With the annual free agency period beginning this Friday it's time to start thinking about what possible moves the team could be making either prior to July 1st or once the signing window is opened.
Obviously it's been rumored for quite some time (over 2 years now) that the New York Rangers are interested in Brad Richards. Not only is Richards a dynamic scorer, legit first line center, Stanley Cup winner and former Conn Smythe winner, he also has a history with John Tortorella when they were together in Tampa.
It's rumored that Richards is seeking an 8 year deal in excess of $50m. That's a whole lot of money and more significantly a lot of years. The main difference between previous free agent signings made by Glen Sather (Holik, Drury, Gomez) is that Richards has consistently been an offensive stud throughout his career. Whereas, Holik and Drury were essentially second line centers who primarily known for their two-way game, rather than being offensive stars.
Every year it's pretty much a lock that Richards will get 70 points if healthy. I have to admit, it would be interesting to see Richards on a line with Marian Gaborik. Richards can skate like the wind, is an excellent passer and can put the puck in the net. He makes players around him better, which could be scary as hell for opponents if the player next to him already has the potential to score 50 goals without an All Star feeding him the puck.
I'm all for getting Richards if the price is right, but I'm not sure if an 8 year contract is ideal for a 31 year old. The only thing is, several other teams out there may be willing to offer that and if the Rangers want Richards as bad as it seems they'll have to up the ante. We all know that Glen Sather has a history of upping the ante (for better or worse).
Aside from Richards, the Rangers will likely attempt to make a few other signings. Obviously, if Richards signs elsewhere then the Rangers will have some additional cap space to make other moves. Priority as far as unrestricted free agents has to be adding some scoring, preferably a top 6 forward. Unfortunately, aside from Richards there are not too many other top forwards available via free agency. As of now it still looks likely that Prospal and Fedotenko (both UFAs) will be back next season.
The Rangers Tribune makes a case for signing left winger Jussi Jokinen. Wonder if Sather has any interest in fellow Carolina UFA, Erik Cole? Cole last year finished with 26 goals and 26 assists. However, I am skeptical because this was a contract year for Cole and the last time he had over 22 goals was in 2006-07.
If all else fails, there's always the possibility of going hard after Nikolai Zherdev who will be a UFA... I kid. Curious as to who exactly is a free agent forward? Glad you asked, check out the full list here.
The goaltending situation right now is set for next year with Lundqvist the clear number one and Marty Biron under contract for another season.
Sather is likely to attempt to sign a veteran low priced defenseman to add some depth. The Rangers defensive core was exceptional last year, including some pleasant surprises like Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh. At this point I'd guess that Steve Eminger won't be re-signed, but he wasn't awful, so re-signing him is still a possibility. Anyone amongst this list of free agent defensemen that you'd like to Sather bring to New York? It's unlikely that he'll be looking for anything more than a bottom pairing/7th defenseman.
Brad Richards or no Brad Richards, Sather's number one priority should be to re-sign the Rangers key restricted free agents; Dubinsky, Callahan, Boyle, Anisimov and Mike Sauer.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Mr. Sather and I are on the same page. Sather made it known after the NHL Draft on Saturday that he doesn't expect any of the team's RFAs to be signed by July 1st.
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