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.