With the NHL season almost over, it is time for the 2013 offseason to really heat up.
What will the New York Rangers do to improve their team during the offseason? The biggest change, thus far, was the hiring of Alain Vigneault as head coach. Vigneault, who promises more of a wide-open, offensive style of play, was the most sought-after coach on the market.
How does the hiring of Vigneault impact the Rangers' offseason? What players are they going to re-sign or let go? Which youngsters are going to be drafted?
There are many questions surrounding the team that will need to be answered over the summer. Read on for a complete guide to the 2013 offseason.
The Rangers have $64,300,000 tied up to their players, according to CapGeek.com. They will have $14,155, 833 in cap space to spend.
Most of that money will be spent on re-signing the core restricted free agents: Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello. If the Rangers do not re-sign all of these players, in particular Stepan, Hagelin and McDonagh, it will be a huge shock.
If the Rangers spend, say, a combined $10-12 million on those four players, then they will have to spend the remaining money wisely.
They will have more money to spend if, as will be discussed on the next slide, they decide to buy out Brad Richards.
Still, the main priority is to re-sign the restricted free agents, add some low-cost help for the power play and improve the third and fourth lines.
It's unlikely the Rangers will spend big money this offseason, especially with a new coach whose style is just being implemented on the team.
The Rangers have only one buyout candidate, and it's Brad Richards.
Richards had a really rough season. He was benched for the final two playoff games. He scored just one playoff goal and had only 11 goals in the regular season.
With a cap hit of $6.6 million through 2020, according to CapGeek.com, it might be wise to free up that money to spend on more productive players.
However, the choice isn't that simple. For one, the Rangers might want to evaluate Richards under new coach Alain Vigneault. With a new, more wide-open offensive system that fits Richards' skill set, the Rangers could wait a year and still use their amnesty buyout on their alternate captain.
In addition, Richards has by far the most playoff experience of anyone on the roster, including a Conn Smythe Trophy. Perhaps more than in any other sport, playoff experience in hockey is vital, and cutting ties with Richards may be unwise. It will be hard to find a player with that kind of experience and success in the postseason.
But if Richards can't cut it under Vigneault's system, then they will have some dead weight on the roster before next year's offseason.
It's a tough proposition. With no marquee free agents this season, however, the Rangers could see if Richards is re-invigorated under Vigneault before deciding to let him loose.
Other than the restricted free agents, the Rangers don't have too many players who are set to enter unrestricted free agency.
A few will not be returning. Roman Hamrlik was a disaster in his two playoff games and will not return. Matt Gilroy was subpar in a few regular-season games, and he too will be looking for work elsewhere.
Steve Eminger really stepped up after taking over for an injured Marc Staal. In 11 postseason games, Eminger had two assists and was plus-one, playing almost 13 minutes a game. The Rangers wouldn't have to spend much to retain his services. He's a valuable depth defenseman and proved he could capably step in when injuries hit.
The biggest free-agent decision for the Rangers will be Ryane Clowe. The rugged winger was acquired at the trade deadline and had three goals and five assists in 12 regular-season games.
But due to injuries, Clowe was only able to play 13 minutes in the postseason. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Clowe suffered two concussions in a 16-game period with the Rangers, in addition to a concussion sustained earlier this season with the Sharks.
He also, according to Brooks, would cost the Rangers an additional second-round pick in 2014, which they would send to the Sharks, should he be re-signed. If not, it will just cost a fifth-round pick.
While Clowe is the type of player the Rangers need—a big-bodied, physical depth forward—between the concussions and the draft picks, it may not be worth it.
The Rangers would be better off spending their money on players without a dubious injury history, especially one so concerning as concussions, and players who do not cost extra draft picks.
Because the Rangers' first priority this offseason is to sign their restricted free agents, there won't be too much money left over for unrestricted free agents.
However, there are a few needs that should be addressed. One will be help for the power play.
The Rangers power play was especially awful in the postseason. They converted on just four of their 44 chances, and it was a big reason they got eliminated.
A power-play quarterback who can get quality shots on net is needed. One potential option is Marek Zidlicky. The Rangers, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, have interest in the 36-year-old defenseman.
Playing with the New Jersey Devils last season, Zidlicky had four goals and 15 assists, including 11 power-play points. His 10 power-play assists would've been the most on the Rangers.
