The usual state of affairs when the Rangers sign a free agent goes something like this: Free agent is past his prime and his best days are well behind him, but he signs an outrageous contract, then plays like crap while laughing all the way to the bank (see Redden, Wade or Fleury, Theo).
But the Blueshirts have hit the jackpot this year with Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, and Ales Kotalik (well, three out of four ain’t bad—Donald Brashear and the word “jackpot” don’t go together, except to his agent). Unfortunately, it’s the rest of the roster that’s dragging the team down.
Gaborik, Prospal, and Kotalik have scored a combined 26 goals. The Rangers have a total of 62, which means those three free-agent pickups have contributed 42 percent of the team’s scoring.
Prospal’s the bargain of the century with his $1 million contract (I’m so old I remember when a million dollars was a lot of money). Kotalik gives the Rangers the point man on the power play they’ve been missing the past few years. And Gaborik is having his best season, which says a lot. We surely haven’t been able to say that very often: A New York Ranger free-agent acquisition is having his best season ever.
So where the heck has everybody else gone? Let’s run through the rogue's gallery of under-performers: Christopher Higgins, two goals; Chris Drury, two goals; Sean Avery, two goals; Ryan Callahan, three goals; Brandon Dubinsky, three goals; and Enver Lisin, three goals.
That’s 15 goals by six of your top-nine forwards, and a pace of eight or 12 goals for the season for all of them. Artem Anisimov has probably played better than all of them. Callahan hits everybody in sight, but he’s got to start scoring more. And the rest aren’t doing much more to go along with not scoring.
The power play, which helped carry the team during their 7-1 start, is now in a slump. Nobody besides Gaborik, Prospal, Kotalik, and Michael Del Zotto are producing any offense. Combine those scoring woes with a mistake-filled defense, and the result is a not-too-surprising 4-8-1 record in their last 13 games.
The Rangers’ big off-season purchases are carrying the team. But they’re only carrying them to mediocrity because nobody else wants to come along for the ride.