How Each Offseason Addition and Departure Will Affect New York Rangers
After a visit to the Stanley Cup Final, one would imagine general manager Glen Sather was hoping to keep much, if not all of his squad intact.
But with pending unrestricted and restricted free agents and a slew of players looking for new deals in the coming years, Sather was handcuffed by the cap and forced to let integral parts of his Eastern Conference champion team seek new pastures.
Players were brought in as replacements, but not all players are created equal.
Today we take a look at how each vital departure and addition affects the Rangers.
Departure: Anton Stralman
It was almost a foregone conclusion that Anton Stralman wouldn’t return to the Rangers for the 2014-15 season. Seeing as steady right-handed defensemen are hard to come by in the NHL, the Swedish stalwart was expected to cash in on July 1 when he was set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the outfit to procure Stralman’s signature, and with the deal they’ve added a solid top-four NHL defenseman.
The Rangers, on the other hand, will move forward with Kevin Klein or Dan Boyle in position to fill Stralman’s void. Both are proven NHL talents, but neither are as fluid skaters at this stage in their careers.
From a defensive standpoint, Stralman was also a better decision-maker with and without the puck. With Stralman onboard, the Rangers had one of the league’s best top-four’s in the league.
Simply put, they no longer do.
Departure: Benoit Pouliot
A former fourth-overall selection by the Minnesota Wild in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Benoit Pouliot was, before joining the Rangers, a project worth taking on.
At 6’3”, 200 pounds, the framework was there. In addition, Pouliot has some of the smoothest hands in North America.
Size, check. Talent, check.
Yet Pouliot played for four teams over the four previous seasons before joining the Rangers in the summer of 2013. Alain Vigneault was hopeful to get the then 26-year-old back on track.
Pouliot found a home with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello on the Rangers’ third line, and he scored 15 goals and 36 points. His 10 points in the playoffs helped, too, but what the postseason showed was that the Alfred, ONT, native could play physical and get in on the forecheck.
All in all the Rangers lose offensive depth with the departure of Pouliot, who signed on July 1 with the Edmonton Oilers.
Departure: Brian Boyle
The departure of five-year Rangers veteran Brian Boyle came as a surprise to fans. The former Boston College star made it known to Rangers brass at the team’s annual exit meetings that if he were to re-sign in New York, he would be looking for a boost in responsibility.
Essentially Boyle thought he was more than a fourth-line penalty-killer.
Unfortunately, he’s wrong. Former coach John Tortorella used Boyle as a third-line center with mixed results. He scored 21 goals in 2010-11 but has failed to score more than 11 in a season since.
He’s slow, yet big and willing to give his body for the team. He has a limited skill set but can surprise from time to time. He had his best season since 2010-11 this past year playing as a fourth-line winger under Vigneault.
Heading into free agency, Boyle had options. He decided to sign with Tampa Bay for just $2 million per season, which tells me that he was more concerned with playing time than he was with obtaining a raise.
I think that just about says it for Boyle. He’s a good, heart and soul guy who will be greatly missed by the New York fans who love a lunch-pail kind of player.
Departure: Brad Richards
Another inevitability was Brad Richards being bought out by the Rangers this summer. Despite bouncing back after a poor playoff campaign in 2012-13, Richards arrived in camp hungry to prove he still had it.
After scoring 51 points during the regular season, Richards played well in the Rangers first-round matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers but failed to carry the momentum into the later rounds of the tournament.
By no means did he lose it for the Rangers, but it was clear he ran out of gas. This fact made Glen Sather’s decision a whole lot easier.
If Sather wanted to sign all his restricted free agents, Richards would have to be bought out. Not only did he need the cap space immediately, but for fear of cap-recapture penalties in the years ahead, Richards was as good as gone.
After Sather exercised his compliance buyout option on Richards, the centerman was set to become a free agent. The Chicago Blackhawks jumped at the opportunity to plug their second-line center hole with an experienced veteran.
What Chicago gains and New York loses is a consummate professional with exceptional leadership abilities. Several younger players stressed the importance of Richards in their own personal development, and that will be missed.
But Chicago has had fair warning. Once they reach the latter stages of the playoffs—which they most certainly will expect to do—Richards cannot be counted on to be the player he once was.
Addition: Dan Boyle
With the departure of Stralman, the Rangers needed to acquire a right-handed defenseman to fill out their group of blueliners.
With Dan Boyle hitting the market, Sather had the opportunity to bring in a former Stanley Cup champion who will undoubtedly improve the team’s poor powerplay.
The downside is that Boyle is 38 years old and commanded $4.5 million per season for two years.
But it’s not a terrible signing. It’s more of a stop-gap than anything. The Rangers have several young defensemen coming through the system who may not exactly be ready yet, but will be soon.
Boyle is a good option in the meantime. The Rangers are going for it, and he will help the powerplay and provide needed leadership with Richards and Brian Boyle now gone.
He’s not as responsible defensively as Stralman, but he should do. That is unless he shows his age, which is most certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Addition: Tanner Glass
I’ve made it known how I feel about this signing, and I’m currently unwilling to distance myself from it.
Tanner Glass’ acquisition is completely unnecessary and frankly a waste of cap space.
He’s not going to score goals or set them up. He’s been brought in to play fourth-line minutes in place of Brian Boyle or Derek Dorsett, but he’s nowhere near as effective.
At 6’1” he’s not physically menacing, either. So this move doesn’t address the “size” issue the Rangers have up front.
I don't know anything about him from a leadership standpoint—we’ll have to wait and see about that.
But right now he’s taking up a potential rookie’s roster spot.
Addition: Matthew Lombardi
In one of the most random deals of the summer, the Rangers on Wednesday signed veteran forward Matthew Lombardi to a two-year, $1.6 million deal.
The former Phoenix Coyote played last season in the Swiss league, where he won the scoring title, potting 50 points in 46 games.
A fluid skater who’s defensively responsible, Lombardi will help address a need for depth up front. At 32 years old he’s no spring chicken, but his game could flourish—and I mean that very modestly—in New York under Vigneault.
This is a good, low-risk signing: If Lombardi is a total bust the Rangers can send him to Hartford without any cap penalties.
What the Rangers are getting here is another speedy grinder to round out the bottom six. Lombardi is a solid penalty-killer who’s played center his entire career. We’ll see whether or not AV uses him there, but he certainly helps the Rangers get deeper.