New York Rangers' Biggest Mistake in Each of the Last 5 Offseasons
Head scratching has become New York Rangers’ fans' go-to offseason pastime as a result of Glen Sather’s reign as general manager.
It’s become a tradition for the Rangers to overpay a free agent.
I get it, that’s how the league works these days—you have to overpay to acquire top free agents. But the Rangers actually didn’t do that last summer—and what happened in 2013-14?
Eastern Conference Champions.
Sather was at it again this summer, though, reminding us that he still knows how to complicate things.
Here are the Rangers’ worst offseason moves of the past five summers, this year included.
2010: Alexander Frolov
In 2009-10, the Rangers missed the playoffs despite Marian Gaborik’s monstrous inaugural campaign with the Blueshirts, a season in which he tied a career-high in goals (42) and established a career-high in points (86).
He basically did it on his own, too. Vinny Prospal was along for the ride and potted 58 that year, but it was clear Gaborik needed help.
So in the summer of 2010, Sather handed veteran winger Alexander Frolov a one-year, $3 million contract. He’d scored 51, 59, 67 and 71 points the four years prior to joining the Rangers, and it appeared to be a solid move.
But in 43 games, Frolov scored just seven goals and 16 points before getting injured on January 8, 2011. He would never play for the Rangers—or in the NHL—ever again.
In addition, Gaborik’s numbers dropped severely. The winger scored just 22 times and registered only 48 points in 62 games. It was easily the Slovak’s worst full season as a Ranger.
Not a great signing, but there were no after effects for the Rangers. Frolov was on a manageable deal for one season, and Sather didn’t part with any assets.
So, yeah, it could have been worse. And it would be.
2011: Mike Rupp
Heading into the summer of 2011, the Rangers had two targets: Brad Richards and Mike Rupp.
Sather was able to snag both, and the offseason was considered a success by fans and management alike.
The Rangers would go on to finish first in the Eastern Conference during the 2011-12 regular season, and they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the spring.
It was a magical season for the Rangers, but no thanks were in order for Rupp.
Granted, he wasn’t signed to be an impact player, but rather to serve as a hard-nosed, defensively responsible fourth-line winger. Sather negotiated a three-year, $4.5 million contract with the vet, but it was clear Rupp wouldn’t see out the duration of his deal in New York.
He was slow, ineffective and pretty much irrelevant. If it wasn’t for the team’s overall success, he probably would have been one of the fans’ whipping boys.
He survived year one with New York but was traded to Minnesota after appearing in just eight games for the Rangers in 2012-13.
Nobody was surprised.
2012: Rick Nash
The Rangers had the league’s best goalie and a top-three defense when they marched to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011-12. The team’s only weakness was its offense.
If the Rangers were to take the next step, Marian Gaborik could not be the team’s only offensive threat. And with Columbus’ Rick Nash on the market, it made sense for Sather to kick the tires.
Except, Sather did a lot more than just take a flier. He traded the depth that made the Rangers such a hardworking team. Fan favorites Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, along with promising prospect Tim Erixon and the team’s 2013 first-round selection were shipped out to Columbus in exchange for Nash and spare parts.
In the lockout shortened 2012-13 regular season, Nash was superb, scoring 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games.
It wasn’t until the playoffs that the headache began.
In 12 games—the 12 most important games of the season—Nash scored just once. Despite his own personal shortcomings, the Rangers advanced to the second round, but they couldn’t overcome the big, bad Bruins with their top scorer floundering like a fish out of water.
Despite the bad taste in their mouths, Rangers fans looked toward 2013-14 with promise for Nash. Yet this time, Nash struggled during the regular season, too.
He scored 26 goals in 65 games, yet the tally would have been much lower if he hadn’t potted 11 in 11 games in January. His point total was a cringe-worthy 39.
But again, always looking forward, they made it to the playoffs.
The Rangers would march all the way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. Nash must have kicked it into sixth gear, right?
Three goals in 25 games. He had the opportunity to win Game 5 in overtime and prolong the series, but he missed, like he had done so many times before.
The Rangers gave up their heart and soul for a player who can’t get it done when it matters most. A throwback to the late '90s and early 2000s when Sather paid no attention to the farm and threw contracts at aging stars in hopes that he could assemble an all-star team.
I guess some things never change.
2013: Justin Falk
Maybe Sather’s best offseason as general manager of the Rangers came in 2013. No over-payments, just solid signings.
Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot signed bargain one-year deals in hopes that they could prove they’ve still got it.
The one “blemish,” if you can even call it that, was acquiring Justin Falk.
The Rangers traded minor leaguer Benn Ferriero to Minnesota along with a sixth-round selection for Falk, who, at the time, was just 24 years old.
At 6’5”, 215 pounds, Falk appeared to have some value and potential. He cracked the opening-night roster and was designated as the team’s seventh defenseman.
He’d go on to play just 21 games, all of which came before January.
His play was rather uneventful, which isn’t a bad thing for a defenseman, but Falk was simply too slow and lacked the mobility for Alain Vigneault’s up-tempo system. The Snowflake, Manitoba, native was simply the odd man out night in and night out.
Sather even brought in defender Raphael Diaz at the trade deadline to provide more defensive depth, signaling that Falk’s season was essentially over.
Now an unrestricted free agent, Falk is no longer part of the Rangers organization. And as of Thursday, he was still unsigned.
2014: Tanner Glass
Sometimes you just know a contract is bad before the player even hits the ice.
For example, after David Clarkson scored 30 goals in 80 games in 2011-12 and 15 goals in 48 games in 2012-13 for the New Jersey Devils, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed the right-winger to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract.
Even before Clarkson fell flat on his face, scoring 11 points in 60 games for the Leafs in 2013-14, that deal was bad. It’s actually so bad it’s hysterical.
The deal Sather handed Tanner Glass isn’t that bad, but it’s bad.
Glass has never scored more than 16 points in the NHL, with his career-best term coming four seasons ago.
What’s a reasonable man to do? Offer such a player a three-year deal paying him $1.45 million per season.
I don’t know. Nobody knows. The Rangers were—and still are—strapped for cap space, yet Sather over-paid another fourth-liner. How many times will we go through this?
Just when you think the old fella’ has changed, he turns around and reminds you he’s still good for a dud or two.
Now I know what some of you are thinking: Give the guy a chance to prove his worth.
I’m not going to do that. Sorry. This is, frankly, a stupid signing. In my mind it ends in one of two ways: One, Glass is inevitably assigned to Hartford, or two, he’s traded for a seventh-rounder.
Take your pick.