New York Rangers to Pursue a Number One Center

Greg CaggianoSenior Writer IJuly 5, 2009

DETROIT - JANUARY 29:  Brad Richards #91 of the Dallas Stars skates during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on January 29, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

For the last two seasons, the New York Rangers lacked one thing more than anything; a top notch, scoring winger. But now with the recent acquisition of Marian Gaborik and departure of Scott Gomez, the scenario has reversed itself as it is now a center the Rangers need.

The captain Chris Drury is better suited as a second line center, something he has been most of his career and it is a sure thing he will be playing alongside, fellow Metropolitan area winger, Chris Higgins this coming season.

Brandon Dubinsky, who saw plenty of time as the team's number one center two years ago when he was playing with Jaromir Jagr, is the leading candidate to fill in the spot next to Marian Gaborik this coming season; but that should not stop the Rangers from going after a true number one center.

Two names keep popping up for the job and they are Brad Richards and Saku Koivu. A third player by the name of Mats Sundin also came up every now and then by hopefully, unlike last season, the saga has ended, at least with the Rangers' involvement that is.

But as for the two players the Rangers are looking at, one is a free agent and the other plays for the Dallas Stars. Both make perfect sense but only one can be acquired, and one comes for a cheaper price.

Let's start off with the most reasonable of the two, Saku Koivu. The former captain of the Montreal Canadiens, has seen himself come out on top of every battle, including one with cancer that caused him to miss almost the entire 2001/2002 season.

Known as one of the better leaders in the game, Koivu has quietly put up no less then fifty points in each of the last seven seasons following his battle with cancer; with 75 points in 2006/07 being his career high.

It is assumed that he will be able to mesh with the Rangers new superstar, scoring winger Gaborik.

Koivu made $4.75 million last season and will most likely see a slight cut in salary. He has been offered a three year deal by both the Rangers and Devils in the past week and has yet to reach a decision. The Rangers may have to offer the 35 year old Finnish winger a fourth year if they want his signature, and also to lessen the cap hit.

Now comes the other player the Rangers are targeting, and that is the former Stanley Cup Champion center with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brad Richards.

The 29 year old playmaker has remained friends with the Rangers head coach and that is the main reason for the team's interest. He also happens to be best friends with Sean Avery, dating back to his short stint with Dallas last season.

Richards, who missed almost thirty games last season due to injury, still managed to put up 48 points in 56 games and has two years remaining on his contract, that will pay him $7.8 million in each season.

Dallas is rumored to be after Wade Redden or Michal Rozsival, so one of them will be heading south if a trade takes place; from the Rangers standpoint, preferably Redden. But the Rangers cannot just swap bad contract for bad contract; they will have to sweeten the pot just a little bit, even though Dallas owes Sather for taking Avery off their hands after last seasons fiasco.

The Rangers would have to add either Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan or Artem Anisimov to the deal and perhaps that is the reason why a trade has not happened yet.

Both Dubinsky and Callahan are restricted free agents that the Rangers have yet to sign but Sather has noted that they have been "protected". If the Rangers can send Anisimov, you would have to call the trade a win.

The ideal first line would have Dubinsky and Gaborik on the wings with Richards as the center. They would need size and toughness to protect Gaborik and they get that with Dubinsky. Richards also becomes the first true center that the Rangers' newest acquisition has ever had, and to think of the potential this line has is enough to make any Ranger fan happy. 

Greg Caggiano is a writer on Bleacher Report covering the New York Rangers. He has a New York area sports teams blog called Metro-Sports.