For the New York Rangers this afternoon, history repeated itself, because the last time they played on a Super Bowl Sunday, they won on the same day that the New York Giants and New England Patriots squared off in one of the most memorable football games in recent history, four years ago. With the atmosphere in New York swelling around the big game on February 3, 2008, the Rangers headed up to Montreal where they got off to a very slow start, falling behind 3-0. But very quickly, the game started to turn around, and the Rangers made sure that the Giants were not the only New York team to win that day. After goals by Michal Rozsival, Brandon Dubinsky, and Scott Gomez to tie the game after two periods, the Rangers then went ahead and steamrolled the Canadiens in their home building (an extreme rarity) with two third period goals, scored by Chris Drury and Martin Straka. The feeling we felt after this game was complete elation, because Montreal’s arena had (and still has) always proved to be a House of Horrors. The happy feeling would only be eclipsed for Giants’ fans later in the day, as they defeated the Patriots, ending their incredible undefeated season.
On the heels of the tremendous successes the New York Rangers have witnessed with Donald Brashear and Derek Boogaard in the past two seasons, they are determined to add yet another enforcer, with the signing of Mike Rupp this afternoon. Rupp, a 30-year old fighter, has signed a three-year deal worth $4.5 million. Fans will remember him, not for his fighting ability, but for the fact that he seemed to score a goal every time he faced the Rangers while a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. If this is a case of “Can’t beat em? Sign em!”, then I am elated with joy. After all, it worked so well with Chris Drury.
I am not going to rip this deal, however, because he comes on the cheap, can fight and hit, and even chip in a goal here and there, with more regularity that any other enforcer the Rangers have brought in. According to TSN, ten teams were going after Rupp this afternoon, and the Rangers were the high bidders. Lucky us. From Joe Aiello: “I love how we win all these bidding wars. We are like the spoiled rich kids.”
If Rupp can somehow find a way to net five to ten goals and protect Gaborik and Lundqvist, like Boogaard was brought here to do, then it will be worth it. Overall, if you are waiting for a blockbuster deal from the Rangers, keep in mind that Gomez, Drury, Redden, and Gaborik were also signed after 6pm EST if memory serves me correct. The Rangers have a habit of waiting until the early evening to make a splash, so stay patient.
In 497 career NHL games, Mike Rupp has 49 goals and 40 assists for 89 points. He has also racked up 656 penalty minutes.
Say what you want about Glen Sather, but at least when he makes a mistake, he also makes it disappear. In recent years, the New York Rangers have been plagued by enormous contracts that have detracted not only from the team’s play, but their maneuverability with the salary cap. Regardless of what Sather can accomplish in his remaining years here, he will be remembered for five things: Jaromir Jagr, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Michal Rozsival, and Wade Redden. Of those five, only one had positive implications, while the other four served to cripple the team’s ability to find cap space. But over the last three seasons, the Rangers have found a way to deal with them. Gomez was shipped to Montreal for prospect Ryan McDonagh, who had a breakout rookie campaign this season. Rozsival was dealt to Phoenix this past year for Wojtek Wolski, who the Rangers have confirmed will not be bought out. And of course, last September, the worst contract of them all came off the books, when Redden was banished to the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford.
Drury has remained the last of these, even as his play seemed to deteriorate with each passing season. But today, we have learned that the Rangers plan to buy out the final year of his contract. This decision was proposed, and expected, by most of the fan base over the last year or so, and now it will finally come to fruition. This transaction will still cost the Rangers some money, but it will free up even more, and also frees up a roster spot that can go to a free agent acquisition who will hopefully have some offensive talent. To my knowledge, the Rangers do not have a budding center prospect who is ready to come in and play this season.
Now, Drury’s tenure in New York was not all bad, by any means. In his first two seasons, he put up exactly what his career averages suggested he would do. 58 and 56 points, respectively, were right in his neighborhood, as were the 25 and 22 goals. However, because fans have a habit of expecting players to double their career highs when they put on a Rangers’ jersey, he was going to be a failure no matter what, especially with a team struggling to score goals. He was a victim of circumstance as much as he was a victim of his own play, which saw him sink down to only 14 goals and 18 assists in the 2009/10 season. This past year was muddled by injuries, and he recorded only 1 goal in 24 games. Although supposedly a great leader in the locker room, and we know of his great defensive ability, there was just no reason to keep him around any longer, not with a $7 million cap hit.