He'll probably come cheap, given his age, and on a one-year deal could be a good option.
The Rangers also need some depth wingers. The Boston Bruins were, essentially, a line better than the Rangers, and that was a main reason the Blueshirts were eliminated.
The Rangers will keep a few depth forwards—Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett and Darroll Powe will all play significant roles next season.
But they need a few more guys. They could sign someone like Matt Hendricks. While he only had eight points with the Washington Capitals, the 31-year-old will hit, win faceoffs, kill penalties, drop the gloves and play with a lot of energy.
In addition, the Rangers should bring back Ruslan Fedotenko. They foolishly let him sign with the Flyers, but they could've used his style of energy and penalty-killing ability. He will come cheap, too.
Someone like Maxim Lapierre, who played for the Canucks under Alain Vigneault, would be a good addition, as well.
If the Rangers can add some depth forward and power-play help, then the offseason will have to be considered a success.
The Rangers probably won't be too active on the trading front. If they do make a trade, one player that could be leaving New York is Michael Del Zotto.
The defenseman has regressed in recent years, and this year was no different. He had 21 points but has not been the power-play quarterback that many envisioned, and his play in the defensive zone leaves a lot to be desired.
With the emergence of John Moore, and with prospect Dylan McIlrath waiting in the wings, Del Zotto's time in New York may be up.
If they decide to trade him, one logical partner might be the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have plenty of offensive skill but not a lot of defensive prowess. Adding someone like Del Zotto would help a lot. The Oilers could send one of their veteran players, like Shawn Horcoff, who would be a perfect depth winger for the Rangers, in return. The Rangers could also target Magnus Paajarvi, a big, bruising winger with offensive upside.
The Rangers don't have to make this trade, especially because Del Zotto is only 22 and has shown flashes of being a solid player. A more wide-open offensive system like the one that will be implemented under Vigneault could help a lot.
The Rangers have a number of tantalizing prospects who could make their NHL debuts next season.
One such player is Oscar Lindberg. Playing in the Swedish Elite League, the 21-year-old has 17 goals and 25 assists.
He's a center but could probably play wing. He has solid defensive awareness, and after some time adjusting to the North American game in the AHL, he could find his way to New York as a midseason call-up.
Another player who could make their debut is Dylan McIlrath. The rugged defenseman could be the crease-clearer the Rangers desperately need. The 6'5", 215-pound defenseman had 125 penalty minutes in 45 AHL games last season. He's not going to score too many points, but he will throw his body around and drop the gloves. He will add an element of toughness on defense that the Rangers have been lacking.
Finally, another potential player who could make their debut is Jesper Fast. The Swedish winger is, well, fast, and he scored 18 goals and had 17 assists in the Swedish Elite League. He scored one goal in the AHL after coming over in April.
He's very similar to fellow countryman Carl Hagelin, in that they are both speedsters who can create havoc on the forecheck. He's bigger than Mats Zuccarello and could eventually phase the Norwegian out of the roster.
These players, in addition to youngsters Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller, will provide a lot of depth and energy to a Rangers roster that could use it.
So, will the Rangers be better or worse after this offseason?
The first question is how the Rangers will respond to Alain Vigneault. They should become a more offensive team, but will they lose some of their patented shot-blocking and tough play? They will need to find a balance.
If the Rangers re-sign all their restricted free agents, then the offseason should be considered a success. Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan are all essential to the team's future.
If the team signs a power-play quarterback, like Marek Zidlickly, then the team's most glaring weakness should be fixed, or at least improved.
Depth wingers, like Matt Hendricks and Ruslan Fedotenko, will help the Rangers become more balanced, as well as help them become more competitive with the upper-echelon teams, like the Boston Bruins.
A solid draft will include a goaltender of the future, a physical defenseman and a creative offensive player.
If the Rangers can incorporate prospects like Oscar Lindberg or Jesper Fast into the roster, then the Rangers' depth woes will be gone.
The Rangers don't have to follow this specific plan—signing every targeted free agent or selecting every targeted draft prospect is a near impossibility. But they do need to find players who fit the mold that has been described here. They need a power-play quarterback. They need depth on the third and fourth lines. They need a crease-clearing defenseman.
If the Rangers can accomplish those three goals, through whatever means, then they will undoubtedly improve.
If they cannot, then the Rangers could regress even further.