As much fuss is made about how young the New York Rangers’ defensive corp is, very rarely do we ever stop and look at just how young they really are. While this is definitely the correct step towards future progress, because the old man on last season’s team was Steve Eminger at a decrepit 27 years old, the Rangers, at times, were affected by the youth on the back-line, which was expected by the coaching staff. While endless glaring errors were avoided—the players seemed to learn from their mistakes very quickly, with the exception of Michael Del Zotto—there was a desperate cry for a veteran defenseman later in the season. The Rangers brought in Bryan McCabe who was a very average acquisition, and while I would have kept him around this season at a cheap price, he will not be returning to Broadway.
So once again, the Rangers find themselves needing that veteran presence on the blueline, one that can be a seventh defenseman to come in and give the younger guys a breather, and to mentor the rookies and other youngsters still in the learning process. Below is a list of defenseman who will/might be on the Rangers next season. The first four are players who are a lock, while the next five players have a chance for those final two spots (I do not consider Gilroy a lock, because I do not think he will be back at all). It also gives their age as of today, and below that is the average age of the defensemen:
- Dan Girardi: 27
- Marc Staal: 24
- Michael Sauer: 23
- Ryan McDonagh: 21
- Matt Gilroy: 26
- Steve Eminger: 27
- Michael Del Zotto: 21
- Tim Erixon: 20
- Pavel Valentenko: 23
- Average age: 23.5 (Holy sh*t!)
After witnessing the amount of old players the Rangers brought in the past, this is refreshing and will even put a smile on your face. However, if the Rangers hope to actually go far in the playoffs, they will need some stability. Not that bringing in a seventh defenseman will guarantee playoff rounds, but it will help guide them for the future. The one player out there that I would bring in for that is someone who we know can do it, because he has done it in the past for this very team, and that is Jason Strudwick. Before you laugh, keep in mind that Marc Staal was his defensive partner for the majority of the 2007/08 season, and I would surmise that his tutelage worked out rather well.
Strudwick would be brought in to play only about 30 games, and he will be even more valuable off the ice than on it. We all remember how good he was with such a young team after the lockout, almost like another coach out there in the middle of a game. He could also wear the alternate captain’s “A” (like he did in 2005/06), because he brings more leadership to the table than anyone else. He also would not be stealing the spot of a rookie. Because he would be only a seventh, the other two spots can be taken by younger defensemen out of camp, which I believe will be Tim Erixon and Michael Del Zotto, who will be given another chance. Gilroy will most likely not be qualified and Eminger will not be brought back.
The Rangers also need to consider cost here, being that they will be strapped for cash trying to lock up Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Artem Anisimov, while wanting to bring back Brian Boyle and add one or two upper-tier free agents. Strudwick made only $725,000 last season, and I think that would be a fair price to offer him for this year. We know he loves New York and we know he can handle mentoring young players, so why not bring him back another time?