The Rangers have tried desperately to get younger since the lockout. A team mired in bad signings and overpaying for veterans, needed a spark and to breed from within.
While watching the Rangers the past few seasons, you have seen them do just that. Ryan Callahan, Petr Prucha, Henrik Lundqvist, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, etc. have all begun to establish themselves as NHL caliber players and homegrown Ranger talent.
A couple quick stats:
In 2006-07 the average age of the New York Rangers was 28.6. In the older half of the league, but still nearer to the half way average.
In 2007 - 08 the average age was 27.86. Nearly an entire year older, mind you this is with Straka, Jagr, and Shanahan on the team.
This year, the Rangers project to have an average age of about 26.39, more than an entire year younger and rank amongst the younger teams in the league.
See the trend?
The Rangers have gotten younger, but not at the expense of success! The team has competed each year while enduring the growing pains, and that is important.
If the Rangers can again be considered a top contender, they will have officially shed the bulk of their age while maintaining a top tiered status. There aren't many teams in the NHL that can say that.
Where could that be a downfall? If there isn't enough leadership, let's hope that Drury and Gomez can handle that.
In case you have been under a rock, here is the 2008 - 09 regular season schedule: http://rangers.nhl.com/team/app?service=page&page=TeamSchedule
Of course, by now you know the highlights, 6 divisional games instead of 8. Starting in Prague against Tampa Bay. Playing every team at least once.
So I won't bother to highlight games as everyone else has done at this point.
Now onto some observations:
Brendan Shanahan has come out over the past couple weeks and stated that he is a Ranger, he will only negotiate with the Rangers, and would not even consider another team until the Rangers tell him they can't sign him.
Now, this could be a lot of posturing and hope that the Rangers sign him, but let's be clear: the Rangers have too much respect for Shanahan to let him just hang on like this. If they couldn't fit him under the cap or weren't intent on signing him, they would have said, "thanks, but no thanks" and moved on.
Instead, GM Sather has said that Shanahan could still be part of the equation and left it at that. My guess is that Sather is waiting for the right deal to shed about $1.5 million in cap space.
According to NHLscap, the Rangers are over the cap by about $350,000. That includes Lauri Korpikoski, Aaron Voros, and Tomas Pock. Voros could very well end up in Hartford as could Korpikoski. Pock, I think, has seen the end of his days as a Ranger.
Where does that leave us?
Well, the Rangers have too many forwards so let's say that Korpikoski and Voros start in Hartford. That's $2,017,533 off the cap. Now take Blair Betts. Is there a place for him considering Dan Fritsche is now signed?
That's another $615,000 off the cap. The Rangers have just gone from being $350,000 over the cap to $1,668,148 under the cap. Enough to sign Shanahan for one year at $1.2 million.
What would the lines look like?
Naslund - Gomez - Zherdev
Dawes - Drury - Shanahan
Prucha - Dubinsky - Callahan
Sjostrom - Fritsche - Orr / Rissmiller
Could be quite a formidable lineup.
(Photo from Flickr/Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
If the season were to begin tomorrow, the Rangers are a drastically different team than last season. Over at The Hockey News, I spoke not too long ago about the possibilities going into Free Agency of the Rangers changing their culture and identity.
That clearly happened.
Assuming both Nigel Dawes and Freddie Sjostrom sign (since both are RFA's) and Dan Fritsche settles at or before arbitration, here is the projected roster:
Notice too many players? Well in fact the Rangers will still need to make some moves. Perhaps Aaron Voros gets sent down to Hartford, but I would think that the likes of Betts and Hollweg are probably going to be shown the door.
Who could they fetch for them? If they are able to move them for non-roster players then there still remains some free agents worth considering. Ladislav Nagy, unless I am missing something, is still unsigned and may be worth a shot as a second line winger. A less expensive option could be a player such as Mike York, who could play wing or center. If not via free agency, you have to think some teams are going to be willing to move players.
Tampa Bay seems to be over-stacked a bit. Could Jason Ward make a comeback on Broadway? I wouldn't mind that. Unless of course the Rangers could package for Martin St. Louis. Hollweg and Betts make a combined $1.2 million. Sweeten the deal with a Dawes or Prucha and you could free up another $1.5 miillion plus, making the deal swapping $5.2 in St. Louis for $2.7. Add a higher round pick and it could be interesting.
Other teams needing forwards include Chicago, San Jose, Calgar, and Anaheim. You could potentially swing a couple roster players for one in return.
Nonetheless, the Rangers still have work to do and with limited cap space. What do you forsee?
the Rangers make a great move? Unheard of!
In shipping Christian Backman and Fedor Tyutin to Columbus, the Rangers solidified a stud winger, extra forward and shed some salary cap space.
I was dissapointed to here that Brooks Orpik took less money to stay in Pittsburgh as opposed to coming to New York, but there are still several options available for the Rangers.
First, to solidify the defense, look at Jason Smith. A Flyer last season, the bruising defenseman could lead this squad as well as provide a physical presence. He could be a third pairing defenseman.
Also, now don't yell at me, don't discount Marek Malik. The reason I say such outlandish things is that he has a great breakout pass and without the pressure on him, since so much will be on Rozsival and Redden with their contracts, he could be a very effective second pairing defenseman.
His plus/minus may be slightly skewed and he very well could have worked himself out of any good graces, but it remains an option.
In the mix will also be Hartford standouts Andrew Hutchinson and Michael Sauer.
Now for the forwards, one (if not two) of the following forwards need to be signed: Jaromir Jagr, Markus Naslund, Mats Sundin, and Brendan Shanahan.