According to CapGeek’s buyout calculator, the Rangers will be charged $1.6 million both this season and next, while saving $3.3 million this season, and losing money next. Even so, this adds to the Rangers cap room that they will need if they want to pursue a upper-tier free agent such as Brad Richards this summer.
I am happy to see this move in the works, though I admit it is unfortunate it had to end this way. I remember July 1, 2007 like it was yesterday, and was elated when I heard the news the Rangers were getting both Drury and Gomez. I was upset that Michael Nylander could not have been retained, but it was not going to matter. The Rangers were finally going to move into that upper echelon of teams. Four years later, my, how wrong we all were. I wish Drury all the best, and hope he will find a job with another NHL team.
Other than a stay at home defenseman, the New York Rangers will be looking to add a number one center at this season’s trade deadline. There are three names that come to mind with who the Rangers could acquire, two of which should be very familiar with you by now, if you have been following the online rumor mills; Brad Richards on Dallas or Paul Stastny on Colorado seem to be Glen Sather’s top targets, while the Rangers should not rule out winger Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers as a possibility, because let us remember, Sather only trades with familiar teams. But first, let’s take a look at the dilemma facing the Rangers, and that is which ever center they acquire will be set up for disaster.
It is not easy to succeed in New York, we all know that, but with such a testy and skeptical fan base of late, maybe the Rangers should just wait until the summer to make their move. We cannot forget Scott Gomez, who the Rangers traded two summers ago, to Montreal, a move which allowed the Rangers to afford signing Marian Gaborik. In Gomez’s first season as a Ranger, he scored 16 goals and put up 54 assists for 70 points. First line center numbers, wouldn’t you say? What did the fan base do? Booed. The next season, Gomez struggled and scored less, but still scored higher than his career average with 58 points. What did fans do then? Booed even louder. Granted, his contract was anything but appealing, but still, Gomez did exactly what he had been doing his whole career, but because Rangers fans cannot get it through their heads that players do not automatically score three times their career average after signing here, whoever the Rangers get will be doomed to fail, regardless of how they play. That said, here are the Rangers three most likely options for center:
Brad Richards (UFA after this season, 2010/11 salary: $7.8 million)
We all know that the Rangers want to bring Richards aboard, just like we all know there have been trade talks between the two teams. Because Dallas seems to want half the Rangers farm system in exchange for a player that we know is not going to sign there next season, talks were stalled. However, if the Rangers properly call their bluff, they can have him for cheap. I would offer Christensen, Gilroy, Grachev, and a 2nd round pick: take it or leave it. Gilroy is expendable, Grachev has not impressed, and Christensen needs a psychiatrist, so I would say the Rangers win that deal. Richards is the only center that can come to this team and spark right off the bat, because he is a star (he may even be able to jump-start Gaborik). As long as his concussion is not a serious issue, I think the Rangers will find a way to acquire him. Don’t be fooled, the Rangers will find a way to manage their cap space and rob Dallas.
Paul Stastny (Current contract: four more years, cap hit $6.6 million)
Because of the amount of money and years on his contract, I think the Rangers would stay away. There was a rumor last week that the Rangers wanted Stastny and Liles, but plans fell through. The Rangers would have had to add more than $10 million in salary with that deal, so I would say it is either one or the other. While Stastny is an upgrade over every center the Rangers have, because of his age, he would command a lot more in terms of youth (probably what Dallas wanted originally); I would not even know what to propose, even if just for fun—it’s a tricky situation.
Winger Option: Ales Hemsky (Current contract: one more year, cap hit $5 million)
Let me start off by saying that the only reason I even mention him is because I need a third player to throw in this preview, and because Sather has ties to the Oilers and loves reclamation projects. Hemsky is a walking injury who has never played a full season (he’s been in the league since 2002) and is coming off a year where he played only 22 games. Granted, he has been decent in his last few seasons, in regards to points-per-game, but would you really want him on a line with Gaborik? The Rangers would have to bring back Tie Domi for protection and hire an on-ice maid to sweep away the glass and bone chips. Hemsky would be fresh meat the minute he donned a jersey, and fans would never let him hear the end of it. But there is a bright side, he and Gaborik could keep each other company in the hospital.
Honorable mention: Keith Tkachuk
Just for nostalgia’s sake, what would a deadline be without a Tkachuk rumor?
All in all, the next two days should be a lot of fun, with the deadline coming at 3pm on Monday. You will notice I have made no predictions this year, just suggestions, because my accuracy rating usually comes in at about 10%, religiously every season. I do not see the Rangers just standing pat, even if it is the right thing to do. Sather is working on something big, it is just a matter of it falling through or not.
