Can Blueshirts Resist Temptation to Spend?
Quick, what happens when you put a blank chequebook, the Rangers and 400 plus free agents in one room? You get overspending. Well that would have been the case as recently as 2 years ago when New York brought in Jaromir Jagr after already acquiring the likes of Lindros, Bure, Kovalev, Holik, Kasparitius, among others. But now things may be different on Broadway. The Rangers have begun their youth movement and are looking for long term success in the future and not a quick fix in the present.
Thanks to rollbacks (24%), a Cap (probably around $36 million) and the Caps (paying half of Jagr’s salary which may not count against the Rangers cap), the Rangers will be in ok shape in terms of payroll and the crazy spending habits will be curbed. New York has only 4 players under contract in Holik, Jagr, Nylander and Kasparitius at roughly $15 million. This number may reduce even more as the blueshirts will have a one-time opportunity to buy out the big albatross contracts of Holik and Kasparitius and not have it count against their salary cap figure, further reducing payroll and increasing their cap room.
This could offer the Rangers the opportunity to have perhaps as much as 30 million dollars to work with under the cap. Though we thought the wild spending days were over after the Rangers gutted most of their team for youth, the temptation may be too rich for New York to hold back and not at least consider bringing in many of the hundreds of free agents available.
The Rangers do have to think about bringing back their own free agents. Kevin Weekes will probably now be their top goalie for the next little while to let their top prospects in Al Montoya and Hendrik Lundqvist develop properly. But Mike Dunham and Dan Blackburn’s days in New York are likely over due to Dunham’s poor play and Blackburn’s career threatening shoulder injury. With zero goalies under contract, it will allow New York to look into bringing in another goalie from outside the organization to help them win now. Weekes does have the inside track on the number one job, but a guy like Sean Burke may provide greater help in the development of their young kids.
Their blueline needs the biggest makeover as really only one spot is taken with youngster Fedor Tyutin being among the top 6. It is doubtful that guys like Mironov, Marshall, McAllister, Bouchard will be brought back but Karel Rachunek and Tom Poti are likely to return. but the Rangers could bring in a couple of top guys and really put themselves back into contention. Maybe New York will be interested in getting a defensive stud whom they have not had since the Beukeboom/Lowe days back in the early 90s. With the likes of Pronger, Foote, Salei, Zhitnik, Rathje, Aucoin the Rangers have options. or perhaps an offensive gem to jumpstart the offence and to take advantage of the new rules that supposedly will open up the game will interest the Rangers. They could always bring back Ranger legend Brian Leetch or choose from the likes of Gonchar, Hamrlik, Schneider, Niedermayer or Zubov. The Rangers do have a choice to not only think about the future but winning now again by acquiring a couple of top guys to help their young players like Tyutin, Poti and Rachunek who are NHL ready and their future blueliners like Kondratiev, Pock and Lampman. The Rangers fortunes could easily be changed by adding a couple of top defenceman to form a formidable blueline. as they say, defence wins championships.
Jagr is the lead dog among the forwards. if the game gets opened up, a guy like Jagr will be among the biggest beneficiaries. They brought in Nylander to help him out but with so many top of the line forwards to choose from in the free agent market, the Rangers may be afforded the opportunity to fill one of their biggest needs which is depth and team chemistry up front. It didnt work for them having Messier, Lindros, Bure, Hlavac among others there and so full scale changes were in store. Hence why guys like Carter, Kovalev, Nedved were gutted for youth.
within a few years guys like Balej, Immonen, Korpikowski, Dawes, Jessiman, Lundmark may be top line guys for New York. And the likes of Moore, Murray, Graham, Fardeleau, Dubinsky, Olver, Betts could adequately fill in checking roles. But not all will be ready right away and can be expected to contribute a great deal. If they are allowed to develop properly, the Rangers could be afforded a strong future. And they also have a good chance of landing a top 5 pick in the next draft which again could add to their stable of prospects.
But there are several holes among the forward positions that the Rangers need to fill and free agency could allow them to bring in some solid veteran players to mix in with their young players and take some pressure off of them. They do need a greater supporting cast for Jagr and there may be too many top players available for the Rangers to pass up on. They could grab the likes of Palffy, Kariya, Forsberg, Naslund, Bondra, Demitra, Mogilny, Modano, Arnott, Murray, Allison, Kovalev, Selanne among others to provide more scoring depth. They certainly could hold onto Holik at a lower cost as well.
The point is, the Rangers, if they so choose, can compete sooner rather than later and still not sacrifice the future. The future is bright in New York but in a place where winning is everything, the pressure may be on for the Rangers to do something significant and field a winning squad to help New York get back into contention. Time will tell where the Rangers will choose to go.