With free agency just over a month away, it's time to look at the top free agent targets for the New York Rangers.
Unlike last season, the Rangers do not need to improve upon much. They really need three things: a gritty defenseman, a powerplay quarterback, and a scoring winger.
The following are what should be the top free agent targets for the Rangers this season. Note: Obviously, all of the players listed cannot be signed, but the most important ones are the ones ranked with a 1. (Does not include players that need to be re-signed.)
1. Brian Rolston (RW)*
One would think that the top forward on every team's free agent list would be Marian Hossa, well you're wrong. Yes, Hossa is good and the Rangers should try to sign him, but I believe Rolston would be a better fit for us.
Not only can Rolston score, but he is a powerplay quarterback, an excellent penalty killer, and a very fast skater. Add to that his 977 games of experience and the fact that he's a great defensive forward who was brought up through the New Jersey Devils' defensive system.
One thing that may make the Rangers shy away from giving him a long term contract that he may want is the fact that he's 35-years-old. Granted, the Rangers have signed older players, but I think Rolston would be a good replacement for the aging Brendan Shanahan.
In 977 game played, Rolston has tallied 286 goals, 348 assists for 634 points along with 372 penalty minutes. Look for Rolston to get somewhere in the $3-5 million range.
2. Marian Hossa (RW)
The hottest free agent on the market this season is superstar Marian Hossa. He would fit in well with the Rangers and would be the perfect fit for Scott Gomez. Gomez has really been missing a scoring winger to ride shotgun with him all season.
The only reason he is ranked as a two is because he does not have the leadership that the Rangers would like, and because of the price tag that comes attached.
Hossa, who had normally finished in the upper tier in regular season scoring only to disappear in the playoffs, has found that long awaited playoff scoring this season with the Penguins. With the Rangers geared for a Cup run, this makes it all the better.
Question is, with the Rangers close to re-signing Jagr, will they be able to afford them both?
In 701 games, Hossa has tallied 299 goals along with 349 assists for a total of 648 points along with 395 penalty minutes. Look for him to get somewhere in the $6-8 million range.
1. Brooks Orpik*
Since Jeff Beukeboom, the Rangers have not had one defenseman to act as a crease clearer, ridding the blue of players that crash the net. The Rangers also have not had a defenseman that instills fear in the opponent. The answer to those two problems is Brooks Orpik.
The New York Post has already made it known that the Rangers are sizing up a jersey to fit Orpik because the Rangers will be in hot pursuit of him. Because of his hitting abilities and toughness, he has to be a number one priority when it comes to defense.
Paired with youngster Marc Staal, I believe it could be an excellent combo because Orpik, a stay at home defenseman will allow Staal to develop his offensive game and take more chances.
In 297 games played, Orpik has four goals and 32 assists for 36 points along with 392 penalty minutes. Look for Orpik to get in the $2-4 million range.
2. Jean-Michael Liles*
Once the Rangers take care of the physical defenseman, the next on the list is a powerplay quarterback. Not only is Liles offensive minded and skilled, he is young too. Liles could be the answer to the powerplay problems that have plagued the Rangers since the lockout.
Since Brian Leetch, the Rangers have not had a bona fide power play quarterback and they desperately need one. Liles and Rolston on the points would make for a deadly combo of crisp passing and accurate shooting.
In 313 games played, Liles has 44 goals and 115 assists for 159 points along with 122 penalty minutes. Look for Liles to get somewhere in the $2-4 million range.
3. Ron Hainsey
If the Rangers cannot get a good, young, offensively talented defenseman like Liles, next should come Ron Hainsey of the Blue Jackets.
In his three years in Columbus, the American D-man has developed into a good, offensive defenseman who could very well turn out to be a powerplay quarterback. Because I have not seen Hainsey play enough to comment further, I will just leave it at that.
In 245 games played, Hainsey has recorded 20 goals and 65 assists for 85 points along with 143 penalty minutes. Look for Hainsey to make somewhere in the $1-3 million range.
With the top free agent targets the Rangers should go after this season, the lines and defensive pairings below are ones that I hope the Rangers will be able to have next season, and they are realistic:
(Bold indicates new players brought it. Italics represent players who need to be re-signed)