Tomorrow, free agent frenzy will be upon us. Because my birthday is on July 2, that day is usually either a very happy, or very sad occasion depending on where Glen Sather spends his money.
Four years ago, just two days later, I was thrilled with the signing of Brendan Shanahan– a belated gift. But just a year later, I received a pre-birthday gift of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, something I loved at the time but soon became a nightmare. Then last season came Gaborik, which I was so-so on. Either way, there is always some kind of movement.
I will always remember this plea I made for Brian Rolston two years ago, which was when I was in my earlier stages of writing (just take a look at my projected lineup– it’s laughable!). I’ve since moved on, and although Rolston has been pretty much a bust with the Devils, I will always remember how badly I wanted him.
Below are five signings (and rejections), including re-signings, that would make me very happy on my birthday:
Bringing Back Our Own
Marc Staal: The young, cornerstone defenseman of the franchise has reportedly turned down a very fair offer of four years/$3.5 million. His agent is Bobby Orr, and no doubt he is pumping him up to the extent that he will expect a contract Sather will never give out. Last season, during the Dubinsky holdout, the beat writers took both sides, but this time, everyone is on Sather’s side, which is a rarity. The Rangers need to bring him back, but they should not have to break the bank doing so. Sather will not budge from that offer, and if Orr and Staal have any brains at all, they will accept it.
Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust: These two players epitomized exactly what the Rangers were missing for the majority of last season. The Rangers got a fearless spark-plug in Prust, and a veteran, no-nonsense fighter in Shelley. Both were excellent in their roles as fourth liners with Artem Anisimov as their center. It is clear that Tortorella likes them both, so I have no doubt they will be back in Ranger blue. Shelley is also an amazing guy in the locker room, and the Rangers need to have some personality.
On the Fence
Dan Girardi: The Rangers have also reportedly offered Dan Girardi a contract. It is too bad he is restricted, because I really would not mind seeing him walk. At the same time, he was solid down the stretch and can play sound defensively in big spots. Put it this way, I would like to see him back, but would not shed a tear if he was given an offer sheet and signed elsewhere.
Vaclav Prospal: Although I predicted the Rangers would bring back Prospal, something tells me he may not be back. He was clearly the bargain of the season last year, making only $1.1 million. But he deserves a pay raise this year, and the Rangers may want to invest their money into a different player. If he were to sign with another team, I would thank him and wish him all the best because of what he did last season, but I would not be sad to see him go.
Anders Eriksson: For a player that was considered an old, career minor league scrub when he was signed, Eriksson was one of the reasons why the Rangers played so well down the stretch last season. He stepped in for a shaky Matt Gilroy and all of a sudden the defense clicked. Was it all due to him? No, but he definitely had a calming influence on the young defensemen. I would love to see him back, but if there is a more physical option out there for a seventh defensemen, I would want them to take that.
Go Get ‘Em Slats
Martin Biron: The Rangers number one priority this off-season is getting a backup goaltender that can be relied upon to free up Lundqvist’s ever-increasing workload. Despite a horrible season last year with a horrible team, Biron has always been solid (not great, but as a backup he would not need to be great) and should Lundqvist get injured, he could easily step right in and take the starting job. He could be had real cheap, and I think it would be a mistake to not sign him.
Sheldon Souray: This would require a bit of creativity, but I think Sather, the trade maestro can get it done. I believe the Rangers are content with what Rozsival brings to the table, and given the salary he is making in his final two contract years, they will most likely keep him. However, if, and that is an enormous if, the Rangers can persuade to the Oilers to take Redden, then it would work. Souray is disgruntled with his situation and often injured, so the Oilers will deal him this summer. I would bet a million dollars if I had it. Why would the Rangers want an always-injured Souray, you ask? Because him on one leg is better and more fun to watch than Redden.
It’s Possible, But Not Likely
Ilya Kovalchuk: Who wouldn’t want a perennial 40 goal/80 point player to sign with their favorite team? Although it is technically possible for the Rangers to afford him, it is highly unlikely that they can do so unless they shed some serious salary, which is easier said than done. Kovalchuk will not cost $10 million per season on the cap that was once speculated, more like around $8.5 million. I believe he will go to Los Angeles, but if he is there for the taking, and the Rangers have the maneuverability, then by all means, I hope they sign him.
