NY Rangers: Blueshirts' 10 Best Free-Agent Signings of the Last 10 Years

Nick KrapfContributor IIINovember 14, 2012

NY Rangers: Blueshirts' 10 Best Free-Agent Signings of the Last 10 Years

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    Lately, the New York Rangers have focused on developing homegrown players such as Chris Kreider, Michael Del Zotto and current captain Ryan Callahan. However, it wasn’t always like that.

    For a majority of the 2000's, the Blueshirts were no stranger to the free-agency market. Some of the money was well spent, some of it was wasted on certain players (Wade Redden). Still, that is the chance you take and sometimes the failures overshadows the successes.

    For every Wade Redden and Bobby Holík, there is a Marian Gaborik or Brad Richards.

    With that said, here is a look at the 10 best free-agent signings in the last 10 years by the Blueshirts.

10. Matt Cullen

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    While it was only for one season, Matt Cullen was a nice find for the New York Rangers.

    After winning a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, Cullen was signed to a four-year deal worth $11.2 million with the Rangers. During the 2006-07 season, Cullen played in 80 games and scored 41 points.

    He was traded back to the Hurricanes the next season and is currently playing for the Minnesota Wild.

9. Markus Näslund

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    Markus Näslund was another player that was a one-and-done case for the New York Rangers, but not because he was traded. Instead, Nasland retired at the end of the season despite putting up great numbers for the Blueshirts.

    During his one season with the Rangers, Näslund led his team with 24 goals and finished fourth with 46 points. 

8. Martin Biron

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    It is not often that a longtime starting goaltender signs with a team to become a backup to arguably one of the best goaltenders in the game, but that is what Martin Biron has done.

    In 2010, he signed a two-year deal and played pretty well backing up Henrik Lundqvist, winning 20 games the past two seasons.

    Biron must like the role because he signed another two-year contract with the Rangers earlier this summer.

7. Brad Richards

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    Granted it has only been year one of a nine-year, $60 million contract, but I truly believe Brad Richards will be regarded as one of the best free-agent pickups of all-time.

    His playmaking skills and leadership showed throughout the regular season and the playoffs, something the Rangers have lacked in years past.

    Richards started off slow in his first year with the Blueshirts. He tallied 25 goals and also added 41 assists, equaling 66 points in 82 games.

    During the playoffs it was a different story. Richard' 15 points in 20 games is pretty good considering how cold the rest of the team was.

    Hopefully it only gets better from here as Richards adjust to the bright lights of Broadway.

6. Michael Rozsíval

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    One of the more consistent defensemen for the Blueshirts was Michael Rozsíval, who played with the team for five-and-a-half seasons.

    He signed after the 2004 lockout and was spectacular for the Rangers, posting 176 points in 432 regular-season games and was a great “plus/minus” player (plus-44) during his tenure with the Rangers. That included winning the NHL Plus-Minus Award along with Wade Redden.

    In 2012, he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

5. Scott Gomez

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    Yes, Scott Gomez’s seven-year, $51.5 million contract was one of the worse contracts ever made, but the Rangers got the higher end of that deal. He played much better with the Blueshirts than he did with the Montreal Canadians.

    In two seasons with the Rangers, Gomez tallied 70 and 58 points respectfully. Those 70 points was 10 points better than his previous year with the New Jersey Devils.

    However, Gomez was traded to the Habs, which drew a lot of criticism and rightfully so. Gomez only lit up the lamp twice last season, plus he had a whole website dedicated to his scoring droughts.

4. Theo Fleury

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    If Theo Fleury was able to overcome the temptations of Manhattan, who knows how good he could have been with the Rangers.

    Twice he had voluntarily entered treatment under the substance abuse and behavioral health program run jointly by the league and the players' association.

    Still, in three years with the Blueshirts, he was able score 69 goals (including a 30-goal season), post 201 points and get voted into an All-Star Game.

    He has since cleaned up his act, which is great news. Despite his problems off the ice, he was good on the ice for the Rangers.

3. Martin Straka

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    Martin Straka played with the Blueshirts for three years, signing as a free-agent in 2005.

    The longtime Pittsburgh Penguin posted 70 or more points in back-to-back seasons before declining in his third year with the Rangers.

    Straka currently plays with HC Plzen of the Czech Extraliga. He is also the club's general manager and co-owner, having bought a 70 percent share of the team in 2009.

2. Marian Gaborik

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    Sure, Marian Gaborik has been very inconsistent since coming to New York. However, he is one of the best, if not the best player on the ice when he's hitting his stride. 

    He proved that this past season when he scored a team-leading 41 goals, bouncing back from 22 the year before. In three years, he has 105 goals and 210 points.

    Gaborik still has two more years left on his original contract, which was a five-year, $37.5 million deal. With the 2012-13 season slipping away each day the lockout goes on, the 2013-14 season will be his make-or-break year.

1. Michael Nylander

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    This may be a shock to some. I will admit this was a shock to me as well. I didn’t think Michael Nylander would be No. 1 on my list, but he is.

    He only played two years with the Rangers, but he tallied 162 points in 160 regular-season games with the team. He also led New York in points and goals during the 2007 playoffs. 

    It’s sad that he left to play for the Washington Capitals, but in two short seasons, Michael Nylander put up All-Star numbers and played an instrumental part in the Rangers' 100-point campaign in 2005-06.

    Oh yeah, playing alongside Jaromír Jágr didn’t hurt too much either.