GM Sather has blueprint for Rangers future

Glen Sather isn’t big on what ifs. But the temptation to wonder is tantalizing. What if Olli Jokinen had kept it going? What if Henrik Lundqvist had stopped Claude Giroux ?

What if the Rangers rather than the Flyers had won the shootout in Game 82?

(What if the Rangers had selected Giroux 21st overall in the 2006 Entry Draft, one slot ahead of Philadelphia, instead of taking Bobby Sanguinetti? We digress.)

“We can go over and over why we failed to get the one point that would have put us in, we can find a lot of excuses for it, but losing [Ryan] Callahan and [Sean] Avery the last couple of weeks really hurt our forecheck, and not having [Marian] Gaborik at full strength after the Olympics was a major blow for us,” the GM told Slap Shots on Thursday in his first public remarks since the season ended in Philadelphia. “But you know, every team can find excuses why they fell short.

We just weren’t quite good enough over the course of the season. But if we had won that final game, would we have been tough enough to compete in the playoffs the way the Flyers have? Could we be where they are now?

“I think so.”

But the Rangers aren’t in Chicago today, preparing for Game 5 of the Final, two victories away from the Stanley Cup. They’ve been done for weeks, one of 14 teams that didn’t make it to the postseason.

“We have to get better,” Sather acknowledged. “And the way we’re going to get better is by staying within our organization and giving our prospects the time to grow and the opportunity to play in New York.

“This has been a long process, and it’s ongoing, but as we go into this summer, our plan is to keep our own players. I can tell you one thing — we are certainly not going to overpay for free agents. If we can improve with a signing that makes sense, we’ll look into it, but we want to give our guys the first shot.”

Donald Brashear,
one of last summer’s great mistakes, will not get a second shot. The faded enforcer, who has one year remaining at $1.4 million on his over-35 contract, went through waivers and was demoted to Hartford on Feb. 13 after asking for a trade and publicly complaining about his role.

“I told Donald this week that he would not be playing for the Rangers,” Sather told Slap Shots. “After the statements he made, absolutely not; that was the end of it.”

Brashear’s $1.4 million cap hit will remain on the Rangers’ ledger unless they can find a team to trade for him. Sather would not discuss the prospects of finding a dance partner, but that’s going to be an immediate objective.

The Rangers are up against it in cap space. They have approximately $12 million available to sign restricted free agent defenseman Marc Staal and Dan Girardi (“Those two guys are part of our core; of course we’re signing them,” Sather said), plus Jody Shelley , Vinny Prospal , Erik Christensen , Brandon Prust , P.A. Parenteau , a seventh defenseman and a credible backup goaltender.

They’ll have an additional $6.5 million available if they waive Wade Redden before the roster cap is recalibrated at the conclusion of training camp.