NHL Free Agency: Wrapping Up Day 1 for the New York Rangers

James Wrabel, Jr.Correspondent IIJuly 2, 2012

NHL Free Agency: Wrapping Up Day 1 for the New York Rangers

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    With the NHL's free agent frenzy fully under way and big-name players like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter mulling over their futures, we saw mid- and lower-tiered players snatched up by several teams, including the New York Rangers

    To give you some perspective on just how crazy yesterday was on marginal talent alone, according to TSN, 60 players signed contracts worth over $190 million dollars.

    Yikes.

    However, the normally free-wheeling Rangers were fiscally sound as free agency began, spending very little while letting some depth players sign elsewhere. It appears New York, and the rest of the NHL, is waiting for the bigger names to land for both the free-agent and trade markets to heat up.

    Lets recap what the New York Rangers did on day one of free agency. 

Bringing Back Some Depth

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    The Rangers retained two depth players yesterday, re-signing defenseman Stu Bickel to a two-year, $1.5 million contract and winger Kris Newbury to a two-year, two-way (can be sent from NHL to AHL without having to pass through waivers) deal.

    The 25-year-old rookie defenseman had a fine year for himself, playing in 51 games and registering nine assists. While nothing is guaranteed and other moves have yet to come, Bickel's signing indicates the organization was happy with his play overall and he will compete for a third-pairing/seventh defenseman spot next season.

    Newbury's signing is to maintain some continuity down in Hartford and as an insurance policy in case a player on the Rangers is injured during the season. 

Several Players Say Goodbye

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    Several players played their last game as members of the New York Rangers organization as John Mitchell signed a two-year, $2.2 million contract with Colorado, Chad Johnson signed in Phoenix, pugilist John Scott signed a one-year, $600k deal with Buffalo and prospect Jonathan Audy-Marchessault signed an entry-level deal with Columbus.

    Mitchell was useful in his brief stint with the Rangers, parlaying his effectiveness in a weak free-agent market into a two-year deal. His career was nearly over in Toronto before being traded to the Rangers during the 2010-11 season. 

    Scott was sparsely used after New York acquired him at this past season's trade deadline and was seen by most as an unnecessary acquisition. 

    Johnson never established himself with the Rangers has a prominent goalie prospect behind Henrik Lundqvist. At 26, Johnson still has a career ahead of him and the man who drafted him, GM Don Maloney, may have some use of him behind Mike Smith in Phoenix.

    Audy-Marchessault is an interesting case. New York's scouting team may have found a gem as the rookie notched 64 points in his first season in the AHL, but failed to sign him. The man known as JAM will have a chance to crack Columbus's roster perhaps as early as next season. 

The New Additions

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    In day one of free agency, New York went for toughness above all else, signing heavyweight Arron Asham to a two-year, $2 million deal and Michael Haley to a two-year contract.

    Both moves were initially puzzling, but take a second to think about it and they're aren't as bad.

    Asham and Haley (once the full details are released) were signed on the cheap to be roster fillers at the bottom of the depth chart. Rather than plugging in kids to play a few minutes a game, Asham will assume that role, possibly being the healthy scratch on some nights. Haley looks to be destined for Connecticut to protect New York's prospects in the minors.

    Most fans want to see the high-profile names comes to their team, but it isn't always about that. Teams also need to execute hockey moves in order to better their team, too. Signing Asham and Haley were strictly hockey moves—nothing more.

Losing Brandon Prust to Montreal

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    Perhaps the biggest news for the Rangers was losing heart-and-soul player Brandon Prust to Montreal to a four-year, $10 million contract. Prust leaves New York after three successful years of endearing himself to his teammates, coaches and the fans.

    His future was doomed when GM Glen Sather told Larry Brooks of the New York Post “I don’t think we’re going to get that one done" when asked about Prust's contract negotiations. It was rumored both parities were apart on compensation. Yesterday, those rumors were verified as the truth.

    Prust was a valuable asset to what the Rangers do, but the grinding winger saw dollar signs and chose to go where the money was rather than playing with the team that has the best chance of winning.

    New York's acquisitions of Asham and Haley are to replace some of the grit and toughness lost with Prust.