Personally, I would re-sign Jagr and be done with it. Then you could have the following lines:
Petr Prucha - Brandon Dubinsky - Jaromir Jagr
Nigel Dawes - Scott Gomez - Nik Zherdev
Dan Fritsche - Chris Drury - Ryan Callahan
Colton Orr - Blair Betts - Ryan Hollweg/Rissmiller/Voros
A very fast lineup. I still feel more moves are coming, my guess is Betts is next on the list considering that Fritsche is naturally a center.
More as it happens in Rangerland...
No confirmations yet. This could be VERY interesting. If so, I have been saying this would happen since January. Love this move!
CONFIRMED on TSN: $6.5 million a year for 6 years.
Now that the initial shock has left me, allow me to elaborate. The Rangers have lacked a power play quarterback since Brian Leetch was unceremoniously traded (yes, I am still bitter). Today, however, they have signed a true power play quarterback that has a proven track record and they didn't really overpay. Let's take a look at the cap situation:
The Rangers have 20 players currently signed, according to NHLSCAP.com, with a cap payroll of approximately $49.2 million. This leaves approximately $6.7 million left in cap space. Now, the Rangers could give that to Jaromir Jagr and be done with their off-season, but I don't forsee that happening.
Personally, I feel a trade is coming, most likely with Christian Backman or Fedor Tyutin. I wouldn't discount the continued Brooks Orpik rumors, but now would be a good time to look at the Sundin situation again. Is he really worth it with such a strong defense? I say trade Backman and Tyutin, sign Orpik and Jagr and be done.
More if it happens...
(Photo from NHL.com)
As speculated earlier, TSN is reporting the Rangers have re-signed the defenseman. Awaiting cap implications.
UPDATE: TSN just added, 4 years, $20 million. Not too terrible, still leaves space for additional movement.
Forward Patrick Rissmiller from San Jose and Andreas Jamtn from the Swedish Elite League. Could this be the preface to a trade?
Rissmiller is 29 years old, played in 79 games last season with 17 points. Another big guy. I think Ryan Hollweg's fate is out the door.
If this is true, and I am going to keep it short so I can get back to searching, consider this:
Marc Staal - Michal Rozsival
Fedor Tyutin - Dan Girardi
Christian Backman - VACANT
I think Brooks Orpik fits that spot well, but I have to be honest, Rozsival is not the power play quarterback the Rangers need.
According to RDS.ca, it appears that Brian Campbell has signed with the Chicago Blackhawks. I personally don't speak french, so if anyone translates please let me know.
UPDATE : TSN confirms 8 Years/ $7.1 million average per year.
The NHL Network is breaking in on TSN for their Free Agent Frenzy show. A couple Ranger-related notes:
- Sundin - Rangers and Canucks are the top two contenders.
- Redden - Rangers are one of a handful of teams.
- Campbell - Will max out his offer and has one of three teams, Chicago, Atlanta, San Jose. Good riddance. It really is about the money.
- Streit - Rangers in the mix. Being reported by Dellapina and Zipay.
- Orpik - Rangers are in close negotiations by Zipay.
According to TSN the Rangers have signed forward Aaron Voros.
The 26 year old former-Minnesota Wild winger is a bruiser that has yet to establish himself at the NHL level.
According to Dellapina, http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/rangers/, Jagr isn't close to re-signing and feels that the Rangers are going in a different direction. Dellapina also notes that the Rangers seem to be pursuing Markus Naslund (I called it thank you) and Mats Sundin. If this is the case, they better not forget a defenseman or two.
Nothing else really going on in Rangerland.
Undisclosed terms, but that's quite a downgrade from Theodore at this time. Unless, of course, he rebounds.
Apparently, according to Steve Zipay of Newsday, most of the major players have gotten their offers and are now sorting through them. What often happens in this situation is that one peg needs to fall and the other pieces will come into place.
A bench mark setting so-to-speak.
This may have just happened with Jose Theodore signing in Washington. We'll see now. By the way, if Vancouver really signs Sundin for two years and $20 million, that is up there with Alexei Yashin's contract with the Islanders.
A great interview (as always) by NYR journalist guru John Dellapina. A few tidbits to chew on:
- No one is really sure what Jagr is going to do. He wants to stay a Ranger, but feels that his price is based on his worthiness to the organization. Interesting perspective. Wouldn't call is selfish, but I wouldn't call it completely reasonable either.
- Avery is all but gone. Not said directly like this, but barring some miracle offer, Avery is likely to chase money.
- Shanahan isn't likely to come back because of all of the players he keeps off the ice with his ice time, i.e. Petr Prucha.
- The Rangers aren't likely to spend big on the top players, particularly with successful rookies a year or two away. (Sound familiar?)
- Dan Boyle is still highly coveted and possible if he is indeed available.
Earlier I spoke about the urgency of the signings in the first hour or so of free agency in the past couple seasons. To this point, we have seen very little. Some re-signings and a couple trades, Pitkanen for Cole being the most substantial.
Could this lull be a result of tightening the rules of tampering? Has the league realized how much tampering was going on and put out a memo? Not sure, but this is certainly longer than in the past couple years and there may be something to it.
Still on guard...stick around...
Some quick hit rumors:
- Sundin likely and may keep Jagr - NY Post
- Brian Campbell possibility - Hockeybuzz
- Wade Redden on target - Various Sources
- Avery rejected $12 Million / 4 year offer from Rangers - NY Post
- Shanahan likely to NJ - NY Post
So here it comes. With one hour left before free agency, the media is clamoring, players are awaiting their futures, clubs are preparing offers, and fans are sitting reading sites and blogs for the most updated information.
It is NHL Free Agency and at noon the flood gates will open. The past couple off-seasons have been fun right away, with most players signing in the first couple hours. I remember last season as the Gomez and Drury saga was unfolding, it was a quiet and then BAM. This year could prove much of the same.
I'll be here for all of it so stay tuned.