The New York Rangers should……..
1. Play their kids: Up front they will have Lundmark, Balej, Betts, Murray, Ortmeyer, Josh Green, Mike Green, Prucha, Giroux, Heerema, Dominic Moore and on defence they have Tyutin, Pock, Rachunek, Kondratiev, Lampman, Grenier, Nycholat, with a good shot at making the team. Prucha may be the guy to centre a line with Jagr on it, allowing Holik to play a more defensive role. He was productive in Europe, and yes I know that isnt the same as teh NHL but I think he could be similar player to Robert Reichel. I know Reichel sucks now but he was a 70-80 point player in his younger days who could play an ok 2 way game and be a good playmaker. I think Lundmark should be given a shot at the number 2 centre role but he will need i think a veteran winger to help him along. He has the potential to be a 60-70 point producer if given some ice time, but he won’t do it if he has marginal players playing with him. Balej could be a 20 plus goal scorer in his first year as a full time NHLer. That is not asking too much from a youngster like him. Give him time. Sure he was traded for Kovalev but let’s hope they don’t expect him to get 70-80 points right off the bat. And the same goes for any of the other kids. Tyutin should be a star on defence for years to come, and he is the only good prospect that I can think of that the Rangers haven’t ruined yet. They brought him along slowly and I think now he is ready to take over. See how being patient pays off? Pock played a bit at the end of the year for the Blueshirts and did an ok job. He is someone who will get a long look at camp. Rachunek has established himself as an NHLer with the Sens but he will now get a chance at some major ice time with the Rangers. Hopefully he can develop into the PP QB for New York in the absence of Leetch. It is asking too much for him to be the next Leetch but if he can get 40 plus points and provide New York with some offence from the defence, I think that would be just fine. Kondratiev may develop into the next Danny Markov or Yushkievich and that wouldnt be bad at all for the Rangers. He just needs to not be rushed.
Most of their prospects are considered marginal. Lets not kid ourselves. there are no Crosby’s or Ovechkins or Lehtonen’s or Boumeesters or any other big time prospects among this crew. But you never know if their is a diamond or two in the rough that can pull away and become a decent NHLer. They just need a chance and the Rangers should give it to them.
2. Let the other kids develop properly: Lundmark lost alot of development time playing on the 4th line or sitting in the press box. I hope the Rangers don’t do that with their other kids. Guys up front like Fardeleau, Jessiman, Immonen, Helminen, Dawes and on defence Guenin, Liffiton, Baranka should be given lots of time to get use to the pro game. there is no need to rush them if they are going to stick to a rebuilding process. I would do those players alot of good to get at least 1 or 2 years under their belt at the AHL level. And the same can be said for some of the other players mentioned above. If they can’t crack the Rangers right now, then give them more time to develop down in the AHL. There should be no rush to push these guys and force them to play beyond their capabilities.
3. Keep their picks: they have 2 first rounders and 5 second rounders. Perhaps one or two of the second rounders can be moved for a veteran or two but the Rangers should try to come away with at least 5 of the top 50 prospect in this draft. They need these assets quite a bit as there isn’t a great amount of good prospects in the system and hopefully this draft will help solve that problem. They could end up getting depth at all positions and potentially get themselves to be one of the leagues better young teams a few years down the road. Yes not all draft picks turn out, but with 7 picks in the top 51, they should at least land 3 or 4 NHL calibre players. The entire scouting staff and management team should be fired if they blow this opportunity and don’t come up with some good prospects.
4. Find a goalie: This team will be young and they will need a goalie who can keep them in games. Dunham isnt the guy as he is hurt alot and quite inconsistent. Blackburn should be the backup next year if healthy and Lundqvist maybe should be put in the AHL to gain North American experience. Perhaps both Lundqvist and Blackburn will both be in the AHL as they both do need to play. I think a good guy to get would be Lalime. He is a really good goalie (except when playing the Leafs) and since he is still in his prime, I think he would be a really good fit to help the Rangers grow to a playoff team over the next few years. He has some good years left in him and I think he just needs a change in scenery. He has alot to prove again after another playoff failure but I think he would be up for that challenge. He is a significant upgrade to Dunham as he is more consistent and he has playoff experience. Perhaps one of those second round picks that they have can be used to help pry Lalime out of Ottawa. I don’t think it will take a whole lot to get him as the Sens are interest in signing Hasek and wouldn’t mind dumping Lalime’s salary. Another possibility, although not for the immediate future, would be to draft Al Montoya and build the team around him. Yes they do already have 2 good young goalies in the system but if Montoya is the best player available in their minds at the time they pick 6th, there would be nothing wrong with making that choice as they could easily trade a Dan Blackburn. He showed before he got hurt he could play in this league and play well, so he has value. There would be teams out there like St Louis, Phoenix, Minnesota, Vancouver, Chicago, Los Angeles who may choose to go with a younger, cheaper option in goal and who have a decent number of young players that the Rangers could be interested in. Picking Montoya would leave the Rangers with plenty of options.
5. Sign some free agents: I am not suggesting they should break the bank again like they have in the past, but I think the Rangers should try to pick up a few of the free agents out there. There are plenty of big names like Palffy, Zhamnov, Kariya, Kovalev out there that will draw interest, but I think the Rangers should go after more of the second or third level free agents. Some examples would be Rolston, Simon, Barnaby, Bondra, Knuble, Damphousse, Brylin, Nylander, Modry, Cullimore, O’Donnell. I am not suggesting they sign all these guys but 2 or 3 of them would go along way to helping bridge the gap between now and the future. I dont think any of these guys are going to break the bank and tie down the Rangers with big 5 plus million dollar contracts (as they are all lesser players than Primeau who signed for $4 million per season) and alot of these guys would fill some needs that they have plenty of. Jagr, Holik, Kasparitius and Poti need help as they are the only good veteran players they have so bringing in 3 or 4 more guys will at least make them a bit more competitive.
6. Get a coach: Last but not least, they need a coach and a good one at that. Not Low or Trottier or Slats but someone who has had some success, can work well with young players, can handle the media pressure in New York, and who can integrate a good system and not this rag tag hockey that we have seen for 8 years in Manhattan. They need a plan and it starts with the coach and how he wants his team, and then Slats can go out and get those players to help fill those roles. I hope they do not get another puppet for Sather. That is what Low and Trottier were. Sather’s philosophy for run and gun hockey doesnt work anymore. they need a system that will make them competitive, especially now since they will be a young team with no so much hall of fame talent. There are plenty of guys out there and it was too bad they let Martin or Hartley go free when they had the chance to grab either one of them. Nolan, Francis, Quenneville, Maurice, Ftorek, Robinson, Habsheid, etc. the list goes on and on. They have a good chance now to get a good coach with all those names out there, lets hope they dont mess it up as they have done the last few years.
So as you can see, the Rangers have plenty of work on their hands. And I personally think the Rangers are taking a big chance at letting Sather build the team up again as he hasnt managed a team with a winning record since 1991-92. But he did build the dynasty Oilers of the 80’s and hopefully he has a bit of that magic left in him.