New York Rangers: Top 5 Offseason Priorities for Blueshirts
Up to this point in the offseason, the New York Rangers have been very quiet. Besides re-signing defenseman Stu Bickel, most of the Rangers' focus has been on signing bottom-six players. This includes Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, Michael Haley, Kyle Jean and Brandon Segal.
With the offseason far from over, that is just one of five priorities that the Blueshirts should focus on this season.
5. Re-Signing Michael Del Zotto
Last time Rangers fans heard any news about Michael Del Zotto was a few weeks ago. Larry Brooks reported the Rangers were looking to lock up the 22-year-old defenseman to a two-year contract, ranging anywhere from $1.75 to $2.25 million (via NY Post).
After a horrific sophomore year, Del Zotto dramatically improved, becoming one of the best offensive defensemen the Blueshirts had. In 77 games, Del Zotto had 41 points and was one of the best plus/minus players in the league (plus-20).
Whether the Rangers sign and keep him or use him for trade bait, they need to come to an agreement with Michael Del Zotto sooner rather than later.
4. Someone Takes on Scoring Role Until Marian Gaborik Returns
Back in June Rangers fans got some bad news when they learned that star winger Marian Gaborik would be out six months due to a torn labrum in his shoulder (via ESPN). They will not only miss his superb sniper ability, but also the 41 goals that he scored last year.
The ultimate question mark is: Who can fill in for Marian Gaborik? There are a few solutions.
One solution is alternate captain Brad Richards, whose first year with the Blueshirts was good, but could have been better. In 82 games last year, Richards totaled 66 points. Richards took a while to gel with his teammates during the regular season, but showed his effectiveness as a leader in the playoffs, scoring 15 points in 20 games.
Another solution is captain Ryan Callahan. Since the 2009-10 season Callahan has steadily gone up in goals. This past season he scored a career-high 29 goals. He proved he could handle the pressure of being a captain in the NHL. With Callahan in his “prime,” expect him to perform even more at the offensive end especially with Gaborik out.
If the Blueshirts organization wants more scoring, in addition to those two players, they can always look towards priority three, which is….
3. Get a Top Six Forward via Free Agency or Trade
This has been the theme of the summer for the Rangers who are looking to make a splash in either free agency by signing Shane Doan, or by trading for Rick Nash. However, both have been difficult to get, which currently leaves the Rangers empty-handed.
Doan waited until July 16 like he said he would. Now the free agency floodgates are open and teams are looking to add Doan. While the Rangers are one of those teams interested in the 36-year-old, so are a handful of other teams. The list includes Phoenix, Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Vancouver and the Stanley Cup winning Los Angeles Kings.
With so many teams after him and Pittsburgh making an offer, Doan is less and less likely to come to the Rangers.
But wait, the Rangers have another option in Rick Nash!
However, that too has been looking less and less likely as the summer has gone along. Scott Howson has expressed that he wants a fair share of talent in exchange for Rick Nash and has gone on record to say he wants an “NHL-ready forward.” The Rangers have these types of forwards in Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, however, they are not willing to part ways with young cornerstone type players. With that, the two sides are in a deadlock.
The Rangers need scoring and fans are expecting them to make some kind of move for a top-six forward. With the days of summer dwindling, fans are starting to grow impatient. They need to make a move for a top-six forward before the October 12 season opener.
2. Making Sure Young Players Avoid "Sophomore Slump"
Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh are both getting ready to experience their second full year on the New York Rangers. If you are the Rangers coaching staff, you have to make sure both players avoid the “sophomore slump.”
I’m not too worried about McDonagh going into a slump because of how consistent he was as a shut-down defenseman during the regular season and playoffs.
However, Carl Hagelin does worry me after his poor showing in the playoffs. Not only was Hagelin suspended three games for his hit on Daniel Alfredsson, but for the rest of the playoffs he was inconsistent. In the playoffs the speedy Swede only posted three points.
Another young player the Rangers coaching staff has to keep an eye on is Chris Kreider. This will be Kreider’s second year, but first year playing an 82-game regular season year. 82 games is a long, hard working grind.
Will Kreider and others be able to show consistent play during the regular season, or will they all be one-hit wonders?
1. Players Ignore the Trade Rumors and Just Play Hockey
Back in February, the Rangers' last offer for Nash was Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, 2011 first-rounder J.T. Miller, 2010 second-rounder Christian Thomas and a first-round pick in this past June’s entry draft.
It has to be unsettling for those players to know they were trade bait and very close to putting on a different uniform.
Even players like Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider have to be distracted by the trade rumors surrounding them. While they are part of the Rangers’ no-trade list, the pressure of trying to land a superstar forward, in New York, has to make them uneasy. Maybe general manager Glen Sather finally gives in to the pressure and trades one of the “no-trade” players. While it is highly unlikely, there is still a slim possibility.
No matter what, all these players have to ignore the media and rumors. They have to do what they do best—play hockey for the New York Rangers, get ready for the 2012-13 season and lead their team to the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.