The Rangers have a habit of being able to sign any free agent they put their mind to. With Ilya Kovalchuk on the market this season, I figured they were going to make a beeline right for him, and sign who is perhaps the most skilled player to ever reach unrestricted free agency in NHL history.
Had they signed him, the Rangers could have had a core of Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc Staal, and Michael Del Zotto– a core that would have easily become one of the best in the league.
For the next four or five years, the Rangers would have had a chance at domination.
But instead, the Rangers chose to do nothing. The Penguins and Devils vastly improved their teams, the Eastern Conference champion Flyers stayed the same, and the Islanders have an abundance of young talent on the rise. The same can be said of the Rangers, but how often do their rookies actually pan out?
Plain and simple, the Rangers are wasting the talents of arguably the best goaltender in the world. They are sitting back and watching his prime slip away. With prospects such as Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider years away from development, the young players Dubinsky, Callahan, and Anisimov still not quite there, the Rangers are going to be a very good team in the future, but that future may include an older Henrik Lundqvist, one that won’t be as spry as he is now.
For the Rangers to make the playoffs this season, they are going to need a 30-goal rookie campaign from Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, and career years from the offensive trio mentioned above. But unfortunately, for Callahan and Dubinsky, I believe we have already seen all we are going to get from them.
If the Rangers go into October with this current lineup, it is not hard to envision a bottom-five finish.
It is easy to want to go into a win-now mode, but it is very hard to do. It takes years of prospect development, clever drafting, and even smarter free agent signings. The Rangers development is getting there, the drafting has been average, but the free agent signings are killing them.
But the signing of one player, Ilya Kovalchuk could have reversed that.
How many teams can sport two all-world players, capable of scoring 50 goals, and players who have never had talented centers and can do it all on their own? Not many.
Glen Sather may have recently said in an interview that he is “not done tinkering”, but who else is left out there? There is not one player available who can come into this lineup and lead them deep into the playoffs. The only player of high-caliber who the Rangers have ever been linked to is Brad Richards on the Dallas Stars, but by trading for him, would the Rangers really be better off?
Although it is speculated that Wade Redden will be waived at the end of training camp, it should have happened already. Not, “Let’s wait and see”, but right now.
During the dark years from 1997 until 2004, the Rangers teams were never very good, but had they been able to field a goaltender such as Henrik Lundqvist, they would have had a chance to make it. Before Henrik Lundqvist’s arrival, not one of the many goaltenders since Mike Richter were anywhere near what the team needed.
The Rangers waited almost a decade for a solid goaltender, after panning through the likes of Mike Dunham, Dan Blackburn, Jussi Maarkanen, Kirk Maclean, Guy Hebert, and many others not worthy of a mention. All those years of mediocre goaltending, but they still tried to stack the team with offensive talents, even though they did not pan out.
Now they have that goaltender, in his prime, and they are wasting it. They signed Gaborik last season and have called it a day ever since.
Waiving Wade Redden is a must, but in reality, does this team become a contender if he is gone? Personally, there probably won’t be any change in the end result, which will be missing the playoffs for a second season in a row.
I will give Sather the benefit of the doubt that he is not done toying with the lineup, but if he is, then the great fans of the New York Rangers will be in for another year of disappointments, one that will watch the great play of Henrik Lundqvist whither away right before our very eyes.