New York Rangers Offseason Plan/Future Outlook

The New York Rangers will be regarded by many as a preseason favorite in the Atlantic Division, and a top contender in the Eastern Conference. Their 2nd half of 2006-07 was amazing and if they are able to maintain that level of play into the new season, they have a great chance to make a deep run in the playoffs.

There are however tweaks that need to be made to the roster to ensure this happening.I am of the mindset that a mixture of free agents and youth is what this team needs going into 2007-08. I think that the main priorities for the Rangers this offseason is to balance the open positions on the team between the free agents and the youth.

Forwards
It is imperative that Michael Nylander be brought back to center Martin Straka and Jaromir Jagr. The line has shown amazing chemistry over the past 2 years and that cannot be jeopardized. Nylander should sign for 4 years in the area of $4.5 Million.

It would be to the Rangers benefit to sign one of the premier free agents to center the 2nd line. It is my preference that they sign Chris Drury, who has shown a propensity to shine under the bright lights, and they don’t get much brighter than the Madison Square Garden ice. Rumors have him landing in San Jose, so I do feel that if that does happen, Scott Gomez is a viable 2nd option. Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan seem to play very well together and that is not something that should be broken up.

The key is to promote youth and allow them to spread their wings. Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky have earned the right to play for this team next year and I think they should fill in spots on the 4th line. Blair Betts is a very underappreciated member of this team and has earned his spot on the 3rd line, centering Cullen and the up and coming Ryan Callahan.

I feel that Petr Prucha has a bright future in the league but that it may serve him well to have that future somewhere else. The Rangers have a glutton of forwards coming up and I don’t feel that Prucha really fits into the Rangers long term plan. He could bring in quite a bounty if packaged with Al Montoya in a trade at some point either this offseason or during the season.

I don’t feel that Jed Ortmeyer needs to be resigned. I think he will command quite a salary on another team and the Rangers can afford to lose his services.

I would imagine the 07-08 Rangers forward lineup to look a little something like this.

Straka – Nylander – Jagr
Avery – Drury/Gomez – Shanahan
Cullen – Betts – Callahan
Dawes – Dubinsky – Hossa
Hollweg
Orr

Defense
Dan Girardi was quite a very pleasant surprise for the Rangers this year, and he has solidified his place with Fedor Tyutin on the 2nd pairing. These 2 players played amazingly well defensively against the Sabres in the playoffs and have shown some great chemistry together.

The Rangers fans love to hate Marek Malik, but we’re stuck with him for now, and he does tend to play decently well when paired with Michal Rozsival, the Rangers clear #1. The two of them maintain the top pairing.

Karel Rachunek was not qualified and his departure will open up a spot on the blue line. Marc Staal should be given every opportunity to earn a spot on this roster in the fall, and I think that he will. A pairing with Paul Mara, a steal in the Aaron Ward deal, will do him well. Thomas Pock can be the 7th defenseman.

I expect the Rangers defensive pairings to look a little like this.

Malik – Roszival
Tyutin – Girardi
Mara – Staal
Pock

Goaltending
Thankfully, the Rangers have found the long-awaited replacement to Mike Richter in Henrik Lundqvist. It is clear that Lundqvist will be the foundation of the team for the next decade, and Rangers fans cannot be happier.

I think Al Montoya would benefit from being Lundqvist’s backup this season, and the Rangers could benefit from his playing 25% of the games as a stage from which he could be traded. The Rangers can show this guy off and possibly make a great trade with him. If Montoya is moved, Stephen Valiquette will fill the shoes just fine. Kevin Weeks can be let go.

The Rangers goaltending depth chart should look like this.

Lundqvist
Montoya
Valiquette

Future Outlook
The Rangers have a bright future for 08-09 as well. It is my opinion that this is Shanahan’s last season in the NHL, and that the right wing spot will open up. Alex Bourret and Alexei Cherepanov could see significant time on Garden ice in 08-09.

Cherepanov and Bourret are both right wings, but its likely one of them may move to left. Depending on Cherepanov’s situation in Russia and how well he adapts to the North American style of play, Cherepanov could take a spot on the 2nd line, or Bourret could take that spot depending on his development in Hartford. This would also be the last year of Matt Cullen’s contract, which may open up a spot for Tom Pyatt if Cullen is moved.

It is my hope that Jaromir Jagr does not retire until Cherepanov has come here and made an impact, Jagr is clearly one of the best players in the world, and Rangers fans want him playing as long as possible. He still has it in him and he can play 3-4 more years.

Defensively, I would like to see how Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Sauer develop, but Marc Staal should have solidified his spot at this point. Malik would most likely not be resigned, which would shake up the pairings a bit, but I would think the Tyutin/Girardi pairing would stick.

If Montoya has not been moved or been promoted to backup by now, he will be.

A VERY preliminary look at what the team MAY look like looks a little something like this.

Straka – Nylander – Jagr
Avery – Drury/Gomez – Cherepanov
Dawes – Betts – Bourret
Hossa – Dubinsky – Callahan
Byers
Pyatt

Rozsival – Staal
Tyutin – Girardi
Mara – Pock
Sanguinetti

The 08-09 lineup is just a very very prelimary look at what it might look like, just some ideas to play around with and spark discussion.

Fellow Rangers fans, time’s yours. What do you think?


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