July 4 saw the proverbial fireworks across the NHL landscape as both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter took their talents not to South Beach, but to the Land of 10,000 Lakes on dual 13-year, $98 million deals with the Minnesota Wild.
Now that the two biggest catches are off the market, the other free-agent dominoes can fall and GMs can begin working on deals that have long been in holding patterns.
One team absent from the free-agent frenzy were the New York Rangers.
The prototypical big-spending team, the Blueshirts were not linked to either big name. Not for a lack of cap space, but because, for the first time since anyone can remember, the Rangers have built their team from the ground up, not through free-agent mercenaries.
However, some pieces are still needed to put New York over the top and make them Cup contenders. Most teams have explored trades to better their team, because the free-agent market is relatively thin this summer (which is why Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan and other names continue to float around).
Now that the Parise/Suter watch is officially over, look for trades to dominate the headlines over the next week.
Lets take a look back and see what the New York Rangers have been up to this past week as the team, while not hyperactive like in offseason's past, has made some low-key moves.
Adding to the physicality and grit already on board with signing Arron Asham and Michael Haley, New York signed veteran Taylor Pyatt to a two-year, $3.1 million contract to fortify the Rangers' bottom-six forward depth.
The 6'4'' 228-pound winger will bring New York a bit more foot speed and offensive production at the bottom of their depth chart that has lost Brandon Prust and John Mitchell. Pyatt is not a noted goal scorer, but he did have four goals in the playoffs during the Coyotes' run towards the Western Conference Finals.
Only Antoine Vermette had more goals for Phoenix than Pyatt did in the playoffs with five. The combination of Prust, Mitchell and Fedotenko had just three.
Pyatt rounds out the bottom of the depth chart quite well while giving New York some cap relief to make other moves. In essence, Pyatt is a hockey move for a contender adding depth.
Originally brought in on a tryout basis in training camp of September 2010, Ruslan Fedotenko has worked his way up in his two-year tenure on Broadway as one of coach Tortorella's soldiers—playing in the dirty areas, providing Cup-winning experience and showing his teammates what to expect from their fiery coach.
Fedotenko's efforts have landed him a one-year, $1.75 million contract from the team that originally signed him in 1999 after going undrafted, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jumping ship to the enemy won't endear Fedotenko to Rangers fans going into next season.
On breakup day, Fedotenko indicated he wanted to win another Cup to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, so it appeared New York had a chance to re-sign the versatile winger to another contract. However, after signing Arron Asham, Michael Haley and Taylor Pyatt this week, the writing was on the wall for Fedotenko's future with the Rangers.
Andrew Gross of The Record tweeted earlier this week about how both sides weren't as close as many thought.
Ruslan Fedotenko signs with the Flyers. Neither side was expecting him to re-sign with #NYR. Good character player.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) July 5, 2012
After failing to make the New Jersey Devils on a tryout before the season started, defenseman Anton Stralman was given a chance by the Rangers and performed admirably, finishing with 18 points in 53 games. Stralman also chipped in three goals and three assists in the playoffs.
The 25-year-old native of Sweden parlayed his successful stint on Broadway into the team qualifying Stralman to avoid losing his rights on July 1, and the defenseman filed for arbitration.
Andrew Gross of The Record believes both sides would like to sign Stralman to a multi-year deal. At a modest raise and low terms, it makes sense.
Stralman would be the ideal third-pairing defenseman and is a right-handed shot—something New York lacks on the back line. He and Michael Del Zotto—another restricted free agent that will certainly be back—made a adequate third pair last season and would do the same in 2012-13.
From June 25-29, the New York Rangers hosted their prospect development camp. Notable names like Dylan McIlrath, Christian Thomas, and J.T. Miller took part, but there was one player who stood out among the rest, completely coming in under the radar as a non-roster invitee to impress the Rangers organization.
Forward Kyle Jean.
The winger from Lake Superior State University agreed to terms with the Rangers and will forego his final two years at college to turn pro.
Jean should get an invite to New York's prospect tournament in September and, if he impresses more, a shot at the big club in training camp.
However, the 6'4'' 215-pound undrafted winger will most likely see time with the Connecticut Whale next season before making an impact in the NHL.
Nonetheless, Jean's story is great and something to keep an eye on going forward.
Now that Ryan Suter has left Nashville, it puts the Predators in a precarious situation with captain and standout defenseman Shea Weber. Both parties already went to arbitration last year (resulting in a one-year, $7.5 million awarded contract) and kept Weber who now is a restricted free agent.
Nashville has some serious thinking to do.
Do they attempt to sign Weber long term? Or to another one-year deal and let him become an unrestricted free agent and potentially lose him for nothing next summer?
The latter would be a doomsday scenario after the franchise re-signed Pekka Rinne long term during the season in the hopes both Suter and Weber would stay to win a championship in Nashville.
ESPN hockey mind E.J. Hradek believes Nashville should trade Weber and believes there are two teams that have the assets to do so.
Now, NSH GM Poile MUST find out if he can re-sign Weber long term. If not, he needs to begin shopping him. NYR/STL have assets to make deal— EJ Hradek (@EJHradek_NHL) July 4, 2012
New York desperately needs a booming shot from their defense and Shea Weber has one of the hardest in the NHL. He's also a right-handed shot—something New York lacks in their top-six defense corps at the moment aside from Dan Girardi.
The cost for Weber would be great (think Michael Del Zotto, J.T. Miller, and two future first-round picks as a starting point). But, by bringing Weber in, New York adds a completely new dynamic to its defense that would put them over the top—a scoring threat both at even strength and on the power play.
Darren Dreger offers the latest news on the Blue Jackets most coveted player Rick Nash.
NYR still very interested in Rick Nash, but, they're not willing to wait forever. Currently exploring other options as well. Someone blink.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 6, 2012
It may be posturing, but on the surface, does anyone blame GM Glen Sather?
He's been in contact with Howson since February about acquiring their star and the embattled Columbus GM won't budge on his asking price for Nash (rightfully so when dealing with the face of the franchise). By Sather exploring "other options," he's attempting to get Howson to "blink" first by lowering the price tag.
The other options could include Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, who would be a cheaper, younger and better fit for New York, but Sather has balked at the reported asking price of a second-line center, prospect and a draft pick.
The Rick Nash saga painfully continues.