Drury’s 7+ million cap hit. They need to spend their money elsewhere in order to improve the club. Drury’s 3.7 million buyout hit will give them additional flexibility. When it comes to doghouse player Sean Avery, it does not make sense for the team to keep him around, unless he can reclaim past success, which is doubtful. Avery’s role with the Rangers has seemed to disappear and he has turned into more of a liability than anything else on the ice. Cutting his salary cap hit almost in half will give the Rangers an additional $1 million in spending money. In order to bypass buyout ramifications, the Rangers could also send Avery salary to Hartford, removing it entirely from the cap as well.
When it comes to other players on the free agent market, there is only one forward I would not steer clear of. Jamie Langenbrunner is a forward, who if used in a 3rd line role, could prove valuable to the club. The Rangers should take a long look at Langenbrunner. Despite his age, a team needs a few veterans sprinkled in if they want to find any type of success. Jan Hejda, a veteran defenseman from Columbus, can also help the Rangers if paired with youngster Micheal Del Zotto. The Rangers have had interest in bringing Hejda in for several years via trade with the Blue Jackets, but were never able to make a sensible deal. Now that Hejda is a UFA, a one or two year deal may make sense.
Stay: Anisimov, Boyle, Callahan, Christensen, Dubinsky, Fedotenko, Gaborik, Prust, Stepan, Wolski, Eminger,Girardi, McDonagh, Sauer, Staal, Biron, Lundqvist
Go: Avery, Drury, Prospal, Gilroy, McCabe
Your 2011-2012 New York Rangers
Salaries calculated through CapGeek and are noted in parenthesis next to the player’s name.
1st line: Marian Gaborik ($7.500m)- Brad Richards ($6.750m)- Wojtek Wolski ($3.800m)
2nd line: Ryan Callahan ($3.975m)- Derek Stepan ($0.875m)- Brandon Dubinsky ($3.975m)
3rd line: Jamie Langenbrunner ($2.300m)- Artem Anisimov ($1.350m)- Mats Zuccarello ($1.750m)
4th line: Brandon Prust ($0.800m)- Brian Boyle ($1.225m)- Ruslan Fedotenko ($1.250m)
Scratches: Erik Christensen ($0.925m) and Chris Drury ($3.716m)
1st pairing: Marc Staal ($3.975m)- Daniel Girardi ($3.325m)
2nd pairing: Ryan McDonagh ($1.300m)- Mike Sauer ($1.505m)
3rd pairing: Jan Hejda ($2.500m)- Michael Del Zotto ($1.087m)
Scratch: Steve Eminger ($0.650m)
Starting: Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875m)
Backup: Martin Biron ($0.875m)
Salary Cap: $62,500,000
Cap Payroll: $62,284,167
Cap Space (23-man roster): $215,833
[Note from Greg Caggiano] Even though Joe and I disagree about Brad Richards, I must say this looks like a decent line-up, or at least more so than last season’s. The three free agent moves he has made here are realistic and certainly not out of the question, though fans may be wary in bringing in another ex-Devil in Langenbrunner. But out of all three moves, I like that one the best. The players that he let go I agree with, though I would have added Christensen to the list.