New York Rangers UFAs: Keep Them or Dump Them?
Only seven of the New York Rangers' 13 unrestricted free agents on their roster may actually have an impact on the squad's near and distant future.
The Rangers have one of the deepest rosters in the NHL as well as one of the better farm systems in the league. Therefore, the team has the luxury of not being in a rebuilding phase during the offseason free-agency period.
New York finished the regular season with more points than anybody else in the Eastern Conference. But after a disappointing playoff run, where they were ousted by their local rival New Jersey Devils, the Rangers have an entire offseason to reevaluate their roster and figure out how to man the squad.
So the question remains: On the list of UFAs, who does the team keep and who gets dumped?
Despite only having nine points and zero goals in this past season, Stu Bickel was a big part of the Rangers' success.
Head coach John Tortorella's system revolves around toughness and speed.
This season, Stu Bickel certainly showed that he was a tough enough to play for Tortorella.
The Rangers led the NHL in fighting majors this season with 65. Bickel contributed to 12 of those scraps, the second most on the team.
Obviously, fighting is a key element to the Tortorella game plan, and Bickel is one of the team's top fighters.
New York has one of the best defensive units in the NHL, and Bickel's toughness allows him to fit right into the third defensive pairing.
The Rangers were lucky enough to have a Vezina and Hart Trophy nominated goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist.
But one adjustment the Rangers made this year to improve Lundqvist's game is playing backup Martin Biron more, allowing King Henrik to get more rest.
Biron excelled in this role for the Blueshirts, sporting a .904 save percentage in 21 games this season.
In the future, the Rangers will continue to use this system of giving more starts to the backup in order to have Lundqvist fresh for the playoffs.
The 34-year-old Biron has a few good years left in this league and will still be a good backup option for at least next season.
If Biron wants too much money to come back to New York, the Rangers have another backup option in Chad Johnson. Johnson is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
With guys like Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and other great defenseman on their roster, the Rangers may have too much depth at the defensive position to keep Steve Eminger around.
He may be able to squeeze out a guy like Stu Bickel if the club was looking for offense in that spot, but Bickel plays a better role defensively.
New York also has a top defensive prospect in Tim Erixon. Erixon will more than likely be ready for the NHL by the time next season starts.
This causes a more proven guy like Anton Stralman to join Bickel as the journeyman between the NHL and AHL throughout the season.
The Rangers truly do not need Steve Eminger on their roster next season.
The Rangers are a very young team with a wonderfully deep farm system.
So what is there to do with a player like Ruslan Fedotenko?
The 33-year-old Fedotenko had a good season with the Rangers in 2011-12, but the club does not have any plans for him in the future and must cut ties with him eventually.
New York is also looking to add a big-time scorer like Rick Nash. Fedotenko may have a chance at returning to an impact role if the Rangers have to gut the farm system and lose some younger players in order to pull the trade off.
Fedotenko is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, which means he will not be willing to play for peanuts.
The Rangers' plans for bringing in a big-time scorer might not allow them to give Fedotenko the type of money he is going to want.
John Mitchell was heavily relied on by John Tortorella this season.
Mitchell did everything for Tortorella and the Rangers, and he was rewarded with a good amount of playing time in the playoffs.
Mitchell showed that he is the type of player with a great hockey sense that can play on a fourth line with big-time fighters like Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust.
His low point total will not jump up very high while playing with guys like this, but that is not what the team is looking to get out of him.
Mitchell will be an inexpensive fourth-line center, who is already familiar with Tortorella's system.
As was previously mentioned, fighting is an important part of New York's game.
Brandon Prust was responsible for 20 of the Rangers' NHL-leading 65 fighting majors this season. That mark was the highest on the squad.
Tortorella's system revolves around speed and toughness, and Prust has both.
He is a hard-nosed player who is willing to hit and is fast enough to fit nicely with Tortorella's game plan.
Prust's resiliency allowed him to be an iron man this season, playing in all 82 regular season games.
Prust has won over the city with his tough play and comedic personality. There would be some unhappy fans in the Big Apple if the Rangers were to allow Prust to slip away.
Jeff Woywitka will not be playing for the Rangers next season for the same reasons Steve Eminger will not be a Ranger.
Woywitka is almost useless to the club, even in the role of reinforcement in case someone gets hurt.
The Rangers have much better and less expensive options available to fill that role.
Woywitka has already played his last game with the Blueshirts.
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