By Joe Aiello
Heading into the 2010/11 season, the New York Rangers must look to a new philosophy when re-evaluating their team. Given quotes by head coach John Tortorella and Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld, this looks to be the case. The Rangers must finally cut ties with disappointing defenseman Wade Redden. Freeing up his $6.5 million cap hit will allow the club to add additional pieces so they can take a step in the correct direction. I have said this from the beginning that Redden will not play in the AHL, but I can see him being put on loan to a team in Europe.
On the back-end Michal Rozsival is not going anywhere. Given the warranted praise he received by Tortorella at the end of the season, his jobs looks to be safe. Rozsival logs a ton of minutes and on a defensive squad, which is young, he plays an important role. Can a comparable defenseman that can log Rozsival’s minutes at a lower cap hit be had? I think not. I would not be shocked if some teams in need of a defenseman come calling the Rangers during the NHL Draft looking to make a trade. The Rangers will listen given cap implications, but they will not get rid of Rozsival for nothing.
Captain Chris Drury is going nowhere, Ranger fans. He does not deserve any breakdown, as he is impossible to move. I will say this; Drury will be a good captain on a young team. If there is anyone who threatens his power in terms of a veteran presence, his power goes up in flames. This is why Vinny Prospal will be playing elsewhere come next season. Prospal was a different player after his injury last season and the Rangers are looking to get younger. I would not count on him being back, even at a low price.
Expect restricted free agent defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to be back in Ranger blue. If the Rangers had any desires to cut ties with Girardi he would have been moved at last season’s trade deadline. The Rangers personnel envision a shut down pair of Staal and Girardi to be anchoring the Rangers defense for years to come.
Come the first of July, the Ranges must set their targets on three glaring needs. They must get a physical defensive presence, if Ryan McDonagh chooses he does not want to play in the NHL for the Rangers this season. Anton Volchenkov would be a perfect fit, but don’t expect it to happen. The must also sign a veteran backup that can easily handle twenty games. I fully expect Martin Biron to be the Rangers backup heading into next season. Have you fellows seen Johan Hedberg play last season? If you are calling for him to be a Blueshirt, then I imagine not.
Who the Rangers must sign come July 1 is rather obvious. In the NHL, a team needs a one-two punch to be successful. The Blackhawks have Kane and Toews, the Penguins have Malkin and Crosby, the Flyers have Richards and Carter. Well, the Rangers have Gaborik and nobody.
They must set their targets on Ilya Kovalchuk and sign him. His high cap hit will not have the grueling effects for years to come that some think. If Wade Redden is off the books then it is completely manageable. Chris Drury and Michael Rozsival come off the cap in two seasons and will combine for $12 million in cap room. Signing Kovalchuk will give the Rangers the one-two punch in Gaborik and Kovalchuk they have never had in recent memory. Given the young prospects that are on the rise in the organization, it could be the start of a turn around. The Rangers cannot afford to rebuild while in Henrik Lundqvist’s prime.
The Rangers need to fix their club from within the organization, but by adding a key scorer in Kovalchuk, can help anchor them towards the right direction. By re-evaluating their club and addressing major needs heading into the 2010/11 season, the Rangers can get back to respectability. Overhauling the roster by ten to twelve players season in and out is not the way to go. By adding on to what the Rangers have in a rather young core I expect next season to be met with better success than last.
[Editor’s Note by Greg Caggiano] This will be a new column from writer Joe Aiello who will be taking some of the load off of me by helping to cover the New York Rangers from here on out.