Just Say No
Johan Hedberg: Rangers fans have this thing about Hedburg that I cannot explain. After browsing through various hockey internet forums, I would say that he is the top choice among fans to be the team’s backup goalie. This could be attributed to his past success against the Blueshirts. But if Hedburg becomes a Ranger, mark my words, by December we will all be saying, “He killed the Rangers every time he played them, now he’s on the Rangers and he kills them every night.”
Anton Volchenkov: If Rangers fans think Redden and Rozsival are useless, just wait until Sather doles out $5 million+ to get a player that all he does is block shots and hit. Granted, the Rangers desperately need to get physical, but there are a lot more cheaper options out there. Hell, I would rather see Brent Henley on the Rangers defensive corps next season than Mike Komisarek clone.
As you can see, I do not project the Rangers making many moves. The one big name player they might have had interest in, Patrick Marleau, has already re-signed with the Sharks. Other than Kovalchuk, there is not a player on the market that can turn this team into a contender. The Rangers should just focus on resigning their own, and bring in one or two small contracts. There is no use wasting the money on older players, or younger reclamation projects that Sather is known for undertaking.
Just a quick little post before the weekend comes. I highly recommend that you all check out the USA Today Salaries Database, that covers all four professional sports, and each team and player individually since the 2000/01 season.
For years before the lockout it was always the talk of the hockey world that the Rangers led the league in total payroll and accomplished nothing. People have seemed to forget about that factor once the league switched over to a salary cap.
This is really nothing groundbreaking, but as I was searching through the database today, I saw that the Rangers once again led the NHL in total payroll in the 2009/10 season with $63.880 million. The Ottawa Senators were right behind them, while the New York Islanders were at the bottom of the league with $31.615 million.
The Rangers, in fact, have finished top four in payroll every season since the database was created in 2000.
2000/01: $56.887 (1st)
Highest paid player: Brian Leetch ($7.680)
2001/02: $64.793 (2nd)
Highest paid player: Pavel Bure ($10.000)
2002/03: $76.477 (1st)
Highest paid player: Pavel Bure ($10.000)
2003/04: $76.488 (2nd)
Highest paid player: Bobby Holik ($8.850)
2005/06: $41.474 (4th)
Highest paid player: Jaromir Jagr ($8.360; Rangers paid $4.000)*
2006/07: $45.050 (3rd)
Highest paid player: Jaromir Jagr ($8.360; Rangers paid $4.000)*
2007/08: $56.705 (3rd)
Highest paid player: Scott Gomez ($10.000)*
2008/09: $66.064 (1st)
Highest paid player: Wade Redden/Scott Gomez ($8.000)*
2009/10: $63.880 (1st)
Highest paid player: Chris Drury ($8.050)*
*Takes place during the cap era. Denotes actual salary and not cap hit.
As you can see, the Rangers have been forever throwing money around. Funny how the smaller the payroll, the larger the playoff success. For such a powerful franchise, you would think ownership would have degrees in economics.
Although technically the Rangers were in it from start to finish, they never really had a chance as they were severely outplayed by the Montreal Canadiens. The final score of 3-1 does not accurately display just how bad the Rangers were tonight, who were out-shot 35-19.
The Rangers fell behind less than four minutes into the first period on a powerplay goal by Glen Metropolit. Other than that, it was a very boring and uneventful period. The Rangers would tie the game in the second on an early goal by Sean Avery, his third in the last two games. The Rangers would also get out-shot 18-5 in the middle frame and never had an offensive flow.
The Canadiens would score the go ahead goal and seal the deal when Sergei Kostitsyn scored with traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist, who ended up not even with his feet in the crease when the puck entered the net. An empty net, shorthanded goal by Tomas Plekanec with just over thirty seconds to go would cap off the scoring for the evening.
With six seconds to go, Avery and Gomez would go at it and Avery would end up being penalized five minutes for slashing. This will be reviewed by the league and he could end up with a suspension. Scratch that, he’s Sean Avery so he will get a suspension.
This was a very important game for the Rangers, especially since the 8th place Boston Bruins won tonight, moving three points ahead of the Rangers. That will make Sunday’s matinee matchup all the more important.
The Rangers next game will be a home game against the St. Louis Blues. The Rangers need to take a good look at themselves here and figure out a way to get two points. Rangers also need to play every game like a road game, because they try too hard to put on a show at home and fail to get enough shots through. On the road they seem to have no problem in that department.